Mr. Robot: An Introduction

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Next week, season 2 of Mr. Robot is starting up, and I will be reviewing it here on Critical Writ!

For those of you who haven’t watched the show, I would describe it as a hacker drama-thriller with political overtones. The main character, Elliott, is played by Rami Malek. He works as a cybersecurity engineer at a company called Allsafe, and in his spare time uses his hacking skills do dish out a kind of small-scale vigilante justice (we mostly see this in the first episode). Though no specific diagnosis is ever mentioned, Elliott seems to suffer from social anxiety and depression. He also expresses paranoid thoughts and often questions his own perception of reality.

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Much of this is related through inner monologues where Elliott directly addresses the viewer, whom he calls his “imaginary friend,” and sometimes even looks into the camera (no, not Bueller-style). The show is full of these types of clever uses of cinematography and slight rule-breaking in the use of storytelling techniques, which gives it a unique aesthetic as well as make you question what you’re seeing and wonder how much of it is real. For example, the big corporation that Allsafe is hired by, and which is at the centre of events in the show, is called E-Corp, but Elliott has nicknamed it EvilCorp. We don’t just hear that name from him, however; it’s also clearly visible on signs and papers on the show, and when someone else mentions the company to Elliott, we hear it as “EvilCorp.”

Mr. Robot doesn’t solely rely on style. The show has first-rate writing and fascinating characters. It deals with issues of capitalism and corporate greed, mental health, human connection and how technology shapes individuals and society. In addition to Elliot, there’s his (seemingly only) friend Angela, who also works for Allsafe and whose mother died in the same toxic waste accident as Elliott’s father. Angela is important as one of the few people Elliott knows and trusts, but she also has her own story throughout the season.

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Elliott and Angela’s boss Gideon is described as one of the few truly good people Elliott knows. He’s also a non-stereotypical, complex gay character. In an early episode Gideon tells Elliott about his sexuality, because he feels like that’s something he should do rather than because he wants to, and show creator Sam Esmail has some interesting things to say about the pressure on queer people to be “out” in relation to  Mr. Robot’s theme of privacy.

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Then there’s Darlene, one of the first people Elliott meets when he’s introduced to hacking group fsociety (which I promise you is not as silly as it sounds). If Mr. Robot is sometimes almost jarring in how much it reminds me of Fight Club, then at first Darlene would seem to be its Marla. That is not the case - she’s much more than an aid for the male lead’s story.

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Other fsociety members are Mobley, Romero and Trenton.

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E-Corp employee Tyrell Wellick and his wife Joanna are two of the more disturbing characters on the show. Tyrell has just the right balance between cold, calculating charm and the sense that he’s about to crumble at any time, and Joanna is just plain scary.

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And finally there’s Mr. Robot himself, the leader of fsociety. If you’re a fan of Christian Slater and have been wondering why he never does anything worth watching anymore, you’ll be pleased to know he’s doing some excellent work here. The role might as well be written for him.

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I highly recommend you check it out. As eloquently put in Amy Ratcliffe’s (spoiler-ridden) review of the whole season:This isn't something you put on in the background. Mr. Robot deserves every ounce of your attention and energy. It will frequently punch you in the face with the crappy sides of humanity, but there are victories.” And oh, it’s worth it. I wouldn’t be surprised if anyone who started watching it now binged the whole thing and caught up with me in a couple of weeks.

For those of you who have already watched Mr. Robot, I will gently refer you to one of these sources for a good reminder of what the hell happened in the first season. Bonus material: a thorough analysis of the episode names and their connection to both the show and external contexts. I would recap it all for you myself, but I also need to study up on my Mr. Robot facts. I’ll make sure to be all caught up by next week, so I can dive right into reviewing the show for you. Hopefully I’ll get some company in the comments, where you can improve upon my interpretations and share all your crazy theories!

Tova Crossler Ernström is a bisexual Swede, feminist, socialist, INFJ, Hufflepuff, HSP and Taurus. She is fond of personality tests, labels and lists.