January 4 2016

The Most Intense New Show on Television: Mr. Robot

During the past few weeks, Sam and I spent many nights watching one of the most gripping new shows on television, Mr. Robot. Recommended to us by my sister and her husband, we were hooked from the pilot and rode the show like a rollercoaster till the finale. (There are 10 episodes.) NPR published a great article about the psychological thriller, where they don’t give too much away. They call it “probably the most modern show on TV” and say Elliot Alderson, played by Rami Malek, is “a fascinatingly soulful actor who manages to be both pop-eyed and hollow-eyed at the very same time.”

I personally loved Malek’s portrayal of this vigilante hacker. The voice-overs are creepy, pulling you into Elliot’s paranoid world. Malek is up for multiple awards including a Golden Globe (which will be broadcast this coming Sunday, January 10), a Screen Actors Guild Award and a Critics’ Choice Television Award. I wouldn’t be surprised if he swept them all.

The Hollywood Reporter has an eye-opening article where they talk to Sam Esmail, the brilliant mastermind behind the show. As he states, “First and foremost, the show’s about Elliot and his struggle to fit in, his struggle to connect with people.” (Warning: There are spoilers. Also, skip this paragraph now if you haven’t watched the show.) Esmail talks about the last scene in the finale and what’s in store for Season 2. As for the overall meaning of the show, Esmail says, “Whenever anyone asks me, ‘Well, what’s the show about?’ It’s always been a hard question to answer, and it’s because it’s about this. It’s about, how does a guy who really has associative-identity disorder, how does he combat that in a realistic way? What does he do when he has these demons that he has to face, different parts of his own personality and his own identity? How does he come to terms with that? That’s something we’re going to explore for basically the rest of the run of the series, not just the next season. How all those things play out is still something that we’re going to figure out in the writers’ room.”

In this Entertainment Weekly article, Esmail acknowledges that the show was inspired by Fight Club among many other things. In fact, they played a song from Fight Club on the show. “I’ll say this right now. I rip off of every movie and TV show I’ve ever seen in my life,” Esmail stated. “I’m a film nerd. That’s what I did growing up. Other than being on the computer, I was watching TV and movies. I make no apologies. Fight Club was one of my big inspirations for the show. I think the nod or the acknowledgement with ‘Where Is My Mind’ at the end of episode 9 was, yes, in part letting the audience know that we’re very much aware that Fight Club was an inspiration, but at the same time, we make no apologies about it. We own it. The thing is that by doing that, by making that bold choice, I think we open ourselves up to the criticism of being derivative, and that’s the challenge I take. I think we’re incredibly original, despite the fact that we borrow so much from so American Psycho, Taxi Driver, and Clockwork Orange. The list goes on and on. It was an unapologetic homage/nod/acknowledgement to the audience that Fight Club was one of our inspirations.” He goes on to say, “Movies and television show build on top of each other, succeed one another. In a large way in terms of filmmaking aesthetics, they evolve because they can’t help but be a consequence of all the movies and TV shows that came before it. I don’t mind context, which I think this is. We are a 2015 television show that has been made in the wake of all of these great films and television shows before us. I’m happy to own it.”

(On a side note, there are only going to be four or five seasons?!)

If you’re interested in reading about how Esmail’s own, personal background, played a part in the making of the show, here’s another interesting article, this time from Popular Science.

Finally, in this Slate article, we learn about how Esmail’s family inspired him. “I’m Egyptian. I have a lot of cousins who are in their 20s. I was there right after the Arab Spring happened, and I was so inspired by that. One of the things that defined Elliot’s character is that revolutionary spirit I saw in my cousins. These are young people who are tech-savvy, who use technology to their advantage to channel the anger against the status quo and try and make a change to better their lives. That is something that’s beautiful and fascinating to me, and that’s what I really, really want the show to be about. It’s set in the world of technology, because I think that is a tool that young people can use to bring about change.”

Sam and I were at the edge of our seats throughout the entire series. We’re talking sweaty palms and heart beating out of our chest. For those of you who are looking for a good show to watch, and if you’re into intense shows like Breaking Bad, watch this!

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