Mr. Robot: Can the USA Network Computer Drama Hack It?

Mr. Robot

“I know what it’s like to be different. I’m very different, too.”

That confession, uttered by protagonist Elliot on Mr. Robot‘s series premiere, might just be the understatement of the year.

As we quickly learn in the USA Network hacker drama, which premiered Wednesday, Elliot (Rami Malek, The War at Home) is exceedingly unique. A cybersecurity engineer by day, Elliot spends his nights as a vigilante hacker, prying into the computer files of pedophiles and cheaters who don’t want anyone to know they’re pedophiles and cheaters. (Case in point: Elliot kicks off the pilot episode by exposing a mild-mannered coffeehouse owner who has a side business distributing child pornography.)

But the hacker lifestyle isn’t all it’s cracked up to be — that is, if you thought the hacker lifestyle was anything more than doing morphine in an empty apartment and crying oneself to sleep. (It isn’t!) To combat his overwhelming loneliness, Elliot even hacks into the computers of his friends (such as scatterbrained co-worker/I-assume-eventual-love-interest Angela, played by Mr. Sunshine‘s Portia Doubleday) and his recently divorced therapist, Krista (Gloria Reuben, ER).

And, to make matters even more gloomy for the socially anxious computer whiz, Elliot spends most of the premiere hour believing he’s being followed by a series of imposing-looking men in dark suits. But more on that in a minute.

Perhaps the most defining characteristic of Elliot’s is his deep-seated hatred for corporate conglomerates. The problem is, at the cybersecurity firm where Elliot works, their biggest client — E Corp, nicknamed “Evil Corp” —  is one such group, and it’s Elliot’s job to protect the corporation when their servers are masterfully hacked by an anonymous source.

After he successfully stops the hack on Evil Corp — but chooses not to wipe out all evidence of the person who did the hacking — Elliot is approached by Mr. Robot (Christian Slater, Mind Games), a representative for an underground team of hackers that wants to take down Evil Corp and cause the biggest incident of wealth distribution the world has ever seen. Elliot is, understandably, fascinated by Mr. Robot, his team of hackers and the old arcade in which they do their work — but he wants to expose the rebel group to the cops almost as soon as he learns the work they do.

In fact, Elliot remains dead-set on exposing Mr. Robot’s team to the authorities… until his cybersecurity firm takes a meeting with Evil Corp to assess the damage of the server hack, and CTO Terry Colby (Bruce Altman, Blue Bloods) proves himself to be nothing more than a wealthy, arrogant jerk. (The exact kind of person that Elliot likes to ruin, as we learned earlier.) In that moment, Elliot decides he’s going to side with Mr. Robot, after all, and provides Evil Corp with a modified computer file that ultimately frames Colby for the hack on his own company.

But even after Colby is taken away in handcuffs, the surprises keep on coming for Elliot: In the middle of Times Square, where he’s celebrating Colby’s arrest, Elliot is approached by a number of men who look like they belong in the Secret Service and chauffeured to a mysterious office building. There, he is greeted by the same men-in-suits that he believed had been following him all week — and one of them is an Evil Corp employee whose creepy salutation (“Bonsoir, Elliot.”) can only be a sign of bad things to come.

OK, your turn. What did you think of Mr. Robot‘s debut episode? Grade the episode via our poll below, then hit the comments to back up your choice!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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77 Comments
  1. Azrielen says:

    Hands down the best pilot I’ve ever seen for a TV show in the last ten years. Myself and few people on twitter are practically in seizures of ecstasy over the realism of the cyber security and other tech aspects used on the show. I thought CSI Cyber had scarred me for life. Watch this show, though. It is excellent in every way. Reminds me strongly of Fight Club but with slightly less hallucination.

    • Ian says:

      I couldn’t be more hooked. Utter brilliance.

    • Estee says:

      I’m glad I’m not the only one that got that Fight Club feel. I enjoyed it. (I’m glad he took the dog!)

    • The Beach says:

      Totally agree. Best pilot/first ep I’ve seen in years. I was completely amazed at how good it was.

    • Tony Lang says:

      Looks like on e of the more unanimous polls on TVLine in recent memory. And very cool to see others felt a Fight Club vibe. Throughout the pilot I kept thinking Chuck Palahniuk meets David Benioff. Can’t wait to see where it’s going.

    • Cent says:

      I agree with everything you guys said. It was so good I had to watch it twice.

