On June 24th, 2015, America was introduced to a new show in the competitive market of cable television. This show - ironically called Mr. Robot - is a curious and enthralling story of the traditional human condition existing within the modern soulless technology-based world we all live in. The show's narrator and lead character is a young man named Elliot Alderson - an introverted cybersecurity engineer who suffers from social anxiety and clinical depression.
The premise of the show is one of anti-consumerism - specifically, the widening gap between the rich elite and the everyday worker. As more people drown in debt, Mr. Robot provides an entertaining fantasy scenario in which the everyday person can relate to Elliot - and his wish of helping out his friends and loved ones by wiping out debt altogether.
With this premise established, it's time to put on our Teashade lens and dive right into the first episode. Just how does it shape up as a premiere?
Right from the get-go, we're introduced to lead character Elliot Alderson (played by Rami Malek) in a rather intimate manner - as he is speaking directly to us, the audience, addressing us as an imaginary friend. He monologues passionately about his disdain for the rich elite whilst also somewhat questioning his own sanity in the process. This is further reinforced as his monologue ends - and we get our first glimpse of him sitting on a train, positioned in the lower right quadrant of the frame in a very unnerving shot of mystery and paranoia.
Elliot, by his own admission, believes that someone is following him. This transitions into a flashback sequence in which Elliot recounts the previous night's events - in which he retreats from his best friend's birthday party in order to confront a coffee shop owner named Ron over his illegal porn site. The exchange between both Elliot and Ron is somewhat awkward due to Elliot's social anxiety and the incriminating situation that Ron finds himself in - and yet, it also plays out quite nicely in a neat little exposition piece for the audience to learn about Elliot's pain of losing his father. Despite the unexpected moment of conversational bonding, Elliot informs Ron about his anonymous tip - and promptly leaves the coffee shop as the police arrive to arrest Ron.
This opening scene feels oddly reminiscent of another popular cable television series Dexter. However, unlike that show's focus on killing, Mr. Robot's pilot episode instead focuses on the power of hacking and using it to bring people's bad actions to justice. A less gratuitous but equally disturbing feature.
After the opening title card, we transition back to present time - with Elliot keeping an eye on two men in black on the train carriage with him. He's briefly interrupted by a man lying down on a few seats further down the carriage (played by Christian Slater) who attempts a brief conversation with Elliot but to no avail. There's also a little cameo in this scene by show creator Sam Esmail - who plays one of the standing train carriage passengers next to Christian Slater's character.
From here, Elliot introduces us to his ordinary life - starting with his job as a cybersecurity engineer at Allsafe Cybersecurity. We're introduced to Elliot's best friend, Angela Moss (played by Portia Doubleday) and his boss, Gideon Goddard (played by Michel Gill). Gideon is introduced to us as a fairly anxious individual as well but it's soon revealed that he is in charge of managing the data security of the largest conglomerate in the world - E Corp. With a recent string of cyber attacks against the company, Gideon is paranoid about losing his most important client - an understandable reaction given his firm's identity as an outsourced network and separate entity from E Corp.
After the brief meeting with their boss, Angela confronts Elliot about his absence from her birthday party the night before - that Elliot casually shrugs off as him saying he was working. Despite his calm attitude on the exterior, it's revealed to us internally that Elliot actually did go to Angela's birthday party - but as he was heading inside, he got freaked out by other party goers and instead withdrew. We're also introduced to Angela's boyfriend, Ollie Parker (played by Ben Rappaport), who Elliot immediately walks away from, indicating his disdain for the man dating his best friend.
Next, we're introduced to Elliot's therapist - a lady by the name of Krista Gordon (played by Gloria Reuben). Here, Elliot engages in another internal monologue - this time about the hypocrisy of society, citing examples such as athletes and idols being liars and the everyday person working to purchase items they don't need in order to fill the void of their existence. Despite this, Elliot himself is a hypocrite - as he seeks human connection yet actively refuses it when Krista tries to get him to open up about what he's thinking and feeling. It's also revealed that Elliot suffers from delusions and hallucinations - another exposition piece for us to make note of.
Back at Allsafe, Elliot's dislike of Ollie is expanded upon - as he reveals to us internally that Ollie has been unfaithful to Angela by flirting with other women online. This interaction is quickly dismissed as the suits from E Corp arrive at Allsafe - with Elliot revealing that he's mentally reprogrammed his mind to change E Corp to Evil Corp. We're introduced to two new important characters here - the first being E Corp's Chief Technology Officer, Terry Colby (played by Bruce Altman). Elliot immediately passes judgement on Colby as a moron due to his inexperience with the technical aspects of the job. However, Elliot is surprised when another executive approaches him - a man who introduces himself as Tyrell Wellick (played by Martin Wallström). Tyrell reveals how he runs Linux on his own computer in a similar fashion to what Elliot is doing - which impresses Elliot. Needless to say, Tyrell leaves a more a favourable mark on Elliot than what Terry Colby does. This also marks the first time that Tyrell uses his famous 'Bonsoir Elliot' line in the series.
