Even though what you did was wrong, you’re still a good kid, and that guy was a prick. Sometimes that matters more.
In Mr Robot, the critically acclaimed new tv show created by Sam Esmail, we meet Elliot Alderson, a mixture of Dexter Morgan, and hacking vigilante at night, who also speaks to his dead daddy, and Tyler Durden in Fight Club, as he has a split personality. Rarely, have I watched something and thought it was addressing accurately current social, moral and health issues such as Mr Robot. Depression, social anxiety, work stress, corporations, capitalism, hacking culture, loneliness, OCD, this show has it all. With a righteous tone, it would be an understatement to call it clever. And not a tad pretentious. Just the right tone in my opinion. The tone of helpless people, the Occupy Wall Street movement, the 1 %, us…vs them.
Them are the villains, in the story and in the real world : the corporations. It’s no wonder why Tyrell Wellick, the psychopath nemesis character opposite Elliott is named Tyrell. Tyrell corporation ? In Blade runner. A coincidence, I think not. It’s just one of the many Easter eggs found in this show…
Mr Robot directs strong criticism toward corporation and the world of suits. I found that often, the show attempts to address these subjects :
- Greed (Corporations are like Sarlac (the living mouth in the desert in Return of the Jedi) : their greed for the green is endless and will go through any lengths ; Evil corp has a sociopath mentality that echoes that of American psycho
- Paranoia (One of the greatest leverage our employers have toward us is the threat to fire us : characters in the show live in constant fear of losing their jobs and climbing up the corporate ladder, furthermore, the CEO’s exploit that vulnerability in their employees, fully aware of their own personal financial cupidity)
- Oppression of small people / workers (We learn that Elliott’s father, played by Christian Slater, was killed due to toxic waste. Those companies use people as pawns : they are nothing more to them than usable and disposable commodities, but they also don’t hold on grudges : it’s bad for business so we learn! Anything can and will be solved with money for them, echoing the sentiment delved in the documentary The corporation, that these entities are sociopaths)
- Reality vs dream world (The world of hacking embodies the dream world, the world of freedom, what Edward Snowden has called the Golden age of the Internet, before social media became the guardian state police for the states because it was spinning out of control. Hackers are outcasts, drug addicts but those drugs they take are just merely different than those used by the corporate drones (alcohol, cigarettes, coke)
- Violence vs peace : Evil corp uses threats, murders and any violent deeds in order to threaten or impose their will. Often, the gentle characters embodies us – the powerless citizen – although that trend has become far less present and rather the opposite in season II.
Mental illness 2.0
Another pool of subjects in which Mr Robot delves deeply is mental illness and I personally related heavily on the show as I have had 2 major depressions, social anxiety, and the latest : avoidant personality disorder. Even though Sam Esmail, the creator of the show hasn’t said anything about Elliott having such disorder, I strongly suspect this could be added to his paranoïa and split personality. Often, people who are plagued by this disorder tend to be very meticulous but also quite reclusive, by choice. They choose to remain aside of society’s bourgeoisie, often struggling to maintain relationships with the opposite sex and display awkwardness with others : family, co-workers, friends, bosses.
‘’Things are awkward between us. I’m ok with things being awkward between us’’. Caption here!
Elliot Alderson also struggles with clinical depression and extreme bouts of loneliness. He wishes he could grasp a taste of happiness, but for some reason, he cannot. That’s why he sees the world as an outcast but his outlook is also, mostly, spot on most of the times : he reads people and deciphers them through hacking but with a stunning and uncanny accuracy. The scene where he analyses his shrink, Krista, is quite simply an outstanding outburst of awareness : could Elliot act as a mirror of what’s wrong with society ? A mirror that acts like a boomerang toward us as he tell us his story, or, our story.