    • Pluq says:

      Realism? … a cyber security employee that does not know what a root kit is? IP ranges that dont exist? DoS attacks that are not DDoS? “Just add the exec’s IP into the .dat file… please…

    • pam says:

      I was really enjoying Mr. Robot until watching my prerecorded shows there was this episode of guys kissing! Then to my surprise two guys having sex! So, with so much smartness in the writing of the script someone not so smart throws that CRAP in. I don’t think we’ll record the shows anymore. Watching gays is not my thing. You’re going to lose a lot of viewers.

  2. Ian says:

    Strongest pilot I think I’ve ever seen. If it can maintain that level of voice and quality as a series, it’ll be one of the best shows on television.
    I’m dying for series impressions from any one that may have gotten screeners of future episodes.
    And I’m praying Randy Harrison has a sizeable role.

  3. liam5794 says:

    I watched the 1st episode a few weeks ago On Demand and I loved it. Funny thing, out of habit, when the episode was over, I picked up the remote to start watching the next one and was bummed when I remembered it’s not even airing yet. I couldn’t wait for it to finally air so I could see what others thought of it.

    • The Beach says:

      Yep, this is definitely a binge-worthy type of show. Not at all what one would expect on the USA network.

  4. Lynn says:

    I’m glad I actually looked at the What to Watch and some of the comments below from people that had already seen it and said how good it was. I wouldn’t have watched it otherwise. A show about a weird computer hacker just doesn’t sound interesting to me. Especially with a name like Mr. Robot. But that was one of the best pilot episodes I’ve seen in a long time.

    • The Beach says:

      I probably would have skipped it too had I not read a glowing review of it on Yahoo today and decided to give it a shot. So glad I did!!!

  5. Mike W says:

    Fight Club w/a Dragon Tattoo, maybe a little Daryl Zero too. I liked it a lot and will watch again. It’s nice to see Christian doing something worthwhile.

    • jj says:

      Didja miss season 6 of Archer? He was in nearly every episode. Hilarious.

    • DL says:

      And speaking of Dragon Tattoo, Niels Arden Oplev who directed the original Swedish adaptation is an executive producer on the show and also directed the pilot. So that’s probably why you got that vibe! :-D

  6. James D says:

    I liked it a lot. it’s beautifully shot ( maybe the best composition I’ve seen for a TV show), well written, and well acted Rami did some great work in this pilot. with that said I would love just once in my lifetime to see a show or a movie where the 1% and/or corporations could be the good guy, its always the same with these stories and frankly I find it uninspired, as well as, have a character who is good with computers or numbers or whatever to not be anti-social it is an extremely overused trope not that Rami didn’t pull it off wonderfully he certainly did but the plot device is trite. despite those minor and personal announces I’m really looking forward to watching this. definitely in my top 5 pilots ever.

    • ialwaysforgetmyname says:

      James D. If you’d like to see Corporations and the one percent depicted as good guys i recommend This small movie you may not have heard of called BATMAN.

  7. MzTeaze says:

    Awesome pilot! Can’t wait to see the next episode.

    It’s also the way that you know USA doesn’t have much confidence in the show, “Complications” which dropped last week and at the end of the “pilot” they begged folks to watch the next episode on demand. Mr Robot not only premiered without all the extras, it was renewed tonight as well.

    • johnhelvete says:

      It is called building buzz anyway you can. Mr Robot, the pilot was online since May 27 literally everywhere. Won an award as SXSW. The show had an enormous pre airing buzz. Complicatioins, USA went with a two hour premiere and than released the third episode online immediately after to try to build buzz for that show. There is no denying the renewal for Mr Robot means USA has more confidence in Mr Robot, but USA did not “beg” viewers to watch the third episode of Complications.

  8. Kait says:

    Seriously awesome, especially for a pilot. Well done. I wasn’t even going to watch it because the previews didn’t really catch my interest but damn I’m glad I did.

  9. Bwhit says:

    I loved it. Truly one of the best pilots I have ever seen. Rami Malek kills it in this role and the only bad part of this was when the credits rolled. I totally see why USA already renewed it.

  10. BTM says:

    To make it just a little more fun, the show drops clues that some or all of it never happened. He’s drugged up, not sleeping, and both he and the psychiatrist acknowledge his delusional issues.

  11. Ginger Snap says:

    Watched it twice online today, and couldn’t hold my interest longer than 15 minutes.

    It’s gonna get pretty repetitive after about 3 episodes.

