USA’s latest series is MR. ROBOT, a conspiracy theory tale of the digital age. In a world where corporations can gobble up holdings, the rich at the top acquiring more and more wealth and control on a global scale, it’s hard to gauge the true range of the threat or mount a defense against it. Who stands up for the average person, unaware of their life being bought and sold out from under them, and without the tools to fight back? Why, MR. ROBOT, that’s who. Maybe.
The first hour begins by introducing us to Elliot (Rami Malek, The Pacific, Night at the Museum). He is not the title character, but he is the most important. Antisocial and not used to expressing himself, MR. ROBOT uses voice over a lot to have Elliot tell the viewer what he’s thinking. It’s an effective tool, really taking us into his head and letting events unfold from his perspective.
Elliot works for a company he dubs Evil Corp, which hilariously is what it is referred to by every other player and even signage because Elliot says he has adjusted his head to always think of it that way. Elliot doesn’t want to serve The Man, but he’s there for his best friend, Angela (Portia Doubleday, Mr. Sunshine). To ease his conscience, since he’s protecting the bad guys all day with his super cyber security skills, he moonlights as a vigilante, taking down one scumbag at a time.
Enter Mr. Robot (Christian Slater, Breaking In, Archer, etc.). Mr. Robot is a mysterious, smooth man who offers Elliot the chance to bring down the villain from the inside. In Elliot, Mr. Robot has found the perfect tool to accomplish his mission, and he seems to offer Elliot the perfect way to right the wrongs of the world.
But is Mr. Robot whom he says he is? Because the show is told purely through Elliot’s eyes, we only see what he sees, and Elliot’s impressions are skewed. Mr. Robot can certainly talk a good game, and the way he plays Elliot’s recruitment is with superb talent. But how much do we really know about him? His work is only hinted at, and while he has a cool lair and a delightfully abrasive sidekick, Darlene (Carl Chaikin, Suburgatory), is what he is offering genuine?
On the other hand, the face of the villains, Tyrell Wellick (Martin Wallstrom, Simple Simon), is as obviously slimy as Mr. Robot is cool. He is exactly the type of guy you would think heads up Evil Corp, and he is smart enough to be a fitting foe for our bold but naïve hero. Is this reality or just Elliot’s imaginative way of sorting the world?
Because MR. ROBOT lives in the world of conspiracies, there are bound to be many, many twists. With Elliot’s specific and unreliable guidance, the viewer is immersed in an individual, and subject to the limitations of such as well, which makes for an unpredictable ride.
I LOVE the MR. ROBOT pilot. It has the huge, almost mythological, arcs and a hero’s journey, coupled with a somewhat unique and very modern sensibility. The tone is incredibly consistent, the main character is much easier to relate to than one would think such a person would be because of the incredibly detailed way in which he is written and performed, and the story sucks you right in. It’s exciting, it’s entertaining, it’s smart, and it’s far from business as usual in the television landscape.
Will MR. ROBOT find an audience? I don’t know. It is offbeat and weird enough that it can’t possibly appeal to even a wide majority of people. Yet, it has quality in spades and seems extremely well done in pretty much every aspect, from score to casting to production design. I can’t imagine that most my friends won’t like it as much as I do. I hope you will give it a chance and be similarly drawn in.
MR. ROBOT premieres Wednesday, June 24th at 10 p.m. ET on USA.
CHIEF TELEVISION CRITIC | Creator of and writer for It's All Been Done Radio Hour live show and podcast. A voracious reader wanting to tell stories of his own, Jerome began writing around the age of 8 and hasn’t stopped, both original works and television reviews. Lives in central Ohio. Favorite current shows include The Walking Dead, Jessica Jones, Flaked, Outlander, and Archer.