REVIEW: Mr. Robot Episode 1 – “Hello Friend”
Daytime cyber-security technician and nighttime hacker Elliot tracks down the hacker group responsible for an attack on one of his daytime clients. When he finds the hacker group, his morals are questioned and the decision he makes has ramifications beyond what he can imagine.
June 24, 2015
Mr. Robot is the story of Elliot, a computer tech at the Cyber-Security firm Allsafe, who moonlights as a hacker and uses computers to enact vigilante justice on corrupt people. When Elliot’s firm protects international conglomerate E corp from a harmful hacker attack, he is contacted by a hacker group who wants to try and change the world. Elliot suffers from social anxiety and, though he is a programming genius, seems more comfortable with technology than people. Both the hacker group (known only as Mr. Robot in the first episode) and Allsafe want to use his talents for their own agendas.
“Hello Friend” begins with Elliot meeting a cafe owner named Ron. Elliot confronts Ron about his internet speed and, after hacking him, discovers Ron’s illegal child pornography website on the dark web. After an intense conversation, Elliot leaves the cafe as police cars pull up.
On his way to work the next day, Elliot notices some men in suits conspicuously watching him. A homeless man on the train calls out to him, but Elliot ignores him. At work, Elliot’s close friend Angela calls him out on hating his job at Safeway: a cyber-security firm that protects large corporations – something antithetical to Elliot’s ideologies. On his lunch break, Elliot goes to see his psychologist, Krista Gordon. While Gordon goes on in the background, the audience hears a monologue about what he believes to be the disappointments of society. Back at Safeway, Angela’s boyfriend Ollie accosts Elliot about being friends – if nothing else than for her sake. In another internal dialogue, Elliot talks about how bad Ollie really is. After Ollie leaves, a group of E Corp executives visits Safeway and Elliot meets Tyrell Wellick, an executive that actually knows computers and programming.
When Elliot leaves work and goes home, we get a glimpse of just how bad his social anxiety is. The reclusive hacker cries out in loneliness and even turns to morphine to deal with the pain. He explains how he’s hacked drugs to avoid getting addicted, and keeps oxone (a drug that helps with initial withdrawal) on hand. When he realizes he’s out of oxone, he calls his drug dealer Shayla who offers him Molly. The two consume the MDMA and it is inferred, by them being ostensibly naked in Elliot’s bed, that they slept together. Elliot leaves and follows his psychologist to find out who it is that she’s been dating – a man that, up to this point, he’s been unable to hack from afar. When he follows the man home, Elliot witnesses him mistreating his dog. He asks to borrow his phone, and calls his own cell phone before leaving. Later, he uses the man’s number to call him and get personal information to aid in hacking him. It is at this moment that Angela calls from Safeway, explaining that they’ve been attacked. Elliot rushes to work and discovers that it isn’t a DDoS attack (Denial of service attack) as they thought, but something much more sinister. Gideon, Angela and Elliot’s boss, takes Elliot to the servers via a private jet to try and clean them. Elliot manages to locate the virus, which is titled “fsociety00.dat” (much like his long monologue about society which ends in eff society). When he opens the file’s readme, it states “Leave me here.” He reconfigures the file, hiding it so that only he can get to it.
After he leaves Gideon at the airport, Elliot takes the subway back home. The same homeless man he’s seen twice before sits down in front of him. He asks Elliot to follow him, but only if he didn’t delete it. Elliot follows and, in between running subways, the man explains that he is taking Elliot to Brooklyn. He states that he can’t say more until they get there. The man (Christian Slater) talks about his father, who was a thief, and how he thought his father was free at one time. He states that his dad died in prison, and Elliot is in his own kind of prison. The man takes him to an abandoned theme park and into an old arcade where other hackers reside. Elliot asks why they meet in person, and the man explains how another group was taken down by the FBI for communicating too much online. The man doesn’t answer many questions, but does explain that the DDoS attack on E Corp’s servers was a test to see how Elliot would act. Riding the subway back home, Elliot questions his own sanity.
After researching the group, the arcade, and even the abandoned theme park, Elliot realizes that the hacker group picked a perfectly anonymous location to meet and left no digital trail. He compiles the evidence he has from the DDoS attack on E Corp’s servers and puts them in his backpack. Elliot then goes back to the arcade to tell the man, who he calls Mr. Robot, that he is turning him in. Mr. Robot responds that Elliot is genuinely curious about their project and explains what it is. They plan on leveling the current financial infrastructure, getting rid of the debt that the vast majority of Americans have incurred, thus freeing the nation from corporations like E Corp. Mr. Robot gives Elliot the IP address of E Corps CTO, Terry Colby, so that the DDoS attacks can be blamed on him.
At Safeway, Elliot, Gideon, Terry Colby, other executives from E Corp, and members of the FBI meet to go over the DDoS attack. Angela tries to lead the meeting but, sensing that Elliot knows more, Colby asks to have her removed. Angry at Colby, Elliot finally resolves to help Mr. Robot frame the CTO. He reaches into his backpack and swaps envelopes, exchanging the white envelope incriminating Mr. Robot with the blue envelope framing Colby. The only person that seems to notice the swap out is Tyrell Wellick. Elliot hands over the envelope, promising that it will point to whoever was responsible for the DDoS attack on E Corp.
