Thursday, February 25, 2016

Mr. Robot: Season One


I've always been a fan of first person narratives, particularly where you're in the mind of the protagonist. In movies and TV doing this sort of thing can be tricky and can lead to a lot of gimmicky stunts that aren't always as clever as the filmmakers think or can go down a path of unnecessary cliches. But when it works, it should put you in the mindset of the character. Now, to clarify, I'm not talking about first person perspective as seen in found footage movies. These stories likely feature some voice over narration and some degree of the narrator's reliability being skewed. Think Goodfellas, Fight Club, A Christmas Story, etc. And in this tradition we get USA Network's Mr. Robot, which also happens to have more style than a basic cable TV show has any right to have.

The show follows a hacker named Elliot Anderson (Rami Malek) who is probably the most awkward character I've ever seen portrayed in anything. He's a genius, but he's depressed, lonely, unable to express himself and addicted to morphine. Unhinged has never been done so well as Malek does here. Between what he does on screen and his voice over, he owns every excruciatingly awkward scene he's in. It's painfully awesome to behold someone as maladjusted and in so much social agony as he is. It's through him that this show, which goes into some crazy conspiracy shit about evil corporations that is surreal and yet seems way too real at times, remains grounded. The rest of the cast is excellent as well, but this kid is good. Damn good.

Rami Malek

The show's look deserves some words as well. It features a lot of odd angles and off kilter compositions that really help put you in Elliot's mind while seeming more like stylistic choices than gimmicks. There's also the way the cold opens work towards a frame with bold retro 80's era graphics, perhaps out of a video game. It all winds up making this look unlike any other show I can think of. On top of all that, to add to the stylish paranoid greatness, Christian Slater is there, playing a role that for a moment I thought would be revealed to be the grown up version of his character from on of my favorite movies of all time, Pump Up The Volume (man, I gotta see that again soon, been a very long time). But that wasn't the twist here, though there is one.

It was maybe 2 or 3 episodes in that I was pretty sure I was onto the big twist that would come near the end. But the way it was (officially) revealed was still not a let down at all. I didn't feel cheated because I had figured it out too soon. What this got right was that the twist was not just about the twist. Yes, once it's revealed we were probably way ahead of the game and had figured it out but it's directly addressed that this has happened, in a way that makes it about character development instead of clever plot contrivance. They took something that's been done and gave it a fresh spin that mostly hinges on being invested in the characters and you totally are. You just really care about Elliot. At least I do. Maybe he's familiar to me. This is a great show with a whole lot of potential to join the pantheon of my favorite shows of all time. I don't usually say this so early in the game, and it can certainly go to shit next season, so let's see.  Let's hope.

christian slater

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