You Should be Watching Mr. Robot

USA has always been a TV channel I associated with blue skies and pleasant times. It was a brand they meticulously put together for themselves. First they cancelled any shows with intriguing high concept premises, like The 4400. Then they brought on more and more shows quirky spins on classic TV dramas. Burn Notice (it’s a spy show, but the spy’s been fired!), Royal Pains (it’s a doctor show, but the doctor treats super rich people!), and Suits (it’s a lawyer show, but one lawyer never went to law school!) are all pretty decent shows that fit inside the same box.

By the way, the king of this box was Psych. The most quirky detective show to ever air.

But last summer USA gave up on the blue skies dressing for something much MUCH more down to Earth. A hacker-thriller positively dripping with style, the biggest surprise hit of last summer this side of UnReal. Mr. Robot‘s pilot premiered online early, and it was so popular USA picked the show up for two seasons before it even aired on TV.

Mr. Robot is about Elliot Alderson, an antisocial yet generally altruistic hacker who discovers a secret hacktivist group during his cyber-security job. That group, F-society, led by the mysterious and captivating Mr. Robot, wants to eliminate the world’s debt almost entirely held by the multinational conglomerate E-corp. Or, as Elliot hears and sees it, Evil Corp. They recruit Elliot to spearhead their attack and save the world from debt.

When USA decides to swing for the fences, they SWING. And Mr. Robot comes out with one of the most confident hour and a half long pilots I have seen. The cinematography in particular is top notch, constantly taking shows from odd angles meant to make the audience feel uneasy simply because they are framed so oddly.

Rami Malek, who you’ve seen just about naked if you’ve ever watched Need for Speed, is Elliot. The man has serious mental health issues and deep paranoia, but damn if he can’t hack.

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Cristian Slater, you know, from Breaking In Heathers, is Mr. Robot. He’s basically doing his Cristian Slater thing full tilt, and its magnetic here.

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To be honest, you probably haven’t heard of the rest. The other regulars on this show will henceforth me known because they were here.

Portia Doubleday is Angela, Elliot’s childhood friend who is too good for this world.

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Carly Chaikin plays Darlene, who is far and away different from her character on Suburgatory. I promise, Darlene grows on you.

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Martin Wallström is Tyrell Wellick. Basically Macbeth if Macbeth really wanted to be CTO of a tech company.

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To be honest, it’s really hard to find a picture where he doesn’t look like a psychopath

Most importantly though, there’s Stephanie Corneliussen is the absolutely terrifying Joanna Wellick. Basically Lady Macbeth, only also a Danish supermodel.

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The second season begins this Wednesday on USA, and from what I understand it’s already been picked up for a third. The creator originally thought of this concept as a movie, and season one would have been act one. So after all the insanity last year, that’s only the beginning of the story.

It has been scientifically proven that spoilers don’t ruin the experience of a story, but if you’re still against them then don’t watch this trailer for season two.

Season two will be adding two prominent players to the mix. Grace Gummer will be an FBI agent after Elliot and F Society. And, coming completely out of nowhere, Craig Robinson (yeah, from the Office) will be playing… someone! No idea who! I’m speculating he’ll be Doug Judy, the Pontiac Bandit.

 

If you want to get on board with the hacker series nobody saw coming last summer, you can catch up on all ten episodes of season one on Amazon Instant Video for free with Amazon Prime. Make sure you stay past the credits of the season finale, there’s a post-credits tag.

New episodes will be airing Wednesdays at 10:00. I’ll see you there, friend.

-JP

PS, They even make fun of Hackers!

Pokemon GO Could Change the World

Okay yes. Hyperbole. But bear with me.

For those in the dark, Pokemon GO is the brand new Pokemon mobile game. As you walk in the real world you encounter Pokemon that appear through your phone’s camera via augmented reality. It’s as cool as it sounds, except the servers can’t handle the massive amount of users who want to play at any given time.

When the game was first announced I made jokes about this being the end of civilization. Eveybody would be spending their days playing the game instead of doing their jobs, going on massive detours to find that one Pokemon and getting lost or injured in the process. But I’m starting to think that this game’s net impact could be a positive one.

My Facebook news feed has been covered in posts about Pokemon GO but one stood out to me. A friend found herself walking through a local park late at night to catch Pokemon. In that park she met three other people who were all doing the same thing. It bonded them in a way.

And then I realized that’s exactly how people sound in the Pokemon games.

In each Pokemon game, you go from town to town and encounter random townspeople therein. A lot of what they have to say involved how great Pokemon are. How Pokemon help their lives or help to bring people together. I always considered these dialogues childish (then again the game is for children) but suddenly we’re seeing people in the real world meeting because of Pokemon and talking about how great they are.

In these games you leave the town you know and discover brand new places. GO’s gyms are located in local points of interests, and discovering them can help you to understand your town better. This mobile game is seeding elements of the Pokemon world into our real world.

This isn’t the end of the world like I thought it was. It’s actually creating a kind of beautiful connection. At work today I used a break to look around for some Pokemon. I found a Growlithe, a Pidgeotto, a Paras, and a Spearow all around the Warner Brothers lot.

A cart drove past me as I attempted to catch the Pidegotto, and the driver immediately recognized the look of somebody playing this game. He announced to everybody else on the cart, “over here we have a guy playing Pokemon GO” and they all cheered.

I started seeing players around the lot as well. You may see them around too. Normally, somebody playing a phone game will look slack-jawed and sport a vacant expression but that isn’t the case here. Pokemon GO players are engaged with the game, actively walking around to seek out new Pokemon and level themselves up. They’re exercising! And when they find a  Pokemon to catch it is genuinely exciting.

While I walked around the lot I found a couple of “Pokespots”, which are other little points of interest. These were all sound stages, and one of them even had a blurb written up about the history of the stage! Now I’m wondering what else I will learn about out there. As I said, gyms are special points of interest and the building I work in is one of them. The gyms work by having a player overcome the Pokemon on top of it in a fight and then leaving their own there to defend their title. Which means the whole building is fighting to control that spot.

And yes, this could potentially interfere with work. That worry remains valid. Well, that and the micro-transactions thing. But the solution to that is more accidental than anything else. This game will kill your phone’s battery life. We simply do not have the battery technology to keep up with these higher quality phone games. Instead, you get maybe an hour of the game per day before your phone goes critical so you can only really play for short bursts at a time. Which is, again, a good thing.

This game is creating the same joy in people that I always found deeply unrealistic in the Pokemon video games and yet I can’t stop seeing it. It’s making people learn more about where they live and introducing them to people they otherwise wouldn’t know. And if it gets big enough, it will do that on an even greater scale.

So yeah, Pokemon GO Could change the world.

If the servers would just clear out so I could play!

-JP

PS, the game also needs more robust character customization options