The following is a season review of the first season of Mr. Robot. This review was written in May 2016.
I just finished Mr. Robot some days ago. I know, I know, it aired in the U.S. in the middle of 2015. But Mr. Robot was not, I believe, shown anywhere in Denmark, which is kind of odd considering one of the characters is Danish, and the first episode is directed by a Dane. But somehow, some way Mr. Robot didn’t air in Denmark in 2015. For a long time, Mr. Robot was this weird little show airing on the USA Network that a lot of my followers just tweeted about on Twitter.
I had no real idea what it was all about. When I sat down to finally watch the trailer I was intrigued. Rami Malek who I had seen in some other shows and films (but mostly recognized from the 2015 PlayStation exclusive Until Dawn) was the lead, and Christian Slater was the main supporting character in a show about ‘hacktivists’. I had no idea that Mr. Robot was going to become an obsession of mine when I finally sat down to watch the season one Blu-Ray.
Mr. Robot follows Elliot Alderson (played by Rami Malek), a socially uncomfortable and depressed hacker, who works at Allsafe (a cyber security company) by day, and as a vigilante hacker by night. One night after work, Elliot is confronted by a man known only as Mr. Robot (played by Christian Slater), who plots to take down E Corp, an Allsafe client, and wants to recruit Elliot into his hacktivist group fsociety.
Mr. Robot is heavily inspired by films like Fight Club and Memento, and thus is very centered around Elliot’s mood, memory, and emotions. One of the great things that this show does from the outset is to actually use its audience as a character. He confides in you, but also knows that he made you. Yet one of the things you start to realize is that you, the observing character, aren’t always trusted. Elliot feels the need to explain himself to you, but also questions what you know.
You are both his conscience and his common sense. It is absolutely brilliant. Without going into spoilers, I will say that there are moments where the show intentionally, I assume, wants you to realize something, but keeps that assumption from the main character. Therefore, while some revelations in the show are truly shocking, there are some revelations that you see coming and Elliot has a feeling you knew all along. I can’t really say more than that without diving into spoiler territory.
Let’s now talk about the characters and performances, but before talking about the two main characters in the show, there are some supporting characters that deserve a moment or two in the spotlight. First we have the true power couple of Mr. Robot: Tyrell and Joanna Wellick.
The Wellicks are mysterious from the get-go, and it all starts with Tyrell (played by Martin Wallström) who works at E Corp. Tyrell is extremely ambitious, and seeks to hold the position of CTO (Chief Technology Officer) at E Corp. Tyrell is a Patrick Bateman-like character, but it isn’t until you get a couple of episodes into the show that you realize that his wife, Joanna (played by Stephanie Corneliussen), is just as conniving and mysterious as he is.
Their relationship is not unlike the Underwoods in House of Cards, but at times they feel even more mysterious than Frank and Claire Underwood. They do speak English from time to time, but it is when they hide behind their Scandinavian languages that they become the secretive and mysterious characters that this show needs. Tyrell Wellick is Swedish and Joanna Wellick is Danish (just like the actor and actress that play the characters).
Now, I assume their interactions in Swedish and Danish are subtitled in America, but I guess most viewers will notice how different the languages are. Most Danes and Swedes understand each other pretty well, some might even say the languages are just two different dialects of the same original language. But for a show so centered around hacking and coding, I found it absolutely brilliant to have two characters interact in three different languages.
Now, let’s talk about the three women in Elliot’s life: Shayla, Angela, and Darlene. Shayla serves as the beacon of hope and goodness in the show, but actually is a drug dealer. Frankie Shaw does a great job with her character, who sticks out among the calculating characters around her.
Angela (played by Portia Doubleday) is presented as Elliot’s childhood friend, and she is everything Elliot isn’t. Whereas Elliot has an almost closeted exterior, and generally likes to hide behind his dark hoodie, Angela is much more outgoing, and her character traits make her very attractive to Elliot. It is her sense of belonging he seeks.
Now, Darlene is… interesting. She is a tough character to really discuss, and the way she shows up suddenly in the show feels very intrusive and annoying. But at the end of the season, the decisions that the writers and the actress did with the character make much more sense, and you appreciate Darlene much more as a result.
Another character you can’t really discuss too much is Mr. Robot. The character is crazy in the best possible way. At times his moral compass is all screwed up, and he serves as the figurehead of fsociety, but turns out to be much more than that. Slater does a great job with the uncompromising character.
But no other performance in the show holds a candle to Rami Malek’s performance as Elliot Alderson. This might be the role of a lifetime for Rami Malek who has never really been all that famous. That is about to change. Malek is perfect as Elliot. You feel for the character and you can relate to his struggles. Elliot is kind but confused, lonely, depressed, and anxious. Malek hits every note perfectly in this show. The character’s struggle is apparent, and this show wouldn’t work as well as it does without Malek.
This show is excellent from start to finish. It makes you question your memory of the show, as well as question one of the most unreliable narrators ever on television. But there is one thing I could add as a disappointment or negative issue. In the latter part of the season, Elliot starts to jump to conclusions, which is to say that the show doesn’t show you as much as it did in the beginning of the season. It adds to the mysterious nature of the show, but it does also make the season finale slightly underwhelming as it rushes past the event that the season had led up to since the first episode.
– I’m Jeffrey Rex