(This list gets a little spoiler-y. You've been warned.)
1. First of all, it’s Rami Malek. I mean, c’mon. Rami Malek!
Thank you, God, for Rami Malek. Previously known for slept-on roles such as Akmenrah in the Night at the Museum franchise and Benjamin in Breaking Dawn Part II, Rami Malek gives an unforgettable performance in this show. His portrayal of Elliot is so darkly seductive, so shadowy and ambiguous and sad and sexy and longing. I think Malek is definitely an actor we should be keeping our eyes on, because if this is what he gives us now, I can only imagine what exceptional, great and monumental things we’ll get in the future. I feel sad that it took this show to put Rami on my radar, but I’m so glad he’s finally there now. 11/10, Rami, you da realest.
2. It’s one of the most tantalizing stories being told on television today.
From the characters to the dialogue to the music, lighting, sound, staging; everything about this show is cohesive, succinct, and torturously good. As the plot arc expands, so do the characters, and it’s so well done. Creator Sam Esmail has given us an amazing show. It pulses with every second spent watching it, sparking and catching fire in the viewer’s mind. Incredible.
3. It challenges me to be more aware of the people around me.
Now, I didn’t see much of the show coming, but this is one thing that I just truly did not anticipate when deciding to start the show. Elliot makes me want to be more attentive to the people around me, especially the ones I care for and love. It speaks truth to the old adage that you never really know what someone’s going through unless they tell you. It makes me want to be a more compassionate person. For such a dark show, it makes me hopeful. I think that’s pretty rad.
4. Its main female characters are anthems unto themselves.
Spontaneous Darlene, Independent Shayla, Ambitious Angela, Steadfast Trenton, Complex Joanna. All five of these women are planetary, with their own unique gravitational pull and reasons to be worshiped. They exist so far beyond what I've described them as, they're so much more than just one thing. Any one of them could be their own central character. They have feelings and reactions and motivations and strong wills and individual personalities, it’s glorious! They’re incredible, and they know it. And now we do too.
5. It sings a siren’s song to the introvert in me.
I adore the main character, Elliot Alderson, for so many reasons, but his introverted tendencies stand out to me for being so well written! I’m tired of introverts being shown in media as having no friends, staring at their phones all day, never leaving the house, listening to sad music, and hating themselves. That’s not being introverted, that’s a shallow warning poster for depression. Yes,some introverted people fit that description, but not all, so it's nice to see introverted characters exist outside of that spectrum. Elliot has close friends who love him and who he loves. He has a good job and things he likes to do. Yes, he’s mentally unstable and sad and morally ambiguous and an addict, but that’s to be discussed later. Right now, I’m talking about his introvertedness, and I seriously love the way it’s written.
Elliot is so relatable to introverts: He admits he doesn’t know how to talk to people, he has a “touching thing," he thinks way more than he actually speaks, he’s incredibly observant, but he still has a life. I appreciate this.
6. It’s such a breathtaking portrayal of mental instability.
In the pilot, Elliot self-diagnoses as schizophrenic, but this is never really proven. Elliot is just so un-box-able. He’s an unreliable narrator if ever there was one. Elliot sees himself as this hybrid kind of vigilante shepherd, teetering on the edge of legality to make a difference in the world. But he’s drowning in his sadness and his aloneness, and he’s held under by his mental illnesses. He wants to do the right thing so badly, but his actions so often end up hurting himself and the people he loves. He never truly knows his own mind, and his paranoia owns him. He’s obsessed with the idea of control and this is evident throughout the first season. Elliot’s character development (or perhaps devolution) is a moving, palpable thing, and I can’t get enough. Elliot is so reflective of our culture, and I think his mental state is so well written and divinely acted.
7. It’s introducing me to some seriously stellar music I’ve never heard before.
Good TV shows today understand that weaving music seamlessly into a story is not only imperative, it’s an art. From the crazy scores that elevate not only Elliot’s paranoia but the audience's, to the songs that play in the background throughout every episode, Mr. Robot knows what it’s doing. Some notable songs I’ve saved to my Spotify after having been introduced to them by the show: Queen by Perfume Genius, Open Tales by Bora York, What We Need is Some Rock by Just Water, Love on a Real Train by Tangerine Dream, and People Who Died by The Jim Carroll band. (Seriously, it was so hard to include only those. I suggest you look up the music that the show uses. The vibe is unreal.)
