When the first season of "Mr. Robot" (USA network) aired, I, along with a general minority of people, watched. But unlike the majority of those minority, I wasn’t rushing to friends, family and social media outlets, proclaiming Mr. Robot as must see TV. Uh-uh. Like a preggo teen on the verge of a big decision, this girl just needed time to weigh her options!
The truth is, I wasn’t really sure what to make of the show and more importantly, how I felt about it. Generally, I think it’s a good sign when a show makes the viewer think and, Mr. Robot, certainly does that. For me, it wasn’t about the performances, which were/are fantastic, it was more about execution. My biggest question: Did the show cheat? Don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil anything for the readers here, but I believe it’s a question everyone who’s seen the show has asked and answered for themselves. Now, fast forward several months and a few re-watches and I am firmly on the, Mr. Robot, train. Woot-woooo!
Created and written by, Sam Esmail, Mr. Robot, follows the twisted path of, Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek), a twenty something hacker who becomes part of a movement to fundamentally change society as we know it. Elliot is not what I expected in a hacker. He’s not some Julian Assange type, ego maniac with an axe to grind. I mean, yeah, he’s got an ax to grind, but he’s far from having a super hero complex. For one, he’s chronically lonely, self-isolating and a little bit of a drug addict. I know. How can you be just a little bit addicted to drugs? He’s also incredibly loyal, protective of those he cares about and a bit of dreamer though he wouldn’t dare see himself that way. I don’t know any hackers, or anyone like Elliot Alderson and yet, like apparently many viewers of this wildly popular show, I can connect with his struggle.
Malek’s performances onscreen have always been, at the very least, interesting. Most people got a real glimpse of his talent playing the role of, Merriell “Snafu” Shelton, from the HBO series, “The Pacific.” For very good reason, Snafu, is a fan favorite. As Elliot, Malek's acting choices subtly inform the often intangible pieces of his character’s psyche and for me, that’s everything. At this point, I can’t even imagine anyone else playing Elliot.
Without a doubt, my former pre-teen crush and forever heartthrob, Christian Slater (Mr. Robot), is the second best casting decision Esmail made for the show. As, Mr. Robot, it’s hard not to draw performance parallels to Slater’s past characters in both "Heathers" and "Pump Up The Volume." There’s more than a little J.D. and Happy Harry Hard-On in Mr. Robot and for that, Christian, we thank you. This show is chalk full of twists and unhappy turns for all of the characters, but none more than the relationship between Mr. Robot and Elliot. As a viewer, I’m still not quite sure if they are a match made in heaven or hell. Either way, I can’t take my eyes off of them.
As FUBAR as Elliot’s life seems, or is, depending on the moment, there is a small contingent of people in his orbit that ground him and help keep from falling into the abyss. Angela Moss (Portia Doubleday), who has known him since they were kids and Darlene (Carly Chaikin), a hacker revolutionary and general force of nature.
They are two of the very few people who get past Elliot’s firewall to see the man beneath. Polar opposites, Angela and Darlene approach life in completely opposite ways. Where Angela dons whatever mask she needs in order to achieve her goals, Darlene is brash and in your face, she demands and if that fails, she just takes and doesn’t ask for permission. All that being said, it’s their shared experiences that truly connects not just Angela and Darlene, but Elliot as well.
This show has a brilliant line-up of recurring actors that include B.D. Wong, Gloria Reuben, Joey Badass and Craig Robinson to name a few. Honestly, it was a real toss-up between Wong and Reuben cause I love me some B.D. Wong. However, Reuben eventually won out because of the powerful scenes she and Malek share. Reuben plays, Dr. Krista Gordon, Elliot’s psychiatrist. Of all the people in Elliot’s life, she is supposed to be the sane one, the rational one. She holds him accountable and pushes him to put into words all that is churning deep beyond his interface. But because of who Elliot is and what he can do, it is he who peels back her layers and exposes her contradictions, essentially forcing her to hold up a mirror and face herself. That sounds combative, but thanks to Esmail’s amazing writing, it’s not played out that way. It’s beautiful and heart wrenching and I loved it!
Season 2 is almost at an end (two more episodes!) so go get caught up on the USA network, Amazon Prime or…whatever online means you have. I don’t often say this in advance but, you’re welcome.