Hackers have a bit of a difficult standing in modern media for a variety of reasons. Today at the Zürich Film Festival, the pilot episode of Mr. Robot airs, a show that defies stereotypes like no other.
Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek) is not a very healthy person. The young man, working for Information Security company Allsafe checks firewalls and client networks for vulnerabilities and moonlights as a vigilante of sorts. He also has a number of psychological issues. He feels very, very lonely. So lonely that he cries himself to sleep on a regular basis. His loneliness bears strange fruits. He talks to you during the episode, breaking the fourth wall and casting the viewers as an imaginary friend, and he compiles detailed folders on everyone he meets, going as far as to crack the passwords to their e-mail accounts and social media channels.
Elliot is also convinced that he’s being followed. He glances at men in suits on subways to try to figure out if they’re after him and there’s a weird homeless person who just so happens to appear in various spots throughout Elliot’s day.
Allsafe’s biggest client is a company referred to only as Evil Corp., their logo being a big E that heavily resembles that of Dell Computers. Nobody really knows what Evil Corp. actually does, but it’s made clear that they’re a close analogue to the real life Google (now called Alphabet) if the current trend that sees Google invade our lives further and further. A few years ago, Evil Corp. has covered up a chemical spill that claimed many lives, including that of Elliot’s father. The next of kin filed a lawsuit and lost.
So lonely, paranoid Elliot works for the same people who he thinks killed his father and got away with it. To get away from this hated life, Elliot has taken up taking morphine and just spacing out.
Paranoid… or is he?
Then, the homeless man approaches him, calling himself Mr. Robot (Christian Slater). The man tells him about a plan: If he helps out with one hack, he can bring Evil Corp. down and with it, most of the world’s governments due to their dependency on the big company.
Soon after, the men in the suits approach him. They accompany Elliot to one of Evil Corp.’s managers named Tyrell Wellick (Martin Wallström) who wants to hire Elliot into Evil Corp. and to help him with his own career ambitions.
This is just the first episode. Mr. Robot is ambitious and doesn’t cater to the lowest common denominator. Casual watching just might not do the trick to comprehend the intricacies of this slightly dystopian world. What makes this series stand out is their portrayal of the actual hacking. This was actually important to series creator Sam Esmail: All the tools Elliot uses are real. His methods are real. His work is exactly that of an information security professional. His private life: Not so much.
Excellent Ambassador of the Medium
The first series lasts ten episodes and it’s definitely worth watching. Nadja Schildknecht, matron of the Zürich Film Festival, and her team have chosen the series well. It shows excellently that TV Series are not just shallow comedies and series where the crook is caught after 42 minutes, allowing for 18 minutes of commercials.
Not only is Mr. Robot intelligently crafted, but due to the subject matter, it has the ability to convey placative truths about our reality. They’re broken down for quick digestion as the format of «About an hour a week» doesn’t allow for quoting sources and differentiated discourse, but more to give viewers a bit of an idea as to what they might research if they felt like it.
Is it that, we collectively thought that, Steve Jobs was a great man? Even when we knew he made billions off the backs of children. Or maybe it’s that it feels like all our heroes are counterfeit. The world itself is just one big hoax. Spamming each other with our commentary bullshit masquerading as insight. Our social media faking us into intimacy, or is that we voted for this? Not with our rigged elections, but with our things, our property, our money. I’m not saying anything new, we all know why we do this. Not because Hunger Games books make us happy, but because we want to be sedated. Because it’s painful not to pretend, because we’re cowards. Fuck Society.
All in all, Mr. Robot has the potential to be one of the best TV shows of the current era of TV shows.