Mr. Robot signifies an evolution in the presentation of t.v. for the USA Network. From its unique style to its impressive acting and themes, Mr. Robot a great change for television. Not that long ago, David Lynch mentioned cable television is the new art house cinema and if we center Mr. Robot around that statement, Lynch is correct. But change isn’t perfect from one moment to the next and that is noticeable at times with Mr. Robot which although great isn’t impeccably fantastic.
First and foremost, this is Rami Malek’s show. I know, Esmail wrote it and Slater is great in it, but Malek is the one who carries the weight of the twists, hacking, emotion, and dream-like quality of the show on his back. He is Mr. Robot’s heart and soul. Not only does he depict Elliot Anderson perfectly both in manner and appearance, but it is also through him that the mood and scenario of the series is laid out and if it weren’t for his crazy good depiction of how Elliot Anderson sees the world, this show would crumble. Malek not only guides his character but also guides the camera, the narration, the tone, the mood, and the people around him. Surely you’d say the director is in charge of that and yes, every director does a great job with each of their episodes, but it is Malek’s presence that defines the show and one of the main reasons so many people were turned onto Mr. Robot.
Alongside Malek, the second reason people were compelled to start watching Mr. Robot is because of its unique style and concepts. Normally when flipping through the channels you’ve 500 sit-coms and 200 “different” procedurals, but then you’ve got this show about a mentally ill hacker who’s also a drug addict with the ability to demolish debt, now that’s something. While Esmail does tend to borrow a lot of things from other films, stories, and what so not, the reason I don’t criticize this so harshly is because Esmail always puts his stamp on it or at least finds a curious little way to cite the material. I don’t want to get much into it, but just keep a sharp ear towards the end of episode 9. Now, when this show works at its best is when Esmail manages to highlight his primary concept with his style. A perfect example of this being episode 4: da3m0ns where Esmail addresses drug-use and the struggle of fulfilling your will in a brilliant hallucinatory vision that goes through the stages of Malek’s Elliot, both giving the character background and defining his current state of mind at the same time. Esmail does this so many times throughout the season that it keeps you intrigued with the concepts he’s presenting, whether that be the power of hacking, people’s facades, conglomerates or family.
Apart from its depiction of hacking, it seems as if this show grew in popularity because of its narrative sudden twists that kept shocking people but honestly I find that to be the weakest point of Mr. Robot. From the very first episode I could already bet money on what might happen and when they flip that on you by episode 8 I was happy until Esmail decides to retrace his steps and go back to the common twist we were all expecting. It doesn’t necessarily hurt the viewing experience but does raise some problems with moments prior to the twist. Suddenly some things start to make less sense and the twist although wonderfully applied becomes somewhat senseless. I’m really intrigued as to how they keep the illusion alive in season 2 but the problem with implementing a narrative twist with that magnitude is that it may easily damage the foundation on which it was built up.
Besides Rami Malik giving his all as Elliot Anderson, the rest of the cast is does some remarkable work. Especially Christian Slater, Portia Doubleday, Carly Chaikin, Martin Wallström, and Frankie Shaw. Of these, the standouts being Martin Wallström, Slater, and Shaw. First off I must commence by stating Wallström’s Tyrell is definitely the character I’m most curious about. Basically playing Patrick Bateman to the eleventh power, Tyrell Wellick is insane yet always alert about how he uses that insanity. Being able to pull off such a meticulous level of madness, Wallström excels in portraying that persona of feeling like a God but frustrated by the fact that you aren’t God. Slater, well he’s just a fantastic foil to Elliot that also employs madness to his advantage. Slater does a truly wonderful job in depicting that essence of crazy yet likable that very few can actually capture, think of aged Tyler Durden for the modern age of computers. And then you’ve got Frankie Shaw playing Shayla with a true sincerity to her that helps ground everything that is going on in the world of Elliot.
With that said, Mr. Robot season 1 signifies a change for the better in regular programming. Its a wacky idea presented beautifully and although it falters narratively here and there, it mostly work and when it works, it works rather brilliantly. Lead by a bravado performance from Rami Malek and great performances supporting him all around, the acting in Mr. Robot is enough to make the show good. Then you’ve got the concepts and style that Esmail introduces that elevate the series to a standard of greatness. Mr. Robot is great t.v. and although it seems to borrow a lot of things or become to wrapped up on its own plot-devices, Mr. Robot is ushering in a new vision of the world to cable television that we were lacking and now would feel as if we were missing something big if we didn’t have it.