We live in an age of instant reaction. Whatever was just last is often over hyped and overindulged. In doing this list I’ve wondered if I am held prisoner of Mr. Robot’s moment. It was the unquestioned “show of the summer” and in my opinion, the best show in 2015. Mr. Robot met and exceeded all expectations. It had as close to a perfect first season as one could get. So in short, I don’t think I’m pulling a Skip Bayless putting it at #17.
Before we jump in, here is the list so far:
#17- Mr. Robot Season 1 – Score : 26
Sometimes in a show, the second and third time through reveals more to the eye and gives you even greater satisfaction than the inaugural viewing. Mr. Robot is the shining example. The show initially draws you into its main character Elliot Alderson, a socially awkward computer hacker that has obvious physiological problems. Its main character voice-over narration is very similar to Dexter in that you have to take the narrators’ point of view as truth. But as you go along, Mr. Robot begins to break all of televisions’ rules and yet the audience never loses faith, in fact quite it’s the opposite. You begin to question what true meaning is behind some of these scenes, even when you are on the 3rd or 4th time. Like why does Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) only seem to interact with Elliot in the beginning of his recruitment in F Society? Or how much of Elliot’s morphine-fueled withdraw hallucinations can be taken at face value or is there some deep seeded clue that is lingering in there. Then there is Elliot breaking the 4th wall of TV multiple times and directly talking to the audience only for us to question ourselves as much as he does his own sanity. Everything leads up to the atomic bomb Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail dropped on us at the end of episode 8 where Darla turns out to be Elliot’s sister. That leads Elliot down the dark rabbit hole to finding out Mr. Robot is in fact his father. And just when you think the Fight Club homage is not possible because it’d be way too cheesy, Esmail drops the perfect cover for The Pixies, Where is my Mind, at the end of 9 and it just clicks . I’m on re-watch #4 and I still can’t get enough of it.
Acting Performances: 8
This is where Mr. Robot makes its bones. Esmail hit a grand slam with the casting of Elliot Alderson in his choice of Rami Malek. Only seen before in smaller roles in the Night at the Museum series and Need for Speed, he was a relative unknown before Mr. Robot. I have always thought that an actor’s eyes can tell the entire story of the moment with no need for words. Malek owned this role with his eyes, they are piercing, confused, emotionless and downright chilling when called upon. I expect him to win to win the Emmy for Best Actor hands down, unless someone pulls a 72’ Marlon Brando between now and June, Malek takes home the hardware.
But this isn’t just the Elliot show. The grizzled veteran Christian Slater puts up a career performance with his portrayal of the shows calling card, Mr. Robot. He is the conscience and soul of the show. He is both the little red devil and the white angel on Elliot’s shoulder, steering him towards saving the world and at the same time absolute chaos. Slater just took home the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, now while it is not the Emmy, don’t be surprised if he grabs that one too (Dinklage will have something to say about that though).
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Martin Wallström who is a modern day Patrick Bateman with his role as the young psychotic executive of Evil Corp. Carly Chaikin, Portia Doubleday and Frankie Shaw killed it as the ladies of Mr. Robot. Esmail didn’t just hit a home run with Malek, he hit on seemingly every single major cast member. Very few were as good as Mr. Robot was in this category on the list.
Season 1 Plot Arc: 7
Every first season’s plot arc has a feel. Some start fast and then cool till the finale. Some take a little while to get going, sometimes too long. The better ones build the tension like a steady incline on a roller coaster, and then all the sudden the bottom drops out and you are not quite sure where the hell you’re going from here. That is how this season felt for me. The initial mission of “saving the world” through erasing the global debt in the modern day era had me hooked. But with that, the journey through our protagonist’s unstable neurosis of mind was just as captivating. Whether it was the hallucinations during the withdrawal, the mission in Steel Mountain or Elliot’s deal with the Vera. Everything always felt like the house of cards were about to come crashing down….. Until they eventually did with Elliot’s psychosis rearing its ugly head at the end of episode 8. And through everything there was still a world to be saved, a tyrant to be brought down and it all was held together in the mind of Elliot Alderson….or maybe it was Mr. Robot…you know what, even now I’m not completely sure who gets the credit. Even if it was just for one episode, I got to see what the “end of the world” looked like, and that was pretty cool.
(I’m putting the defining moment here because it flows a lot better with the arc of this post. Unfortunately YouTube does not have a full clip of this yet, so a description will have to do)
There are so many to choose from. My personal favorite is in the penultimate episode at the very end of 9 where Tyrell confronts Elliot with the truth and makes him choose between death or partnership; with Where is my Mind playing in the background, Elliot takes him to the F Society headquarters and reveals everything. When asked what he hoped to accomplished by Wellick, Elliot pauses and in the most truthful moment he has had yet delivers, “I don’t know….I guess I wanted to save the world”. Elliot then glances towards the popcorn machine where he knows a gun is hidden.
Season Finale/Cliffhanger: 5
In light of the terrible tragedy of two Virginia TV reporters on air deaths, the finale was postponed one week. Esmail made the right call in respect to the families of the deceased. The finale as a whole was solid in my opinion, but not spectacular. We wake up with Elliot as he had apparently blacked out of the course of a couple days since his meeting with Tyrell Wellick the episode before, only Wellick is nowhere to be found and Elliot is in his SUV alone. The mission to wipe all the debt from Evil Corp was pulled off during Elliot’s black out. The world is free and yet in turmoil at the same time. We see an Evil Corp executive commit suicide on national television over the despair of both his company and existence in ruin. Elliot is finally confronted by his dad, but this time accompanied by a younger version of his mom and sister. The course of action “he” has now taken is irrevocably set in stone. Elliot saved the world but what is next? Was he ever prepared for the new world he has now created? And where the hell is Tyrell Wellick? Elliot runs into his wife and child outside of his apartment, she has some rather threatening words to Elliot should anything bad have had happened to him. A whole new world…but is it better?
As I said, rather average finale. The entire episode gets a boost from a bonus scene at the end of the credits as we are shown a secret “illuminati-esque” gathering at a secluded mansion. Make no mistake, the men who play god with the world are hardly worried about the supposed death blow dealt by Elliot and F Society.