TV Review: Mr. Robot Season One, Episode One (USA, 2015)

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Take the title character from Dexter, throw him into a world where instead of killing the bad guys, he’s destroying their lives through digital espionage, and you start to get the vibe of the new USA Network series Mr. Robot, which had a special episode one premiere at SXSW earlier this year, ahead of its official US television debut this week.

In the series, Rami Malek plays Elliot, a character who’s as disconnected from the real world as our favourite serial killer. A narration void of emotion serves as our guide, much in the same way Dexter told us his story. And in place of blood slides, we have a folder of his celebrated hacks. But it’s about here that the similarities end.

In the pilot, which was directed by Niels Arden Oplev – who directed the original Swedish version of The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo – we meet Elliot, IT man for “Evil Corp” (lazy, but to the point) by day, vigilante hacker by night, taking down lovers of child pornography and making the world a better place (…or something).

Worried he’s being followed, he starts to see Christian Slater everywhere – a man who we come to know as Mr. Robot, who incites Elliot to help them take down Evil Corp and rid the world of the terrible CEOs that run the world. Well – amongst the backdrop of Coney Island, that seems to be the initial pitch. Though the endgame is likely something we don’t expect; a level of intrigue surrounding it all is well established.

We also meet Suburgatory’s Carly Chaikin in the pilot, a fellow hacker who will surely a lot more to the story as the series continues. And in that way, the pilot did everything a good pilot should do: set up the characters and story well, without giving too much away about what will happen from here on out. And writer/creator Sam Esmail did a good job of keeping things from being too difficult to understand for those of us in the room who aren’t hackers. Which one would assume is the vast majority…

In terms of tone, Esmail and Oplev have done a great job in taking us into a world that reminds me a little bit of how Fincher launched us into House of Cards or The Social Network. I’ve seen a few people also refer to Fight Club, which would be a sound comparison. And if that is maintained, it will work well. But really the brilliance in it all is Rami Malek, who makes a character that should be unlikable, impossible to look away from. Slater may be the name behind the mask, but this is Malek’s show.

Though the similarities to some other shows out there is hard to ignore, Mr. Robot is looking like a solid effort from creator Sam Esmail and his team. They have furnished a compelling world that should prove addictive to anyone who was/is a fan of the other shows and films mentioned.

Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Mr. Robot premiered at SXSW earlier this year, where it was reviewed. It will screen on USA Network in the US from today, 24th June, for a 10 episode run. The Australian release details have yet to be confirmed. You can read a bit more about what the cast and creator of the series had to say about the show in a special SXSW Q&A HERE.