At home, we're introduced to Elliot's lonely existence in his rundown apartment. Aside from the basic necessities, the only real noteworthy possessions Elliot has is his computer, its relevant accessories and his computer monitors. Other than that, his apartment is pretty much devoid of any true life, save for his pet fish, Qwerty. The only human interaction Elliot has is with his neighbour and drug dealer, Shayla Nico (played by Frankie Shaw). It's evident from the get-go that Elliot is somewhat uncomfortable around Shayla and her relaxed attitude - but despite this, he engages in some casual smoking with her and they wind up having sex whilst high.
Sprinkled in throughout the episode is a recurring subplot involving Krista's date - a mysterious man named Michael Hansen whom Elliot is having difficulty hacking. Stalking Krista's social media, he manages to find out her location and heads there to observe from afar.
As Michael catches a taxi, Elliot notes the cab number and calls the service to report his missing keys that he supposedly left in there - and manages to retrieve the cab's destination address.
Before he can pursue this line any further, however, Elliot is summoned to Allsafe - as the E Corp system is under attack. As it turns out, some malevolent hacker force has been attempting to breach the system over the course of the past few months - and now, they've finally breached the system defences.
This massive DDoS attack forces Allsafe into taking the servers offline temporarily in order to wipe them clean. This also sees Elliot and Gideon take a private jet to Allsafe's server farm in Dallas.
Unfortunately, Elliot realises that one of the core servers - cs30 - is infected via a Rootkit hack. As the cybersecurity company gradually re-activates the servers, Elliot frantically works into reconfiguring the core server parameters - and manages to shift the core server protocol command to another core server - cs51 - in the nick of time.
As Gideon and the other staff breathe a collective sigh of relief, Elliot investigates the infected core server on his own - and locates an interesting file called fsociety00.dat. Checking it out, he discovers a text file that reads 'LEAVE ME HERE'. Despite his desire to delete the file, Elliot can't bring himself to do it - and instead re-configures the file so that only he has access to it.
After a casual conversation with Gideon on the private jet back to New York, Elliot returns home and catches up with Angela outside his apartment. As they head upstairs to get high and watch Back to the Future Part II. However, Shayla is still sleeping upstairs - leading to an awkward moment between Elliot and Angela, who promptly departs.
Later on, as Elliot is on the train, he encounters the mysterious man from the train (and also the restaurant when he was stalking Krista and Michael earlier) again. As the man gets off the train, he tells Elliot to get off here as well - but only if he didn't delete it. Putting two and two together, Elliot follows the man off the train and they have a conversation on the train platform.
Elliot and the man - who wears a jacket with a 'Mr. Robot' logo on it - head to a run-down arcade on Coney Island. Here, Mr. Robot introduces Elliot to fsociety - a small group of hackers who meet in person as opposed to online. Of particular note is a dark-haired woman (played by Carly Chaikin) who stares down Elliot when he first arrives.
In between work and his personal life, Elliot begins a rocky liaison with Mr. Robot - who gradually opens up about his plan of bringing down E Corp. The goal is to bring down the company and effectively wipe out debt - a kind of modern day Robin Hood-esque tale of stealing from the rich to give back to the poor. In order to achieve this goal, Mr. Robot gives Elliot his initiation task - to input E Corp CTO Terry Colby's IP address in the .dat file. As a result, Terry Colby will be framed for the DDoS attack on E Corp's network and will go to prison for it.
As Elliot makes his way back home, he reflects on society's crushing debt problem - thinking especially of Angela and her large student loan. This scene plays out whilst Neil Diamond's 'If You Go Away' plays in the background. An interesting and thematic song choice - one that ultimately reinforces Elliot's major role and power in this moment. He has the potential to set in motion fsociety's rebellion - or he could bring down fsociety altogether with the sensitive information he has on their organisation.
At work, Allsafe is visited by Terry Colby, Tyrell Wellick and the FBI - all of whom are seeking a briefing about the DDos attack that occurred on the weekend. As Angela establishes the timeline of events, she mistakenly addresses 2am as Friday night instead of Saturday morning. This annoys Colby - who takes a disliking to her and instructs Tyrell to speak with Gideon in private and have Angela removed.
This backhanded tactic annoys Elliot - who decides to follow through with the plan of framing Colby. Switching out his white envelope containing fsociety's information with the blue envelope containing Colby's IP address, Elliot passes it on to the FBI - but not before Tyrell notices the switch.
