Mr. Robot’s cult-like success is no hack-job

Rami Malek in Mr. Robot. (Photo: Scott McDermott/USA Network/Showmax)
Rami Malek in Mr. Robot. (Photo: Scott McDermott/USA Network/Showmax)

Cape Town - With a breakout star in Rami Malek, a team of real-life hackers consulting, a Fight Club-level twist and the inspiration of Anonymous, it’s no wonder Mr. Robot hacked all the awards.

The fourth and final season of the ground-breaking series is now streaming on Showmax.

Malek had been working steadily since he landed his first role in a 2004 episode of Gilmore Girls, but the actor didn’t have a single award to his name before Mr. Robot came along in 2015 and went from a nihilistic single-season show starring Christian Slater (and Rami Malek) to a cult hit starring Rami Malek (and Christian Slater), virtually overnight.

The show struck a chord with audiences and was praised for its timeliness. "A nefarious hacking group taking on corporate power felt right for the age of Anonymous and banking failure," said The Guardian.

Series creator and two-time Emmy-nominated writer-producer-director Sam Esmail (Homecoming) was inspired by classic movies like The Matrix, Fight Club, Taxi Driver and American Psycho, but the TV format, and Esmail’s writing, took Mr. Robot to a different level, with a much deeper exploration of its central character’s psyche, and the repercussions of bringing down the system.

As GQ says, "You can see Fight Club once and pretty much get the picture, but it will take years of scholarly binge-watching to answer the questions Mr. Robot raises." 

The series’ hacktivists, fsociety, were, at least in principle, based on hacking group Anonymous (no direct relation to Mr. Robot production company Anonymous Content) and its elite "LulzSec" unit, and the show earned serious cred amongst cyber security experts (on both sides of the law) for both its plausibility and technical accuracy.


Every piece of code, every hack, every time we see a screen, is the work of the series’ team of technical advisors, which includes former old-school hackers, network security analysts, forensics investigators, and former FBI Cyber Crimes Task Force agents.

To put the scenes together, the technical team first recorded each sequence as it was performed in real life. The crucial shots were then rebuilt in Flash animation for the show.

Team leader Kor Adana supervised all technical aspects of the show, making sure the hacks were realistic and all the tools and code were authentic. "When these episodes air, I don't watch the episodes," Adana told Wired. "I keep my eye on Reddit and Twitter and see what people are saying about it."

It’s an ongoing conversation with fans, who’ve become deeply invested and are, as a group, quick to call out inaccuracies, so their continued fandom is high praise. There’s even a Mr. Robot Digital After Show hosted by The Verge, in which technical experts break down just how real and imminent the various hacking and cyber-security techniques are after each episode.

Malek landed the role as a paranoid depressive and part-time cyber-criminal back in 2015 and by the end of 2016, the actor had picked up an Emmy award and a Critics Choice Award for the role, with a slew of other accolades following. In 2017, Malek took some time off to do a side-project… and came back an Oscar winner for Bohemian Rhapsody. Later this year, we’ll see him as the villain in the upcoming Bond movie No Time To Die

It’s been a helluva ride for Malek, and for the fans.

In an interview with Stephen Colbert, Malek said, "Every time I got to travel for Bohemian Rhapsody, everywhere I stopped, there would be so many young kids that were as appreciative of the story of Freddie as they are of Elliot – disaffected, disenfranchised, wanting a voice, complicated human beings who wanted to speak out, have their voices heard, and do something incredibly powerful that they knew they had within themselves. So to be a part of these movements by playing these characters is absolutely extraordinary and it’s something that will last my entire life. I’m incredibly proud."


Compiled by Vianne Venter. 

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