USA Network has already got the ratings. Now it wants the critical cred. Done.
DRAMA "Mr. Robot"
WHEN | WHERE Premieres Wednesday night at 10 on USA
WHAT IT'S ABOUT C'mon, you've thought it, too. The world is controlled by some top-secret conspiracy, bigger than all of us, playing God. So who's gonna take it down?
Maybe star Rami Malek's mesmerizing narrator, Elliot, an awesome hacker and doleful soul, who can't seem to connect with anything itrw (in the real world). Surviving as a tech drone at an e-security company, he styles himself a cyber-avenger, getting the goods to wreck slimeballs who hurt innocents. And he does it with style, taking to the nighttime streets of Manhattan to drop his hammer. When not otherwise lost in psychic pain or morphine, he nurtures the notion of "saving everyone from the invisible hand."
Christian Slater's mysterious dude gets that, appearing as a cipher on the subway, on the street, and finally in a sort of Coney Island dreamscape hallucination, extending to Elliot his big chance to hack that hand, to redistribute the wealth and the power, the control. What hacker could resist?
But to what end?
MY SAY "I'm OK with it being awkward," says Elliot, in a sense defining the series. Malek makes a peculiar protagonist, judgmental, asocial, often silent, strangely suited to either eerie electronic soundtrack or Neil Diamond crooning through the pilot's moment of decision. He's a cyber-age hero, naming names in derision (Steve Jobs! Josh Groban!), calling conglomerates "modern monsters of society" -- and doing it on USA, run by NBC, owned by Comcast, that much-tentacled monolith providing TV, news, Internet, telephone as well as security.
There's irony all over. Which may be the point. Wednesday night's tightly crafted pilot abjures the urge to make its own judgments on good/evil, sanity/delusion, isolation/connection, conscience/capitulation. Sam Esmail becomes cable's latest previously unknown series creator to present substantial ideas filtered through fresh characters and adult attitudes. And "Mr. Robot" has a spellbinding director in Niels Arden Oplev, who did Scandinavia's original 2009 "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" (and that "Under the Dome" pilot the CBS series never lived up to).