Sam Esmail has acknowledged several major influences on the show, such as American Psycho, Taxi Driver, and The Matrix. In particular, Esmail credited Fight Club as the inspiration for a main character who suffers from dissociative identity disorder creating a new manifestation of his deceased father in the form of a hacker, as well as for the anti-consumerist and anti-establishment spirit of its characters. Commentators have also noted the parallel in its plot on the erasing of consumer debt records to the film. In an interview, Esmail explains how playing the song that David Fincher used to underscore the climax of Fight Club (“Where Is My Mind?”) when Elliot initiates the hack in episode nine is intended as a message to the audience that he is aware of the inspiration they took from the film. The narration by the protagonist was influenced by Taxi Driver, and other influences mentioned included Risky Business in its music score, Blade Runner for the character development, and the television series Breaking Bad for the story arc.
Media & voyeurism culture (everyone watches everyone)
In short, there is absolutely 0% filler stuff in Mr Robot. Every scene, every line, every character is relevant to future episodes / future seasons. I have a feeling that when all is said and done after the planned 4 or 5 season run, this will go down in history as one of the greatest stories ever told on TV. Mr Robot captures the existential crisis of the millennial generation. The world that has been passed off to us is morally decayed and wrong on many levels. How is it that we are more connected and yet further apart than ever before?
And the soundtrack by Mac Quayle, drifting between electro and ambient is top notch, just two more reasons to watch this incredible, essential and more than ever relevant show!
‘’Give a man a gun and he can rob a bank. Give him a bank and he can rob the world’’…TW.
Having binged watched Breaking bad for the 4 th time, this time in 3 weeks, I have compiled a simple mix of some of the best tracks. Needless to say, if you haven’t watched this show yet, do yourself a favor and lock yourself in your basement and binge watch the best show ever on the small screen cuz unlike what Walter White said, ”masturbating, watching Breaking bad and eating cheetos all day does constitute plans”!
Top 5 Breaking bad tracks :
1) Tommy James And The Shondells : Crystal Blue Persuasion : Wanna cook ? (1968)
Crystal Blue Persuasion is a 1968 song originally recorded by Tommy James and the Shondells and composed by Eddie Gray, Tommy James and Mike Vale. A gentle-tempoed groove, “Crystal Blue Persuasion” was built around a prominent organ part with an understated arrangement, more akin to The Rascals’ sound at the time than to James’s contemporary efforts with psychedelic rock. In 2012, “Crystal Blue Persuasion” was used in the eighth episode of the fifth season of Breaking Bad, “Gliding Over All”, during a montage depicting the process involved to bring main character Walter White’s methamphetamine operation and its signature blue crystal meth to an international level.
2) The Peddlers : On A Clear Day : 1968
The Peddlers were a British jazz/soul trio of the 1960s and 1970s.In 2012, The Peddlers’ 1968 jazz cover was used in season 5 episode 3 (“Hazard Pay”) of AMC-TV’s Breaking Bad over a montage of Walt and Jesse’s meth manufacturing.
3) EL-P & Trent Reznor : Flyentology (Cassettes Won’t Listen Remix)
EL-P aka El Producto, is an American hip hop recording artist, record producer and record executive from Brooklyn, New York City. Originally a member of Company Flow, El-P has been a major driving force in alternative hip hop for more than two decades, producing for several notable underground rappers. Here he collaborates with Trent Reznor of Nine inch nails fame.
4) Flavor Flav : Unga Bunga Bunga
Plays in the background of the big party bash of Jesse Pinkman’s flat. From Flavor Flav of Public Enemy fame. It is his first solo album and the only non-Public Enemy album made by him
5) Thee Oh Sees : Tidal Wave
If or when I’ll throw a party, I ll be sure to put this on. A killer surf tune! In 2011, the band’s single “Tidal Wave” was featured in the Breaking Bad episode “Salud“, where it plays over Gus Fring’s poisoning of Don Eladio and his capos.”Fill your pockets and leave in peace, or fight me, and die!”
