I have to say that Mr. Robot is one of the biggest surprises of the year. With just one episode, the show was able to produce a gripping, psychologically thrilling conspiracy mystery that I can’t wait to watch more of.
The premise is quite simple: Elliot (an outstanding performance by Rami Malek) is a cyber security tech at E Corp who meets a creepy, mysterious man named Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) one day and is thus introduced to a secret hacking group that wants to take down the company with the help of Elliot’s hacking skills. Elliot, who also suffers from an anti-social disorder, usually uses his tech talent to hack into other people’s lives and help those who are being conned or cheated on, vigilante-style. In a TV world currently dominated by superhero adaptations, I think it’s unfair this guy doesn’t have a costume yet.
What works about this show (or at least the pilot, so far) is the intrigue. Malek pulls off an exceptional performance here, bringing Elliot to life even just 20 seconds into the episode. His cold, hard-hitting voice in the background is eerie and a perfectly fitting way to kick off this dark show. Equally outstanding is Christian Slater (although that’s no surprise there) who elevated the episode to even darker heights every time he took center-stage, despite the minimal screentime he received. The rest of the cast are all endearing from the therapist Krista (Gloria Reuben) to Tyrell (Martin Wallstrӧm), but I do hope Portia Doubleday’s character gets fleshed out more as we move forward, or we could be having another Iris problem on our hands (Flash fans, you know what I mean).
As a person with various computer skills, I was also very impressed with how the show dealt with all the tech stuff. You don’t need to be a computer genius to understand how any of the hacking worked, but at the same time it was one of the most accurate things I’ve seen on television so far. Unlike most shows that use their tech geeks as a way to move the plot forward and demonstrate hilariously fake (and large) bars with a “downloading files” title, Mr. Robot is fairly simple and never tries to spoon-feed us the information. In fact, it relies on showing rather than telling, and where some shows use voiceover narration to give us more backstory, this show uses it to help us understand Elliot’s psychological state of mind, as with every scene he shared with his therapist. It’s not the most creative or inventive storytelling device, but the writers used it an adequate amount that makes it plausible and interesting at all times.
Finally, the writing is sharp enough that the 60-minute episode (and counting) never feels out of balance. The show flows perfectly, swiftly pacing from one scene to the next (even if it might feel a little slow in the first 20 minutes), all culminating in a nifty, little twist that isn’t exactly mind-blowing but is still charming enough to make me want to see more. This could be the summer show we never asked for, but realize we might very much need.
Bits & Bytes
– I don’t remember seeing the American/Egyptian Rami Malek in anything before (although he’s been on 24, Alcatraz and both of the Night at the Museum movies), but it’s always welcoming to see an Arab actor take on such neat roles.
– So many shows have tried to tackle conspiracy mysteries before and only a handful of them succeeded (Alias comes to mind), so let’s hope Mr. Robot doesn’t flounder under its own weight. That’s probably the only thing worrisome about this show so far.
– I loved every time Elliot used his skills to do good, as cheesy and lame as that might sound.
– His breakdown at his apartment is easily one of the best moments from the pilot.
– Interesting that the show will be airing on USA which isn’t known for such gritty programming. Perhaps that’s why the network made it available online first before it premieres on June 24th.
I didn’t expect to love Mr. Robot as much as I did, but it has all the elements of a riveting serialized mystery packed with some top-notch performances and gripping drama. Count me in!