Spoiler alert – here there be spoilers, so if you haven’t watched the show yet, skip this article.
Look, I like science fiction. You might even say I love it. But after one episode of USA’s Mr. Robot, I’m rethinking my love of it. Mr. Cliche might be a better name for the show. Lets start with the protagonist, Eliot Anderson, a young computer programmer who, wait for it, suffers from a social anxiety disorder. That’s right, friends, neighbors and sports fans, the nerd can’t function in society. The show breaks the fourth wall by having him constantly address a person in his head – the audience. He even makes a point of commenting on how he’s always talking to people who aren’t there. But, like a late night infomercial offer, being an outcast of a programmer isn’t enough for the show’s writers. Oh no, he uses his hacking skills to “connect with” the people in his life. He’s hacked into the dating profile of his shrink, and accidentally mentions something from her profile in session. He cyberstalks his cute, blonde female boss who’s also his longest running friend (more on her in a minute), and the latest of her boyfriends.
Plot of the first episode revolves around Eliot, a Grey Hat hacker and slacker, finding a root kit planted in the server of a company (Big E Corporation – seriously, Big E Corporation, who’s corporate emblem is the letter E cocked forty-five degrees to the left, like that of Enron, and which due to Eliot’s social anxiety disorder is referred to as Big Evil Corporation) who’s security Eliot is responsible for. He detects this root kit by looking at a feed during a DDOS attack, after being called in by cute blonde boss girl, because the stereotypical Asian coworker “can’t handle the issue”. Cute blonde boss girl (here after CBBG) then asks our hero what a root kit attack is. This is after they’ve spent about ten minutes setting her up as someone who got the job because she’s got the knowledge, not because she’s cute and blonde. So in less than ten minutes into the show, they’ve tossed a good character strait to the cliché pile of women can’t program. They can be eye candy, but not geeks, apparently.
It turns out the root kit was planted by the titular “Mr. Robot” played by Christian Slater, who heads an anarchistic programming group, dedicated to sticking it to the man, or bigevilcorporations, so he could recruit our hero into his not-Anonymous group of anarchists. Instead of Guy Fawks masks, they wear Mr. Moneybag masks. This group has a secret lair on a deserted carnival pier, complete with working Ferris Wheel. Eliot hears out their spiel then has to make a decision on who to lay the blame for the root kit on. Naturally he lays it on the boss of Big E Corporation, after said CEO insults CBBG by tossing her out of the meeting with corporate security, the FBI and other assorted security players. The show ended best I could tell, because I was at this point shambling about the apartment trying to recover brain cells, with Eliot going after the guy dating his shrink – who just happened to be cheating on his wife with seven different women using a fake name on dating sites. Eliot takes the guys dog because he’d seen him being mean to the dog earlier in the show. He also convinces the guy to tell the shrink the truth by explaining that he will tell the guy’s wife about his cheating.
Rounding out the cast we have the bigevilcorp security guy who uses Linux rather than Windows, several clueless FBI goons, the hateful female hacker, and of course, the semi-closeted gay man, who’s partner is upset that he’s not more open about their relationship. It’s like they went down the list of cliches and played “lets see how many we can cram into one show”. I had hopes for the show. Until the second commercial I saw. After watching the first episode, I’ve lost even the slight hope that they can pull it out before it flounders under the weight of the technobabble. It was an hour and a half of my life I’ll never get back.