    • dman6015 says:

      I got so bored with it I fell asleep after 30 minutes. I’ll have to watch the back half of the show, just in case it got better. There’s still hope.

  12. Robby says:

    So it’s going to be occupy Wall Street/Hackers (with Angie Jolie)/Person of interest. OWS failed, so will Mr. Robot. Blaming everything on BIG BAD CORP. AMERICA doesn’t solve problems in the real world. Just a scapegoat.

  13. The Beach says:

    OK, so who was the girl at the Coney Island hacker site who was also having a smoke outside in a later scene? She looked so familiar but I couldn’t place her.

  14. Clark says:

    I really enjoyed the premise and the deep thoughts Elliot had were pretty neat to listen to. It definitely kept me wondering what was gonna happen next. There was alot to it and you could tell these writers out alot of thought into this first episode It’s different, and I like it! Keep the episodes a coming.

  15. Magali says:

    Exceptional pilot, I’m hooked.

  16. I could tell I would really like this show when I found myself not getting distracted by my phone and Internet (which can happen often when watching various shows) and actually completely enthralled with this character. Can’t wait to see where this show goes.

    As already said, one of the best pilots I’ve seen in a long time.

  17. Sold me immediately! Best show i’ve seen…nn that Kid deserves an Emmy for sure!

  18. cjinsd says:

    I guess I’m the only one who found the monotone quality of the show snooze inducing. It’s the second pilot on USA that put me to sleep…Complications did, too. I miss the days of Psych, etc. when the shows immediately caught my attention.

  19. Olivia says:

    I watched it a few weeks ago and I loved it! Very solid pilot, the premise shows a desire to get off the beaten track which is a selling point for me. I hope it will retain the same quality over the course of the show, but I’m definitely watching this one.

  20. Ka says:

    I was intrigued the first 5 minutes into it..I loved the” true but no one speaks it”references he makes..the writer of this show has real issues about society and he is gonna play it out…and I am gonna watch. Good job!

  21. Mike says:

    Best pilot ever. I record almost everything I watch in case something happens and I cannot watch the whole thing. Not going to be deleting this show. Every second kept my attention. That never happens. I cannot wait to see the next episode.

  22. Coal says:

    So this is the new trend that all networks seem to be following now, dark, morbid, depressed characters. Granted the are shows that have pulled it of well, Branshee, The Knick, Rectify, How To Get Away With Murder, Masters of Sex to name but a few. I also think Mr Robot also belongs to that group. But it seems all networks are try to look and feel the same and that’s killing of variety.

  23. Suki says:

    A cyber hacker, being followed right off. People already know about him and what he does. Typical show, but I’ll watch it and see where it goes. But I already know the format.after all, I didn’t say it was bad. Even the drugs wasn’t necessary, the big part of it.

    • rscrobinmx99 says:

      Have you ever met a sys admin, have you ever been with someone who is on call. They are using drugs as much as you or me, we recently had a Sys Sr. pass due to an overdose.

      You never know when someone will be hooked on opiates and benzos.

  24. nate says:

    Maybe Mr. Slater will finally get more than 1 season this time.

  25. chocolatfrog says:

    Nice, havent seen it yet here in Canada. Must be very good, USA Network just annonced a Second season!

  26. Preacher Book says:

    I watched the premiere and was intrigued by the show. Its main character is not entirely “likable”; Elliot is very distanced from normal people. But the main premise is interesting, that bringing about a financial collapse by wiping out all debt would reset the clock. (In fact, it would smash the clock and just about everyone using it.) But its narrative points out the objective truth people fight for other people and less about causes. Elliot is going to do the “right” thing, but once his friend is threatened, he destroys that Evil Corp. executive. When you fight a war, you fight for the person next to you. And Mr. Robot is using that expertly. I am interested in seeing how Elliot becomes more human and connected under Robot’s manipulations.

  27. Bella says:

    I only watched this show because of the extensive promotion by USA, because it looked like something I would actively dislike, being politically conservative. However, I really enjoyed it and am seriously intrigued. I wish the background music wasn’t so loud, though, because some of the people were talking so low and the music was so loud, I could barely hear them. I had to re-watch those scenes with close captioning on. It was so great to see the way they did the tech part, because CSI Cyber was so ridiculous. My other criticism is that while it would be great for all those people who would get their debt wiped out by this plan, it’s not just Evil Corp that would suffer, it would end up being devastating to the economy. But I can put that aside for such a great show.

  28. Ro says:

    Anyone notice that the “E” logo looks like the Enron logo? I liked this episode!

