When I first read a TV show about hackers is being produced, I thought it would be similar to that God-awful CSI Cyber (i.e. episodic drama with two-dimensional characters performing unrealistic feats using highly advanced computer programs, and a story arc so convoluted it would collapse on itself). And I decided to give it a shot anyway. Little did I know that it would be one of the best entries for 2015…
The series follows Elliot, a cyber security engineer working for a consulting company by day, and a hacker by night. Elliot’s company’s most important client E Corp (or Evil Corp as the main character justly calls it), suffered from a hacking attempt, and who’s better to investigate the attack than Elliot?
Anyway, while doing some on-premise incident forensics on the victimized server, Elliot stumbles upon a readme file which gives him the choice to either destroy it and move on, or join the hacktivist group fsociety. Needless to say, he chooses the red pill. And the story takes off.
The main character is portrayed as a lonely and troubled individual, suffering from what seems to be social anxiety disorder and frequently resorting to drugs to ease and drown his pain. Although he is presented as a vigilante, exposing CP traffickers and cheating boyfriends, his moral compass is crooked as he constantly spies on and hacks everyone around him (hacking seems his only way of approaching people).
The supporting characters are generally well written, except for the stereotypical fat nerd and reclusive Muslim girl who are both part of the fsociety collective with apparently little to no hacking skills.
Performances range from brilliant (Rami Malek is very convincing as Elliot), to downright bad (Ron Cephas Jones looks more like a barber than the old-school phreaking expert he’s portraying).
How realistic is Mr Robot’s hacking portrayal ?
Now, when it comes to shows or films about hacking, writers usually use fantasized ideas and concepts that have no relationship to reality (the unrealistic and fancy NSA hack by Chris Hemsworth in Blackhat for exemple, how fucking stupid…). But this show’s writers obviously did some research. The hacks are very realistic and accurate: the technical jargon used is never out of place, the bugs, exploits, vulnerabilities and techniques mentioned do exist and are up-to-date. They even got the name of a cloud-based anti-DDoS solution right. Que veut le peuple ?
So far, the show is well-written, well-acted, well-directed and well-paced. Let’s hope it won’t become just another procedural.