Who is Mr. Robot?

Thanks to train time, I finally got around to the show Mr. Robot, which just kicked off its second season. Link for the unfamiliar. Spoilers for season one.

My overall thoughts on the first season.

First, it is not a perfect show. Maybe it's the binge-nature I consumed the first season (two to three episodes at a time, on a train, on my tablet, may not be the intended consumption format). It seems to take itself too seriously, to try too hard to get the Fight Club tone. Along with that, there are a few pieces that seem to clunky. At one point, the show skips a full month between episodes. You know how I know? Because each character reiterates this at some point, constantly reminding the user that there was a full month between episodes. It's clunky and unnatural. Similarly, the Tyrell Wellick character. His motives and his actions never really jived for me. I get the impression the writers were just throwing oddities at him until something stuck. I don't care about his wife or his story or his ambitions. I understand the need to have an insight into E Corp, but literally every other person we met at E Corp is more interesting than Tyrell. Side note here: for season two, so far, it looks like Angela is going to be our person, at least until Tyrell shows up again. Let's also take a quick moment to note that her transition from good girl next door to corporate bitch was sudden and very forced. I hope there's something else going on behind this or it's just a bad transition.

One final complaint: I saw on Slate or Variety an article about how they got Obama to say the name of one of the characters before watching the episodes in question. I was ready to be impressed by their technical wizardry. Instead, it was bad. The show takes a lot of real-life images and newsreel and edits the banner, to make it fit the story and the narrative. In season two, they go a little further and basically have Obama give a press conference on fsociety. Writers of Mr. Robot: please don't do this again. The newsreel stuff is fine, but the Obama press conference was jarring. It was very clear that there was some editing going on with Obama's face to make it look like he was saying things he wasn't. There was an Obama-impressionist talking over the images. Aren't there better Obama impressionists out there? Finally, Fox News does not need new ways to make shit up about Obama, so let's really not proliferate or encourage this. We don't need to see the real president talking about fake characters to make a world believable.

So those are the things I didn't like. But overall, really, I enjoyed the show! We've got the bad out of the way, now down to the good.

The cast. The background hackers (Trenton, Romero, aka the ones whose names I had to look up) aren't great but everyone else is. Christian Slater is playing Christian Slater but he's good at it, especially when he's wearing a dirty baseball cap and an ancient jacket. I need to go re-watch Heathers. Darlene, Angela, and, briefly, Shayla provide women to inhabit our hacker world. But enough can't be said for Rami. The first few episodes, I was not that impressed. He mostly just makes the same face and is semi-autistic? But then, the last half of the season... From the drug withdrawal to the revelations in the last couple of episodes. Just really incredible and I'm so thrilled for him for his Emmy nomination. As for the Swedish actors playing Wellick and his wife, they never felt like real people to me but I don't think that had anything to do with the actors.

The hacking. For most fields, television and films usually seem to do one of two things - make shit up entirely, making the thing more interesting or exciting or simpler than it really is; or come up with a super simple analogy that really dumbs down the thing for the audience. Luckily, Mr. Robot does neither. There's lingo that gets thrown around without explanation. (I don't know what a raspberry pi is but I get the context well enough to understand the thing). Various acronyms and references are made without explanation. And that's okay! The people who get it will appreciate the realism and everyone else can follow along. Your audience usually isn't stupid. The team seems dedicated to making things accurate. Thank you! I work with medical devices and nothing takes me out of a show faster than a comment about a device or disease that just doesn't make sense.

The story line. It helps that it's just ten episodes. There's not a lot of filler. And look, there are surprises. I do recommend avoiding spoilers if you can. With season two recently premiering, the sooner you see the thing the more likely this will be possible. But there's a very clear story arc that is deftly achieved. Unreliable narrators are the new trendy thing. Hayden, that guy from The Great Gatsby, Dexter. And now Elliot.

The web. I spend all day sitting at a computer. Even in meetings, my laptop is usually out. I'm sitting at a computer now. I spend a stupid amount of time online, for personal and work reasons. And it's just nice so see this on a television show. A lot of jobs any more are really just people sitting at a computer. I'm sorry this is so boring, writers of television and film, but it's true. The cubicles, the laptops, the typing. This is real life. And I appreciate a well-made drama attempting to take this on.

Finally, I've seen the first two episodes of the second season. After reading this theory on Pajiba, I went back and rewatched. Yep, it holds up really well. Fun!