TV Review: Mr Robot – Series 1

gives a rave review to one of 2015’s hottest debut shows, USA’s “Mr Robot”

★★★★★

Image: Virginia Sherwood/USA Network/NBCUniversal Television Distribution

Image: Virginia Sherwood/USA Network/NBCUniversal Television Distribution

The 10 part series, created by the relatively unknown Sam Esmail, follows the troubled and erratic life of psychologically damaged Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek) who, officially, works to protect the all-powerful conglomerate “Evil Corp” while simultaneously, covertly, seeking to destroy them through the all-too-relevant method of cyber hacking.

If Mr Robot does not make you want to place duct tape over your webcam then I don’t know what will. The frailties of online security are relentlessly displayed as we encounter the manipulation of medical records, the infiltration of webcam access and the take down of the largest company in the world. However, what makes Mr Robot so powerfully unique is that there isn’t over complicated technical jargon that tends to alienate the audience when such themes of hacking are explored.

Similarly the psychological aspects of the series aren’t as frustrating as they can often be, if it had the dynamic of constantly questioning what is or what isn’t real then it would be exhausting, as although that can be compelling in a two hour film, over ten hours it would be tiresome. Luckily, Mr Robot avoids this trap of complication and sparingly shocks the audience as to what is happening in the mind of the fragile narrator that is Eliot, for example the dream sequence in Episode 4 (titled “eps1.3_da3m0ns.mp4” – the show’s use of tech-speak in its episode titles is one of its numerous thrills) keeps the audience double guessing in a mesmerising 15 minutes.

A major facet that contributes to the excellence of Mr Robot is the original manner with which it is filmed. The construction of the scenes are often very cinema-like and are extremely intricate as Esmail explores the gritty inner city of New York in comparison to the electric neon of Coney Island (where the base of Eliot’s hacking group ‘fsociety’ is situated). However, the most unique aspect of cinematography comes from the conversations between characters where their faces are often in the corner of the frame, tucked away to allow for the sparse background to be seen. This creates an uncomfortable viewing situation to accentuate the social ineptitudes of the characters, in particular Eliot. In addition to this, the music used is very consistent with the themes of the program, it is extremely intense with electronic spurts resonating throughout to coincide with the technological heart of the program.

The acting performances of the main cast are incredibly compelling, Rami Malek portrays Eliot as a socially anxious, morphine addict who is in equal parts cripplingly awkward and oddly lovable. Martin Wallström channels American Pscyho when playing the sociopathic Tyrell Wellick, who works for “Evil Corp” and is compellingly despicable as we see him pay a homeless person to let him mercilessly beat him up, amongst other atrocities. The likes of Christian Slater (Mr Robot), Portia Doubleday (Angela) and Carly Chaikin (Darlene) also impress with their performances of characters who are volatile with visible flaws and an unpredictability that typifies the program as a whole.

The ability Mr Robot has to shock us without turning to easy violence is incredibly impressive in an age where the most successful TV shows (The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones) often rely solely on major character deaths as a means of jolting the audience. One of the only drawbacks to the program is a slightly underwhelming final episode, however with a new season confirmed this will hopefully be rectified with more of the same intensity that has made Mr Robot a true triumph.

Mr Robot is available now to stream on Amazon Prime.

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