RogerBW's Blog

Mr. Robot season 1 06 January 2016

2015, 10 episodes. Elliot Anderson suffers from crippling depression, paranoia and social anxiety, but still manages to hold down a cybersecurity job. Except now he's being recruited by an activist cracking group.

Or "hacking group", because even though the show's creator Sam Esmail supposedly spent lots of effort on finding people who could tell him what cracking was like in the real world, he didn't find one who knew that once upon a time there was a difference between cracking and hacking. Or he didn't care. Nobody here shows the slightest bit of enjoyment in the computer work they do; it's all a means to an end.

In fact hardly anyone here gets any enjoyment from anything except screwing each other over. It's just no fun. The direction matches this: shots are mostly too dark, with occasional bursts of too bright, and frequent mumbled conversations make this pretty demanding to watch.

What it also isn't is in any way reliable: all we get is Elliot's own impressions (which conveniently gives an excuse for all the female characters to be incompetent fuckups, see it's not sexist writing honest), which he admits he isn't reporting accurately. His mental problems come and go when it's convenient that they should do so. If the whole thing were to turn out to be his own paranoid delusion, I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised. It's just another reason not to care about all these horrible people.

And then episode four has an ecstasy-fuelled lesbian makeout, presumably to try to retain the viewer's flagging interest. It comes from nowhere, it goes nowhere, it's just titillation for the male gaze.

Yeah, I know, I'm not enjoying this and I am enjoying Rizzoli & Isles, than which cop shows do not get much more generic. Maybe I'm just shallow.

This had a fine pilot episode, but for me it went sharply downhill after that. It was renewed for a second season on the strength of the pilot alone. I won't be returning.

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  1. Posted by Owen Smith at 01:14pm on 06 January 2016

    I never even knew "cracking" was a term with any meaning related to computers. I'm aware of safe cracking, catalytic cracking.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 01:18pm on 06 January 2016

    Kids these days. Wouldn't know a blue box from a green one.

    I know "hacking" has become the generic term now, pushed there by people who don't understand that doing something complex can actually be fun without being malicious or damaging, but I don't pretend to like it.

  3. Posted by Meg at 05:14pm on 06 January 2016

    I wonder if the definitions/distinctions between "hacker" and "cracker" are different in the UK? Over here in the US, though, I'd say this show got it right by calling the group in question a "hacker" collective -- it's the broader term (crackers are hackers), and the group was doing kind of a combination of both sort of things (black and white hat).

    Hey, man, at least the malicious code in all the computer programs wasn't red, like on CSI:Cyber! :)

    I had trouble getting into this one but once I did, I really loved it.

  4. Posted by Owen Smith at 09:36am on 07 January 2016

    I've been in computer programming since 1984. Hacking has only ever had negative connotations for me, either breaking into systems or writing really bad code in a tearing hurry that will need throwing away. "I didn't have time to write it properly, I just hacked it together". I've never regarded being called a hacker a compliment, it's always an insult of some sort to me. I realise under this definition it still has two meanings, but context usually makes it clear.

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