Mr Robot is the perfect TV show for today's paranoid tech-driven age

World War III will probably be fought in the virtual space and the series does enough to prepare us for the same.

 |  4-minute read |   14-10-2016
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The first season of the techno-psychological thriller series Mr Robot has recently scored several major wins at major awards, including the Golden Globes and the Emmys. The fans of the show are delighted while others are surprised that it edged out many "all-time great" series.

So, is this a new great in the making? Or is there something beyond the sheer technical and artistic brilliance that makes this series important?

Yes, Mr Robot has been the breakthrough TV series of the last year or so. It is a pleasant surprise that such a complex, technical jargon-laden plot has captured popular imagination.

For the uninitiated, it revolves around a hacker suffering from varied psychological disorders. He soon joins a gang of anarchist hackers and plans to take down a major corporation. However, the leader of this gang who recruits him may or may not be real!

Surely, the team must be applauded for the sheer execution of this project. Anyway, no one needs any introduction to the series anymore. But what everyone should note is the nature of issues it deals in and their sheer topicality.  

In short, Mr Robot perfectly captures the paranoia-filled zeitgeist of today’s technology-driven world and these issues are going to be even more prominent in the near future.

As mentioned already, the protagonist of the series is a hacker. This is not exactly new. We have had many pop-culture entries on hackers but in most cases, the hackers remain stereotypical nerds who can type computer programmes at lightening speed.

However, Mr Robot goes much deeper into their psyche and presents them in varied hues. Some of them are well-meaning vigilantes, activists, and wannabe revolutionaries, while some others are sinister conspirators and criminals.

Although entirely fictional, none of these elements are unfamiliar to the 21st century populace. From the valiant anti-establishment activities of "Anonymous" to the petty cyber wars between Indian and Pakistani hackers, we live in a world of increasingly ugly technological confrontations.

robot_101316035137.jpg The cast and crew of Mr Robot pose with the award for Best Television Series - Drama at the 73rd Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills this January. (Photo credit: Reuters)

Cyber-terrorism, unauthorised snooping and invasion of previously sacrosanct spaces is not news anymore. World War III will probably be fought in the virtual space rather than actual battlefields and Mr Robot does enough to prepare us for the same.

Vulnerability of major corporations that control world markets is nothing new. The fall of certain financial behemoths during the recession of 2008 has already shown us the mirror.

We have also seen more intimate and realistic portrayals of those days in films such as The Margin Call and The Big Short. But Mr Robot mixes facts with fiction and creates a corporation that cannot be killed even after a several killer blow.

It paints a fascinating yet terrifying picture of a bleak future where everyone is at the mercy of some "too big to fail" corporation controlled by evil men. In a world where corporations like Google and Facebook possess all possible information about us and track every movement, such a future does not seem too distant either. 

Interestingly, there are factors beyond the series that incidentally add to its sheer impact.

For instance, both creator Sam Esmail and lead actor Rami Malek are sons of Egyptian immigrants. So, are we only seeing the desolation of one character or at least some traces of real events that they might have faced being outsiders?

Also, how poetic is it that they are achieving such great success just when there is a raging debate going on about immigrants in the US?

Yet, the biggest triumph of Mr Robot is that even dealing with such subjects, it does not lose sight of the basic human traits of the characters. Of course, the first season drew heavily from Fight Club to build up the plot but since then, it has moved on to develop one of the most memorable TV characters through Malek’s rousing portrayal of the protagonist, a socially incompetent, drug-addicted hacker with noble yet muddled intentions.

There is much loneliness among the other characters too, even when they are with each other. Has the excessive individualism of this era just led to chronic and irreversible desolation and deprived us of basic social support?

This is another question Mr Robot makes us ponder over.

Also read: Why watching Mad Men is like reading great literature

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Writer

Enakshi Sharma Enakshi Sharma @mayukhi0511

She is a writer and has previously published with Free Press Journal, Open Magazine, Alternative, North East Review, Brandanew (German), Kashmir Walla, Artsome among other places.

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