I know what you’re thinking: “Oh boy, another long-winded article about Mr. Robot aping Fight Club! How original!” – nope, we’ll spare you that one considering that we’ve beaten that dead horse more times than we probably should. Besides, we’re huge Sam Esmail fans and we think it’s a disservice to the man’s talent for unpredictability (quite an amazing feat in itself given the increasingly intelligent and savvy TV audiences) to churn out another piece on Fight Club. If anything, we should take that film’s rules – and that’s to never talk about Fight Club. Again.
Instead, we’re going to look at some of the other medium that have greatly influenced the show. Most of it Sam Esmail may have acknowledged already but some of it just gave us a strong feeling that it did.
One of the huge influences that creator Sam Esmail has repeatedly name-dropped is the late Stanley Kubrick – helmer of several iconic Hollywood films that are equal parts trippy and ingenious satire. The characters’ penchant for masks (while there’s definitely an “Anonymous” factor) is possibly rooted from Eyes Wide Shut. Darlene’s affinity for heart-shaped glasses and online moniker translates directly to Lolita. The children wearing Fsociety masks with ribboned dresses in a darkened hallway during Elliot’s Adderall trip is a deliberate The Shining reference. Mobley’s “End of The World Party” poster is fashioned after Dr. Strangelove’s little-used movie poster. The occasional wide angle shots (Episode Two in particular which also makes use of a familiar score) is also a Kubrick trademark.
Not only are they unusual choices for a protagonist (even in an era wherein antiheroes are the norm), they also looked very similar right down to mannerisms and poses, are both drug addicts (heroin is high on the fucked-up scale though by comparison to the tamer drugs Elliot partakes in), and – most importantly – had “withdrawal” scenes that appear to be carbon copies of each other.
The fingerprints of David Lynch appear every once in a while on the show such as Angela’s haunting rendition of Tears For Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” which looks like Dorothy’s club-singing scene from Blue Velvet.
But the most glaringly “Lynchian” moment has got to be Angela (I’m sensing a theme here) meeting her “young” version in an unsettlingly dark room with an aquarium and a Commodore. Basically, Sam Esmail took some of the weirdest sceneries from Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet, Lost Highway, and even the lesser-known Rabbits, and came up with by far the weirdest scene in a TV drama I have ever seen. Seriously, I dare you to find anything that eclipses it in strangeness. Well done, Sam!
“Unreliable narrators” are nothing new. But when Memento first came out in 2000, it broke new ground by revealing that the character wasn’t telling lies because he had an intention to deceive – he was unknowingly reporting said falsities due to a condition he had, doomed to repeat the same cycle over and over. It scarred us and made Christopher Nolan the ideal frontrunner for Batman’s bleak direction.
Elliot’s psyche works the same way – conversing with Mr. Robot as if he’s a real living thing only to learn that it’s “Ghost Dad”, slipping his sister the tongue (or is that a Luke Skywalker reference?), among others. Then again, he also played the trope straight with that whole prison debacle in Season Two.