What do you know about hacking? Probably an ancillary understanding based on what you have learned through the actions of Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Anonymous.
Even then, most people think Snowden is associated with WikiLeaks, Assange is really just Benedict Cumberbatch and Anonymous is weirdly endearing and usually involved in Twitter somehow. Let’s set the record straight. Snowden used to work for the NSA and is currently in Russia after leaking classified documents. He gave a great interview to John Oliver recently. Also watch “Citizenfour,” an HBO documentary about Snowden.
(Go crazy and watch the full episode of Last Week Tonight, it’s very enlightening.)
Assange created WikiLeaks, which leaked military documents. Yes, Cumberbatch also portrayed him in “The Fifth Estate.“ Lastly, Anonymous is a hacker group that is responsible for numerous hacks over the years, only some involving social media.
So let’s all admit we don’t know much about hacking. Good. Now that we’re past that, let’s talk about hacking in the new USA show Mr. Robot. I know what you are thinking–a USA Network show about hacking, more like a hack job. Am I right? I could write an entire article on the shit that USA produces, while I could barely fill up a tweet about the good things they have aired, but trust me on this you’ll be hooked before Elliot(Rami Malek) takes down his first criminal.
The second episode of the new hit show aired this past Wednesday and followed the typical format of a USA serial. The action picks up right where you left off, but the cliff they dangled you over had a small ledge right below it. It’s almost an insult to the audience’s intelligence, not trusting they are able to carry plot lines over unless they are presented with the exact same final shot from the previous episode.
I was nervous. I still am nervous that the show is going to fall into the same trap of other USA shows. They start off with a new fresh idea, but they never go deeper than the surface. The show doesn’t push the boundaries and the writing is too formulaic.
I worry, but while I do, I’ll still enjoy it and hope.
The first episode starts off with a character, Elliot, in his signature dark hoodie, with the hood up, in a coffee shop. He’s eyeing a man who just walked in and sat down at a table. Elliot joins the man and rattles off personal information as if he is trying to woo him for a job. The man is less than impressed especially when Elliot divulges his true plans. Elliot has hacked the man’s computer, his life, and found the secret website he uses to distribute illegal porn involving minors to countless other creeps out there. The man refuses to pay Elliot, who never asked for money.
Elliot says it was never about money and slips out the door as the police file in. Damn. His deep sultry voice pulls you in and his actions show he’s not a bad guy. Are any hackers bad? Do we deserve the information that is kept from us? Those are questions I can’t answer, but the show does its best to skirt the line and let you decide for yourself. The corporations are evil, as the so aptly named Evil Corp states, but do a group of hackers have the right to take them down? Elliot tangles with this in the first episode having to make a decision that could put him in the line of fire after one of the biggest hacks in history.
Elliot teams up with a group of hackers headed by Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) called fsociety. You don’t know the full plan except that it is to make Evil Corp CEO Terry Colby (Bruce Altman) the cause of the hack. All the while you wonder if Elliot is imagining this eclectic troupe of hackers. From his controlled morphine use to his therapist asking if he’s seeing the men in black suits, you don’t know where his head is.
Creator Sam Esmail has a short resume thus far with two films before Mr. Robot but that is inconsequential when watching his words come alive. He’s not only the writer, but also the director and so far I’m a fan. He brings you up close, but not obnoxiously when you’re trying to get into Elliot’s mind. You feel the manic pressure Elliot feels as he destroys equipment to cover his tracks. It might not be revolutionary in its styling’s, but it does its best to more standard tropes you might find in other USA shows.
Episode three will be a key start to me. I have a specific vision of the first shot to jump the action just far enough ahead while keeping with the final shot. If they drop to me another tiny ledge right beneath the cliff I’ll be pissed but it won’t break me enough to stop me from watching.