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Thursday, September 3, 2015

Mr. Robot: Cyberpunk Triumph

Well, my number-one television guilty pleasure this summer was "Mr. Robot" on the USA Network - though it was so good, easily the best new show on TV this summer, indeed of the year, maybe even the past year or two, that there's nothing whatsoever to feel guilty about watching it.  It was just a pleasure, rare, keenly intelligent, and provocative.  I saw most of it in the past few weeks, and the finale tonight.

Hackers have appeared in all kinds of TV series, most of them obvious, a few like CBS's CSI-Cyber not half-bad, but Mr. Robot is something else, in a class all its own.  Impossibly suave and gritty at the same time, as lyrical as Rectify - the other out-of-left-field masterpiece to come along in the past few years - but hipper, with words like louche in  it, and with a heart and soul and slap-in-your face realism and cynicism that's not to be believed, but is plausible all the same, you disbelieve Mr. Robot at your peril.

Cyberpunk has attained impressive heights in writing - Sterling, Gibson, Varley - but not so much on the screen.   Mr. Robot takes its place right up there with its story - its only competition screenwise being Bladerunner, an utterly different kind of tale.

There are elements not only of Occupy Wall Street and V for Vendetta but Fight Club in Mr. Robot, but I won't say which ones or what, because I don't want to spoil your surprise and fun if you haven't yet seen it.  But unlike Fight Club and its progeny, in which the narrative is completely situated in the minds of the characters, in Mr. Robot we have a ratification or support of this in the very digital age we in fact inhabit, in which the difference between the fantasies on screens and realities in first-hand tangible experiences in hand have never been less.

Like many series, the next-to-last episode, and the one before that, packed more of a punch than the finale.  But that doesn't matter, because the story is continuing, the series will be back next year, which makes tonight's finale not a finale at all, but a bridge, and a short one at that.

I'll be here next year with more.


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