Summer is here in all of its humid, sunny glory. That fantastic time of year if you’re a kid out of school for summer break. For the rest of us it is a disastrous season where all your favorite TV shows have taken a break and are being replaced by mediocre reality shows and new series with plot holes bigger than the US wage gap. Sometimes, in the most brutal of summers, there is a refreshing shade sent to save our minds from completely frying. Mr. Robot is that savior.
Elliot (Rami Malek) suffers from social anxiety, chronic depression, and he has been known to have a schizophrenic delusion in his time. He’s a security tech at Allsafe Security, providing online protection for companies. In his spare time, he uses these same abilities to take down corrupt corporate officials. His best friend Angela (Portia Doubleday), who he might have more than friendly feelings for, has known Elliot for a while, and knows all about his condition. She tries her best to get him to be more social, but Elliot has a mission to complete. All of that changes when an underground hacker group tries to recruit him to take down all of Allsafe’s biggest clients.
This is where he meets the cryptic Mr. Robot (Christian Slater), leader of the group. Mr. Robot has been watching Elliot since the beginning, posing as homeless person around the city, hiding in plain sight. Elliot is forced to choose between his two lives when he has to decide whether to do his job and protect the company or take them, potentially costing him and Angela their jobs. After he’s made his decision, he goes back to the underground hacker group, but every trace of them has disappeared, as if they were never there. Maybe they weren’t.
Never trust a summer series. No matter how much you think they will get better beyond their initial episode, they will only disappoint you in the end. Luckily, Mr. Robot shares the same cynical outlook I have for summer TV, only applied instead to the government, and, to a lesser extent, his own mind. The voice-over narrative fits the characters schizophrenic tendencies while simultaneously giving us an unreliable narrator that talks to us like we’re long time friends. It feels natural, and it’s an effective tool when it comes to garnering our trust of Elliot. This is important, because we see and experience everything Elliot does, and his refusal to take his medication could mean that at any moment he could be seeing or experiencing things that aren’t real.
That is just one part of the intrigue that is Mr. Robot. The other part is the nuanced performance Malek delivers as the antihero, Elliot. Slater is also an essential part, creating drama and doubt as the cryptic character Mr. Robot. It also brings into question who the true focus of the show should be, since the show is named after a secondary character. I guess we’ll just have to keep watching to figure out.
The show remains relevant and fresh by playing on current global and social events involving big business and its working class citizens. It brings to light that much of the fighting going on against these mega corporations is happening in the shadows by keyboard hero hacktivists like Elliot. Part of the fun of the show is being caught in the exhilarating world of online warfare, one that not many of use are familiar with. With all the moves and counter-moves, it feels like we’re caught in a high-stakes chess match where the loser of the match will lose everything.
Final Thoughts: Mr. Robot is easily one of the best new shows this summer, and from the unlikeliest of sources, the USA network. With its captivating use of intrigue and misdirection, and Malek’s refined performance, Mr. Robot is able to enthrall us for the entire hour. That is a feat that not even most movies can boast about.
RATING: ★★★★★★★★★ (9/10 stars)