Nineteen days go by with no news on the DDoS attack, and Elliot looses faith in Mr. Robot. When he goes to the arcade it is empty. He decides to focus his attention on Krista’s boyfriend, Michael Hansen. Elliot finally realizes that her boyfriend’s name is a psyeudonym, and that Hansen is actually a husband cheating on his wife. He confronts the man about it and forces him to tell Gordon about his lies. Finally he takes the dog, Flipper, knowing he can take better care of him than Hansen. At his next therapy meeting, he knows that Krista is upset and is sure that Hansen was just another bad guy he took down. At Safeway, Elliot confronts Angela about ignoring him since the E Corp meeting, taking Gordon’s advice to talk to her in person and not through technology. Angela asks Elliot to not stand up for her ever again. The two share a hug, then awkwardly notice the whole office is looking at them. The only thing is, the office isn’t focused on them – they are watching the TV screens behind them showing E Corp CTO Terry Colby being arrested by the FBI!
Elliot leaves his office and takes a walk in Times Square, where many of the large screens are showing the news of Colby’s arrest. Filled with Glee, Elliot raises his hands in triumph. Two men in suits approach him and take him away. Elliot looks at two NYPD officers, who note the suits and turn around ignoring the situation. The men take Elliot to an unmarked building and up an elevator to a boardroom full of unknown suits. “Hello Friend” ends as one of the suits leans forward, revealing himself as none other than Tyrell Wellick!
The protagonist’s narration of events, description of people, and criticisms of society are remnant of Fight Club. All of this paired with the computer hacking is like Fight Club meets Hackers. Elliot’s social anxiety and his being more comfortable with computers than people is something that is very relatable to the geek community (unless I am just projecting, it is at least very relatable to this geek). The technical terminology that was interjected made the idea of him being a hacker more believable. Even the episode titles – according to the show’s Wikipedia page – are titled in an appreciable way. Each one is labeled as though it were an illegally downloaded video from a torrent site, using a separate type of video codec (i.e. evasi0n, TeaMp0isoN and Milw0rm). Mr. Robot’s team hangs out in an old arcade, and most geeks enjoy retro gaming, making their temporary secret lair a nice touch. On a final note, Elliot’s hoodie reminded me vaguely of the protagonist in E.T., a movie that is considered a classic to many geeks (at least one’s my age).
Elliot’s proclivity to use his job experience to do the exact thing he works against – hacking people and ultimately even corporations – is an interesting idea, even if his getting a job at Safeway was actually secondary to being a hacker (we don’t yet know if he was a hacker that became a cyber-security tech or vice versa). I’ve seen the comparison between Elliot and the eponymous protagonist of the Showtime series Dexter, both using their skills seemingly obtained for doing good to do vigilante work based on their own morality. The most obvious difference between Dexter and Mr. Robot, at least in “Hello Friend,” was the distinct lack of violence in the new hacker series. With the exception of comparing hacking to physical – and even sexual – assault, “Hello Friend” had virtually no violence at all. The idea that one person, one geek, can change the world for the better is definitely a nice idea, but Elliot’s willingness to break laws because other people do the same is imperfect. While we should absolutely strive to change the wrongs we see in the world, taking justice into our own hands in antithetical to the American justice system. Even if we disagree with the way things are being ran, and Elliot’s internal monologue about the wrongdoings of society was very Tyler Durden (maybe even a little Monty Brogan), breaking laws because we find the justice system to be unjust is antithetical to our Christian faith.
I can’t wait to see where USA takes Mr. Robot. “Hello Friend” was an exhilarating and entertaining launch to what just might be a great series!
Violence: “Hello Friend” only references violent acts
Language/crude humor: After two viewings of “Hello Friend,” expletives were pretty common and included: S***, B******, D***, D***, and use of the euphemism “Eff.”
Sexual content: “Hello Friend” has various references to sex, including a one night stand with Elliot’s drug dealer, talk of sexual conduct, and reference to a Cafe owner that is running a child pornography website on the dark web. Elliot accuses a man of having sex with a minor.
Drug/alcohol use: There was drugs and alcohol in “Hello Friend.” Elliot explains to the audience how he uses Morphine to deal with loneliness and oxone to deal with the ramifications, and he and his drug dealer use molly. Later on his best friend, Angela, offers getting high and watching a movie. Alcohol use is limited to social drinking at a bar and celebratory drinking after Elliot’s team at the Cyber security firm fixes a site that was attacked by hackers.
Other negative themes: “Hello Friend” depicts anarchy, vigilantism, adultery, and cooperation with conspiracies.
Positive Content: Elliot’s desire to do good in “Hello Friend” is evident, however, his means are both illegal and unethical. He also rescues (using the term very lightly) an abused dog from a character he catches cheating on his wife. The premier episode also focuses on the disillusionment of society focusing on money and materialistic things.
+ Lots of geek tech talk!
+ The idea of one person doing good for others, though the means aren't completely immoral
+ A protagonist named Elliot wears a hoodie everywhere and is a geek...E.T. Reference?
+The Hacker group Mr. Robot hangs out inside an old and abandoned amusement park's arcade (retro geek enjoyment!)
+The episodes actual name, "eps1.0_hellofriend.mov," is very TOR-ish, as are all 10 episodes. Each episode is named as though it is a hijacked movie file, each with a different video extension/type and many with special characters, a tactic often used (such as evasi0n)
- Constant expletives
- Drugs, Sex, and Rootkit? (A little too much of the two former, likely to compensate for those less interested in the latter)