Though the rest of the show won’t be airing until June 24, the pilot episode of USA Network’s upcoming television series Mr. Robot was made available for viewing on Wednesday and boy is it already intriguing. The show stars Rami Malek of The Pacific, Night at the Museum, and more as a moody hacker named Elliot who’s working at a powerful cyber security firm by day and sleuthing about the web as a vigilante hacker by night. Amidst all the code-cracking, encrypting, decrypting, and shaking his fist at the man, Elliot finds himself elbows deep in a conspiracy involving a mysterious man known as Mr. Robot who recruits him as a member of his underground group of hackers.
His opening line: “There’s a powerful group of people out there that are secretly running the world…the top one percent of the top one percent of the guys that play God without permission. And now I think they’re following me.”
The already great premise is bumped up by the layer of psychological difficulties with which Elliot is dealing. On top of social anxiety disorder (and an anti-social one, too), the protagonist appears to be suffering from delusions of grandeur–at least according to his psychiatrist Krista (Gloria Reuben). Though he claims the black-suited men who’ve been following him have disappeared thanks to his prescribed medication, you can tell that obviously isn’t the case as he spends the entirety of the episode glancing over his shoulder and talking to himself. With a dark hood draped over his head, the lone wolf despises working for the firm and refers to the company’s biggest client E-Corp as Evil Corp.
Despite having a seemingly functional relationship with his childhood friend and coworker Angela, Elliot’s inner monologue consistently reflects his actual feelings about the world. He all but shouts anarchy when projecting his disgust for citizens, the country, celebrity worship, materialism, and the like. Underneath the surface, however, his disconnection with the rest of the world breeds loneliness and a hunger for small doses of morphine to drown out the depression and his feelings of isolation.
After introducing the audience to the every day woes of Elliot, the show drives the protagonist out of his home and to his place of employment in the middle of the night to tackle a mega security breach for the E-Corp branch. While there is already another tech on call, Angela feels that Elliot would be better at handling it. Thankfully she was right, and the brooding programmer took care of the tricky root kit in no time, but not without seeing an odd message within the code.
With the secret message in mind, Elliot hops on the subway and heads back home, meeting the infamous Mr. Robot (played by Christian Slater) on the way back. It just so happens that this new stranger is way more connected to the events going on than you’d think. Biting at the bait, Elliot chats with the man and joins him at an abandoned arcade on Coney Island. Elliot goes to drastic lengths towards the end of the episode to assist the group, and completely changes everything, segueing perfectly into the rest of the season.
On the sidelines, we get to see Elliot conquer his fear of social interaction via hacking individuals and confronting them in person. Using their own personal details as leverage, the loner is able to work out deals with people, which–on top of the overarching plot–I am excited to see more of, especially since he now has a dog thanks to a successful blackmail.
Most importantly, while all of this is going on, Elliot is constantly questioning whether events actually happened, or if it is all in his head. He even gets to the point of asking himself whether or not he is schizophrenic, which instantly brings to mind the issues mathematician John Nash faced both in real life and in Ron Howard’s A Beautiful Mind. The comparison is obviously a stretch but if Elliot is indeed living in his own delusions, the similarities are striking.
For a brief section at the end of the episode, it seems like he may have been making it all up after all, but in the last few minutes of the show, we see the dominos start to fall. Most of the time when film or television characters are battling with disillusionment, it is saved as a major plot twist towards the final chapter. On the flip side, this show tackles the idea from the very first monologue, raising more questions and opening up interesting avenues for Elliot. Keeping viewers on their toes the entire time is a smart move that will pay off as the season progresses.
All in all, Mr. Robot shows a lot of promise, which I think is the aim of any pilot episode. The writers have taken an interesting character who’s layered with flaws and thrust him into a world of hacking, conspiracy and mystery. It is equal parts: smart, fun, and intriguing and has the potential to be one of the best shows of the summer.
Have you watched it yet? What did you think of the episode? Let us know in the comments below.