Friday, July 31, 2015

Mr Robot. Or, the continuous goof-ups of Elliot Alderson, vigilante hacker.


There is a lot of buzz online about the new TV series Mr Robot, currently airing on USA network. Breaking away from the procedural and investigate formulaic shows, Mr Robot follows the story of Elliot, a young 20-something cyber security engineer in New York, and how moonlights as an 'ethical' hacker. He is, fortunately, on the good side of the world and the wrong side of the law as he uses this hacking skills to expose hidden criminals and save a few innocents in the process. He suffers from social anxiety, and chronic depression, and it is stated he occasionally suffers from schizophrenic delusions. He is brilliant on-line on any network, but sucks IRL (in real life). The show itself is getting accolades for depicting real life, plausible hacking. But for me, it also hammers home the idea that when it comes to real life situations, Elliot (and others like him) cannot handle themselves responsibly.



For instance until episode six, which aired yesterday, all that Elliot has done in this show is to screw up. Continuously. Repeatedly.

His first mistake  was definitely in the pilot episode, which got rave reviews and set expectations high for this series one month before it even started airing. After a brilliant depiction of DDoS style attack, and his counter hack to prevent further damage,  Elliot is presented with a choice. Up till that point in his life, Elliot had flown under the radar, without getting into trouble with any authorities. But now, he can either expose the hacker group f-society, or frame Terry Colby, his customer's CTO. And Elliot, reacting to how Angela was made to leave a meeting room, decides at the very last moment to frame Terry. Bad choice. We later come to know that framing Terry was just a first step for f-society, who recruit him for bigger and more dangerous things further up. If he had simply exposed f-society, he could have ended it all, and gone back to his hacker-vigilante life. Technically, this goofup was required, this is the action which starts the stage for the later events in the series. So Elliot HAS to make this mistake for the sake of the series.

Second mistake.  Getting Fernando Vera arrested. This happens in the second episode. Now this might not have been the first time Elliot is exposing a drug dealer, but he explains in his voice-over that he gets this drugs from Vera via Shayla. And he needs his drugs to stay in control. Shayla getting abused by Vera was occupational hazard. But he started caring for Shayla, and the only way he could protect her was to get Vera out of the equation. This will lead to two things later on. Without his drugs, Elliot goes through painful withdrawals, which could affect his life ,and could even jeopardise operation destroy-steel-mountain. The other thing, Shayla gets killed by Vera. That was painful.

Mistake numbre trios. Elliot gives in to his daemons. His childhood and back life was not explained till this point, but then it is made clear that his father death to cancer was caused by Evilcorp. And when this truth hits him, he puts aside logic and decides to take things personally, in an act of revenge. This will lead him to think of a way to bring down Evilcorp's servers in a 'humane' way with very little spare time. And for this, he decides to team up with f-society. Big mistake. But I think later the show will establish that Elliot was always part of the group. And we all know that Mr Robot is not real. He is simply an illusion, created by poor Elliot himself.

Fourth one was in the fourth episode. Elliot gets the Chinese hacker group, Dark Army, involved in his plan. He clearly knows that the DA hacks only for profit, and will understand his reason for targeting E-corp. But he gets their help. This gets Angela in danger, her personal life is destroyed, and it might also affect her work at allsafe. And.. the DA turns back at the last moment, leaving Elliot and his team on their own. And all this because he decides to go ahead with a poorly put together plan.

Five. Elliot goes in personally to steel-mountain to install his hack. He does not have the best social skills to talk to people without coming off as awkward. But he does it anyway. This way he runs into Tyler, his nemesis. He cooks up a story about some audit, but the truth is , he has lied. So he will have to back this up tomorrow in a later episode somehow. Which means more lying. Sending somebody else  he could have avoided the confrontation.

And his biggest mistake so far, coming up at number 6. He gets Vera freed from the jail. Once Vera got Shayla kidnapped, there was no plan in which Elliot and she could come out save forever. He should have handled that more diplomatically, could have flatly refused he knew her. But by playing to Vera's demands, he has endangered the two other girls in his life; Angela and Darlene. And with Shayla's death, he could again turn to revenge and do something stupid.

In the pilot episode, Elliot was able to balance his day job, and his nighttime hacktivism perfectly, neither coming in each other's way. But now the two sides have to dangeroulsy muddled up. It will take him a miracle to come out of this.

And some pretty neat hacks.



Ratings of this show have declined over time.

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