Mr. Robot impresses, exposes human vulnerability


Reproduced with the permission of USA Network

Nick Owens, Staff Writer

Millennials are often told “change the world, why not?”  This idea has been critiqued many times by grouchy old people, but their arguments have never been sufficient enough to deter me from this “naïve” mindset.  The critically acclaimed television series Mr. Robot begs the question what if someone did change the world, would it really be better?

Season one introduces you to Elliot Alderson, a detached network security engineer who runs a powerful hacktivist organization, called F-Society.  The viewer plays the role of Elliot’s imaginary friend, who he reveals his darker inner thoughts to.  While the crew at F-society attempts to topple the largest conglomerate in the world by encrypting their data, Elliot’s mind slips farther and farther from reality.  The season touches on issues of morality, corporate corruption and the true meaning of human connection, as Elliot struggles with depression, loneliness, and a feeling of abnormality.

The show successfully portrays vulnerability.  Unlike most modern media which tends to misrepresent complex illnesses, Mr. Robot offers an authentic understanding of depression and social anxiety.  Elliot is incapable of understanding people.  He can read social situations intelligently, but he fails to discern the world and often becomes too flustered to respond.  Struggling with loneliness, Elliot learns about his friends and co-workers by breaking into their emails and digging through their private lives.  It is a viscous cycle with little fulfillment that ultimately leads to an addiction to morphine.

Vulnerability has become a lost art, for people only want to share the happiest parts of their lives on social media, or only raise their hand in class when they know they are correct.   Elliot shows that even the most seemingly impenetrable systems are vulnerable, you just have to find the right exploit.  Applying this to the human condition, as the show often does, shows that behind every Facebook wall of hundreds of friends is a human just like you, with their own issues and insecurities.

Season two somehow manages to get darker, and is full of even more mind-blowing twists.  The hack is complete, but the world is mostly unchanged.  Elliot’s condition is getting worse – he forgets his actions and battles a possessive alter ego. All the while the FBI is trying to track him down.  The season touches on many of the same issues as the first, but extends to cover modern dilemmas, including the death of religion and self-diagnoses of mental health issues – “self-help”.

Season three is set to air Oct. 11 on USA Network.  The previous seasons can be found on Amazon Prime video or Hulu.  The show, directed by Sam Esmail, has some of the best cinematography and sound design.  The attention to detail is also worthy of praise. Every piece of code on each computer screen is legitimate, having been looked over by professional hackers. Mr. Robot’s production quality and screenwriting goes above and beyond, setting it apart from many shows who pump out season after season in a race to make the most money.