Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Mr. Robot (Season 1) (2015)

Creator: Sam Esmail
Cast:      Rami Malek, Christian Slater, Portia Doubleday


Follows a young computer programmer (Malek) who suffers from social anxiety disorder and forms connections through hacking. He's recruited by a mysterious anarchist, who calls himself Mr. Robot (Christian Slater). 

It is really great and further discussion is not possible without spoilers. So stop reading, watch it and come back. Don't even fucking google it.

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The TV series got nod for second season even before it got aired because of the rave reviews it got after the pilot got leaked on the internet. It has got super high production values and cinematography and the New-York setting is amazing. Thematically and stylistically, it is most similar to 'Fight Club' and rather than presenting the thing as a very big twist, we are given every clue in the first 3-4 episodes to figure the shit out. Not like the subtle clues given in Fight Club, but really blatant ones to make us aware about the Fight Club connection. Even when the twists are presented, the protagonist is always the last one to know, and it makes an effort to make us say it even if we hadn't figured it out earlier. That is really a cool thing and very unique to this program. House of Cards brought 'breaking the fourth wall' as a significant narrative technique for the show but Mr. Robot takes it to another level by giving it a 'Truman Show' like twist. Protagonist is an unreliable narrator because of his state of mind and that can be used to paper over any cracks in the plot-hole sense on re-watch. 

Apart from Fight Club, other things I got reminded of were American Psycho (Scandinavian couple), Matrix and V for Vendetta. I have seen people saying it got a Dexter vibe to it but I haven't seen that show to comment on that. The technical things it shows are supposed to be very accurate for a TV show and that is a fresh thing since hacking is glossed over normally in films and TV shows. TBF, since it is so central to the show, you have to actually do it in this credible manner. You know you are in safe hands when everything is shown through command prompt window rather than some shitty graphics laden window. 

I did think the show suffered a mid-life crisis during the middle episodes but the way it ended with the last three justifies that approach. First 3-4 episodes works in a consistent manner with the Fight Club vibe and the mannerisms of the protagonist is really 'aspergic'. We are made to really think about whether it is all in his head during those but the following three episodes achieve a degree of normalcy and you end up quite disappointed thinking that all the uniqueness of the show is gone. It again swings back into the Fight Club mode in the last three episodes and the middle part of the show was a ploy to lull the audience to lower their guard.  

The show is very referential and self-aware and there is a cool Pulp Fiction reference as well along with the 'I'm pretty fucking far from okay' quip. They even managed to include the Ashley Madison hack and Chinese market crash from recent news into the story-line. 
As for the next season, I am not sure how they can make it intriguing because lot of the intrigue of this season was to do with the possibility of that 'Whether it is in his head' question. There is every chance that it will turn out to be quite average next season. That doesn't matter since it works very well as a standalone show of ten episodes the same way as Matrix did with its first installment. The naming of episodes is really cool as well. Some might criticize the show for the stupidity of what they are doing in terms of ideology but that that would be stupid because it is not happening from a sound basis and same was true for Fight Club. The narrators in both are really flawed individuals and you cannot really expect Chomsky level intelligence from them. Your level of enjoyment would also depend on your assessment of the central performance from Rami Malek and I though he was excellent in it. It is difficult to believe that it is a US Network TV show and not something from HBO or Netflix. It is indeed the 'The Golden age of TV'. 

PS: I binge watched it over a 26 hour period and I do think it is better to do it this way since you don't have time to think about plot-holes. They had to delay the airing of season finale due to the recent Virginia shooting incident. 

Rating: 4.5/5