This sets in motion a nineteen day time skip...
With no news about Terry Colby's arrest, Elliot decides to resume his pursuit of Krista's date. Having obtained his address, phone number and bank account details, Elliot eventually manages to identify Michael's real name as Lenny - a married man who has been unfaithful to his wife and to Krista. Lying about one of Lenny's escorts being underage, Elliot strikes a deal with him - he'll refrain from informing his wife on the condition that he breaks up with Krista and tells her the truth. Elliot also adopts Lenny's pet dog, Flipper, in the process.
Krista is understandably devastated at her breakup - and Elliot sees her disillusioned condition and knows that Lenny went through with his end of the deal. However, Elliot rationalises it as being for Krista's own good - as she needs to date better guys. Krista encourages Elliot to reach out to Angela and bond with her - as she and Elliot have been distant since the E Corp/FBI meeting.
At work, Elliot and Angela bond and resolve their differences - and, in a touching moment, almost seem to kiss - but this is interrupted as news appears on the television that Terry Colby has finally been arrested by the FBI. Whilst everyone else is in shock, Elliot quietly celebrates his victory - and, as he makes his way through Times Square and sees it advertised on the large display monitors, he raises his hands in the air triumphantly. He's succeeded. He brought down the Chief Technology Officer of E Corp.
This celebration is short-lived, however - as a mysterious man in a black suit (played by Jeremy Holm) asks Elliot to get in a nearby car. As Elliot is whisked away to the E Corp building, he ascends to a conference room and is told to head inside. Despite his reluctance, he proceeds forwards - into the very same room of blurred out men from the opening shot of the episode.
However, right in the middle, is a man Elliot recognises - Tyrell Wellick. Using his signature 'Bonsoir Elliot' line, Elliot feels a sense of dread as he looks directly at the audience and says 'Tell me you're seeing this too...' before the episode fades to black.
Mr. Robot's pilot episode manages to bring together a cohesive and intricate plot that melds social issues, hacker culture and business life together into a satisfying package. The pilot episode was directed by Danish writer and director Niels Arden Oplev - most notable for his directorial role in the 2009 film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The writer for the episode was Mr. Robot showrunner himself, Sam Esmail.
The cinematography of the pilot episode was quite well executed as well. Some gradual panning shots, the lower quadrant framing and positional angles were all conveyed well and helped set the scene of what the director was trying to portray.
Music-wise, Mr. Robot's pilot episode delivered an exceptional and entertaining selection of original compositions whilst also blending in some familiar songs. Of particular note was Neil Diamond's 'If You Go Away'. The rest of the score was composed by Mac Quayle - most notable for his work in the American Horror Story series and films such as Drive and Spring Breakers.
In regards to the narrative, I was really impressed with the layout and progression of the story - it was nicely balanced. The major events took place gradually and weren't all thrown in at the last moment as some sort of saving grace. The episode took its time in telling its story and introduced the world and New York City's atmosphere nicely. Some of the support characters got a healthy degree of screen time as well - in particular, Angela, Mr. Robot and Gideon.
If I had to pick a particular scene that resonated with me the most, I'd have to say the Angela/Elliot make-up scene - it's evident that the show is teasing that both characters have deep feelings for each other. However, like most shows, they only hint at it - and we'll inevitably be drawn in to the whole 'will they/won't they' scenario (unless you've watched Season 2 *winkwink*). That's not the only reason I selected this scene, however. The immediate aftermath of Terry Colby's arrest - and with Elliot celebrating in Times Square - was an inspiring moment of just how one person can change the world. Bringing down a corporate executive probably isn't the best way of going about it, but the message the show conveys is one of hope - something the world desperately needs.
Overall, the pilot episode of Mr. Robot comes in at a run-time just shy of sixty-five minutes - a lengthy introduction but a highly entertaining one nonetheless. In regards to a rating, I've settled on a very healthy and rewarding 8.5 out of 10 for its final grade.
The episode manages to tell a great story and incorporates its respectful narrative and musical elements together with complementary cinematography. Rami Malek's performance as Elliot is enthralling and relatable whilst the supporting cast deliver good performances as well. There's enough of a story here to make up a satisfying episode - and enough moments and a cliffhanger ending to keep the audience intrigued and want to revisit the show for future episodes.
Ultimately, Mr. Robot's pilot episode is a great first step for the series. With a total of ten episodes in the first season, this pilot episode plays a pivotal role in setting the scene of the world and atmosphere whilst also introducing the cast of important characters. Now all that remains is to see just how this progresses over the rest of the season.
Until next time!
© 2017 Teashade Benu