Mr. Robot: "ZER0-DAY.AVI" Review

Rami Malek in Mr. Robot

Rami Malek in Mr. Robot


Note: Full spoilers for the episode follow.

Zero Day has not only arrived, it's already in the past. One of the primary objectives of the first season of Mr. Robot revolved around destroying Evil Corp and changing the world. The characters and the audience were invested in seeing the hack happen and observing the fallout, but the season finale only made a partial delivery. It was a bold move to skip over the actual execution of the hack and to a couple of days after the takedown. But was it the right one?

Mr. Robot has thankfully avoided the usual tropes that depictions of hacking run straight into. The camera doesn't follow information blips through wires and around circuit boards. Other series or films would have stood over Elliot's or FSociety's shoulders as they pushed a giant button labeled "Execute" and followed the command inside machinery. Nobody wants that. However, there's still material to be mined from being alongside FSociety as they made the last plunge or while they anxiously waited for the effects to ripple across the globe. We got the smallest slice of what it was like with Elliot scouring the internet but experiencing more would have been better.

The impact of the hack, however, was hard-hitting. Most of us have tasted a little of what it's like to watch the world transform before your eyes -- September 11 comes to mind -- and it was all too easy to put yourself in the middle of the storm. It was scary. Imagining a similar development happening in real life isn't much of a stretch. Mr. Robot knows how to latch onto truths and pull at them in a way that cuts you to the core.

Christian Slater and Rami Malek in Mr. Robot

Christian Slater and Rami Malek in Mr. Robot

The episode went deeper than simply showing the results of FSociety's actions through news programs and internet articles. There was a range of emotion on display in the cast. Angela's reaction was perhaps the most disturbing and definitely the most shocking. Her deciding to take a job with Evil Corp was not a move I anticipated nor was her behavior once she spent longer than a few minutes there. Granted, her temper tantrum in the shoe store happened after she witnessed a traumatic event -- the similarity of the event to the tragic on-air deaths of reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward is what caused the finale to be pushed back a week -- so being close to the incident could explain her temporary snap.

Or maybe she's planning to go deep undercover and pull Evil Corp down from the inside. Regardless of the reason for Angela's personality switch, it gave Portia Doubleday the opportunity to deliver her best performance of the series. She does intimidating exceedingly well.

Elliot's response was off the wall, too, but it's somewhat expected from him at this point. His loss of memory likely doesn't mean anything positive, and it was smart to leave his lost time unresolved. Rami Malek was, once again, superb. He handles all aspects of Elliot's personality from the quiet moments to the emotional outbursts wonderfully. Malek is especially great at keeping Elliot just beyond the reach of the audience -- we spend a huge amount of time in his head but never really get to know him. He doesn't even know himself. That all comes through in Malek's portrayal of Elliot.

Now that the truth is out about Mr. Robot, we were due to see how others view Elliot's interactions with his alter ego. It would be quite concerning to watch if you were a passerby. And it makes you realize if Mr. Robot's role would have been revealed from the beginning, we wouldn't have trusted anything Elliot told us. You have to wonder if anyone in FSociety aside from Darlene knows what Elliot wrestles with. Related: FSociety's method for covering their tracks in the arcade was brilliant and freeing the dogs scheduled to be killed was a nice symbolic touch -- and also nice in general and gave some more humanity to the hackers.


Mr. Robot wrapped its first season by completing the mission introduced in the pilot. Hacking Evil Corp became secondary to getting to know the characters though -- especially Elliot. The finale showed both how much we know and how much we're in the dark, and Mr. Robot excels at leaning into that balance.