*This essay considers the story development up to the s3ep01*
Mr. Robot landed recently its third season, so I decided to discuss about this impressive TV show, similar to a critique. This first essay will focus more on the general aspects of the Mr. Robot, while the second one will tackle an argument surrounding the alternate dimension interpretation on some aspects from Mr. Robot.
The funny thing is, despite being critically acclaimed and becoming a cult phenomenon, most of my friends who watched had argued that in essence it’s not fresh: it doesn’t do anything ground-breaking with its cyber-punk theme; which is ironic from a TV show about social revolution. While I partially agree on that, I would say this creation by Sam Esmail is particularly unique in what it shows as well.
Part of this comes from the format from which is broadcasted. Peter Russell, UCLA instructor on the Entertainment division, proposed that with television shows the conflict which the protagonist faces is constantly present and unresolvable. This is in contrast with films, in which the characters will resolve that conflict by the end. With this in mind, let’s remind ourselves about the premise of the show. E-Corp is a contemporary conglomerate which owns 70% of the worldwide debt. Present everywhere you can imagine, operating under the shadows their real power, squeezing in every way possible their profits at the expense of humanity. Realistically, how feasible do you think a mere group of hackers, named Fsociety, would manage taking down such an entity? No matter how many times they would try, E-Corp would still be operating its business. Perhaps then, Mr. Robot has the advantage in that because it is a TV show, we accompany with the hackers in their uncomfortable feeling E-Corp is always there, despite their attempts taking it down.
Moreover, this self-reflection on the repercussions of instigating a revolution could mirror a personal, contemporary examination from Sam Esmail’s biographical history. In a couple of interviews (Maloney, 2016; Seales, 2015) he stated that he followed very closely the development of the Arab Spring, a social revolution developing mostly during 2011. Firstly, he is from Egypt descent and still holds cousins living in that country. 9 months after the uprising in 2011, he visited his relatives in Egypt. The resulting talks gave him the insight of anger as an engine to piece a community together and produce positive change. Moreover, he also took inspiration from the “Occupy Wall Street” movement coming from the so-called “99%”, protesting against increasing income inequality. Secondly, he stated knowing very well the hacking culture and being part in his younger age of the “angry nerds”, “fuck the man”. So according to him, this angst was an interesting aspect to write about. He tried to recapture that anger and spirit from those revolutions aiming to positively change the current political and societal system.
However, I would argue the bleak tone of hopelessness propagated throughout the second season, and so far the third season, could partly reflect a change of attitude, from the “anger as a means to positive change” to a self-questioning of the validity of that anger. After all, despite the initial hope aroused from the social movements from Arab Spring, conditions on those countries where people demanded a governmental transformation has led to unresolved changes, insubstantial reforms, violent chases and even civil war. An interesting article published on the The Guardian (‘I was terribly wrong’, 2016) featured the thoughts of writers from across the Arab world. In it, the general feeling was that the revolution had not made live better for the citizens, with little hope left for positive change.
My argument is that the resulting loss of hope to improve change towards a higher social conditions in the Arab Spring influenced the creators of Mr. Robot insofar the TV show imagines what would happen after fsociety’s revolution and suggests the outcome further deteriorated society. An obvious reflection of the revolution’s failure can be seen in the episode “eps2.0_unm4sk-pt1.tc“, in which Darlene, de facto leader of fsociety vents that they are losing “the war” against E-Corp, despite the successful attack. Furthermore, as second season unfolds, E-Corp manages to introduce its own digital currency and be approved by the US Federal Bank, which could be seen as a wet-dream from a corporative point of view. The CEO of E-Corp states then the hacker attack on the banking system only accelerated the inevitable progress towards digital currency. So, was the attack worth it? Did it matter? Elliot´s reflection on the episode “eps3.0_power-saver-mode.h” shatters his former conception it was for the “the greater good”, in which he points at himself and acknowledges all the recent suffering in US society came through his actions.
*References provided in the second part*
Adrià Tapia Corcoles