Review: Mr Robot (Why can’t I be a socially awkward hacker…?) 

Contains some spoilers

“If you’ve not watched the first season of Mr Robot yet, what are you waiting for? “

I nearly joined Anonymous once. I had the chance and I blew it. I was on a tube train in around 2005 when a group got in the same carriage as me, dressed entirely in black and wearing V for Vendetta masks. 
“Cool masks” I said to one of them, that was stood in front of me.

“Thank. Do you like V for Vendetta?” She asked me politely

“Yeah, it’s a great comic.” I replied. “You going to ComicCon or something?”

“No.” She said, conspiratorially handing me a handwritten flyer “We’re protesting against the Scientologists.”

“Like Tom Cruise?”

“Exactly like Tom Cruise!”

She offered to give me a spare mask if I wanted to come, but I had tickets for a show, so I declined her offer and wished her luck. Months later, they were a huge online presence.

In 2016, the closest thing I have to being an online hacker is a predisposition to stalking people on Facebook, a basic knowledge of MS Office (AMAZE your 50 year old colleagues with the incredible insert chart function!) and an Amazon subscription – meaning I can watch the fantastic Mr Robot.

“The series focuses on Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek), an anti-social computer hacker who converses directly with the audience (who are in his head).”

If you’ve not watched the first season of Mr Robot yet, what are you waiting for? Now half way through its second season, this brilliantly crafted television series just keeps getting better and better.

The series focuses on Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek), an anti-social computer hacker who converses directly with the audience (who are in his head). We see the world through Elliot’s eyes, including his meeting with the enigmatic Mr Robot (Christian Slater). Elliot finds himself becoming more and more involved in Mr Robot’s world, working for the Anonymous-esque ‘F-Society’ and aiming to bring down the faceless and overbearing global conglomerate E-Corp (renamed Evil Corp in Elliot’s head). There’s a lot more to it than that, but I don’t want to give too much away if you haven’t watched it – it really is worth it!

Some things about Mr Robot make it an uncomfortable watch. Show runner Sam Esmail is clearly a fan of the work of Chuck Palahniuk, and the set up has the same disturbing, claustrophobic atmosphere of one of his novels. The narrator is unreliable, but you’re so close to him that there’s no escaping his situation – you just have to strap in for the ride. The script is clever and realistic, and Elliot’s candid conversations with the audience are well written and delivered. We are all in on the conspiracy. It has a tight ensemble cast, and has strong, complex realistic characters. They are all intriguing and worth watching. I’ve been particularly enjoying the storyline surrounding Elliot’s close friend Angela (Portia Doubleday) and her relationship with Evil Corp – a subtle performance but very well executed.

“Everything is accessible by hackers.”

The show has a lot of technical consultants, and ensures that any of the hacks on the show are entirely possible. This is terrifying to watch. Credit card info, life history, medical details, the contents of a bank – everything is accessible by hackers. There is a particular scene in season one where they essentially hack a guard because they have worked out his personality due to his online presence so are able to manipulate him. It’s quite an upsetting scene. To be fair, you’d be forgiven for smiling a little bit when the hacking is used to get one over on someone cheating on their partner or a skeevy drug dealer… So it’s swings and roundabouts!

“It’s not presenting a dystopian future, it’s reminding us we live in a dystopian present.”

The other notable thing about Mr Robot season 1 was its uncanny ability to predict the future. The show was picked up on the morning the morning of the Sony/The Interview hack. The show featured storyline eerily similar to the Ashley Maddison hack. Famously the last episode of the season had to be postponed due to the shooting of Alison Parker live on air in Virginia the day the episode was due to air – as it contained an on-air shooting. This shows how well conceived the programme is – it’s not presenting a dystopian future, it’s reminding us we live in a dystopian present.

Luckily, unlike my one chance to join Anonymous and live the life of an underground hacker, if you have Amazon Prime, you’ve not missed your chance to jump on board with this show. And while you’re at it, maybe change your passwords….

… Just in case.

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