Sunday, December 10, 2017

Apparently, "Domo Arigato" Is The Wrong Response

     Three seasons in and I'm still watching Mr. Robot.  I loathe the implied politics, the economics are risible, and the whole thing plays out as if Karl Marx and Noam Chomsky had done a screenplay for Atlas Shrugged -- but then Orson Welles produced and directed it with a modern crew shooting and editing.

     The storytelling is only approximately linear and you're left to pick up flashbacks from context (of which there is plenty); the viewpoint characters are not entirely reliable.  A lot of the story is filtered though the perceptions of central character Elliot Alderson, but just how much of what we see is happening only inside his head remains an open question after three seasons.

     A (so far) minor sub-plot concerns the annexation of "The Congo" by Communist China; just why has not been explained and only a suspicious reader of recent history (or inhabitants of Hiroshima and Nagasaki) is likely to recall that the Shinkolobwe mine is in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.*

     That's the sort of depth and detail that makes it worth watching.  The "hacking" scenes are at least well-advised, though I suspect dramatic necessity sometimes takes over from the dull detail -- but the social engineering aspects of hacking are well-explored, and lock-picking is taken as a given (there's a lot of crossover between hackers of all shades of hat, cryptographers and amateur locksmiths).  It's a William Gibson/Ayn Rand kind of fictional universe and the "anticapitalist"† tilt is just part of the tale.   Gritty, odd and occasionally cringeworthy while maintaining (and subverting) suspension of disbelief.  I have no idea where they're going with this but it's been worth the ride.
* The DRC has been about as beat up by history as any other place on the planet, provided the other place has had very hard times.  There are more French-speakers there than in France and over three-quarters of then are literate; the country is rich in natural resources from rubber trees to gold, diamonds and a host of other minerals and could generate enough power to transform the continent from a single hydroelectric project -- a project that seems to keep getting stalled.  Everyone from local slavers to King Leopold II of Belgium to their own government has abused the people and looted local sources of wealth, along with a succession of local wars continuing into this century; what could be one of the world's wealthiest nations is instead a country with less than a thousand miles of well-paved highway.  Of course, the show could be referring to the Republic of the Congo instead, which had a long history as a communist client state.  But there's a lot less there in the way of exploitable resources and none of it glows in the dark.

† It occurs to me, looking at the word just now, that the Federation of Concerned Spacemen, the shadowy non-government of the Far Edge, is "anticapitolist" in its implacable opposition to any governmental structure larger than the administration of a large city.  Make of that what you will -- changing a single vowel shifts the whole thing.


Monty James said...

I finally managed to catch up on the last four episodes of The Orville. I'm enjoying this series, and the season finale left me hoping that Fox does some more. You know how it is when a show has parts that annoy you mildly, but you don't care and like it anyway?

Roberta X said...

Yes, indeed I do. And last I heard, The Orville was going to get a second season. I'm enjoying it and I hope it keeps on for years.