Having just concluded a few days ago after a two week or so delay due to a violent scene that was perhaps a little too close to tragic real life events, I eagerly looked in on the 10th and final episode of the first season of Mr. Robot and found it, like most of the season before it, a fascinating watch.
Also, a bit of a troubling watch, which I’ll get into in a moment.
To begin, Mr. Robot concerns one Elliot Alderson (played incredibly well by Rami Malek). Elliot is a genius level computer hacker who is also a social misfit. He can barely talk to people, is addicted to morphine, sees (and lies) to his psychologist, and in his free time hacks into other people’s lives. It is while doing this that Elliot fancies himself a do-gooder. If his hacks reveal bad or illegal things people are doing, he will expose them.
Elliot works, ironically enough, at a computer security firm where it is his job to stop hackers. One of his co-workers is Angela Moss (Portia Doubleday), a friend of his since childhood. The two share a platonic relationship -though there are moments we get hints of Elliot’s longing for her- along with a shared tragic past: When they were children, Elliot lost his father and Angela lost her mother after being exposed to chemicals.
The chemical exposure was caused by Evil Corp., the show’s “big bad” company that, ironically enough (part deux), employs Elliot and Angela’s company for security. Thus the two have to work –well!– for the very company they suspect caused their parents’ deaths.
Into Elliot’s life arrives a strange man who calls himself “Mr. Robot” (Christian Slater, also doing some fantastic acting here). Mr. Robot gradually pulls Elliot into his “work”. Mr. Robot, we find, is also a hacker who, along with a group of fellow hackers, has set a goal on something far greater than Elliot could imagine doing: Taking down Evil Corp and freeing everyone from any debt they may have to any corporation.
All they have to do is crack into Evil Corp and fry their data all at once and all over the entire planet.
To get into more details than this would bring us into SPOILERY territory and, since I intend to do so in a moment, I’ll keep quiet here.
Suffice to say that if you haven’t checked out Mr. Robot, I highly recommend you do. The show isn’t perfect and there was at least one episode, eps1.3_da3m0ns.mp4 (episode 4 of the series) that appeared to be a time killer at best, but the show makes you think with each passing moment.
I highly recommend it.
Still with me? Good.
What follows, however, is…
You have been warned!
Ok, so here we go: Up above I wrote the following regarding this show: “(Mr. Robot is) a bit of a troubling watch, which I’ll get into in a moment.” That moment has arrived.
At the risk of sounding arrogant, there have been times I’ve found myself picking up on “hidden” or “surprising” things in movies or TV shows before they are revealed to the audience. Perhaps it is because I’m a writer myself and spot some clues beforehand or perhaps it is just that I’ve an interest and affinity to see these types of details, but it happens now and again (not always by any stretch of the imagination) and sometimes a show/movie’s biggest “shocks” or “surprises” are not quite as surprising.
In the case of Mr. Robot, I figured out Mr. Robot’s identity a couple of episodes before we reached that reveal. Not only did I figure he was Elliot’s father (an easier guess), I knew he was a figment of Elliot’s imagination as well. In this case what clued me in was the multiple times characters (particularly Elliot himself) noted Mr. Robot was “crazy”. There was even one startling scene where Mr. Robot confronted one of his cohorts and, while waving a gun at his head, said the same thing about himself.
Regardless of my amazing (I kid, I kid) precognition, the reveal that Mr. Robot and Elliot are one and the same person instantly made me realize another thing: Mr. Robot is a cyberpunk version of Fight Club.
In Fight Club (the movie, I have not read the book it was based on) we follow the narrator (Edward Norton) and his eventual interactions with Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) who introduces him to a “Fight Club” where men beat each other up and, eventually, engage in societal anarchy. They fight the “powers” that be and are disdainful of society and its mores. Eventually it is revealed that Tyler Durden and the narrator are one and the same person, that Durden is the narrator’s id breaking out.
I hate to say it, but this is pretty much exactly what we’ve got going on in Mr. Robot.
Interestingly, I didn’t like Fight Club (the movie) all that much because the concept was a hard one for me to wrap my head around. In Mr. Robot, however, I totally get the concept of cyber security and hacking and therefore find myself intrigued with the concepts presented.
Having said that, I repeat: Mr. Robot is, thematically, pretty much the same thing as Fight Club. While Mr. Robot is extremely well done/acted, one can’t escape the fact that it is also very derivative of that concept. So much so that it wouldn’t surprise me if Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk doesn’t one day sue the makers of Mr. Robot. Hell, if Harlan Ellison had a case against James Cameron for The Terminator, Mr. Palahniuk certainly has one for Mr. Robot.
But just as James Cameron created a terrific piece of movie-making with The Terminator, so too do the makers of Mr. Robot create a must-see TV show.
Still recommended, despite this reservation.