WARNING: This article contains some pilot spoilers, but not series spoilers.
There’s a reason why Mr. Robot won the Golden Globe for Best Television Drama. The series stars Rami Malek as anti-social computer programmer Elliot who works at the cybersecurity firm Allsafe which operates under the largest company in the world: E Corp, or, as Elliot calls it – Evil Corp. By night, Elliot is a vigilante hacker who knows every detail of the people he encounters in New York City. Social anxiety and clinical depression linger over Elliot’s life as he narrates every episode; he constantly questions every move he makes while also predicting the moves of those he has hacked. Though Elliot is lonely, he’s incredibly indifferent to the mundane tasks he faces on a daily bases. He goes to therapy, buys drugs from his attractive yet thoughtless neighbor, comes home, and hacks. Elliot always seems one step ahead. Every single file containing every detail of a person’s life is deleted from his hard drive and copied onto CDs labeled with well-known song titles. Why does Elliot hack? As a straightforward answer: for good. Though extremely intelligent, Elliot doesn’t really have anyone in his life other than his childhood best friend Angela, who also works at his cybersecurity company. Elliot is lonely, but he still attempts to garner genuine relationships. Hacking is the means through which Elliot attempts to fix the people he truly cares about and destroy those who have harmed them.
One day, society contacts him through a hack of Allsafe, which only Elliot knows how to resolve, beginning his fixation on taking down Evil Corp and the rest of corporate America. He is recruited by Mr. Robot, a whimsical man who convinces Elliot to destroy the lives of the unethical men who run the nation. Elliot’s own complex motivations to join society’s group of unexpected hackers have massive ramifications for the network of storylines the season follows. Mr. Robot traverses the world of mental illness, computer science, and the unfair world we all live in as Elliot tries to save humanity and discover Mr. Robot’s true identity.
Mr. Robot can appeal to a wide range of demographics. The show is prevalent to everyone, from teens to those who are employed in corporate America. Elliot’s capabilities on his computer make the viewer question if they should really be on Facebook or the cloud––or if they should even own a digital device. I’m not lying when I say that I finished Season One in three days. Elliot’s mind and thought processes are relatable, yet unattainable; the brain of a flawed mastermind draws you in. I was extremely impressed by the complexity of the storyline, because each episode fuels the ongoing addiction to what will next take place. Plot twists aside, the mysteries do grow predictable. Sometimes the antagonist’s plot drags on, and I found myself skipping several scenes during a couple of episodes in the middle of the season. However, I believe that the show gives just the right amount of background information––not all secrets have been revealed coming out of the first season. There is no stark contrast between good and bad as the viewer learns of the myriad motivations behind people who do disgusting things.
An eerie, gray-tinged concrete jungle acts as the setting for most of the season. The cinematography can shift from realistic to hallucinatory to extremely sharp scenes. Mr. Robot deals with mental illness right off the bat, entwining the topic in almost every move Elliot makes. The show rides the tricky line between the romanticism of depression and how it can actually manifest in people. Overall, I highly recommend this show to those who are looking for something refreshing and avant-garde in the television scene. You don’t have to be an avid hater of capitalism or extremely well-versed in computer programming (what’s a “honeypot?”), but the level of detail given to the different-yet-interconnected plot lines should be intriguing to those who enjoy a thrilling show that can convey anxiety, mystery, melancholy, and excitement all in a single episode. To those who are already fans of Mr. Robot, get ready for Season Two, which premiered in July 2016.
Grade: In CPS mid-term fashion, a B- to B
The pilot opens by recounting an event of the past, definitely foreshadowing what the series will bring. After being abandoned at a sorority party, a girl is left to die after unknowingly giving birth. This scene details the ruthless actions the sorority, Kappa Kappa Tau, especially its head girl, will commit in the name of their image.
I’ll have to admit I was extremely skeptical of Scream Queens. As I clicked to watch the pilot, I already expected some tacky, offensive show, and I have to say, I wasn’t wrong. The show uses a litany of celebrities, including Emma Roberts, Ariana Grande, Nick Jonas, and Lea Michele––to name a few. I have yet to decide whether or not all of these popular stars (some of them not even actors) work in the show’s favor, but as far as I’ve seen (one episode), they’ve portrayed shallow, undeveloped characters. Ariana Grande is killed off within the first 40 minutes of the show, yet she’s advertised heavily as a main character on the series posters.
Grace, the protagonist who rushes Kappa Kappa Tau in honor of her dead mother, is fast to point out the disgusting morals of the sorority house. Now, Kappa Kappa Tau (KKT) is led by its ruthless Chanel #1 (played by Emma Roberts) and her minions: Chanel #2, Chanel #3, and Chanel # 4. When Dean Cathy Munsch devilishly announces that KKT must allow all bids to join their sorority, Chanel #1 devises a plan to rid KKT of all nerdy, overweight, weird, gay, and racially diverse girls.
