Mr. Robot

Why I’m Watching “Mr. Robot”

Mr. Robot is a powerful story of a troubled genius computer engineer who might be fighting a devilish global monopoly. Unless he's just paranoid.

I’m only on episode 3, and I won’t reveal any spoilers. But I must say that I can’t stop watching Sam Esmail’s series on Amazon Prime, Mr. Robot. Despite its unexamined “Occupy Wall Street” style conspiratorial politics. Despite one lurid guy-on-guy sex scene. (I got to find out how well the fast-forward worked on my Blu-Ray … not well enough!) Put all that aside, and what you’ve got is a powerfully written, persuasive story of a mentally troubled genius computer engineer. His family’s dark past haunts him, and his psychologist mostly pesters him, as he fight  both with delusions and a worsening morphine habit. Rami Malek does a convincing job playing the socially isolated, achingly lonely “white hat” hacker Elliot.

His problem? Well, apart from his personal issues, Elliott is obsessed with the worldwide tentacles of the tech company whose security he helps to maintain, which he calls “Evil Corp.” He’s convinced that it’s responsible for … well, all the evil in the world. This combination of Google, Microsoft, and Amazon may have played a role in his father’s fatal workplace illness. And it may be the new Moloch that freedom-loving citizens need to destroy. At least, that’s what he suspects.

But then, Elliott suspects everything and everyone. He even suspects his day to day experiences, since he has suffered from delusions in the past. Sometimes he stops to ask the viewer, “You’re seeing this too, right?” What better candidate for recruitment by the “Anonymous”-style free range hacker collective “f-Society,” led by the raucous Christian Slater as “Mr. Robot” (probably not his real name). That actor revives his reckless, edgy persona you’ll remember from True Romance — which plays quite differently now that he’s older and slightly haggard. It’s less cloying and more … pathetic. But no less menacing.

Because f-Society is bent on bringing down Evil Corp at any price — including that of innocent human lives. Elliott keeps drifting away, then getting drawn back into the plot to ruin the company. It reminds me of Michael Corleone’s plaintive cry in Godfather 3: “I keep trying to get out, but they keep pulling me back IN!” Elliott gets his fingers burned, but can’t keep them out of the flame, not when Slater continues to manipulate his feelings, feed him lurid hints, and shame him with the chance to change the world, “or say no, and be a zero.”

The acting is strong, the New York City visuals are gripping, and the plot has enough surprises that I won’t be leaving Mr. Robot’s side until I see how this baroque and paranoid postmodern thriller resolves itself. If like me you somehow missed this series so far, I suggest you give it a try.

Written By
John Zmirak is Senior Editor of SCENES. He has sold screenplays, published a graphic novel ("The Grand Inquisitor") and taught writing at several...
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