This week saw the delayed airing of the first season finale of surprise summer hit Mr. Robot, bringing the end to an increasingly loaded summer slate of programming across cable outlets including established summer fare like Suits, Graceland, and Hell on Wheels, and new entrants to the slate like True Detective, Ballers, and the spectacular mini-series that almost felt like counter-programming from David Simon, William Zorzi, and Paul Haggis Show Me A Hero.
That Mr. Robot was such a surprise hit probably comes as much from the fact that it aired on the USA Network. Over the past couple years, the network that prided itself on providing generally light, character-driven content in the vein of Psych, Monk, and Burn Notice had started pushing its boundaries with slightly edgier fare that at the very least played to a more adult crowd--think Satisfaction or even Suits or Graceland, which both started to test the networks limits with dark content and adult language--even if it wasn't quite as interchangeable with shows on the FX or HBO dockets.
There should be no question that Mr. Robot is in fact good enough to fit in with the fare that the titans of cable programming have been putting out for years. The product of first-time showrunner Sam Esmail, whose previous credits include a story by credit on Mockingbird and a writer/director credit on the indie flick Comet (which is actually pretty good and available for streaming on Netflix), it is brilliant, subversive, relies on an unreliable narrator who brings you the viewer into his world as a product of his psychosis. Furthermore, it is driven by a fantastic lead performance from Rami Malek. The rest of the supporting case is great, too, but it is Malek who carries this show. If not for his breakout, relevatory performance, Mr. Robot does not work.
But work it does. Without venturing into the spoiler arena, its pacing is idiosyncratic--judging from Esmail's interview with Alan Sepinwall this was absolutely by design--its reveals are telegraphed intentionally, its reality is so subjective as to have the viewer questioning whether anything is ever actually happening, and the finale is such an unexpected delivery to the end of the season that it's hard not to admire the balls on Esmail.
There were a lot of others who were champions of Mr. Robot in these parts. I was late to the party because of my summer move to LA to hopefully follow in Sam Esmail's footsteps--LOOKING FOR IDEAS HOLLYWOOD PRODUCERS? I HAVE THEM IN SPADES!--but it was so easy to burn through the season. We watched the first nine episodes in two sittings. Of course, we had nothing to do, but it was propulsive and enthralling.
What were your thoughts (as always, use spoiler warnings when needed) on Mr. Robot? If you didn't watch Mr. Robot, fix that. Until then, non-watchers, what summer show grabbed you? Was it Show Me A Hero, David Simon's enthralling civics lesson driven by its own sublime lead performance from actor Oscar Isaac? Was it something I didn't touch on? Discuss here.