Mr. Robot – An Artistic Masterpiece
I am very particular and selective when it comes to investing my time into television series. I am aware there is a plethora of fantastic shows out there. But I rather stay away from them because when I find a show that I enjoy, it’s game over. I instantly become obsessed. It’s all I think about. It’s all I want to do. It becomes unhealthy. To retain my sanity, I try not to get into TV shows at all. It’s kind of the same approach I use for dating – I largely avoid it for my own benefit. I have better things in which I want to focus my energy, all right. Aside from Broad City and Portlandia, I prefer movies and documentaries because they are usually a 2-hour commitment. I haven’t lost my mind over a show since Breaking Bad (okay fine, maybe Doctor Who too. Don’t judge me). Until I watched Mr. Robot… Twenty minutes into the pilot, I was ready to commit to a long-term relationship and even marry this series!
Mr. Robot depicts Elliot Alderson’s story (played by Rami Malek), a socially anxious programmer who works as a cyber-security engineer by day but also has a side gig as a vigilante hacker. Elliot is extremely paranoid of the world he inhabits and doesn’t quite know how to interact with the people around him. He is the epitome of socially awkward and exhibits depressive tendencies that he chooses to self medicate with morphine. Hey, to each their own right? He hacks everyone he knows in an attempt to understand and connect with them. He lives in his head and the show successfully employs voiceover to narrate Elliot’s most inner thoughts and provide a glimpse of what it’s like to live with crippling anxiety. In essence, the audience lives in his mind and we view the world through his lens. A mysterious man by the name of Mr. Robot (played by Christian Slater) recruits Elliot to join his anarchist group, FSociety, to bring about social justice by destroying corporate America. Mr. Robot exudes a very V for Vendetta revolutionary vibe that I really enjoy. This show’s timing and relevancy is phenomenal. From the WikiLeaks scandal (largely caused by founder + internet activist Julian Assange), to the radical hacking collective group Anonymous, to the recent leaks of Sony information, Mr. Robot accurately reflects and critiques modern society. When I watched the pilot episode, it was hard to fathom that such an audacious and creative series was being aired on cable television.
One of the things that really set this series apart from anything on television right now is how visually striking the cinematography is. This is thanks to director of photography Tim Ives (best known for Girls) who did the pilot. Mr. Robot doesn’t feel like a cable television show at all. Rather, it feels like a well-executed indie or foreign film. This is because creator Sam Esmail drew inspiration from multiple acclaimed sources including Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, specifically the way he conveys New York – with a very gritty and stark vibe to it. He also borrowed the narration style from this film to depict the character’s incessant monologue. Esmail also attributes the tone used in David Fincher’s Fight Club as an influence for Mr. Robot. Stanley Kubrick’s body of work (Clockwork Orange, Dr. Strangelove, The Shining, 2001: A Space Odyssey) is also cited as major inspiration. Esmail nods Kubrick’s framing scene style through the wide angles and off-centered compositions he uses in Mr. Robot to convey an eerie and detached feeling. Mr. Robot portrays Elliot’s paranoia and subtly hints that he might not be a reliable narrator with references to Darren Aronofsky’s Pi. Esmail cites other influences including American Psycho (corporate culture), Risky Business (music), Breaking Bad (story arc) and Blade Runner (character development) in helping to shape the series. If Mr. Robot is an eclectic mix of all of these incredible films + shows, I cannot wait to see what the subsequent seasons have to offer.
If you can’t tell, I am ecstatic about this show! And the critics agree, Rotten Tomatoes has ranked it at a whooping 98%! The first season ended earlier this month but I still have one episode left to savor. I recommend this show to anyone who enjoys interesting film and television. Some may not understand it and that’s fair. This is a weird show, after all. An amazingly weird show that we all need in our lives.