Why Mr Robot gets hacking right (watch online at Amazon Video UK right NOW)
Hacking on TV is normally hilariously stupid. Hollywood struggles to make sitting at a keyboard visually interesting, and hasn’t a clue what DDoS, RATs, phishing or any other terminology actually means. Look at CSI: Cyber, Swordfish, The Net, and pretty much everything else ever filmed that features a keyboard.
It’s a Unix system, I know this!
Finally, there’s a show that gets it right: Mr Robot. And after an immensely successful first season (it earned itself an average score of 88% over on IMDb and a whopping 98% over on Rotten Tomatoes), the second season will be landing on Amazon Video this week – on Thursday 14 July.
In a suitably unconventional move, the first episode of the new series was actually leaked during the official Facebook Q&A on Sunday. The live broadcast was interrupted by a masked figure who stated, “You deserve something new, something unexpected, something you’ve never seen before,” before providing a surprise premiere for all the viewers.
If you missed out on the guerrilla premiere and want to get a flavour for the action in season two, then check out the teaser trailer below. Ironically enough, though, it’s not possible to watch the various season two teasers on Mr Robot’s official YouTube page – they’re all blocked in the UK, so you’ll need to go to unofficial sources if you want to whet your appetite in preparation for Thursday night.
What is Mr Robot all about?
Here’s the premise: by day, Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek) is a network engineer at security firm AllSafe, but by night his tech skills and antisocial personality lead him to hack, like a LulzSec super hero.
That earns him the attention of hacking collective FSociety, eager to spark a Fight Club–style revolution by targeting personal loans managed by AllSafe customer E-Corp. Elliot’s a good choice: he’s not a fan of Evil-Corp, as he dubs the massive, probably evil conglomerate – a word that FSociety leader Mr Robot (Christian Slater – yes, he’s employed again!) also says like it’s an insult, and utters with such frequency that it makes an ideal drinking game for those who like to watch television sloshed.
Why Mr Robot gets hacking right
From there, a wider conspiracy unfolds, alongside Elliot’s side missions solving (and causing) security problems – in the first episode, there’s even a knowing nod to the Ashley Madison hacks.
The highlight of the show is the attention to detail with security, helped by the producers hiring a bona fide security expert to fact-check scripts. The first episode shows Elliot sniffing a coffee shop’s Wi-Fi to uncover the owner’s predilection for child-abuse images and later features an accurate description of the flaws in Tor that make it possible to track users by controlling entry and exit nodes. Elliot hides his crimes on discs labelled as music downloads – the same trick that Chelsea Manning used.
But it’s not only the technical details that make the show feel authentic. The portrayal of the ethics and motives of Anonymous-style hacking collectives feels accurate – and that’s not only coming from someone who’s covered those groups for years (as in, me), but from Anonymous members themselves.
For all Mr Robot gets right about security, it makes missteps. Some of the dialogue is clunky. Side characters are less well developed than Elliot, coming off as caricatures. And while the networking details are accurate, other mistakes feel silly: E-Corp is a massive conglomerate (drink!) that dominates everything from personal loans to tech gadgets, but rather than have an in-house security team, it outsources to AllSafe? Not likely.
But that’s nitpicking. Mr Robot nails the tech, intelligently portrays mental-health issues (it also has a consulting psychologist), and gives Christian Slater gainful employment. What more do you want out of a hacker show?
But before you settle in for an Amazon-and-chill night of binge watching Elliot’s exploits, remind yourself how bad cinematic hacking scenes normally are with the supercut below. Make sure you stick around until the third entry to find the origins of the fabulous line: “Can you jam with the console cowboys in cyberspace?” Mind. Blown.
Where can I watch Mr Robot?
Ready to enter Mr Robot‘s world? Then you can click here to watch the first and second season over at Amazon UK.
Thankfully, there are no console cowboys in Mr Robot’s first season; but if you’ve already seen the first season, you can see what’s in store for season two below.
Want to find out more about what happened to the real-life hackers who got caught, and what made them do it in the first place? We talked to two of the hackers that went straight. READ NEXT: What happened to the hacktivists?