We live in a world saturated with entertainment options. The longstanding “Big 3” television networks (ABC, CBS and NBC), Fox, cable TV and movie channels, and digital media outlets like Netflix, Hulu and YouTube constantly barrage us with content to seduce our attention. Yet, among this deluge of programming choices, USA’s “Mr. Robot” (which currently enjoys a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes) continues to stand out as something special as its third season emerges.
As of this writing, the show is five episodes deep into the new season, and it’s already obvious that the writers have decided to simplify the complicated (and often confusing) storylines from the second season and streamline them into an enthralling plot that we can more easily follow. Because the show remains uniquely riveting, I have become inspired to offer my opinions as to some of the alchemy that makes “Mr. Robot” so distinctive. And don’t worry, the following exposition will be very careful not to include any spoilers for you newbies out there who are now considering venturing into season one, episode one: “eps1.0_hellofriend.mov” (the name of each episode looks like some form of code or another computer, geek scrawl).
In short, “Mr. Robot” is about a gifted, cyber-security engineer named Elliot Alderson (whose namesake “coincidentally” resembles that of “The Matrix’s” “Mr. Anderson”) who spends his evenings as a vigilante, computer hacker. Elliot’s nighttime diversions eventually entangle him in a larger hacker-driven effort to forever revolutionize the world’s socioeconomic order.
Fans of “Mr. Robot” already know that the show would be nothing without its talented cast, led by Rami Malek, who brilliantly portrays the show’s protagonist with quiet intensity (Malek won an Emmy for the role in 2016). With his hacking genius wrapped in the cloak of his social awkwardness, Elliot is often reminiscent of a “Rain Man”-type character. This is perfectly exemplified in a scene from the third-season opener when Elliot commandeers the computer terminal of a team of hackers competing in an online Capture the Flag Tournament; with just two minutes of keystrokes and intense concentration, Elliot leads the crew to victory over their Korean rivals.
The “feel” and plot of the show are obvious homages to the movie “Fight Club” while not directly stealing from the film in any offensive way. If you were a fan of the Ed Norton and Brad Pitt cult classic, then you will likely obsess over “Mr. Robot” since it is a clever and natural extension of some of “Fight Club’s” key themes (no spoilers).
Furthermore, the show’s ambiance exudes a cynicism and aura of looming dystopia reminiscent of “The Matrix” but without the emerald filter. The music is eclectic (the artists range from the London Philharmonic Orchestra to Mos Def), timeless, captivating and beautifully interwoven into the episodes. A particular scene, for example, could feature a song from the 80s or 90s while simultaneously addressing issues that are technologically and socially current/futuristic.
You don’t need to be a hacker, programmer, cyber nerd or computer geek to become completely engrossed in this show (although being any of the foregoing would probably make you even more infatuated). “Mr. Robot” is magnetic because of its characters, angst-ridden storylines and plot maneuvers that consistently keep you guessing, even after the “big reveal” at the end of the first season.
Adding to the show’s ingenuity is the fact that season two continues to draw you in by adjusting its storyline to accommodate your “insider knowledge” of its most critical and overarching secret. Then, season three debuts with the viewers asking themselves two all-important questions: “What the &#%@ happens if Mr. Robot pulls off stage 2?” and “Do I need to be afraid or very afraid?”