BY VERNE GAY
Yes, USA made the right decision, or reasonable one -- holding the finale of "Mr. Robot" a week, until last night, when the first season wrapped.
The episode was pulled last Wednesday, in the wake of the shootings in Virginia, with the network citing plot parallels that made the airing inappropriate, or -- worse -- disrespectful to the victims' families. Without getting into details, for those who have yet to see the finale ("eps 1.9_zer0-day.avi"), the moment in question arrived, without warning and with a brief phrase: "Calm down everyone..."
Was the scene necessary? Probably not. In fact, make that a "not" -- just another horrifying moment in TVland, for viewers who are blearily used to them. Too bad a show this intelligent had to go there. But it did. The damage, or scene, can't be undone now.
And so Wednesday night, "Mr. Robot" ends its first celebrated season with another unanticipated, certainly unplanned, segue into the real world -- the first came even before the show launched in May, when USA green-lighted this series just as the scale of the Sony hacking fiasco become known.
USA (which, incidentally, is not owned by Sony) and first time showrunner Sam Esmail had to know they were onto something even then. Little did they knowjust how dramatic that "something" would be, or how deeply it would permeate into the first-season arc.
Or maybe Esmail did -- this show's prescience, or at least real-world cred, is often eerily stitched into every scene -- including a reference Wednesday night to the "Ashley Madison dump..."
What do I think of "Mr. Robot" -- which does have a second season cued up? ("Mr. Robot," if you have not seen, is about a hacker with dissociative personality disorder recruited by a mysterious group, fsociety, which ultimately brings down a major multinational, the so called "Evil Corp.," thus absolving millions of people of their debts...)
I like it. Or: Specifically, I think I like it if only because I'm not entirely sure what "it" is, or -- making the generous and perhaps faulty assumption that I actually do -- even understand what is going on. Yup, "Robot" is another one of those projects that demand a scrupulous attention to name,date, time, character and every other specific piece of information that is shovelled into every scene.
And yes, "Mr. Robot" can indeed be incoherent -- but coherence is sometimes overrated anyway. Besides, incoherence is an operating principle here: Ismail, who clearly never read the memo (thank God) that TV shows must slowly peel away plot points layer by layer so that we understand absolutely everything at all times (and just in case we don't, repeat step one...)
The prevailing message here -- you don't "get" everything? Too bad. There's always Hulu for the repeats.
I will get around to studying "Robot" when I have an hour or two (or three) on the presupposition that what's on-screen and off is a larger more profound point to be made about the fallibility (or the friability) of human identity and consciousness -- as well as the notion that culture is so profoundly wrapped up in the constructs of advertising, image, technology, finance, and money money money along with all the other building blocks of our thoroughly modern lives that -- like "Robot's" hero Elliot Alderson -- we can no longer tell what's exactly real or not.
"Mr. Robot" does often seem an "Inception"-like puzzle, or a hall-of-mirrors that demands you not only submit to its mystery, but also that you not look too closely, lest your efforts leadonly to doors that lead to other doors...and more doors beyond that.
Elliot, and his on-going dissolution, is then the perfect hero for this sort of show: Not one man, but two (or as last night indicated, a compilation of his younger self and mother as well). He is that series of doors or mirrors personified, and exemplified.
Which brings me to why I really like this intriguing newcomer. Christian Slater, who plays Mr. Robot, and, who as revealed last week, is also Elliot's father AND Elliot (confused yet?) With this series, it appears the talented Slater has finally landed on both feet, after a long intermittently promising search for just the right TV show -- from "My Own Worst Enemy" to "Mind Games" -- which were usually exactly the wrong ones.
And particularly: Rami Malek -- Elliot Alderson. His TV work has been sporadic too, even though he was the absolute standout in an entire miniseries five years ago (HBO's "The Pacific"), as good 'ol boy PFC Merriell 'Snafu' Shelton, with his slow drawl and acute awareness of what war really is all about...
His Elliot, like his Snafu, captures exactly what needs to be done here-- not in words, but in actions, and especially in the eyes.
Those Elliot Alderson eyes -- searching, confused, melancholy and lost.
Keep an eye (ahem) on those profoundly expressive eyes: They just might get an Emmy one of these days.