This season has a number of great television shows on air including “The Mandalorian,” “Mr. Robot,” “Watchmen” and “His Dark Materials” with a new season of “The Expanse” starting yesterday (Friday, Dec. 13) and new fantasy show “The Witcher” starting Dec. 20. I’ve been closely following “Mr. Robot” since its premiere 2015 and its final episode airs this month on Dec. 22, a two-hour finale that wraps up one of the most interesting and socially incisive stories I’ve ever experienced.
“Mr. Robot” marked USA Network’s turn from light, quirky and funny stories like “Psych,” “Royal Pains,” “Monk” and “Burn Notice” where their tagline was “Characters Welcome” to darker, more serious and critical shows that push boundaries and a new tagline, “We The Bold.” Pushing boundaries is what “Mr. Robot” does best, not only in its storytelling and filmmaking techniques, but in its marketing and advertising as well.
Not only did “Mr. Robot” create a 360-degree mini-episode that can be viewed using a VR headset which premiered at the biggest multigenre entertainment convention in the world, San Diego Comic-Con, alongside a remade set of the main character’s apartment that guests could explore, it also “leaked” its own Season 2 premiere episode online three days before the network premiere.
“Mr. Robot” is a highly tech-centric show, alongside it’s extremely human subjects, so these marketing techniques were genius, making parts of the show real for its audience. Even now, the show maintains an alternate reality game (ARG) where interested viewers can pick up clues from each episode, as well as the “Mr. Robot” social-media pages, to get more information about the world and characters of “Mr. Robot.” In fact, the Season 3 trailer wasn’t released until someone playing the ARG was able to find the hidden link for it using clues from promotional images and the show’s Twitter.
Season 1 of “Mr. Robot” is a lot like “Fight Club” with a group of hackers working together to take down the world’s biggest corporate conglomerate, working out of a run-down arcade on Coney Island. “Mr. Robot” goes further, though. Where “Fight Club” ends after the master plan is completed, “Mr. Robot” continues-- what happens after that? What are the unexpected consequences of tearing down, as main character Elliot Alderson describes them, “The top 1% of the top 1%, the guys that play God without permission?”
Alderson himself is an amazingly well-thought out character, the quintessential unreliable narrator who, due to the nature of the medium of television, can literally change how we, the viewers, perceive things. This is a central tenet of the show-- can we believe what we’re told, what we’re seeing? How far can deception go? Alderson suffers from his own delusions and even believes that the audience, us at home watching him, is one of his delusions: “You’re only in my head,” he says in the first episode. “This actually happened, I’m talking to an imaginary person. What I’m about to tell you is top secret.”
Over four meticulously planned seasons, we watch as Alderson’s plans succeed or go awry, or both at the same time, and how his delusions affect those around him: his sister, his childhood best friend, his girlfriend, the people in his hacking group and even his therapist. The attention to detail is so meticulous that even now, four years after the premiere, viewers are getting puzzle pieces that shed new light on scenes from Season 1 and 2, that paint new pictures. Dialogue that we thought meant one thing, in retrospect mean something else. This is a show that can be rewatched two or three times and you can pick out new connections every time.
If you have the time this holiday break, consider sitting down to watch a few episodes, they’re available on Amazon Prime.