See what I did there?
WARNING: This review contains SPOILERS!
Follows a mysterious anarchist who recruits a young computer programmer (Malek) who suffers from an anti-social disorder and connects to people by hacking them.
Created by Sam Esmail, Mr. Robot enters the scenery of summer TV to make a statement: fuck society. What could at first seem like a cliché story (tech by morning, hacker by night) and a main character that operates in a way we’ve seen way too often (from Robin Hood to WatchDog), Elliot, is here to tell us that he’s different and ends up being one of the most complex and interesting characters I have recently seen in television. Why? Because he feels real.
In fact, let me just start with this main character. Rami Malek does a wonderful job at portraying Elliot. I read some comments on Youtube saying that at first, judging by the look in his eyes (and the title of the series), they thought he was a robot. But Elliot is far from a robot. In fact, he’s as human as it can get. From the first time Rami Malek entered the scene, I was interested in him. He’s got this enigmatic aura to him. And it’s not a pose. Elliot suffers from social anxiety, he does drugs and has meaningless sex. He’s not the perfect main hero that TV usually give us. He’s real and he could perfectly exist. Far from being robotic, Elliot is very emotional: he feels empty and lonely. So lonely that most of the days he ends crying in a corner of his little empty flat. The story didn’t present us Elliot, the hacker, but Elliot, the person. They gave us someone who doesn’t just struggle to live in society, but also struggles to live with himself.
Elliot also has a tendency to disconnect from conversations. In fact, he’s created an imaginary person in his life in which he talks to in his thoughts. Guess what, that person is you. In that way, he invites the audience to accompany him and reassure him that what he’s seeing is, in fact, real. His psychiatrist, Krista, insists that he’s delusional: there’s these men in black he keeps seeing everywhere, he says they rule the world and he’s now convinced that they are following him. Since we’re just the imaginary character he’s made up in his mind, we’re left wondering what is real and what is him being dellusional. Did all the scenes really happen? Do all the characters really exist? Are these men in black real?
Elliot hates society and the show uses it to put in as much social criticism as it can, using everything from found footage to pop culture references (The Hunger Games, Maroon 5…). He also hates social media. Although there’s a nice irony there: even though he hates Facebook, he still uses it for his purposes and entertainment. Facebook is, after all, a tool. Why does he hack people, though? Justice? Money? Power? Because he can? At least he’s got a real motive now.
How does he survive? Elliot works as “just a tech” in one of the biggest companies in the world, which he calls Evil Corp. He hats his job, but at least he’s got Angela, his childhood friend. However, he doesn’t like his boyfriend very much. One of the nights, the company gets attacked by a hacker. While trying to stop it, Elliot realises that he actually agrees with the hacker (‘fsociety’) and he struggles to delete it. He doesn’t do it and he later meets Mr Robot, the man who did the hacking, in the tube.
Mr. Robot promises to guide him and help him through his stealing-revolutionary process. His goal? To restore democracy by re-distributing wealth. There are, in fact, many references to our current economic difficult times. He takes him to their lair with other hackers. It turns out that the hacking attack was his way of testing Elliot.
After we see him genuinely smile for the first time, Elliot agrees to do it. Why? There could be two reasons. One, he wants justice for the poor (we saw him giving money to a homeless person). Two, he’s sick of the way those business men treat Angela. So there’s a global purpose, and a more personal closer one. He says he wants to protect them, both Angela and Krista.
Elliot succeeds in making it seem as if Terry Colby was the one who did the hacking. “It’s happening”, the thinks. Unfortunately, while he’s celebrating, the men in black catch him and take him to a building and to a room full of men. In fact, those were the men in black from the opening of the episode. Their faces are blurred. “Please, tell me you’re seeing this too”, says Elliot to us.
Being 60 minutes long, I almost felt like I was watching a movie (in fact, it was intended to be a movie). The direction and editing were, in fact, superb, giving it a cinematographic look and toying with the fact that, many times, we got to see scenes that only happened in Elliot’s imagination.
Mr. Robot is going to be 10 episodes long and I can already see how it’s going to be a series that leaves a lot of room for crazy speculation and theorising about what is real and what is not.