Mr. Robot – The best show you’ve never seen
Season 2 of The USA Networks’s surprising breakthrough hit Mr. Robot is pushing the boundaries of serialized story telling, but very few are getting to see it.
If you were lucky enough to get on board the Mr. Robot hype wagon last year, then you could probably relate to my frustration when you try to talk to other people about this show, and they ask you if it’s the movie with Will Smith and the I see dead people kid. USA Network is not exactly the most premium cable channel over in Trump-Land, and the ratings for this show have been steadily dropping since this year’s premiere, which were already down on last year’s finale. But here in Australia, it’s even more difficult to find other Mr Robot cultists to swoon with over this show with.
The reasons for this – as far as I can see – are twofold; firstly, Mr. Robot is a poor name from a marketing perspective. It’s actually a brilliant name, once you’ve seen the show and you understand it, but until then, it sounds like it could be a ‘Where Are They Now’ documentary about Dexter from Perfect Match. The second issue is its availability here in Australia, airing exclusively on this country’s least favourite streaming service Presto, although season 1 is now available to stream on Foxtel Box Sets. Channel 7, the other part owners in Presto, also aired some episodes on free to air television last year, but it seems that was merely to entice viewers over to their second-rate streaming service. Essentially, it hasn’t been the easiest show to watch, even if you do know about it.
So if it’s not about an actual robot, then what is this much hyped but rarely seen show all about? Well, that’s not an entirely easy question to answer, as the show is deliberately deceptive and disorientating to the viewer, but to summarise it as few a words as possible… it’s about computer hacking, social anarchy and mental illness.
Elliott Alderson (played superbly by the freaky-looking Rami Malek) is a 29 year old New Yorker, who is a white collar cybersecurity engineer by day, and a vigilante social justice cyberhacker by night. The other things you need to know about Elliott is that he is absolutely batshit crazy and he’s a drug addict, and the two are very much related. Elliott suffers from severe mental illness that while isn’t explicitly spelled out on the show, appears to be a mixture of schizophrenia and some sort of dissociative disorder. The depictions of Elliott’s extreme social anxiety, his psychosis and the lonely and numbing feeling of detachment are some of the best ever seen on screen. That comes down to a combination of incredible acting, vague and confusing camera shots and a subtle low-hum background score, that keeps you feeling on edge for every second of the show. Essentially, the same way that Elliott always feels.
As an audience member, we see everything through the prism of Elliott’s distorted and cloudy perspective on life. He narrates directly to us as though we are the voices in his head. This clever device allows several plot twists to play out over the first season, some that you see coming from a mile away, and some that you just really don’t. Even heading into the season one finale, there are many elements you just cannot be sure about, such is Elliott’s weak grasp on reality.
The show is rounded out by an outstanding supporting cast of characters, each with their own important part to play to the overall story, but a special mention must go to Christian Slater. He is back into some old-school 90’s form here as the show’s title character (that’s sort of a spoiler, but not a big one), and the scenes between him and Elliott are mostly responsible for the very lofty heights the show hits.
Season 2 is currently at it’s half way mark, and with its darker tones and riskier material, it really is getting into some very unique territory.
If you haven’t seen this yet, you still have time to catch up before the season 2 finale, and believe me when I say that as soon as you get started, you’ll binge through this like a junkie at a stash house.
Please, get on it. I need people to talk to about it.
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