Geeky TV commentary - Mr Robot Premier

  USA Network

  USA Network


Mr Robot airs at 10pm Eastern, Wednesday nights on USA.

It's hard to know what to expect from a new show, especially since the weird ones come out in the relatively open scheduling of summer. Mr Robot is one of those weird new shows.

It's entirely from the point of view of Elliot, who works at a cyber security firm he hates during the day, and uses his skills as a hacker at night--though mostly for small-time world-correcting stuff like exposing a local business-man's porn empire and getting his therapist's scumball boyfriend out of her life. But he's the only one who can counter an attack on a major corporation that's hired his firm--which both serves as a worthiness test for a band of hackers with big plans to take out all debt, and shakes up his depressing and unhappy, but safe life. His childhood friend loses face, with the implication that she clawed what esteem she had from nothing to begin with. He starts thinking he's crazy. And shady guys in black suits and black cars take him to a secret meeting at the end of the episode.

The starting scene was amazing--he's weird and complicated and doesn't do it for money though he very much could if he wanted to. He's socially awkward to the point of being fatally isolated. The only person he cares about doesn't seem to feel the same and is dating someone else. He obsessively researched everyone who catches his eye, and he compulsively needs to know what people are hiding--he's both annoyed by their secrets and comforted by them, it seems. Everyone has them and most are not terrible.

The show is totally wrapped up in his head, which does some interesting things with unreliable narrators and personal world views, but in the middle, his lack of hope and general pessimism starts to feel oppressive. He's aimless and joyless and hopeless, and it colors all his awkward and bad and lopsided choices.

But then Mr Robot shows him a secret society that wants to take down the worst of the world without crashing the whole of the economy. He's wary, but when it proves to work, to do what was promised, the rush of purpose and excitement shifts the whole heavy nihilism of the show into another gear. A tense, interesting show about anarchy would have been good enough, but anarchists with a noble cause are more interesting, and they make the show more pointed--they're changing the world, not just reacting to it. They're taking the problem into their own hands and aiming for a future they can create, not just lashing out at the ills of the world.

By the end of the episode, it's hard not to be on board. And with the news of the series being picked up for a second season before episode one even aired, it seems worth it. Plus, it feels more accurate to what hacking is probably actually like, while still maintaining small references to other hacker-themed media like the Matrix and Hackers...minus the overblown cheesiness.

It'll be fascinating to see how this group of damaged and dysfunctional people manage to work together--or if they even do. Though I hope they do; a show that crashes and burns on purpose is not entertaining.