30 Pilots in 30 Days: Mr. Robot

Had I seen it before: Nope.

What IMDb says: Follows Elliot, a young programmer working as a cyber-security engineer by day, and a vigilante hacker by night.

Why I picked it: This is one of the more recent breakout hits that *gasp* isn’t on AMC. Not only did Rami Malek win an Emmy for this in its first season, Mr. Robot also won the Golden Globe for its debut season as well. It has a whomping 96% on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 92% audience score. It’s definitely made one of the bigger splashes of the last year or two, so I was curious to see how this one would compare to some of the older shows on my list that have already solidified their status as classics.

I’m also intrigued because this show is a drama about computer programming, and to my knowledge, there is no other drama about computer programming. Usually computer programmer is the job writers give people when they want to convey that the character is a boring nerd. So I’m curious to see if and how the writers can take a seemingly boring world that the average viewer knows little about and make it suspenseful.

What I liked: I hope Satanists like skiing because hell has frozen over: THE VOICEOVER IS ACTUALLY REALLY GOOD HERE. I know. My whole life is a lie.

But in all honesty, a lot of the copy for Elliott’s voiceover could be standalone spoken word. Rather than using voiceover as a way to explain what is happening/has already happened, voiceover is used to make interesting observations about the world around us. Here’s a quote:

Oh, I don’t know. Is it that we collectively thought Steve Jobs was a great man, even when we knew he made billions off the backs of children? Or maybe it’s that it feels like all our heroes are counterfeit? The world itself’s just one big hoax. Spamming each other with our running commentary of bullshit, masquerading as insight, our social media faking as intimacy. Or is it that we voted for this? Not with our rigged elections, but with our things, our property, our money. I’m not saying anything new. We all know why we do this, not because Hunger Games books makes us happy, but because we wanna be sedated. Because it’s painful not to pretend, because we’re cowards. Fuck society.

Do you see how that’s different from “So these are my kids, this is how old they all are, and these are their hobbies?” The voiceover doesn’t just exist to give me the contextual information I need to follow the plot, it exists to give me insight into how Elliott’s brain works, and Elliott’s brain is a fascinating place.

In addition to that, the pilot does a great job of starting out interesting and then continuing to build throughout the episode. We start with a scene of Elliott confronting a local coffee shop owner about his child porn website. So already I’m like “so this guy just uses his spare time to bring down people who use the internet for nefarious purposes? I want to watch someone use their spare time to bring down people who use the internet for nefarious purposes!”

Unlike some pilots that have an amazing first scene and then never outdo it, it turns out there’s a society of vigilante hackers! They recruit Elliott by aggressively hacking one of his company’s clients and he prevents it. We don’t really learn that much about these other vigilante hackers, but I’m okay with that. The fact that they are vigilante hackers is enough to make me want to learn more about these supporting characters, so I’m glad they didn’t stray from Elliott in the pilot. It also makes sense that we don’t really get insight into a ton of other characters besides Elliott since he is so socially reclusive.

But now, in addition to knowing that there is a society of vigilante hackers, we also learn they have a project: to delete all records of debt, releasing millions of Americans from their credit card debt, student loans, mortgages, etc. and fucking over the big banks. So let’s review:

– We get an interesting character right off the bat
– We learn there are more characters like him that want him join their ranks
– We learn there is an enormous challenge this ragtag group will take on together

Pretty much any pilot can follow this formula but yet so many don’t. A lot of them front load their action to grab your attention, or they put it all off for the end or worse, the next episode. So props to Mr. Robot for grabbing my attention right away and actually maintaining it for a whole hour.

What I didn’t like: I don’t like that Season 2 isn’t available for free, because I’m already pretty sure I want to see it.

Do I want to watch Ep. 2: Yes! I can already see this being a series I want to see in full, not just “I’ll reevaluate after a couple more episodes” and that’s a rare achievement in Anne world.


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