Like Breaking Bad before it, it took me awhile to actually getting around to watching ‘that’ show that everyone is raving about, also like Breaking Bad, I was a little apprehensive going into it, ‘Can it actually be THAT good?’
Mr Robot tells the story of Elliot Alderson, troubleshooter for cyber security firm Allsafe by day, savant-like hacker by night with a history of mental health issues held in check with an addiction to morphine tablets. Elliot is approached by a group of hackers calling themselves FSociety, picture real world hackers Anonymous and you’ll be on the right track. FSociety want Elliot to help them pull off the cyber crime of the century, taking down the omnipresent conglomerate E Corp a peg or two. Fronted by an enigmatic hacker known only as Mr Robot, can the group rely on Elliot to come up with the goods as his own fragile psyche begins to buckle?
Mr Robot is a show that wears it’s influences proudly for all to see. Fight Club, American Psycho, Taxi Driver, Breaking Bad, they are all interwoven in the DNA of Mr Robot but never so much front and centre you’d call the show a pastiche or rip off, more of a knowing wink here and there. The show is more than aware of its own influences and the parallels that will be drawn, so much so that it effectively trolls those that may use this against it with the inclusion of a piano rendition of ‘Where is my mind’ toward the end of the first season. It was a little thing that raised a big smile.
The writing on the show from creator Sam Esmail is top drawer stuff. Tense, exciting, mind-bending and heartbreaking in equal measure, Esmail is a talent the TV world has been in need of since the end of Breaking Bad and the inevitable upcoming end of Game of Thrones to keep our genre TV fix well and truly catered for.
The ensemble cast is fantastic, Rami Malek who plays Elliot is a revelation. The eagle eyed gamers amongst you may recognise him as Josh Washington in the equally brilliant PS4 game Until Dawn, now flexing his acting muscles in a more conventional medium, Malek delivers a performance that is both arresting and delivered with quiet pathos. His portrayal of mental illness is never heavy handed or trite but sympathetic and the delivery is measured so as not to appear caricature.
Christian Slater as the titular Mr Robot is also excellent. At first enigmatic and elusive, impenetrable in his motives toward Elliot, if somewhat likeable at the same time. Later in the first season going into the second, he becomes downright scary, something Slater obviously relishes in his performance particularly in a bugged out conspiracy theory fuelled rant in Times Square at the end of season 1.
There are far too many great performances to list on a blog post for fear of overemphasis and dragging out the piece but trust me when I say, this whole cast is on point.
Another highlight comes in the form of Mac Quayles score. A synth ladened collection of pieces that brings to mind the work of Ex Chilli pepper, Cliff Martinez and his work on the Drive soundtrack. It’s an electronic score that is effortlessly cool and sets the tone of the show perfectly. There are clever uses of well known songs throughout, the aforementioned Pixies track and a lullaby rendition of Green Day’s Basket Case is wonderfully utilised in an early episode of season 2 during a dream sequence, pop-culture used in a very clever and effective way.
Mr Robot has in its first two seasons cemented itself as one of my favourite currently running TV shows. It is original yet not afraid to tip it’s hat to its influences. Like all truly great TV shows, it gets better with each passing episode, delivering all the twists, turns, shocks and developments in character & story that a show destined for greatness needs to delver of, which it does, in abundance. Long live Mr Robot.