If I ignore the blatantly offensive dialogue and institutions set up in this series, I do see the appeal of Scream Queens. The show seems to mock insensitivity. The rich white girls’ obsession with popularity, boys, and money poke fun at the current racist, homophobic, and ableist state of the Greek system in American universities. The gory murders that occur––like when Chanel dunks KKT’s maid into a boiling cauldron of oil––become humorous to the audience because the sorority instantly shrugs them off and covers them up.
I do see a burgeoning love interest between Grace and Barista Boy, also the editor of the school newspaper, who urges her not to pledge Kappa. Together, they devise a plan to write an exposé on Chanel #1, with Grace being the eyes on the inside. I would categorize Scream Queens as a thriller. To add mystery to the series, a Red Devil appears in many of the killing scenes, such as the “accidental” dousing of hydrochloric acid on the previous leader of Kappa Kappa Tau. As the series progresses, it should also follow the storyline of trying to find out who the Red Devil is.
Overall, there may be better things to do with your time than watch this series, but I’d recommend giving it a try. Teens can definitely find Scream Queens ironic and cringeworthy, which makes the show all the more funny (in a twisted, morbid way).
Starring Krysten Ritter as the hard-drinking, isolationist superhero private detective Jessica Jones, the eponymous show shies away from the Marvel universe and leans heavily on the tried and true private eye stereotype, with dusty voice-overs, dark lighting, and lots of scenes of her walking around heavily with a moody look on her face.
Jessica Jones receives her first case on the show from Hogarth, a high powered New York City executive with a small office in a big office-building with views overlooking the city. Hogarth promises to be a returning character, portrayed by Carrie-Anne Moss (Trinity in The Matrix). Next up is a missing person’s case for an NYU track star, Hope Schlottman. As the story progresses, we’re introduced to a mystical man who can control people with his mind, and the episode finishes in a très (!!!) scary way.
The show features a passable amount of nudity with a lot of strangely graphic sex scenes (I would not recommend watching it with conservative parents). The pilot reveals Jessica’s obsession with a bar owner named Luke Cage (the man with whom relations occur). Her fixation prompts her to stare pensively into a mirror, suggesting some deeper psychological trauma (later reinforced by Jessica’s friend reminding her that her actions are colored by her diagnosed PTSD).
Peppered with confusing flashbacks that beg explanation, along with the show’s hazy aura and the fact that Jones does not smile a single time in the entire episode, Jessica Jones can be a little exhausting. Coupled with some future exasperating moves by Jessica (she never uses her super strength powers enough) and dark humor throughout, it’s an engaging watch that kind of works but relies too heavily on cliff-hangers and dramatic tension.
Update: In a new show, releasing September 30th, Luke Cage stars in an eponymous drama (possibly with some Jessica features?).
The Magicians (Syfy)
A well-acted Harry Potter with more swearing, The Magicians follows recent college graduate Quentin Coldwater (played by Jason Ralph, third from right) as he discovers his magical abilities and the sinister forces behind the picturesque façade of the magician’s world during his time at Brakebills University.
A mildly diverse cast brings a new light to an otherwise dense storyline. Starting in New York, we’re introduced to the socially awkward Quentin, who is wrapping up his weekend stay at a mental institution, before returning home to be greeted with a quintessential twenty-something party filled with drinking and sexual allusions. Like the shy guy he is, he sits on the edges of actions and withdraws into a children’s book. Formulaic in its origins, the show uses tight camera angles to add tension.
While I was thoroughly entertained during the entire pilot, I found accents distracting and some shots lacking. Instead of showcasing the beautiful sets and the streets of the city, the camera focuses entirely on the people of the cast. This specific camera work whittles the show down to the actor’s acting skills, which can fray at times.
My biggest bone to pick would be with the character Alice and her actress (Olivia Taylor Dudley, second from right). Alice is the genius of Brakebill who immediately intimidates Quentin. The two begin at odds, with Quentin forcing Alice on the defensive with the insinuation that her success at school is solely dependent on her magical lineage. However, they’re thrown together by chance and end up collaborating in an attempt to raise her dead brother. The Magicians (the book on which the show was based) portrayed Alice as someone whip smart, alienating people by the sheer disproportionality between their intelligence and her immediate success. However, in the show, sticking out like a sore thumb, Alice is awkwardly shown as the trite, shy nerd who walks like a duck with hunched shoulders and downcast eyes, clutching her books to her chest in almost comical discomfort.
Other than the previously mentioned acting flaws and some soap opera-esque panning which can be painful to watch, The Magicians offers a gritty, revamped take on the theme of witches and wizardry in the 21st century.