×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Mr. Robot’

With:
Rami Malek, Christian Slater, Portia Doubleday, Carly Chaikin, Martin Wallstrom, Gloria Reuben

If casting and character are half the battle, “Mr. Robot” is more than halfway home. Showcasing Rami Malek in a breakout performance as a highly unorthodox protagonist — a socially clumsy, almost feral hacker — the series rivals “Rectify” as Program With the Most Tortured Lead Character. As written by Sam Esmail, this has the jittery feel of a British thriller, and an absurdist sense of entrenched interests vs. a weird insurgency: a conceit that vaguely recalls Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil.” While commercial prospects appear hazy, it’s hard to remember the last time USA put on anything more intriguing.

Malek’s Elliot is a cyber-security specialist by day, laboring away for a cubicle-filled corporation. By night, though, he’s an unrepentant hacker — delving into the personal lives of those who enter his orbit — as well as a drug user and someone so painfully awkward that he freely admits, “I don’t know how to talk to people.”

Diving into the plot, Elliot is introduced on the subway, his frantic narration imparting that he has stumbled onto “a conspiracy bigger than all of us,” involving masters of the universe who will essentially stop at nothing to achieve their objectives. If that sounds more than a little paranoid — and much of “Mr. Robot” does — Elliot is assured this is all too real by a renegade hacker (Christian Slater, marking TV’s best use of him in some time), who goes by the name Mr. Robot, and wants to recruit him to infiltrate and undermine the shadowy corporation Elliot has been hired to protect.

Narration is an overused device, but as rattled off by Malek (whose credits include “The Pacific”), it has a haunting, unsettling quality (think “Taxi Driver”), serving up a running monologue of his suspicions and distrust of just about everything except his childhood friend Angela (Portia Doubleday), who happens to work with him. He’s also somewhat fond of his therapist (Gloria Reuben), though as with most of his interactions, his true thoughts are confined to the debate raging inside his head.

It’s in his dealings with Slater’s character, who is determined to strike a blow against the ruling elite, that Elliot is forced to grapple with his own belief system, given his general lack of a filter and his vigilante-by-hack streak. Basically, Elliot is told the revolution is happening; it’s just a question now of choosing sides.

To his credit, Esmail leaves the audience off-balance regarding who’s worse: the hackers or the corporate overseers. Nor does it require a huge leap to find additional resonance in the notion of the cyber-attackers targeting a corporation — however Bond-villain-like it might appear — after Sony’s recent experience.

Walking around with wild, darting eyes, and wearing a hoodie, Malek doesn’t look like the kind of guy you’d necessarily want to sit next to in a subway car. That said, it’s almost impossible to take your eyes off him, and through a second hour, the course of the series remains as jagged and unrefined as his narration, offering little sense of where this might lead.

That’s often a bracing experience for critics, but not necessarily a ticket to Nielsen nirvana. Then again, with a guy like Elliot around, how hard would it be to just hack into a few servers and turn those hash marks into “The Walking Dead” numbers?

Considering that USA dramas had begun to exhibit a certain assembly-line quality, whatever its fate, “Mr. Robot” feels like a daring risk — one that’s more calibrated to the confines of pay cable, and animated by a welcome spark of inspiration.

TV Review: 'Mr. Robot'

(Series; USA, Wed. June 24, 10 p.m.)

Production: Filmed in New York by Anonymous Content in association with Universal Cable Prods.

Crew: Executive producers, Sam Esmail, Chad Hamilton, Steve Golin, Niels Arden Oplev; producer, Igor Srubshchik; director, Oplev; writer, Esmail; camera, Tim Ives; production designer, Karin Wiesel Holmes; editor, Joe Bini; music, Ben Zales; casting, Susie Farris, Beth Bowling, Kim Miscia. 68 MIN.

Cast: Rami Malek, Christian Slater, Portia Doubleday, Carly Chaikin, Martin Wallstrom, Gloria Reuben

More TV

  • Gallipienzo-El-Hombre-que-mató-a-Don-Quijote

    3rd Conecta Fiction Raises Navarre's Industrial Profile

    Raising Navarre’s profile as a meeting point for the European and Latin American audiovisual industry, its capital, Pamplona, hosts over June 17-20 the third edition of Conecta Fiction, the Europe-America TV series co-production and networking event. After celebrating its first two editions in Galicia’s Santiago de Compostela, Conecta moves to Baluarte, the Congress Center and [...]

  • Baila-Esperanza-All-The-Kids-2

    Conecta Fiction: All The Kids Unveils First Feature Film, New Live Action Series

    All The Kids Ent. (ATK), a Madrid-based content creation and consultancy group, is launching its first feature film and unveiling three new live action series aimed at the youth/young adult demo at TV co-production meet, Conecta Fiction. The fledgling company founded by its CEO Joana Carrion has forged a scriptwriting partnership with Spanish screenwriter Javier [...]

  • Noah Centineo - Breakthrough Performance -

    TV Review: 2019 MTV Movie and TV Awards

    Who are the MTV Movie (and TV) Awards for, exactly? This is the question that kept rattling around my exhausted brain during Monday’s broadcast, which squeezed the ceremony (that happened live in Los Angeles on June 15) into two taut hours of waning pop culture references and supportive screaming. If it’s for Gen Z teens, [...]

  • Kiernan Shipka and Ross LynchMTV Movie

    MTV Movie & TV Awards: What You Didn't See on TV

    Many of the biggest stars in movies and television — including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jada Pinkett Smith, Kiernan Shipka, Sandra Bullock, Tessa Thompson and Brie Larson — came together to present and receive honors at the 2019 MTV Movie & TV Awards, hosted by “Shazam!” star Zachary Levi. And while non-attendees are able to enjoy [...]

  • Johnny BananasMTV Movie & TV Awards,

    'The Challenge' Veteran Crashes MTV Awards Acceptance Speech; Cut From Broadcast

    Johnny “Bananas” Devenanzio pulled a Kanye West at Saturday’s taping of the MTV Movie & TV awards when “Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta” won over “The Challenge” in the Reality Royalty category. However, viewers didn’t get to see it. Producers of the show cut out Devenanzio’s speech from Monday’s airing, after the reality star took [...]

  • Zachary LeviMTV Movie & TV Awards,

    MTV Movie & TV Awards Winners: The Complete List

    The MTV Movie & TV Awards returned to television Monday, with host Zachary Levi and a number of pop culture favorites. Dominating this year’s nominations with four apiece were front runners “Avengers: Endgame,” which took home the evening’s best movie award, and “Game of Thrones,” which won best show. The Oscar-nominated documentary “RBG” also scored [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content