[Note: This article is a spoiler-free recommendation of the show that doesn’t reveal any plot information past the pilot episode.]
I’m not good at watching TV. In fact, I’m rather horrible at it, often finding myself unable to make it past most shows’ first seasons due to my (probably unfair) standards after Breaking Bad raised the bar for what I expect from something that demands hours of my time and attention. Though there are certainly shows on the air that have managed to sustain my interest, nothing quite revitalized me out of my post-Breaking Bad slump like Mr. Robot, a show that feels stylistically designed to please me on an episode-to-episode basis, so much so that I don’t know what to do with myself now that the series ended a mere couple of days ago other than to pass my love for it on to you.
At its simplest premise, Mr. Robot is initially about a cybersecurity employee who soon finds himself engulfed in a whirlwind of chaos when he joins a vigilante hacker group led by the mysterious Mr. Robot, a man hellbent on reforming society from behind his computer (and, no, he’s not a robot). What’s funny is that the show couldn’t feel more different than this description, not only because the plot develops into something far thicker and more complex, but because Mr. Robot takes what would otherwise be a generic TV drama and transforms it into something more stylish, poignant, and thoughtful than you would ever expect. All of this is my way of saying don’t go into Mr. Robot expecting a “hacker drama”, because while the hacking is exhilarating and a fundamental part of the show, it’s only one of the many things the show is about. At times it can be more focused on being a mind-bending and moving portrayal of mental illness that will leave your jaw on the floor or have you in tears, while at other times it can be a high-octane crime thriller that won’t let you leave the edge of your seat over the course of consecutive episodes.
More than anything, Mr. Robot dodges committing television’s most egregious sin by never overstaying its welcome. Mr. Robot was originally envisioned as a movie and now that the show is over, it feels obvious in the best way possible; nearly every subplot or minor detail amounts to some form of payoff down the line, particularly in regards to the show’s mind-bending twists which can sometimes redefine the entire show, and this all makes Mr. Robot feel like an example of tight-knit serialized storytelling that couldn’t exist if creator Sam Esmail didn’t know exactly where the show was going from the pilot episode. As a result, all the twists that the show throws at you are perfectly set-up and executed, making rewatches imperative and immensely satisfying.
Heck, nearly every episode of Mr. Robot feels like its own movie due to the show’s cinematic nature. It might have the most striking cinematography of any show on TV, often resorting to unconventional framing or elaborately choreographed tracking shots that makes me wonder how on earth they were able to get so much footage under the constraints of a TV shooting schedule. Much of this can be attributed to Esmail directing nearly every episode of the show, providing an auteurist vision that feels like a mix of Fincher and Kubrick which, for people that aren’t total geeks, is my way of saying that this guy knows what he’s doing. None of this is to discount all the amazing work done in other technical departments, but Esmail really has his stamp all over this show, which makes even the most mundane of episodes feel surreal and engaging. Oh, and the music is amazing, boasting Mac Quayle’s original score which feels reminiscent of The Social Network in the best way possible alongside a wonderfully curated soundtrack.
If I could get you to watch the pilot, I have no doubt you would finish Season 1, which is practically as bingable as a show can get. What’s really a shame is that the show lost most of its viewership somewhere near the beginning of Season 2, and it might lose you there, too. Part of me can see why, as Season 2 is a very different show from Season 1, boasting far less hacking in favor of more character development and some Lynchian visuals. I personally love Season 2 for its slow-burn nature, but for anybody that feels tempted to turn away from the show somewhere in the middle of it, just know that Seasons 3 and 4 are everything you loved about Season 1 and then some. The last two seasons of Mr. Robot are honestly some of the finest television I’ve ever watched (which admittedly isn’t saying much), but it’s a bummer that very few people watched them due to jumping ship before they even arrived. Just trust me: Season 2 is setting up for a massive payoff, and you really won’t regret sticking around if you loved Season 1.
As per usual, I’m running a bit longer than I intended, so I’ll have to cut it a bit short when it comes to the show’s characters and the amazing performances behind them. Mr. Robot is ultimately a show that knocked me out when I first discovered it, and I’ll dearly miss the agonizing wait between episodes every week as I attempt to theorize about whatever is going on. The silver lining is that the series is complete and its conclusion is immensely satisfying (sorry, Game of Thrones), meaning that I can confidently tell you that it’s worth your time and available to binge at your luxury. Here’s hoping that you love it as much as I do.
Streaming on: Amazon Prime
Status: Complete (Four seasons total, aired on USA)
Standout episodes: eps1.0_hellofriend.mov, eps1.5_br4ve-trave1er.asf, eps2.4_m4ster-s1ave.aes, eps2.8_h1dden_pr0cess.axx, eps3.4_runtime-err0r.00, eps3.5_kill-pr0cess.inc, eps3.7_dont-delete-me.ko, 407 Proxy Authentication Required, 409 Conflict, eXit, Series Finale Part 1 & 2