I love the feeling of getting excited about a new show--becoming obsessed with its characters, writing the title in cursive bubble letters through all my notebooks, creating acrostic poems about it to shake myself awake from waves of tiredness that hit me during class.
That feeling means the world to me and I cling to it all the more whenever a fresh discovery coincides with the start of a new semester. For while my old stalwart shows have been proven to offer much comfort during those rough readjustment periods, there's a special power that derives from finding a new series that always serves to get me through the tougher aspects of returning to academia.
This thrill is manifold when you don't see the find coming. After watching the official trailer for Sam Esmail's "Mr. Robot," I didn't think the show would be for me. The computer world has never been my favorite subject matter ("The Social Network," "Silicon Valley"--the latter especially has a great roster of comedians to its cast--never personally clicked). But then I started reading the rave reviews about how the show was completely breaking the USA Network's mold of lighthearted, detective whodunits, and how star Rami Malek was knocking it out of the park with his riveting lead performance as Elliot Alderson. I got intrigued and one day, after all 10 episodes had already aired and were available OnDemand, I turned on the pilot. Five minutes in, I was ready to jump around the room with glee. Here was a show that took would-be clichés like the socially awkward hacker who hates "the Man" (or in this case Evil Corp) and managed to make them freshly realized, with an unusual visual perspective that gave an added layer of complexity to every scene. I had hit TV gold and you can, too. Here are five reasons you should consider watching "Mr. Robot."
This choice may be a sentimental one, fueled more than partially by my own past love and friendship with a beta fish, Salvatore, but from the moment Elliot introduces Qwerty as his only friend in the pilot, he's the best. I'd be curious to know whether other viewers were so quickly struck by this little fish in his opening scene but even if he doesn't make an impression the first time, he will. Instead of becoming a quick detail, a blip mentioned once, Qwerty truly gets to prove his status as his owner's lone buddy. Popping up again in the background of many memorable scenes, it is this level of consistency to detail, in showing that Qwerty is a major character in his owner's life, and not a gimmick for a throwaway line, that makes "Mr. Robot" so impressive.
2. Morality in hacking?
The hacking profession by its very nature brings into question what boundaries of privacy shouldn't be crossed. "Mr. Robot" tackles this modern issue by having Elliot hack everyone, especially the people he loves, and then questioning whether his actions are ever morally acceptable, or justified. The argument goes both ways but it's an important debate to be having in this day and age. Elliot is an extremely likable character, who is always shown to be very conscious of how his actions affect others (with gestures of deliberate kindness that are some of my favorite moments of the season). However that doesn't mean he always makes the right choices.
3. "Mr. Robot," Psychological Thriller: Nothing Is Ever Certain
Playing off the comparison of computer memory to human memory, Elliot is a flawed narrator because you never know if, or how much, of what he is seeing is real. While the show makes a point of mentioning early on that he has a history of delusions and paranoia, on top of an addiction to morphine, the gravity of what that means in the context of the story doesn’t become fully clear until episode eight, with a reveal that throws every scene before it into question. It’s a twist that’s worth the series commitment alone.
4. This Ain't Your Usual Basic Cable Show
From cursing, to the symbolic framing of shots, to song choices that, while not always liked, are never boring (raising the volume of the background music so that it almost takes prominence over the dialogue in the opening of the second episode) this show takes risks--perhaps none greater then the choice to have Elliot provide voiceover commentary that directly addresses the audience--his "imaginary friend"--breaking the fourth wall. It's a game-changer for the USA Network and the kind of artistry usually reserved for premium cable (or at least AMC or FX).
5. Rami Malek
Those rave reviews that cited Rami Malek's performance as the best thing about "Mr. Robot?" They weren't wrong. A relative newcomer, and first time leading man, Malek's layered characterization of Elliot makes the show. While the supporting cast is also strong (notably Christian Slater, breaking a streak of canceled TV shows, as the infamous title character, Mr. Robot) there is no "Mr. Robot" without Malek.