  29. JBC says:

    Really think this is a good show with good acting and good storytelling. It’s different and I like that. I am glad I watched the early screening of it, now I look forward to each new episode.
    Also enjoyed USA’s Complications. Finally a couple on USA network that I can tune into.

  30. This is simply the most intellingent TV-script in a very very long time.

  31. Jax&Juice's Girl says:

    I’M HOOKED!! This was a really good pilot ep. Reminds me of The Girl w/ the Dragon Tattoo. USA has a good show in their hands and they better not F-up and cancel it!

  32. Hayes says:

    Rewatching it today. This show is legit.

  33. Hayes says:

    Also isn’t the conglomerate officially called Evil Corp though? I mean, the news called it Evil Corp. Surely a news channel wouldn’t call them Evil Corp if that’s not their official name?

    • Tenney says:

      I believe at the beginning of the episode that Elliot said that he’s been calling it Evil Corp to himself for so long that when he sees the logo, that is what he automatically hears (or something like that). So I take it as the news people are calling it E Corp, but he’s hearing it as Evil Corp so that is what we are hearing.
      I loved this pilot. It’s one of the best I’ve seen and I cannot wait for the next episode.

      • rowan77 says:

        Exactly. I take that to mean we are in his head and therefore what we see is being filtered though his off-kilter, medicated brain. Kind of like how Malcolm in the Middle was told from the POV of an 11 year old, what we saw was skewed.

        I loved this pilot. So smart and visually stunning. It felt very early 70’s in style at times, not only because of music but the cinematic choices. Shades of Kubrick and Alcott.

  34. RealityEngineer says:

    As someone on ArsTechnica noted: “So with all this anti evil corporation stuff, I assume our “hero” built his technological equipment by hand, forging it from raw metal ores?”

    Yup. And of course they talk about getting rid of all credit card debt and ruining the financial system which will destroy the high tech infrastructure they depend on (except of course in the delusional fantasy world of the economically illiterate writers who I guess believe some magic communist alternative will function well and yet still leave these hackers free to do what they wish, contrary to the real world history of communism).

    They portray these people as powerful and evil, and yet somehow we are supposed to believe the CTO isn’t capable of defending against a small piece of planted evidence. Shows like this tend to project that corporations are super-competent evil entities capable of secret conspiracies to run the world behind the scenes, while then turning around and portraying them subsequently as incompetent twits the “heroes” can easily take out.

    In this world they need to waste time to fly an outside security consultant in on a private jet rather than having someone local despite vast sums of money being lost through not having someone nearby. Or at least a secure connection they can use remotely if its truly impossible to have someone close by. So much for supercompetent evil conspirators, these poorly considered shows don’t have a logically consistent view of the capitalist they hate.

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  35. Dr. M says:

    I’d watch the movie… I dunno if I want this as a TV series. Premise seems unsustainable.

  36. BostonGreekGirl says:

    Really like this show.

  37. jakkadan says:

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  38. Mark says:

    I tried both of the USA Network shows this year. Both ere boring. Used to be I watched everything on the network. Hasn’t been the case in a couple of years now, and this was even worse than Complications. Deathly boring and nothing happened.

    But I hope the rest of you enjoy since you are obviously excited about it. I guess it’s just not my cut of tea.

  39. Kate Elliott says:

    I’m 70 years old so you can imagine I’ve just about seen it all. Mr Robot was different… first, the acting was so good that you were mesmerized (sp?), second, the story line was, unfortunately, oh so believable, third, the narration by Elliott was brilliant, and last, the tech stuff was right on!

  40. Cammy says:

    Background sound drowns out so much of the actors’ voices that I gave up about halfway through the premiere.

  41. Clark says:

    Background music is too Loud… Can’t hear what the actors are saying….

  42. Clark says:

    People can’t take the time to see what’s really happening in the World because they are just trying to keep their head above water. Big Business and our own Government is controlling what they want even if it means going against what the People want?

  43. Rich says:

    I dig the show, but I can’t stand crappy sound editing that drowns the dialogue in the background music and sfx. Mr. Robot isn’t alone in this. I shouldn’t have to turn on the closed captioning to be able to understand what the characters are saying. Same goes for most movies. Aggravating.

  44. The Vanguardian says:

    Have you noticed the REAL EVIL CORP in the show Big Tobacco!!!!
    In episode 1 virtually every main character lights up and smokes cigarettes right in front of you! Do you think that’s just by chance???