For years now, I have filled my summers off and time spent at home with the shows on the USA network. Offering endless marathons of Modern Family, the same 20 episodes of Law and Order: SVU and an army of feel-good comedies, USA has always been my comfort channel – the mom’s macaroni and cheese of television. I turn it on automatically in times of stress, boredom, and relaxation, anxious to relish in the predictable positivity of each show.
Yet, my expectations were turned upside down this summer thanks to USA’s newest show, Mr. Robot. Telling the story of Elliot Alderson, a computer programmer by day and a vigilante hacker by night, the sleeper hit has left viewers anxiously counting down the days until the next episode airs.
Receiving a rating of 98 percent from Rotten Tomatoes and winner of the South by South West Audience Award, Mr. Robot has been my obsession all summer, and its season came to a close on Wednesday, Sept. 2. Here are six reasons why the show should be your next binge-watch either now on USA or coming soon to Netflix.
1. The protagonist openly struggles with anxiety, addiction, and other mental health issues.
Though I am grateful that issues of race, gender, mental health, addiction and inequality are becoming increasingly discussed in today’s world, they are much harder to find represented on-screen. The shows that come to mind when I think of protagonists struggling with addiction are House and Breaking Bad – both series which show the realities of drug use, but also make it seem pretty cool.
2. The show’s star, Rami Malek, is pretty incredible.
This intensity and struggle has been beautifully acted by Rami Malek, whom I only really recognized from his role as the Pharaoh in the Night at the Museum series. His background features other more serious roles, including an Egyptian-American suicide bomber in 24 and as Corporal Shelton in the Emmy award-winning HBO mini-series, The Pacific. He also played an Egyptian vampire in the final Twilight film, but we won’t hold that against him.
Rather than letting Elliot’s anxiety and loneliness make his character unwatchable, Malek really brings a beauty, intensity, and understanding to the role that has made him unforgettable for me.
3. Christian Slater is back in action – and in a role that’s perfect for him.
The titular character of Mr. Robot, played by Christian Slater, is Elliot’s counterpoint, an outgoing and nearly manic computer nerd and leader of a secret vigilante hacker group called FSociety. Slater is as magnanimous as ever, bringing a huge energy to the role, reminiscent of the Joker in the Dark Knight.
I loved him in True Romance and Heathers, but he has flown under the radar since the 90’s ended. His credits over the past 15 years include The West Wing, Alias, and Hot Tub Time Machine 2.
4. The pilot is steeped in anti-capitalist rhetoric.
Mr. Robot’s first episode sets the tone for the show’s anti-capitalist hacker plot to take down the omnipotent and evil Google-sized company, E Corp. In our current political climate, issues of inequality and wealth distribution are everywhere. The Occupy Movement’s slogan, “We are the 99 percent,” is now common rhetoric against the greed of America’s wealthiest corporations. Mr. Robot digs into those topics and invites audiences to learn how the world could change if these inequalities were challenged and overthrown.
5. The show itself is visually stunning.
I am no expert in cinematography, but Mr. Robot looks like nothing I have ever seen before. Watch the first six minutes of Episode 2 and see if you’re struck by the look of Mr. Robot. Personally, I have watched this opening scene over and over again, because I just cannot get over it.
6. We know from Episode 1 that Elliot’s world isn’t exactly reality.
As an English major, one of the best-loved literary tropes is the unreliable narrator – the realization that after all you and the story have gone through together, none of it was true! Hinted at throughout the season, Elliot’s drug abuse, apparent delusions, and penchant for talking directly into the camera makes clear that we live in his mind.
There is no denying that Mr. Robot is absolutely not your typical binge-watch. Though its dramatic plot left me constantly dying to know what would happen next, most of the other elements are unique to the show. Its themes are important to the social and political fabric of our lives, and watching felt like I was seeing something totally new to me. With its first season just coming to a close, take this weekend to watch Mr. Robot’s 10 episodes.
Featured Image via screengrab from Netflix.