Trying to make sense of the crumbling world in 'Mr. Robot'


If there is one universal truth about systems and structures by which the world operates is that almost everything of sufficient size claims to represent the people. Whether it’s “We the people ...” this, or “People’s Republic of ...” that, or “National Liberation Front of” whatever, almost every group operates under the pretense of power from the populace to forward the cause of democracy, freedom, liberty or prosperity. And some of the most despotic regimes and worst offenders of human rights on this planet claim to be “fair,” even if it’s a cockamamie idea of fairness based on a predetermined order that requires some people stay in chains for the greater good.

But there are many types of chains in this world, as well as varying definitions of friends and loneliness, especially in a modern world of social media. And in the dynamic between individual and society, the threads which bind and hold can be amorphous. Some of those chains come with smiling faces and the idea of symbolic economic vitality. But those symbols are many times empty in meaning, and might come with interest payments. When I wrote a piece a while back about the public’s fascination with the end of the world, one of the ideas bandied about was a desire to go back to zero. The notion that a fantasy about global destruction grabs people because it offers a world where every individual is “free” from rules and all of their past regrets. But therein lies the rub, since some of the chains in this world are the ones we fasten to ourselves, because of trauma and a past we can’t confront.

Created by Sam Esmail, USA network’s Mr. Robot received much critical acclaim in its first season, given that both its main character and the audience is left unsure as to what the nature of reality actually is. Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek, who just won an Emmy last night for this performance) is a computer programmer who works for the Allsafe cybersecurity firm. But he also engages in vigilante hacking, going after cheating husbands and child pornographers. This ultimately brings him to the attention of a hacker named Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) and a group of hacktivists called fsociety. They’re targeting a huge multinational conglomerate, which also happens to be Allsafe’s biggest client, named E Corp —a.k.a Evil Corp— and want Elliot’s help in order to achieve social equality. E Corp has the too-big-to-fail breadth of an AIG mixed with Google, and the ethics of Enron at the upper echelon. However, where all of this ultimately leads has huge implications for not only the world, but Elliot’s own identity and his distance from society.

As season two has progressed, the world is trying to deal with the aftermath, while Elliot is so far no longer battling corporations but trying to find firm ground inside a troubled mind.

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