An introduction to Mr. Robot through S01E01 – Hello Friend

Created by Sam Esmail. Season 1, Episode 1 released on June 24, 2015 (USA)
Written by Sam Esmail, Directed by Niels Arden Oplev
Starring Rami Malek, Portia Doubleday, Martin Wallstrom, Christian Slater, and more.
Full Credits: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4652838/fullcredits/?ref_=tt_ov_st_sm

Mr. Robot is a drama/thriller about a young hacker named Elliot Anderson, played by Rami Malek, who is deeply disillusioned with how people are being enslaved by debt. To compound the issue, people are choosing to run away instead of face the problem, further cementing the cycle of enslavement to the economy.

Mr. Robot episode one starts out with the main protagonist Elliot Anderson riding a train in the subway on his way to work. He starts off by saying “Hello friend” and is directly addressing the audience of the show, treating them as an imaginary friend. This is pretty unique in that one of the characters recognizes and addresses the people watching. This is not only limited to dialogue but also one future episode in particular plays off of this concept in a creative and imaginative manner.

He immediately goes into conspiracies of a ruling elite being in control, the one percent of the one percent followed by what could be paranoid delusions of being followed by “men in black”. He briefly mentions going to Angela’s birthday party (child hood friend and co-worker) and the scene immediately cuts to a coffee shop.

Here we see Elliot approach the owner of the chain of coffee shops, Ron’s Coffee. The eponymous owner Ron is sitting there, enjoying a coffee, when Elliot starts talking of how fast the internet is. This is something that is too good to be true. Here we learn that the owner has been running an illegal website on the dark web. Elliot hacked into the servers, obtained the necessary evidence, and anonymously tipped the police who arrived just as he was finished explaining all of this to the owner. This scene’s purpose was to establish a few things.

Number one, Elliot is a hacker and this show will be about hacking.
Number two, that the show will focus on the dark and unsavory parts of being human.
Number three, establish Elliot as a vigilante of justice, unable to ignore what he views as wrongs in society. He has a strong desire to correct things. There is a sense of purity in his cause.

While establishing some main premises about the show, the protagonist, and the world he lives in, it also adds in some finer details and character moments. We see Elliot talk about his father dying and Ron responding with compassion in that moment, even though he believes he is being blackmailed. We see Elliot mention how his father died due to working at a company, but the company itself is fine. It is a glimpse into his character’s source of internal trauma and struggle.

And then it cuts back to the train ride in the subway. This sudden jump between different events causes a feeling of disorientation and reflects the jumbled state of Elliot’s mind in a visible manner.

A seemingly random homeless man is yelling at Elliot.

From here we see Elliot go to work at a cyber security firm Allsafe, employee number ER280652, where his boss Gideon Goddard (played by Michel Gill) is arguing with Angela Moss (played by Portia Doubleday) about a meeting. Angela confronts Elliot about not attending her birthday party and we are introduced to her boyfriend Ollie Parker (played by Ben Rappaport).

A short transition of Elliot eating fries later, we see him attend a therapy session with his psychiatrist Krista Gordon (played by Gloria Reuben). He has hacked his psychiatrist as well and we find a lonely woman here. Here we see Elliot’s reaction when asked why he is so angry at society. His response is a succinct “F society”. He then goes on a rant in his head about fake heroes, social media, and materialism used to sedate ourselves in cowardice. The messaging here feels a little heavy handed and ham fisted but it is a relevant topic that is gaining traction in today’s society. A jaded outlook on life and a general disillusionment with the current state of the world is becoming more common and many people are starting to resonate with the fact that they are left discontent with society and life. Elliot’s rant aside, we see that he is deeply empathetic with the people around him despite his social awkwardness. He recognizes that Krista is a good person to him because she recognizes loneliness and is trying to protect others from it.

After the therapy session we return to Allsafe where Ollie is trying to become friends with Elliot because both of them are close to Angela. Here we see some of Elliot’s, and the show’s, sense of humor as Ollie is described as being too dumb to be bad. Some evidence to support this view is that Ollie’s password is 123456seven, he listens to Josh Groban, and likes George W. Bush and Transformers 2.

Comical encounter aside, we are introduced to the main antagonist of the show, E Corp, a mega conglomerate that owns and runs most aspects of everyday life. In his hatred of the conglomerate that was hinted at being responsible for the death of his father, he has changed E Corp to Evil Corp. From that moment onward, every reference to E Corp is now Evil Corp, from the dialogue to even imagery. It’s a nice audio and visual touch on how the audience is seeing reality as distorted by Elliot’s own mind.

Here we are introduced to Terry Colby, CTO, and Tyrell Wellick, Senior VP of Tech of Evil Corp. The show establishes Tyrell as a tech savvy executive who knows his way around a terminal. Tyrell leaves him with a “bonsoir, Elliot”, a twisted version of Elliot’s own hello friend. The episodes ends with Tyrell bringing Elliot in via his henchman to hold a secret meeting and also greets him with a “bonsoir, Elliot”. The show has a great handle on placing parallel phrases and situations to reinforce thematic elements. The show starts on hello friend, halfway through introduces a character with another hello friend, and ends on a hello friend. The show begins with a group of Evil Corp lawyers arguing and ends with the same scene.

