Mr Robot: and eps1.1_ones-and-zer0es.mpeg

Depending on your influences, Mr Robot either came to these shores cresting on a wave of acclaim from the US, or duped unceremoniously on Amazon Prime, context-less and friendless. Created by Sam Esmail, this techno-thriller stars Christian Slater; but he’s not the main protagonist. Except he probably is. More on that later.

Rami Malek, who’s enjoyed accolades for his role the movie Short Term 12, and has had a pretty solid career in TV, plays the series protagonist Elliot Alderson; this is his first starring role. Elliot is as disaffected by normal, mainstream modern life as Neo in The Matrix and Norton’s character in Fight Club. He’s a hacker in a very similar vein to Dade in Hackers and, again Neo. None of these references are accidental.

Elliot narrates his inner thoughts, not to us in a breaking of the fourth wall, but to himself; an imaginary self that he knows doesn’t exist, but is also himself. In episodes one and two, he has not yet connected this to his mentor, Christian Slater’s titular Mr Robot. Mr Robot runs a revolutionary group, created to erase debt and wipe out corporate social and cultural pillaging, embodied in the form of E(vil) Corp. The group, fsociety, is essentially real world group Anonymous crossed with Tyler Durden’s Project Mayhem. A key member of fsociety is Darlene, who is basically Fight Club’s Marla crossed with The Matrix’s Trinity.

Mr Robot wears its influences plainly on its sleeve, even in character names: Mr Alderson vs. Mr Anderson, Darlene vs. Marla, even E(vil) Corp’s ambitious, ominous executive Tyrell Wellick clearly references Bladerunner’s Tyrell. But, rather than damn the whole show as plagiarism, pastiche or mere homage, it actually works. The references in some ways help, as the show doesn’t really hold your hand through some of the technical jargon, so having a few tropes along the way as handholds can help viewers skirt past it, picking it up by osmosis. The technical lingo, as well as references to popular culture and recent memes may end up dating the show, but ‘TV’ hasn’t been about longevity for a long time now.

It will be interesting to see how the episodes progress; so far we’ve met the dramatis personae, the opposing groups of fsociety and E(vil) Corp, the friends, hangers on, drug dealers, hackers and agents. One executive has fallen, another rises to fill the ranks, and Mr Robot has barely begun his/their plan to reboot society, and free their minds. And, through all the over-saturated Hollywood blue/teal and paper-thin references, there’s a good show here. Good enough, I tentatively believe, to deserve the positive critical acclaim and the second season that’s already been announced.

A final note, if you enjoy Mr Robot, do check out Australian political techno-thriller The Code, it can be found on Netflix.

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