We live in a time where political commentary has become commonplace to the point where pretty much anyone with a social media account can become a self-proclaimed political analyst no matter how fucking retarded they sound for defending a misogynistic political figure who advocates the mass murder of anyone dumb enough to disagree with his ass. Passive-aggressive political stands aside, this newfound interest in the way the world is governed has thankfully breathed new life not just in current events but also in story genres such as Political Satire and the like, thus giving younger audiences a more accessible entry point to the world of the ruling classes without forcing themselves to suffer the high-blood inducing comments of Facebook posts.
The techno-thriller MR. ROBOT takes advantage of this generation’s sudden thirst for knowledge by being a timely commentary on the way the rich get richer by basically fucking over everyone below their social status. Set in the years following the devastating American economic crash of 2008 and the growing divide between the rich and the working classes, MR. ROBOT follows the computer technician by day and cyber vigilante by night Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek), who finds himself caught in the center of a massive anti-corporate conspiracy that could end the world as we know it, all masterminded by the eccentric anarchist only known as Mr. Robot (Christian Slater).
With a plot that’s bound to give every activist and edgy highschooler out there a raging wet dream, one would expect MR. ROBOT to be one-sided in its depiction of the modern day class war but thankfully it’s not. It may have strains of exaggeration like how almost every single character representing the elite is shown to be an amoral asshole with literally nothing in their minds but money but this is balanced out with competent characterization and storytelling. What we get is more than just a more humane take on the usual class war narrative but also an effective demolition job for every fucking stereotype a story such as this would never fail to add. Case in point and just to name a few of many similar instances, Elliot is a pretentious social recluse with a lot of baggage instead of being the usual flawless self-insert mouthpiece seen in cheap and basic social commentaries like THE HUNGER GAMES where the Main Character is limited to being an Attractive Millennial Rebel while the closet thing Elliot has to a rival, Tyrell Wellick (Martin Wallstrom), is depicted as a nuisance and a complete moron rather than the typical unrealistically smart Rich Antagonist who’s motivated by petty bullshit like a job promotion and the stock market. Well, he IS motivated by that kind of stupid shit but it’s shown to be more pathetic than cool as fuck, which is a breath of fresh air in a time where villains have become more fucking annoying than threatening, like Jesse Eisenberg’s bastardization of Lex Luthor in BVS: DAWN OF JUSTICE (2016) who’s evil because kidnapping moms and bribing senators with gummy candy are the only ways he can achieve an erection.
In doing so, characters that would’ve otherwise been caricatures of real life people are given a semblance of humanity that other stories in the genre tend to sacrifice in favor of statements and shoehorned opinions. The story itself benefits a lot from humanizing both sides of the debate, allowing for genuine heartfelt arguments, no matter how flawed, from everyone in the cast (poor or otherwise) even if the whole story is told from the point of view of a morphine junkie with a very fucked up look of the world. Even if it’s the kind of show where characters literally refer to the antagonistic conglomerate as Evil Corp, character depth is never lost in MR. ROBOT, a show where the on-the-nose satire is balanced with the more toned down elements. For some, the show may come across as preachy especially when some characters stop the plot relevant dialogue to go on a rant about how dependent humanity is on consumerism along with the evils of digital currency imposed by The Man but coming from yours truly, I would say keeping things this obvious actually worked in its favor. In the spirit of the best satirical movies from the 80’s such as THEY LIVE (1988) and its capitalist aliens, MR. ROBOT adheres to hyperbole to get its message across, as exemplified in its setting where internet dwellers actually mean what they said about changing the world instead of being a comment thread troll you’d want to punch repeatedly in the throat. It also helps that the characters who are doing the rambling usually forgot to take their meds and are obviously lacking a few screws up there, so take what you will from that. I for one thought it was a nice bit of black humor.
But like its lead characters who occasionally take breaks from the show’s main dialogue because they just felt standing on a soapbox for a bit, MR. ROBOT gets distracted most of the time, which is a shame because the actual conflict of the show (i.e. the anti-corporate conspiracy plot) would’ve been great if MR. ROBOT didn’t bring the whole story to a fucking halt just to waste time with unnecessary subplots that go nowhere.
Rather than maximize its ten episode run to fully flesh out Mr. Robot’s plan of essentially turning the notorious hacker group Anonymous (in this show’s case, the subtly named “fsociety”) into a legit threat instead of being just a bunch of whiny hacktivistis who watched way too much V FOR VENDETTA without even understanding the context of the fucking thing, MR. ROBOT would go off-course into tangents that tackle an abruptly ended romantic arc, work life, easily forgiven personal grievances and character yarns that feel disjointed up until the finale where only half of them actually get resolved. This was glaringly obvious in episodes five to six, where the fsociety conspiracy to take down the most evil capitalist conglomerate the world has ever seen takes a backseat to a violent (for lack of better words) “love” triangle” that involves a gangbanger who upon concluding his participation in the narrative, is dropped from the face of the plot and is never mentioned again. Compared to a capitalist version of the Illuminati that’s gradually being built up to be even worse than previously thought, taking a narrative detour to have Elliot stop a convicted drug dealer from being a prick feels like throwing out the steak for a Happy Meal. Sure, the Happy Meal has a sweet licensed toy and French Fries with it but ultimately it’s a wasted steak.
To make it even worse, episode six paints the conclusion of this subplot as traumatic but an episode later, Elliot literally forgets it even fucking happened by the time episode seven starts not because of his disturbing mental issues or the plot convenient excuses provided but because MR. ROBOT went “Fuck it” and went back to the computer hacking because that’s exactly what the audiences wanted in the first fucking place. It’s one thing to add arcs like that to help derive more personality from the main characters but it’s another to force it into the middle of the story and then subsequently rush its ending because all it amounted to was filler that needed to be cut for timing issues. The story’s pacing would’ve greatly improved if the amount of side stories was cut down instead of getting easily distracted by cheap excuses to show some tits and ass, which happened quite a lot during the Tyrell scenes where he’d fuck a bunch of people for a bunch of business related reasons that are as silly as his motivations for obligatory villainy.
Trust me when I say that the buttsex makes sense in context.
Throw in an anticlimactic cliffhanger of an ending that was more teaser trailer for season two rather than satisfying conclusion that leaves you wanting more and you have a decent original TV show that just didn’t meet all of its lofty goals. MR. ROBOT obviously has a lot to say about the plethora of topics it decided to tackle and the shitload of characters it introduced but it blew its load way too early, leaving the overall revolution feeling half-baked. For what it’s worth, MR. ROBOT successfully delivers in terms of bringing a brand new story to the TV landscape that entertains and gives people a moment to question their capitalist aiding shopping choices for a split second but it falls short of being that satirical masterpiece it desperately wants to be seen as. This fault lies not just in the distractions but its often times simplistic execution where edgy statements replace realistic character development and any form of plot relevance but thankfully, those preachy moments are too far in between to fuck the show up. It may be an 80’s B-Movie level satire turned TV show at best, but that’s far from a bad thing.
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