Mad men season IV of is one the greatest output that this series has had to offer so far. I’ve rarely been mesmerized by a TV series that is essentially a character based show. In Mad men, you won’t find explosions, car chases, sci fi CGI and so on. It’s rather an adult show, for grown ups, that can relate to anyone who has a past that would rather stay buried or deep in a cardbox in a garage…As much as I liked the first three seasons, this one is just too good to be overlooked. The acting on the show is just second to none. It gives a fascinating glimpse into the life the 1960’s and the life of a broken man : Donald Draper. Heartbroken, soon to be divorced, revealed for what he truly is by Betty, his ex wife now remaried to a respectable man. We see Don alone at Thanksgiving, dating girls 15 years younger than him, struggling at his new born agency, and feeling so lonely in his appartement…I don’t think I’ve related more to Draper than this season, where we really feel for him…And we have good reasons to do so. Jon Hamm is such a wonderful, ressourceful actor, it’s amazing how much emotions he conveys as Don Draper. Yesterday, I was watching watching the scene where he calls LA to arrange for the funeral of his “friend” Anna Draper, the wife of the real Don Draper (in case you don’t know Don Draper’s real name is Dick Whitman, and Dick stole Don’identity in Korea) the night following the Cassius Clay vs Sonny Liston fight in 1964. And the moment where he bursts into weeping so did us. Having slept in his office with Peggy’s sitting on the couch Don phones LA in the early morning and Peggy asks : “What happened” ? To whom Don replys : “The only person who really knew me for who I was died”…What man never truly hid what he really his ? The softer sensitive side often gets shunned by the cocky, self assuring attitude in order not getting discovered for what you truly are…. That scene was worth 1 million dollars.
At the office, Don Draper is a relentless, confident and sometimes a cocky bastard. In his relationship with Betty he may have lied, cheated but Don truly is a man of the 1950’s and 60’s. He rarely speaks his mind and his emotions are self-contained and deeply buried inside him. That’s because he doesn’t like to talk about himself, nor does he likes the people who like doing so, like Cassius Clay for instance. He claims to despise loudmouths. But he also has a sensitive side, in fact, it’s fair to say that Donald Draper is indeed a sensitive man. Until I started watching Mad men I thought no one could touch Michael C. Hall in terms of acting on the telly, but Hamm is quite breathtaking too.
Mad men IV also offers interesting insights on the issues that are starting to affect the lives of the normal citizens in the 60 ‘s : the soon to be divorce law and most notably the civil rights issues. The agency deals with a car company from the south that won’t hire “negroes”. Since we’re in 1964 and Lyndon B. Johnson is now replacing JFK but also trying to stop segregation, there is a fascinating clash between the two worlds of the USA : the one trying to continue the segregation, and the one trying to stop it hence the new generation whom Peggy meets at an artsy party. There’s also the bloody Viet-Nam war coming up. But the women are also segregated as Peggy mentions : “I have to say, most of the things Negroes can’t do, I can’t do either, and nobody seems to care. Abe Drexler: What are you talking about? Peggy: Half of the meetings take place over golf , tennis, in a bunch of clubs where I can’t be a member, or even enter. The University Club said the only way I could eat dinner there is if I arrived in a cake.
On a personnal level, the character’s issues and worries seems to have taken a leap forward. I still miss Salvatore but having Pete Campbell’s growing is an interesting turn and Roger still is…Roger chasing big boobie Joan who is still grumpy as ever. Jared Harris who plays Lane is as pragmatic as ever. Mad men is still a fascinating tale of the 1960’s about the advertising industry, a society in motion, and and world about to be twisted upside down. But above everything it’s a riveting TV show about a bunch of complex characters that don’t always seem to be so simple once you’ve scratched the surface. Or as Don Draper put it : “People tell you who they are but we ignore it, because we want them to be who we want them to be.
Mad men OST : Dusty Springfield : I only want to be with you (1963)