Elliot is a man on the edge. Two sides of the same coin. A dichotomy perfectly crafted for our modern digital times.
The following is an introduction to MR.ROBOT, an American drama psychological thriller from Sam Esmail. MR.ROBOT is televised on USA Network.
Working by day as a security engineer at AllSafe, Elliot leverages his considerable technical skills to ensure the protection of privatized corporate networks and assets, ensuring the continued workings of and profits for the 1%. At night, we see his other, more accurate role, as a hacker supreme plying his trade as a social justice warrior.
Our introduction to Elliot paints an interesting picture of things to come. He is a man with a burning curiosity; he often comments on how things “scratch that part of my mind. The part that doesn’t allow good without condition.” In the first 5 minutes, he has applied his tech talents and knowledge to bring low a criminal, employing only his keyboard, mobile phone, and mind to do so.
With pronounced social anxiety and severe depression, Elliot’s character creates a stark juxtaposition between his daytime and nighttime personas. He struggles to interact with people on a personal level, and yet, this does not stop him from calmly confronting the targets of his digital forensic findings, casting a bright light on the questionable behaviors his hacking uncovers. He cannot stand the idea of attending his best friends birthday party, but has no qualms about confronting powerful men with their digitally recorded sins.
His hacking does not only occur against targets of questionable character; he hacks everyone; his friends, his co-workers, even his therapist. No ones personal information is able to escape him. For those that are important to him, he employs the information to help them out, steering them away from situations that he feels will hurt them. For those behaving badly…well… you’ll have to watch to find out.
A good portion of the dialogue in MR.ROBOT is Elliot talking to himself. He is intelligent, and hearing his discourse between separate parts of himself is quite revealing of his complexity. His inner thoughts read like that of an Anonymous-style Hacktivist’s manifesto, and are reminiscent of the musings offered by Fight Club’s Tyler Durden. His monotone way of speaking follows his self conversations; he is almost never emotional. His clinical detachment is likely a defensive mechanism, one of the few things that allows him to do the things he does.
MR.ROBOT’s first episode introduces us to Elliot, and casts him as a Robin Hood-esque character, taking down morally devoid 1%ers and aligning him squarely against E CORP, the worlds largest conglomerate and AllSafe’s primary client, accounting for 80% of their business.
Elliot finds himself swept into a world of intrigue after responding to a late night DDoS attack against E CORP (interestingly enough, each time E CORP is mentioned, Elliot’s metaphorical rose-tinted glasses converts it to Evil Corp, a perception that is shared with the viewer). After being jetted to a data center, he is able to stop the attack, but not before finding a curious message. Elliot’s actions in regard to this put him in contact with a clandestine group (led by Christian Slater as the titular MR.ROBOT) looking to take down what they see as a morally bankrupt and heartless system.
Elliot tries to sort these things out. While initially presenting as being paranoid, it is difficult to tell reality from the possible distortion that Elliot applies to everything around him. He believes that agents of an Illuminati-styled organization are out to get him. We do not initially get to see whether this is the case, but the use of clever cinematography and camera work allows us glimpses of his paranoia; you will often times see men in dark suits leering at Elliot from the shadows. Whether these entities are truly watching Elliot or not remains to be seen.
Episode 1.0 of MR.ROBOT, titled HELLOFRIEND.MOV (which in and of itself is awesome), is one of the better TV premieres I’ve ever seen. The pacing is solid, the characters are varied and interesting. Elliot’s persona makes for a good imperfect hero, and the shows writers are obviously not afraid of including dramatic subject matter ripped from today’s headlines. Beyond that, the technical jargon used is fairly accurate, and certainly many shades better than that employed by CSI:Cyber. Assuming the writing and character development maintains this level of quality, I suspect that USA will have a fantastic series to add to their already strong lineup.
Until next time, “Bonsoir, Elliot.”
Catch MR.ROBOT Sundays at 10/9 central on USA network. Following this link to see the premiere episode.