I had heard of Mr. Robot for the longest time, the show started back in 2015 and I just knew that it involved hacking. A couple of years after the show finished in 2019, I finally checked it out, and watched it all within exactly one month. I decided to wait to review the show only after watching the whole series, which turned out to be the best decision. Mr. Robot was fantastic and has now positioned itself as one of my all-time favourite TV shows. As for Season 1, it’s really great, and gets you invested in the show quickly.
I do think it’s best going into Mr. Robot not knowing a whole lot about it, so really you could just jump into the show immediately. The pilot/first episode is among the best first episodes of a show I’ve seen. It establishes the setting, the situation, the style of the show, the tone, and most importantly the main character. It’s incredibly well written throughout, it’s engaging, the dialogue is great, and it is paced well. The storytelling was great throughout, over time presenting you with information and details that you might not understand straight away, and revealing pieces around it before you figure it out. It’s really not a show you have on in the background, it’s a show that deserves a lot of your attention and energy. It’s also very unpredictable with plenty of twists, and has moments where it gets weird (to vaguely put it). There’s a lot of great worldbuilding on display too. On paper the plot just sounds like it’s about a hacker group (named fsociety) hacking and taking a corporation down (named E Corp, also referred to as Evil Corp by the main character). While that’s part of it, it’s so much more than that. There’s a lot of complexity to it, and even moral ambiguity surprisingly. It’s not all plot focused, it does have some slower moments to add some depth to the characters, which really does elevate things a lot a lot. As I said earlier, the show does involve hacking. There are plenty of movies and shows about hacking and they seem far fetched and unrealistic. Here though it’s actually somewhat accurate to real life, at the very least in contrast to other representations of hacking in pop culture. While the hacking is more realistic, it still manages to be incredibly thrilling in some sequences. With that said, the hacking is a plot device and isn’t what makes the show. It’s not a show purely about hacking, it’s about lead character Elliot and his life, his struggles and the story that surrounds him. It’s a character driven psychological thriller with a technology theme to it. It is a very dark show and isn’t very cheerful, it doesn’t have many light moments, however at the same time it remains an entertaining show. It’s also more complex than you initially think it is at first, and it is very thought provoking. There are some revelations that make you look back at the story and characters in different ways (which will be frequent for the whole series). With that said, there are still plenty of more things that needed to be answered especially at the very end, but just so you know, the next few seasons will give all those answers to you, so stick with it.
The acting is great all around. Rami Malek plays the lead character Elliot Alderson and this has to be the best performance that I’ve seen from him, portraying the character incredibly well. The character himself is great. Elliot also a very easy protagonist to follow and is very compelling, and we enter the world through his eyes. We can really relate to his feeling and awkward interactions. By day Elliot is a socially awkward coder working for a cybersecurity company, but night he’s a morphine addict who hacks people’s lives, taking down paedophiles and drug dealers. That first episode really captures the essence of him really well, and at the very least, it does a great job at hooking you into the show even just for his character. On a performance level too, Rami Malek is a powerhouse. Whether he’s performing rambling and emotional internal monologues or having larger dramatic moments, he’s fantastic. His range and nuance contributed to Elliot being likable. Even some of the way he delivered some lines – even when they are a little stilted – they added to the character and story. Another prominent character is Mr. Robot, the anarchist who brings Elliot into his hacker group named fsociety to take on E(vil) Corp. The character is played by Christian Slater, and he is quite a strong screen presence, bringing such an energy to the role, and is really entertaining to watch. Mr. Robot contrasts heavily from Elliot as a character, and it is compelling to watch the two of them interact on screen. Those are really the two main actors. There’s also other performances and characters from which includes Portia Doubleday as Angela Moss (Elliot’s childhood friend), Carly Chaikin as Darlene (one of the hackers at fsociety), and Martin Wallström as Tyrell Wellick (Senior Vice President at E Corp). Those performances and characters are good and interesting, but a lot of these supporting characters really get more chances to shine in the following seasons. With that said, they are written interestingly enough that you want to learn more about them. Some of the other reoccurring cast in this season are great too, including Frankie Shaw’s Shayla (Elliot’s morphine supplier), Gloria Reuben’s Krista (Elliot’s psychologist), and BD Wong’s mysterious character.
It’s all directed great, with a very distinct style from the way its shot to the way its edited and the soundtrack fits the tone perfectly. It really is visually striking, the cinematography is comparable to what you would find in a big budget movie. While much of the colour palette is muted and dull, it fits with the lead character’s headspace, and the palette does change (even subtly) to fit the respective situations. The editing choices particularly are also some of the bests I’ve seen in a TV show, whether they be for montages, tense moments, etc. Additionally, when Elliot is in a scene, it does very well at putting you in his headspace. Not only that, but we are an active participant as well, at least when Elliot is on screen. Narration plays a big part in this show, and narration can be hit or miss in movies and shows, but it’s handled excellently here. Elliot is narrating directly to us, his imaginary friend. The show really did a great job at using music appropriately. The original score definitely fits the techno-cyberpunk thriller world that was built very well, but the show also did a great job at using music from other sources to perfectly fit their respective scenarios and situations.
Season 1 of Mr. Robot was a great start to a fantastic series. With amazing acting, a compelling story, twists and so much more, it’s a show that you should go into it as soon as possible. Watch the first episode to have a hint of it, watch the whole first season in fact. If you think that’s great, the show goes way further and larger than that, and is well worth continuing.