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Entries in rami malek (2)


In Which We Make The Right Choice After All

American Buffalo


Mr. Robot
creator Sam Esmail

About two-thirds into the third season premiere of Mr. Robot, an elaborate proof that even a revenge fantasy can be made dull through its own generic willpower, Sam Esmail begins laying into Donald Trump. For people like Sam who thrive on words, and the general, reductive meaning they are able to apply to ideas, moments and opinions, the president is impossible to understand.

To their credit, artists, doctors, lawyers and citizens all educated, have been taught to live and die by their words. For those of this tortured mindset, any other approach could make no sense of their lives. Verbal articulation is how they define themselves and their relationship to others. Well, the president is not great with words, so he does what anyone might do who can’t speak or write very well: he shows how little power speech has.

Eliot (Rami Malek) is a similar creature. When he does speak, a manifesto comes out, but it is not really of his own doing. His truer, more authentic self is beneath the turgid recitation of the ills of society. Beneath this veneer, his shyness tells a more nuanced story. More than anything, what drives him is wanting to be liked and respected. Such personages – I can think of many who share this ultimately useless view – intimately understand what others most want to hear. This, they believe, is the best purpose of speech.

Eliot’s sister Darlene (Carly Chaikin) recoils from all this. When someone starts talking to her, she either responds profanely, runs away, screams, or has a panic attack. At other times, she represses her introverted calling, and dominates others through an otherworldly combination of presence and enthusiasm. Once she feels she has lost her cause, however, she returns to a state of grace.

Eliot’s friend Angela (Portia Doubleday, easily the best actor on the entire show) watched her mother die from the bad actions of a large corporation. She allows this singular tragedy to corrupt every other moment of her life. Angela pushes love away at every intersection, and when she cares for those like Eliot, people who cannot care for themselves, she wields a silent combination of pity and hate. I said Mr. Robot was dull, and it is, but the men and women standing in front of computer terminals throughout the show are all fairly alive.

Quite possibly a word, or a series of words, might serve as a guide to some future act. But the words would fairly fade with time. Irving (Bobby Cannavale) strongly believes words mean something very important. When he is promised a free milkshake after his tenth hamburger, he is intent on collecting. In short, he is like you and all your innocent, naive friends. They believe it is right to judge people by what they say. (“Action talks,” someone said, “and bullshit walks.”). Philanthropy, someone without a soul said, is the way that brands will win. We have prized speech over content, and this is actually how Rome fell, if I’m not mistaken.

Mr. Robot suffers from a similar fate. Nothing much really goes on in it. Every once in awhile, someone will suddenly and unexpectedly receive exactly what they deserve.

Ethan Peterson is the reviews editor of This Recording.


In Which Communication Is Good For This Line Of Work

I Won't Give Up On Us


Mr. Robot
creator Sam Esmail
USA Network

With its low camera angles and unnatural-natural cinematography, Mr. Robot has never been the easiest show on television to watch. Eliot (Rami Malek) has a voice which reverberates at such low tones it can be hard to understand without subtitles. The Egyptian-American actor has a moment in the second season of the show, airing now on USA, where he explodes into an effluvium of natural speech, explaining his reaction to Seinfeld in a bubbly excitement. It is very funny to see him break out of the darkness, but it doesn't last for long enough. 

This is by way of answering the question of why no one is watching Mr. Robot. The explanation from the show's fans after a promising first season have been enlightening, though perhaps more revealing of themselves than the show's flaws. The truth is that the dark and merciless world Eliot operates in remains wildly pessimistic and optimistic, but in both ways it echoes the worst tendencies of our own.

The news on television is already bad. Mr. Robot tells people that simply by going to work they are feeding into this vicious cycle. Maybe it was like reading the beginning of The Communist Manifesto, the fun part before fully realizing the gravity of what was implied — control, fear, violence and deprivation. The hacker group Eliot founded in the first season of the show, fsociety, seems more and more like a terrorist group. In the season's first episode, the group messes with the home security system of a corporate lawyer, who is forced to move out to her house in Greenwich for the evening.

One of the best parts of Mr. Robot was the story of Angela (Portia Doubleday), a security analyst for the evil bank that is the focus of fsociety's hacking efforts. Despite whatever they accomplished in season 1, the financial industry seems to be moving on roughly as usual. Angela's mother was killed by corporate malfeasance relating to a toxic gas leak, and yet we still find her working for this company directly under its CEO, Philip Price (Michael Cristofer), even after she has spearheaded a lawsuit against them. It doesn't make much sense.

The additions to the cast are generally welcome, but their exact place in the winding narrative that Esmail has created will only become clear after six or seven hours of television. It is a long time to wait to identify with someone. FBI agent Dominique DiPierro (Grace Gummer) is the main addition to the cast, and she quickly becomes basically the main star of Mr. Robot as a masturbating loner insomniac who reads people as well as Eliot doesn't.

Craig Robinson and Joey Badass have come aboard as Eliot's new compadres. Both are excellent at playing off of Malek, but so much mystery surrounds them and every other aspect of the show that I understand why even informed fans of Mr. Robot might be confused. "Maybe truth don't even exist," Robinson bleats at one point in a park, stroking his dog.

The best part of last season was the rise and fall of Eliot's primary antagonist, Tyrone Wellick. He has yet to show up on this season in any meaningful way, and it has substantially hurt the show. Christian Slater's performance as the titular character is as awful as ever, and the machinations occurring within Eliot's disturbed mind are no longer the novelty they were. None of this directly answers the primary question of why no one is watching Mr. Robot. I guess it's because at the end of a long day, they probably don't want to feel like cogs in a corporate machine.

Esmail has been writing much of this second season himself, and directing it as well. He is immensely talented at both tasks. Watching Mr. Robot, you can feel his singular vision for this world. That is what makes the show so completely different from anything out there. Because it hasn't been focus-tested and revamped a million times, plenty of moments are rough around the edges, and performances and scenes play a lot more like theater than we are used to in this medium. Despite all its problems, you sense that Mr. Robot has something absolutely terrible to say. By the time it says it, we will all be watching Westworld or some shit.

Ethan Peterson is the senior contributor to This Recording.