You’re going to hear a lot of big names when you first hear about USA’s first-ever golden-era show, Mr. Robot. Kubrick. Fight Club. Christian Slater. The Pixies! What does it all mean? And should you watch Mr. Robot?
After ceasing to accidentally call this show Dr. Robot, I gave it a try. My first thought was that this show seems more British than American. Why? The lack of standard T.V. tropes? The female characters that don’t have their faces perfectly contoured and their hair perfectly coifed? The resemblance to Netflix’s Black Mirror? You tell me. It’s set in New York and no one has a British accent, so I don’t really know. It just seems tangibly different, like it came to T.V. from Elsewhere.
This was enough to keep me watching. Oh, and the show’s main actor, Rami Malek. First of all, he has crazy big eyes. Second of all, he’s an amazing actor. I found myself wishing that J.J. Abrams would scrap the new Star Wars he is filming and build a new one around this actor. (Please pronounce “actor” the way Will Ferrell does in Inside the Actor’s Studio when referring to Rami Malek.)
In some ways, Mr. Robot is “smart” in the way that the show Lost was smart. It makes all the references geeks want to see, but you’re left feeling like it’s the most educated possible way to say something really incoherent. Actually it is just Lost that is incoherent. Mr. Robot has an idea that it sticks to (capitalism and giant corporations are bad/ hackers are good), it’s just that it isn’t exactly new. If you’ve seen Fight Club or V for Vendetta, you’ll be perfectly primed to consume the angst of this Mr. Robot.
Vulture put this better than I ever could. “This series about a computer hacker/revolutionary/mentally ill man-child is pretty openly catering to aficionados of Cinema de Dudebro, referencing a number of films and filmmakers that absolutely pass muster as art while also just happening to look and sound frickin’ awesome when you put them up on that 57-inch plasma screen with surround sound that hangs on a wall opposite your black leather couch.”
Mr. Robot is like an idea for a show that sounds a little too 1999 on paper, but in reality turns into something magical. The right people came together to make this thing as good as it could possibly be. The actors are almost all fantastic, and none of them are really famous yet except for Christian Slater. The cinematography does have a Kubrick-like eeriness to it, which appealed to me since Clockwork Orange is my favorite movie. And the music is odd and epic and apparently very referential, since the creator, Sam Esmail likes to use music to nod to his influences. Yes that Pixies song is supposed to be copying Fight Club. It’s intentional!
I know what you’re all thinking. Becky, you’re an angry feminist. What do you think about the ladies in this show? Angela (played by Portia Doubleday), is kind of like a less Hollywood version of Amanda Seyfried. While she starts out seeming like a side character, she becomes more and more important with time. Same with Darlene, an excessively pretty character played by Carly Chaikin, who at first comes off as an annoying parody of an Urban Outfitters model. One of the most interesting feats of the show is how it moves these characters from the sidelines to the center, and in the process more than passes the Bechdel test.
Mr. Robot has the best penultimate episode of any first season ever, when we explore Elliot’s mental illness. I wrote about that more here,but it makes you stop and think about how mental illness relates to storytelling more than Esmail’s hero movie, Fight Club, did.
I’m excited to see what’s next for Mr. Robot, and also just to hear what more people thought of the show. But to answer my original question, Mr. Robot is definitely good. It remains yet to be seen whether or not it will be great.