Mr Robot: Season 1 – TV Review

18 November, 2015 — by Ted Wilkes0

Mr Robot themes of internet hackers, busting bankers’ balls and promise of worldwide anarchy was almost as if someone had plugged a wire into my brain and extracted all the things I’ve ever thought about the world.

Mr Robot - title screen

I have a rather tempestuous relationship with Amazon Prime (the video service, not the parcel delivery version).

We fell in love before she changed her name from LoveFilm and were blissfully happy for a time. I only had eyes for her and she constantly made me feel special delivering DVDs right to my door and when she eventually started dropping content right to my laptop screen my feelings only grew stronger.

However, I was weak and her sultry cousin Netflix stole me away from her. She just wasn’t doing it for me any longer, rehashing things I’d already been exposed to and getting lazy with her original movies.

Netflix on the other hand was new, exciting, and almost inspirational. When I tried to cancel my subscription to Prime she promised that she could do better; that things would be different and she would change. I stuck with her and although the fling with Netflix was constantly brought up we got things back on track. The main reason for this? The arrival of Mr Robot. It was like the best make-up sex ever.

Even from the premise I knew that Mr Robot would be something that I’d love. It’s themes of internet hackers, busting bankers’ balls and promise of worldwide anarchy was almost as if someone had plugged a wire into my brain extracted all the things I’ve ever thought about the world and then jumbled them up into a much more coherent narrative than I could ever pen.

Rami Malek is perfect as the paranoid and sun starved protagonist. He mumbles his way through his monologues and drags us into his world where there is no longer good or bad, just actions that must be taken against a system he has come to despise. We are cast as the invisible voices in his head that he has created to mask his own loneliness and depression. Drawing us into his own fractured psyche makes us feel for his plight, but not sympathy, we feel guilty as if we are the cause of his moments of despair when he quietly cries in the corner of his room.

However, it also gives us a much greater insight into the schemes that he is hatching and the motivations for his actions. As he dresses down society during episode one we are there to will him on, longing to see what shape his revenge against the system will take. “We don’t need to be talking to this therapist Elliot. She doesn’t need to fix us. Actually, we’re talking to the TV. We probably should stick around for a few more sessions.”

Rami Malek as Elliot Alderson
Wait, who’s that in the background?

Some of the reveals throughout the series are well managed as we learn that Elliot isn’t the reliable narrator that we are first led to believe and once you’ve crushed the 10 episodes of series one it’s nice to go back and see the trail of breadcrumbs that were left along if only we were paying attention.

The visuals are truly remarkable. In episode four (da3m0ns.mp4) Elliot is forced into taking heroin (or is he?) and the surrealist trip that ensues takes us to new places with every turn both physically and psychologically whilst never feeling disjointed from the main narrative.

The camera always frames characters at awkward angles distancing them from us and the other characters in the scene heightening the themes of social anxiety and the paranoia flooding the show. Even the fsociety headquarters are a visual buffet with the neon lighting of the arcade and it’s gaming machines juxtaposing the serious nature of the group’s work, making it seem as if they are simply playing at being hackers. This is after all meant to be fun for them.

At moments during the story, beats are masterfully managed with the script drawing out every last drop of a scene before flipping it 180 degrees forcing a character into action. Episode five (3xpl0its.wmv) has Elliot use his power to ‘hack’ people, reluctantly dressing down a Steel Mountain employee to manipulate him into doing what he wants. The moment still lingers with me as it was so uncomfortable.

It’s also a credit to the show that it assumes its audience is internet literate and can keep up with the jargon that is being thrown around. If the first thing you think of when someone mentions Anonymous isn’t hackers donning Guy Fawkes masks get to Reddit – you’ve got a lot of homework to do before you start.

However, it’s not all good. A rather heavy handed episode 10 causes the ‘big twist’ to lose its punch. The Chinese hacking collective never really feel like all that much of a threat and Evil Corp shouldn’t be running the most powerful conglomerate in the world as most of their employees seem more interested in what’s happening in their trouser departments than their internet security.

Also, Angela’s storyline is a token gesture when it could have been made so much more. There are moments when she literally leaves a scene which she is then called back to moments later with an entirely different approach to the situation for no other reason than the script requires her to have made that decision so we can move things along. Seemingly nothing she does from about episode five rings true. I also have personal beef. I wanted more Frankie Shaw. I’ll say no more – those who have watched the show will get it. I understand the why and the how of it all; I just had her to myself again (sad emoji face, smiling poo, tear).

If you think that the internet is a vast scary place with bad people in it Mr Robot will turn that dial up to 1,000. If you know that it’s just as scary as the real world you’ll like it; if you consider the outside world as your true enemy and message boards across the web as your true home, you’ll fall in love with it.

There’s never been a better time to start a little fling with Amazon Prime Video. It’s free for the first month and you’ll get the whole of Mr Robot and the upcoming release of The Man In The High Castle on the 20th, which is shaping up to be a must watch this Christmas thrown in for good measure. Plus she promises to be a cheap date for the first month – actually you can just stay in with her and watch movies for free. Just don’t invite her round for Netflix and chill. It’ll just get weird.

Check out more in-depth and slightly wayward small-screen analysis in our Television section, including our review of House of Cards season 4.

Mr Robot - Season 1

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