Other things that happened include an introduction to Shayla Nico (played by Frankie Shaw), who is Elliot’s drug dealer. She supplies him with morphine as well as suboxone to prevent withdrawal symptoms. Elliot uses Morphine to deal with a terrifying sense of loneliness that doesn’t seem to go away. A short scene suggests an abusive mother. They take molly together and up sleeping together. Elliot checks up on Krista at Pierre Loti, a restaurant where she had a date with Michael Hansen. He manages to follow his cab to his apartment building, and asks to borrow his phone to get his phone number. Here we see a close up of the Bank of Evil app. It’s a fantastic little detail shown to the audience that Elliot uses to phish more information from Michael Hansen later. During his escapades we see the return of the homeless man interfering with two men in black.

His vigilante adventure is cut short by an urgent call from Angela. A hacker attack on Evil Corp has rendered the servers useless. Elliot finds out that there is a rootkit installed on the servers so the only solution is to wipe them down and reboot. Gideon and Elliot take a private jet to the server farm on Dallas where Elliot finds the virus and isolates it on Server CS 30. He finds a dat file from F Society with a read me saying “leave me here”. He tries to delete it but something inside of him stops him. He instead changes the permissions so only he has access to the backdoor. While the hacking elements of this show are far more realistic than as portrayed by Hollywood, some parts did seem a bit over dramatized. This is perfectly fine because the show’s main purpose is to be dramatic and provide entertainment, not be realistic or educational. One minor grip I do have with the show is how slow everyone types. Come on guys, one letter a second or two is far too slow.

Problem fixed, Gideon and Elliot fly back on the jet where Gideon comes out as gay to Elliot. There is a brief and humorous exchange and it ends with Elliot vowing to find the people responsible for the attack.

On his train ride home he meets the mysterious homeless man again who’s only identifier is a name tag with the name “Mr. Robot” on it. Elliot follows him with his invitation and he shows him to the hacker hideout of F Society, literally in a building that says F Society. It used to be Fun Society but the troubles of life wore down the U and the N. Here Mr. Robot introduces a plan to wipe out debt by targeting Evil Corp, limb by limb, and start the greatest revolution known to mankind. By planting Terry Colby’s IP address onto the dat file, they could frame a chief executive and start weakening the conglomerate one executive at a time. There are some things to note here in terms of visual story telling. Romero does not look at Mr. Robot and only at Elliot when they are knocking at the entrance to the F Society hideout. He looks straight at Elliot and lets him in without question. Once in, we see Darlene staring at Elliot and as well as the others but they do not say anything. In a later encounter with Darlene, she is frustrated when Elliot asks where her boss is and already knows that only he has access to the backdoor now. Without spoiling anything, this is superb visual story telling. Elliot is conflicted as he struggles with what to do. He can tell the truth and turn in F Society, or he can frame Terry Colby and start a revolution.

Back to Allsafe, they hold a meeting with Evil Corp to discuss the server attack. Angela is kicked out of meeting for not being tech savvy despite Elliot trying to defend her. This enrages Elliot and he decides to turn in the doctored information framing Terry Colby. Tyrell makes note of this. Angela blames Elliot for her humiliation and stops talking to him. To take his mind off things he returns his attention to the problem scratching that itch in his brain, Michael Hansen.

Here we see him call Michael’s cell while impersonating a Bank of Evil employee. He uses common phishing techniques to obtain his apartment number as well as his favorite sports team and pet name. Again, this is another moment where there is great visual story telling and foreshadowing for such a small moment. They showed Elliot obtaining Michael’s phone number and the fact that he uses the Bank of Evil app in their earlier encounter. Once he has the information he realizes that Michael Hansen is not his real name and finds out that he has been cheating on his wife with seven other women as well as hiring escorts. He forces him to break up with Krista by threatening to release the information as well as call the police. He lied about one of the escorts being under aged. Michael agrees to his terms. Elliot also takes his dog Flipper as well, considering Michael is seen being aggressive and borderline abusive with the animal.

After this scene we are back to another therapy session with Krista where we see her struggle with grief due to Michael breaking up with her. Here Elliot notes his distress that Angela will not talk to him and Krista simply and sadly suggest to go talk to her directly in person because people need human contact.

Now we jump back to Allsafe where Elliot confronts Angela. As they are making up, everyone slowly stands up and turns to stare at the television behind them, where a news channel is reporting on the arrest of Terry Colby for being linked with the server attacks.

Elliot is ecstatic, with his head up in the clouds, as he is returning home when he is confronted by Tyrell’s henchman and scooped up to a secret meeting where the episode ends.

I know this was a long article but I wanted to show how much detail and nuance was put into not only the characters but the narrative elements of this show as well. The thematic elements of class warfare and disillusionment with a materialistic, capitalistic lifestyle that results in a slavery due to a debt we can’t possibly recover from but also cannot live without, is as relevant to the current times as you can get. The disjointed narrative that plays off the perspective of the protagonist along with him actually addressing the audience is unique and affords some creativity in story telling. The hacking is an order of magnitude more realistic than anything we’ve seen come out from Hollywood. And all of this backed by fantastic acting by the cast as well as some fantastic music selections create a package that is irresistibly intriguing. There are some flaws to the show because nothing is perfect. My main gripes were the dialogue and character interactions being a tad too on the dramatic side to be realistic but it’s forgivable because again, this show is not meant to be realistic.

Thank you for dropping by and reading. Thank you for your time. I’ll be back with more coverage in the future and I promise it’ll be shorter haha.

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