Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Domo Arigato, Mr. Robot

So I got into “Mr. Robot” late in the game. So late that tonight is the season finale. While binge-watching the show over the weekend I went through the cliché “roller coast of emotions.” The new series about a mad genius hacker/socially awkward malcontent named Elliott with dreams/delusions/both of saving the world is at times brilliant and at times confounding. Like at first I was confused, and then I was in love and still confused, and then I was really, really in love and confused, and then I was disappointed and confused, and then I forgave it a little and was confused.

SPOILER ALERT: I’m going to be discussing the first season plot in full. So if you don’t want to be spoiled stop reading or just don’t yell at me when you get spoiled.

I won’t lie, I figured out most of The Big Twist revealed late in the season relatively early on. Mr. Robot isn’t real, duh. He is a figment of Elliot’s troubled imagination (and also his late father). I did not, however, piece together the bit about Danielle being his sister, though in retrospect it totally makes sense.

So, it would be easy to say that “Mr. Robot” is a hodge-podge of fairly iconic films and characters. “Fight Club” comes to mind first, obviously. A bit of “American Psycho” sneaks in there. And pinch of “V for Vendetta.” Yet it manages to feel fascinating and original, even with the Tyler Durden-shaped elephant in the room.

But then, in the sixth episode, something went rather wrong. Instead of being this bold, unique look at hacker culture, millennial angst and corporate avarice, it veered into tired trope territory – particularly when it came to its portrayal of women.

In fact the whole episode felt like a big, clunky misstep. The drug dealer subplot, the damsel in distress dilemma, and – worst of all – the women in refrigerators ending. The entire episode was, to put it bluntly, unnecessary. But the writers fell back on the idea that the male leading character needed some emotional depth at the expense of one of the female characters.

Having Shayla turn up dead with her throat slip in the trunk of a car was a cheap, ugly plot device to move our hero Elliot’s story forward. Female characters aren’t just props to help bolster the male character’s agency, people. This show is better than this and, afterward, luckily bounced back admirably. So I continue to have high hopes for the finale.

Dumb sexist lemon aside, what really makes this show stand out is its smart writing and strong acting. Rami Malek is uncomfortably good as always uncomfortable Elliot. And I let out an honest-to-God squeal when I realized the actress who plays Darlene, Carly Chaikin, was Dalia Royce from “Suburgatory.” Also I can’t be the only one who thinks Portia Doubleday (who plays Angela) is a doppelganger for Amanda Seyfried, right?

For all of its strengths one of the very best things about “Mr. Robot” is its masterful use of music. From reimaginings of pop-rock classics to electro-synth beats and even classical scores, the music is a critical supporting character. Each week I anticipate what new musical wonders await. Like last week’s use of the Pixie’s “Where Is My Mind?” Fucking amazing.

So, thoughts? Are you watching. If you haven’t watched, damn, did I ruin everything for you. But, still, it’s pretty worth it.

p.s. Though, hey, where’s the lesbian character we were promised? That quick bathroom kiss does not count, guys. Nope, do better.

p.p.s. Well, damn. Real-life disturbing events have postponed the finale until next week. Nothing like the reality of how horrible things can be butting into a fictional show about how horrible things can be. 


Waffles said...

I love this show and have been trying to get more people to watch it. I really love Silicon Valley as well - wish we could pressure them to add a lesbian character (or even just another significant female).

Anonymous said...

All this show is, is a ripoff of the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo except now Lisbeth Salander has a penis. I know that you readers are mostly children, but come on.

egghead said...

#1, I've always wanted to f society!

so glad you like this Snarker-babe. I've been counting my lucky stars this summer that someone finally came up with something like Elliot. I have really fallen for Elliot. And since I am partly mentally ill myself, I did not catch the twist. I never do on these things, beautiful mind and all. So he, Elliot is my official lesbian I guess, since I am of course lesbian. Gotta make do.

egghead said...

BTW, have you written about "Documentary Now" yet? brb

Anonymous said...

i'm surprised you haven't mentioned Dark Matter yet. zoie palmer is so good in it. i thought i couldn't love her more. i wonder how long does it take her to decide the tone of voice of the andriod.