What are the odds that a show, upon its airing, is liked so much by fans and critics alike? They are probably slim, but that is the world that Mr. Robot operates in: working against all odds, or precisely because of all odds, that seem grande on every scale. This year, the show will return for its anticipated third season, and until then, there’s still plenty of time to catch up. Perhaps some of these reasons can convince you to watch this gem, if you haven’t!
“Sometimes I dream of saving the world,” the main character Elliot Alderson says, and no sentence could summarize Mr. Robot better than this one. Although the tagline will tell you that “control is an illusion” or that Elliot is a vigilante hacker at night, nothing comes quite as close to Mr. Robot’s core than this quote does. The show is essentially about Elliot. We see everything through his lens, we read everything through the filter of his narration, and we hear his thoughts loud and clear.
Elliot dreams of saving the world; a world rotten and addicted to sedation and money. So he thinks up of a plan to get rid of it — creating mayhem in order to create balance, in a similar way like Fight Club’s Tyler Durden had planned. In the events that follow, everything around — and everything about — him disintegrates and falls apart. And in all honesty, no work field could better depict disintegration, loneliness and innate power than cyber security, the job Elliot has. That is essentially what Mr. Robot is about: the inner workings of a man with depression, social anxiety and drug abuse, and the world around him.
The world of Mr Robot, per accordance with creator, director and occasional writer of the show, Sam Esmail, is painted in cold blues, shifted angles, and complex characters. This world would be nothing without its cast, as he has stated. You can take this statement in a number of ways; the acting of the cast, particularly Rami Malek’s, is stellar. They carry the show’s script through the ups and downs and their performances are gripping with every second. Perhaps what’s more important is its diversity.
One of the most obvious and most talked about aspects is, once again, the Egyptian-American Rami Malek, or the buzz surrounding the Egyptian-American creator of Mr Robot, Sam Esmail. But perhaps it isn’t as important to note the immense diversity of cast, but their complexity. Their ethnicity, religion, and gender identity isn’t at the forefront, rather their unique personalities and assets. Indeed, there is only one time that it is brought up and serves as deeper understanding of the plot and character. This is what representation is about, and Mr. Robot seizes it unlike any other show.
In many aspects, Mr. Robot explores normally uncharted territory — at least not on this scale, anyway. One of the larger themes of the show, especially highlighted in season two, is loneliness. “We live in a kingdom of bullshit,” the titular Mr. Robot declares in the season 1 finale, hitting the nail on its head. Most of the characters are depicted or feel isolated and alone, especially Elliot. His hacker group, the rebellious f-society, is composed of various outcasts, each with their different problems. Yet while this may have played easily into the trope of Ragtag Bunch of Misfits, the show refuses to act that way. They barely gel together, and when they do, it’s to follow their leader. Another of Mr. Robot’s themes that go hand in hand with this one is the depiction of mental illnesses. Once again, Elliot is a fantastic example; crippled with his social anxiety, he is unable to connect with the rest of society and feels so lonely that he breaks into crying fits, which he then resolves with morphine. The production team checked up with psychiatrists so Elliot’s mental disorders were properly displayed. This user talked about how their own experiences, as well (heavy spoiler alert) . In our current society that is stricken with failed expectations and a bad streak of perfectionism, seeing it depicted feels like a breath of fresh air — in a way that doesn’t offend or insult.
The visual style.
All of the aforementioned is carried with a visual style that can be compared to the likes of BBC’s Sherlock or NBC’s Hannibal. For a show as unique as Mr. Robot, an equally unique visual style is just as fitting — many frames are often in the bottom corner, further imploring the sense of isolation and loneliness Elliot feels. This gives us a large headroom, and the sense that the characters feel small and weighed down by their expectations and their own headspace. You can see this at work especially well in this video which is spoiler-free.
Sam Esmail said in an interview with Vulture that he approached DOP Tom Campbell because of his work in Girls, originally just for the blue color palette. The cinematographer does an exceptional job at adding another layer to the entire story, and without it, we wouldn’t be able to dive so much into Elliot’s head. Fun fact: he got the job because he wanted other people to have their shows look like Mr. Robot. No kidding.
Mr. Robot is unlike any other show, a series that so vehemently swims against its current. There are moments that are more than questionable, sure, but these moments make it memorable, visually arresting, and most importantly, influencing us profoundly.
I hope that after reading this, you can tell me that,“you’re seeing it, too.”
Written by: Elif Erdem
Edited by: Ammaarah Mookadam
Keshav Kant, aka Mx. KantEven, is a neuroscience nerd turned Creative Consultant and Executive Director of Off Colour!
You’ve probably seen her on TikTok or caught her work on Off Colour's many channels. From consulting on films & shows, manuscript review, conducting interviews, or hosting podcasts & panels, if there is some way to bring sensitivity and authenticity to diversity, inclusion and equity conversations, Keshav will be there.