Thursday, August 3, 2017

Psychopaths on Parade

by Pa Rock
TV Junkie

First of all allow me to apologize to regular readers of this blog, some days numbering in the dozens, for the misleading title of today's entry.  No, this piece is not about Donald Trump's inner circle or his cabinet, nor is it even about the concentration of Nazis who make up the Justice Department of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, III.  Today I am taking a break from the Trump Circus of Crime and Carnage, and opting instead to write about a television show, one which features almost as many psychopathic characters as those who dine daily at the White House.

Mr. Robot is an original series of the USA Network, and the first two seasons (22 episodes in all) are currently streaming on Amazon Prime.  The third season is in production at this time.

The story line of this engrossing program revolves around a group of young people, computer hackers with the goal of bringing down the biggest corporation in America and throwing world financial markets into chaos.  (It is apparent, even to someone with limited computer skills like me, that lots of careful research has gone into the making of Mr. Robot, particularly with regard to the methodology of hacking.)  The corporation that the hackers are hoping to topple is a massive conglomerate with tentacles reaching into many businesses and industries stretching across America and around the globe.  It is known as "Evil Corp."

The main character in this fast-paced television drama is Elliot Alderson.  He is portrayed by a mesmerizing young actor named Rami Malek.  Malek's acting skills in the series were recognized in 2016 when he received an Emmy for Best Actor in a Drama for his role in Mr. Robot.

Elliot (Malek) is the leader of the hackers, but his life and mission are complicated by the fact that he is a diagnosed schizophrenic who won't take his meds - but he does have a dependency on crushed morphine tablets which he snorts.  Elliot's friends and co-conspirators, at least one of whom is imaginary, sustain him.  Elliot is motivated to bring down Evil Corp because its wanton disregard for environmental regulations led to the cancer that killed his father.  Elliot also has a mixed legacy of feelings toward his father which color his actions throughout this cyber drama.  (In fact, if the show's creator and writer, Sam Esmail, had sought my opinion on the matter, which he did not, I would have suggested naming this primary character Bud Anderson, as a counter-punch to a television son whose father always knew best.)

Christian Slater plays the title role of Mr. Robot.  He serves as a motivator and enabler for the group of young hackers, and he is often pitted against Elliot who does not want to injure or kill anyone with the group's otherwise illegal pursuits.  Mr. Robot, who once pushed his young son out of a second-story window, has no qualms at all when it comes to violence.

Angela Moss (Portia Doubleday) is a fringe player with the hackers who is also an executive with Evil Corp working to bring it down from the inside.  Angela, like Elliot, is motivated for revenge because Evil Corp also caused her mother to develop cancer and die.

Darlene (Carly Chaikin) plays Elliot's sister, Darlene, who steps in to manage the hackers during her brother's occasional mental breaks.   Darlene is one of the more ruthless characters in this drama, and will not hesitate to murder when the need arises.

B.D. Wong, of Law and Order SVU,  has a dual role in Mr. Robot in which he plays both a male Chinese diplomat as well as a female Chinese revolutionary/anarchist by the name of "White Rose."  Wong is very cunning and believable as he drifts effortlessly between genders.

Swedish actor Martin Wallstrom gives an edgy performance as Tyrell Wellick, a Wall Street executive who is passed over for an important promotion at Evil Corp.   Wellick, too, is brilliant with computers, but he has a dark side that smolders with depravity and violence.  Wellick satiates himself by roughing up his pregnant wife (Danish actress Stephanie Corneliussen) at her insistence and careful direction.  Wellick, in fact, enjoys aggressive sex with other women - and men -  and is also capable of murder.  There is enough psychopathy between him and his wife to sustain a boatload of bloodthirsty Vikings.

Law enforcement is represented in part by FBI Special Agent Dominique DiPierro (Grace Gummer), appropriately known as "Dom."  Her focus on the hackers in all-consuming, a situation which leaves her as emotionally flawed at the individuals she is pursuing.

And those are just a few of the main characters who populate this tightly-wound psychodrama.  There is also a second tier of players who are just as vile and brutal - like the drug dealer who had  his own brother killed, a porn ring,  and a serial philanderer who, even though he is married, works hard at maintaining relationships with several other women.

Mr. Robot ain't the Trump White House, but it ain't bad.   Those who devote the time to watching it will come away with a more realistic view of the actual threats to personal security and world order that computer hackers pose.   It is a gripping and extremely enthralling look into a future that is likely not too far distant.

I highly recommend Mr. Robot.  It will definitely rattle your security cage.

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