Mr. Robot has been a surprise hit for the USA network, a channel not known for its original programming. But with awards success and a cult following it’s going to be around for a while, especially since a second season was greenlit before the first season aired. That’s probably smart as the show comes mainly from the mind of its showrunner Sam Esmail, and as we’ve seen from some limited edition shows, not having the jump on what you’re doing next is always a bad move… True Detective.
The show follows Eliot Alderson (Rami Malek), a code monkey with social anxieties that make it hard for him to interact with most people as he can’t stand crowds or touching. He believes in justice, so the show start by showing the he’s hacked a kiddie pornographer’s website and turned him into the cops. He’s roped into an elite group of hackers by the mysterious Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) who wants to bring down E Corp, a big banking type organization that Eliot hears only as Evil Corp. As the show begins E Corps servers are brought down and that allows Eliot to set up E corp’s CTO Terry Colby (Bruce Altman) as the fall guy. But that may lead to Tyrell Wellick (Martin Wallstrom) taking his place, but he could be just as bad if not worse as he spends his day trying to climb the corporate ladder by any means necessary. At Eliot’s day job, as a security programmer, he works with best friend Angela Moss (Portia Doubleday) and barely tolerates her boyfriend Ollie Parker (Ben Rappaport), who Eliot knows is cheating on Angela.
At Mr. Robot’s hangout there’s a motley crew of hackers, but the most defined is Darlene (Carly Chaikin), who has a real interest in Eliot, while in his home life Eliot has been seeing Shayla (Frankie Shaw) – but she’s not only dealing Eliot morphine, she’s in bad with a drug dealer. Eliot is paranoid and thinks people are following him, and considering that Tyrell is aware that Eliot took Terry down, he may not be wrong. But as Mr. Robot and company work to take down Evil Corp, Eliot gets in deep with Shayla’s dealer, and has to reengage his memory, which isn’t totally functional.
Even before the show’s bigger reveals, the series seems to revel in the world of David Fincher’s Fight Club, and like so much pop culture these days, it’s hard not to call it a fan fiction attempt at playing in that universe as E.L. James did turning her Twilight fan fiction into 50 Shades of Gray. There are music cues that sound like the composer doing covers of the Dust Brothers soundtrack for Fight Club, the whole premise of taking down banking and loans is straight from the film and book, and then comes the memory lapses and what happens in the final episodes. Perhaps like the TV series Fargo, the show needs to get the first season’s more directly tied in narrative/remixing out of the way before it can find its own groove, as this can’t take any more from Fight Club and move forward.
The good news is all the pieces are in place for an interesting show, as the main cast is excellent, including Christian Slater doing some of the best work in decades. Rami Malek is one of those actors who been in a number of good movies in smaller roles (including Short Term 12 and The Master) and I’ve been waiting for him to pop for quite some time. He finally found the role, and his natural ability to seem a little disconnected plays well into the character. And even though it’s derivative, there’s a pop drive to the series. I was able to marathon the first season over a weekend, and it kept me hooked, even when I was groaning a little. There’s something here, and hopefully it blossoms.
Universal’s Blu-ray present the show with a digital copy and with each episode presented in widescreen (1.78:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio. As a television show, the surround track isn’t showy but is present, and it looks better than it did when broadcast, with all ten episodes split evenly over two discs. Alas the supplements (and menu) aren’t all that special. The first disc has two deleted scenes. The first runs twenty-one seconds, and the latter is a two minutes. Nothing great. The second disc has two more deleted scenes, but it seems the seventh episode of the season was so meaty that there is an entire act worth of material cut out (meaning eleven minutes), though the second and final deleted scene on disc two runs thirty seconds. The best extra is the gag reel (5 min.) simply because it’s loose and funny, though the making of (12 min.) gets the series creator to talk about the making of the show and how he tried to make a show respectful of technology, without getting bogged down in coding. Considering the show takes a pot shot at the movie Hackers, his work was cut out for him.