8. It relies on a captivating narration by main character, Elliot.
This part is so intriguing, because it’s a near-constant fourth wall break, but not a typical one. We learn as the series goes on that Elliot regards the audience as his “imaginary friend”, someone he “just made up”. He speaks to us as so, explaining things and then asking our opinion, sometimes correcting himself about the nature of our existence. The very first few lines of the show are Elliot speaking to us: “Hello, friend. Hello, friend? That’s lame. Maybe I should give you a name. But that’s a slippery slope. You’re only in my head. We have to remember that”. It’s a great narrative tool and it’s executed so well, it doesn’t seem like the gimmick it might be when used elsewhere. This aids in making me want to care about Elliot. He sees us and it pulls us more into the story, makes us feel like we belong there, like we have weight and substance there. We can’t just watch the show and be idle because Elliot sees us. There’s a great bit towards the end of season 1 where Elliot addresses us, saying something like “I wonder what it’s like to be you. Not worrying, just observing.” It almost made me feel guilty, like I was the one hacking Elliot’s life. I love that! That a show can do something like that to me. We never really know if we’ve become part of Elliot’s potential identity disorder or not. Does he see us as part of him or someone separate? I don’t feel passive in Elliot’s story, I feel active because of this tool, and I think that’s incredible.
9. It’s not afraid to be socially confrontational.
When his therapist asks him what it is about society that disappoints him so much, Elliot responds with an amazing piece of dialogue that I think accentuates this point. It’s kind of a long quote, but worth every letter read:
“Oh, I don’t know. Is it that we collectively thought 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’s just one big hoax. Spamming each other with our running commentary of bullshit masquerading as insight, our social media faking as intimacy. Or is it 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 makes us happy but because we wanna be sedated. Because it’s painful not to pretend, because we’re cowards. Fuck society.” Elliot, Season 1 Episode 1: “eps1.0_hellofriend.mov”
Throughout this short monologue, images are flashed across the screen to correspond with certain sentences. For instance, when Elliot says “All our heroes are counterfeit," we see images of Lance Armstrong and Bill Cosby. The show simply isn’t afraid of call-out culture, and it urges us not to be either. Not so that we can be ‘trendy’ or ‘badass’ or ‘cool,' but so that we can genuinely do something about it.
Mr. Robot is not afraid to get in your face, about anything. Society, emotions, humanity, relationships, mental illness, grief, murder, sex, criminality, moral ambiguity; you name it, Mr. Robot has something to say about it. That’s not a negative thing, I think it’s refreshing to have such a niche show use its voice and remain uniquely itself.
10. Its main character, Elliot, is intensely alluring.
Where to even begin with this one? I've already touched on this in different places, but this point could be an essay unto itself. Elliot is a chasm of intrigue, from his haunting eyes that seem to trap the viewer from the very first scene to his subtler mannerisms that you learn as the season progresses, I just can’t seem to look away from him. He captivates. I care about him, even though the show puts out this vibe that maybe we should think twice before doing that. As season 1 progressed, I found myself hanging onto every little detail revealed about or by Elliot. From his family to his friends to his motivations to Flipper and Qwerty, I was hooked. The reveals at the end of the season just solidified for me that this show is a current favorite. It feels groundbreaking, even though I can’t quite put my finger on why.
I spoke earlier about Elliot’s introverted ways, and I want to elaborate a little here. Elliot doesn’t know how to talk to people, so instead he uses his hacking skills to learn everything about them, from things he might normally glean from everyday conversations to their darkest and most deeply hidden secrets and shames, and then he reveals to them these things he’s learned, without ever having to get to know them. One moment that stood out to me for its poignancy was the flashback scene where Elliot meets Shayla, and he says something like, “I wish we already knew each other; then this wouldn’t have to be so awkward.” I love that line; it’s so real to me.
One standout thing about Elliot is his addiction to morphine. This is so outstanding because it’s another thing that’s so real about the show. In the first episode, Elliot tells us: "I do morphine. The key to doing morphine without turning into a junkie is to limit yourself to 30 milligrams a day. Anything more just builds up your tolerance." Wow. Get this though, not only does he do morphine, but he chases it with Suboxone, a controversial “addiction drug” that is uses to treat not only pain, but addiction to narcotic pain relievers. The thing here is, Suboxone is highly addictive itself. It seems to be like quitting drinking and taking up smoking. Redundant. I think this speaks layers about who Elliot is. His aforementioned obsession with control, his necessity for it.
Elliot is persuasive, succulent, absorbing, and his story is magnetic. I highly recommend it.
(*You can watch Season 1 of Mr. Robot on Amazon Video, and tune in for Season 2, airing Wednesday’s at 10/9c on USA.)