[ NOTE: There are spoilers below, not just for this episode but for the show in general. ]
Enough people have asked me to start doing reviews of Mr. Robot episodes that I’m going to have a go at it. The deciding factor was the fact that I had such a strong desire to write during the third episode.
I’m going to start here with thoughts on the show in general, not just on episode 3.
Mr. Robot in general
The main protagonist is an interesting character. He is what the writer evidently wants to capture, or actually believes to be, the template for a true hacker, which is highly damaged.
I am quite struck with the focus that is placed on how truly messed up he is. He has major drama with the way his father was killed. He largely hates society. He has deep personal depression. And he’s a user of narcotics.
I’m left thinking along the lines of a Hemingway type of artist, where the best creativity (in this case hacking) comes from those wo are the most tortured internally. Painters, musicians, etc. We’re familiar with the template.
This redeeming qualities, which the writers take equal efforts to highlight, are the desire to protect people, his love for the blonde girl, and a general but understated willingness to fight back against the soul-crushing force of our modern, consumerist society.
I really enjoy how he is only actually going to see his psychiatrist because he’s trying to help her, and if she’s actually going to help him it’ll kind of be on accident.
He deeply analyzes people and sees if they’re good, or weak, or in need of help, and then if they are he kind of hates them less because of this. And he is willing to use his superpowers to help them as a result, like when he pushed that guy out of his psychiatrist’s life.
Before going into the various problems, it must be said that the information security writing has been exemplary. I’d say definitely the best we’ve seen in either movies or “television” (whatever that is).
That said, there are a number of missing links in the armor.
On one of the first episodes, possibly the first, I noticed an IP address with a final octet in the 300’s. That’s just an editing miss, but it did take me out of the fantasy.
In Episode 2, which I generally didn’t like, I was quite bothered by the destruction scene. Here’s what I think happened there. They wanted to do a destruction scene, they had it all rigged up, and they wrote the story so that he’d do a quick hack and then get spooked enough to do it.
Then they show the infosec writer(s) the story component and they’re like,
Um, no. There’s no way anyone of this skill level would be hacking from his actual IP address.
And they’re like,
Well, we need to do this scene. Most people will miss that, and the scene will be cool enough to make up for it.
So the writer stomps out of the room mumbling about how they shouldn’t have hired him for authenticity if they were going to make such obvious mistakes, and they go with it.
Who knows if that really happened, but that’s how I imagine it.
Comments on modern society
I also find the comments on modern society to be quite interesting. I think it’s a big part of the whole hacker feel.
Hackers have always had this component to their mystique. Being counter-culture. Being underground. Fighting against the man. So the idea that everything is a conspiracy with the rich exploiting the poor, the strong exploiting the weak, and everything being about selling advertising and the dominance of the big corporations–all of that is a great package for the main character to operate within.
Going along with the tech is the fact that the marketing was so technically focused as well.
The website is/was a command prompt. You can type commands in it.
That’s creative. And it’s very in-line with the feel they’re trying to give to the show, i.e. that of authenticity.