Mr. Robot

Yes, I know, it's been almost 8 months since my last review, but that's almost how long it's been since I last watched a movie due to cinemas closing down for lockdown. And no, my movie-watching hiatus hasn't been broken since - this review is not for a movie, but for another form of cinematic entertainment I've recently experienced that I just have to get off my chest. Keep watching for my review of arguably the best TV series of the last decade.

There's no doubt that I have binged-watched entire box sets of some incredible shows during lockdown so far. But of all these shows, there is one that I just can't get out of my mind and that's the masterpiece that is Mr. Robot.

What starts out as a seemingly standard take on the hacker vigilante formula, slowly morphs over the course of 4 beautifully produced, acted, scored and shot seasons into one of the most disturbing, but also mesmerizing stories brought to TV.

Unlike most TV shows, there is no formula to Mr Robot - every episode is unique, surprising and painfully unsettling - in the most beautiful of ways. From an episode produced to look like an ironic take on a 90s sitcom, an episode with almost no dialogue to another, all shot in nearly one single take. There is an insane degree of individual attention given to each episode and it confidently surpasses what you would expect from something made for television.

Every episode feels like a mini movie in its own right and it would have felt right at home on the big screen. And unlike most longer running episodic TV dramas (that regularly end up outliving their initial story arc), director and writer Sam Esmail commits to telling a story that was meticulously planned out from the very first episode.

Esmail's unwavering artistic commitment to portraying a very specific period in the life of his protagonist is unfaltering, resulting in 4 seasons that all connect and intertwine in a way that only a piece of art can. And like a great and beautifully complex piece of art, Mr Robot benefits from multiple rewatchings. With each viewing of this masterpiece, seemingly inconsequential details and small character interactions suddenly become significant moments you realise you misguididly overlooked.  

But be warned, over the course of its 4 seasons, Mr Robot explores some very dark, serious and mature themes - many of which other TV shows wouldn't dare address this directly. It delivers some really striking commentary on societal class divisions, drug abuse, the manipulative and potentially destructive nature of unhealthy family relationships and a wide range of other very intriguing subjects. 

Of all the themes that the show so bravely addresses, none of them is however more poignant and lingering than its depiction of a man's descent into utter darkness and despair. As a matter of fact, the whole show is expertly crafted around this core theme and doesn't just influence the way characters behave, but also the entire structure, flow and telling of Elliot Alderson's gripping, but tragic story.

This results in a show that constantly makes you second guess your own assessment of what is real and what isn't. And even after you confidently feel some plot device provides clear proof that a certain event was in fact, real, something might happen in a succeeding episode that once again makes your doubt your understanding of what is real and what isn't.
Sam Email however shows utmost respect for his viewer, with these constant deceptions never feeling cheap, irritating or gimmicky. If anything, the liberties that the show takes with one's perception of reality is a beautifully revealing look at what it truly must feel like to not be able to trust your own mind and interestingly enough, manages to showcase both the drawbacks and comforts of such a turbulent state of mind.

I can't attest to having ever experienced the level of mental illness that the show portrays (and can’t therefore comment on the accuracy thereof), but after watching the show, I feel as if my understanding of this complicated and layered topic has definitely been expanded. 

But for each and every technical achievement that Sam Esmail manages to pull off, there is an equally powerful and nuanced on-screen performance to back it up. Over the course of the show's 4 seasons, you meet some of the weirdest, most broken, compassionate and also disturbing characters to grace the small screen, all of which bring their own unique flavour to this enthralling story.

All actors really do a stunning job, so it's hard (and almost cruel) to single out any specific performance. I will however say that the show would have been a loss without Rami Malek and it's truly something special to witness how his acting gradually becomes more nuanced as the show progresses. It's clear that Malek really pushed himself for this role and boy, does it pay off!

2 weeks after watching the gripping finale, I still find my mind lingering back to the show's closing moments, delivering the most satisfying but also heart-breakingly bittersweet endings to a show (or movie for that matter) that I've had the privilege of experiencing.

The last time a visual piece of art has haunted me this much was when I first saw my favourite movie, Memento, and that was 20 years ago. I'd like to believe that director Esmail was at least indirectly inspired by Memento when he made Mr Robot.

But it seems as if my and Esmail's common interests also extend to poetry, as the show exhibits an eerily distinct fascination with my favourite poem named the red wheelbarrow. I've been obsessed with this highly celebrated poem since my days of high school, so to see it get new meaning in the context of another work of art, was something truly special. 

I can confidently say that Mr Robot is now my all-time favourite show, so it shouldn't be a surprise then that I'm bestowing it with the highest of Meerkat honours - and I would give an 11th if I could.

Mr Robot is one of those once in a lifetime experiences that can't be compared to anything else and what I've covered in this review only scratches the surface of its brilliance. 

If you don't end up watching it, no sweat off my back - just be aware that you'll be missing out on one of the greatest stories ever told. Do you really want that on your conscience? 


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