The best part of a good narrative is character development and, in my opinion, this is a very glorious introduction to an enigmatic character called Elliot Alderson.
I commend the producers, Igor Srubshchik and Christian Slater, for doing a really great job of telling the story of Mr. Robot/Elliott Alderson in a way that can truly connect to the contemporary audience; especially for young adult watchers who are more informed than previous generations. Sam Esmail constructed a reality that mirrors certain sensitive aspects of modern society, like social-class warfare, while highlighting some of the negative ramifications and realities that are shouldered by those who are marginalized within society.
But first let’s talk about the characters. The character development in this show is superb. Every key or major character is provided a plausible (at least believable to the audience) backstory which frames their motivations and reasons to justifiy the actions that they take. And when certain characters appear with a limited backstory, the audience is given enough signals and discourse markers to let us (the audience) know if the character is meant to be an ally or a threat to our main character. While this is a great aspect of the show, it is also the reason why a savvy watcher could figure out the identity of Mr. Robot himself before the big reveal towards the end of the story. Regardless, characters and character development is a major win for the show. It’s quite impressive, and as an observer and critic I can’t help wondering what the creative atmosphere is like when the writers and producers get together to map out the show and plot points.
Speaking of plots, the narrative of a very flawed (but very intelligent, competent and affective) antagonist sticking it to the “man” is very appealing in today’s modern climate, where the wealth (socio-economic) divide is widening and seemingly spiraling out of control. We as the audience are led to sympathize with Elliot and his frustrations with being viewed as a meaningless throw away by elitist (represented by E-Corp, AllSafe and, government officials) and other powerful people in his life (as represented by flashbacks of his experiences with his mother). To reflect the societal climate, stories/narratives are adapted (sometimes mixed-in) from current news to fit the context of the show. The parallels between the Anonymous groups, recession and the Wall-Street bailout, bureaucracy, the Occupy movement, international economic warfare (specifically with China and the Congo-representing African plight from colonialism) State Surveillance, religious fanaticism, conspiracy theories, secret societies, mental illness, work-place politics, “social” media, prison-industrial complex, and some limited civil rights issues is uncanny.
If there is any glaring flaw in the first season, it’s the absence of any governmental culpability or responsibility in any of the events we see played out on screen. Also, we don’t really get a wider scope of the effects on individuals in the larger society. The story seems to exist within a tight circle of players working outside the bounds of society to shape and mold it in ways that fit their own agendas. So while the show does a great job of breaking the fourth wall and getting us to connect with Mr. Robot, it doesn’t do a very good job of reflecting the struggles of the average member of society who are the ones caught in the crossfire between all the key players. We only get a limited view and therefore the show doesn’t really say much at the end of the day. But…it’s still a fun watch.