It’s difficult to make real hacking something entertaining on the silver screen, or any screen for that matter – and yet within the first few minutes of the series’ first episode, Mr. Robot showed vigilante hacker Elliot completely dismantling a business owner whose illegal activities were downright disgusting.
Thanks in no small part to the acting of Rami Malek, who plays hacker Elliot Alderson, the scene is intense, and does a good job of setting the tone of the show. Throughout the first episode, we learn that the character is troubled; he frequently abuses morphine while taking withdrawal medications to prevent becoming, as he calls it, a “junkie.”
Either it works, or he’s in denial. The show leaves that open for the audience to comb over.
After Elliot’s first hack on the show, he’s called out by a homeless-looking older male — played by Christian Slater — who proclaims that these are “exciting times” that we live in. Elliot stares over to his left and sees two men in black, seemingly discussing something in secret.
He doesn’t believe it’s a coincidence that he could be being followed after his little hack.
Elliot is also faced with deep psychological issues. He’s anti-social and feels like he’s disconnected from the “real” world; he sees it as cogs and wheels turned and maintained by the brainwashed masses. What keeps humanity stuck in this loop? Money, Elliot repeatedly points out.
Apparently being forced to see a therapist, Elliot switches between shutting himself off and telling the truth to his therapist, played by Gloria Reuben. At times it appears he wants to reach out, and at other times it feels like it’s a chore to the protagonist. All of this amounts to some excellent character building for Elliot — and his therapist.
Another major character in the show is Elliot’s long-time friend, Angela Moss (Portia Doubleday). Earlier in the episode, she scolds him for ducking out on her birthday celebration – it’s revealed that he did try to attend, but was evidently intimidated by the large crowd.
Angela is trying to help Elliot get past his social anxiety issues, but he won’t budge – at least not yet.
The show then focuses on “E Corp,” a company that has spread to everything from phones, monitors, computers, and just about everything technological. Sound familiar?
Elliot narrates that he “programmed” his mind to hear “Evil Corp” every time the name is mentioned, and several characters can be heard saying that throughout the show.
Christian Slater’s mysterious character, who just goes by Mr. Robot, has a plan — one that, in part, intends to bring down Evil Corp, who has strong ties in the financial sector. Mr. Robot initiates one phase of his plan by launching a massive DDoS attack on Evi– E Corp’s servers. As Angela and the team aren’t able to deal with it, Elliot is called in during the middle of the night.
Ultimately, Elliot is flown out with his boss, Gideon, to the server farm in order to fix the problem — which turned out to be a rather nasty rootkit that spread from server to server. After dealing with the problem, Elliot does a little digging and finds something odd: a.dat file that was clearly meant to be discovered. The “readme” simply said not to delete the.dat file.
After some kind of moral battle in Elliot’s mind, he decides to leave it there – and that’s where his character begins on a dangerous, yet immensely intriguing path. Because he left the file, Mr. Robot allows him entrance to the “fsociety” headquarters – located right next to Coney Island.
Just as Elliot plans to turn them in, Mr. Robot offers him a proposition: modify the file to frame one of E Corp’s top executives as a collaborator with malicious hackers. In so doing, he would cause E Corp to bleed money. Wealth redistribution, as Mr. Robot calls it.
E Corps, banks, they all were deeply rooted in finance – and Mr. Robot wants to erase debt based on what he describes as “virtual” currency after the abandonment of the gold standard.
And that is, after some thinking, exactly what Elliot decides to do. Nearly a week afterwards, Elliot saw the aftermath of what he had done – the executive was arrested and charged for cyber crimes. To Elliot, this was proof that “this is it.” The moment the revolution begins.
Just before he can soak in the reality of it all, he’s escorted by men in black to an undisclosed location. Upon entering one of the upper floors by way of elevator, he meets one of the E Corp executives who had briefly encountered earlier in the episode. Elliot was in complete disbelief.
The show does a wonderful job of creating realistic characters and making hacking something more along the lines of realism. But as the next episode shows, things start to get a whole lot more complicated.
[Image via USA Network]