With Mr. Robot just days away from its much-awaited (and arguably most talked about) season finale, it’s hard to blame the fans for not training their congratulatory spotlight to star Rami Malek’s hard-fought Emmy win on one of the perennially stacked categories. After all, the previous episode was filled with fucked-up scenes that had many scratching their noggins (and for a show known to do that, that says a lot) and immediately trooping to the internet to register their confusion and frustrations in hopes of seeking answers from some of the more analytical viewers, to no avail – as the “Tyrell is a part of Elliot” theory was proven to be wrong with a literal bang.
That said, Mr. Malek’s win was a historic feat for many reasons – he’s the first Egyptian-American to win the award and thus ending the streak of the white male lead that has persisted for almost two decades. And while he’s not a departure from the anti-hero domination that’s synonymous with the category, he’s substantially younger than the more experienced actors that have won the award. Most of us probably had Kevin Spacey pegged as the winner already given that template but biases aside, Rami was as good a choice as any – his performance as reclusive and psychotic vigilante hacker Elliot was truly one of the best characters of 2015, and we couldn’t see any other actor that could have made it work.
In this piece we relive some of his best performances… and judging from these scenes, we wouldn’t be surprised if he repeats next year.
Elliot The Iconoclast
“k3rnel pan1c” may not be the consensus best episode of the series (or even the season for that matter) but it remains a top favorite and an instant classic in the series’ early existence simply for being a gold mine for Rami Malek’s acting chops – the best example being his 3-minute rant wherein he absolutely skewers religion and its fervent followers, ending with him hilariously realizing that he was saying it out loud as opposed to his usual hallucinatory playing field. Then again, after the big reveal (that the entire first half of season two was taking place in prison), this may have been imaginary as well – still doesn’t change the fact that it was an amazing performance and could very well be the tape he submits to the 2017 Emmy’s.
On Elliot’s “first” therapy session, his therapist asks him what bothers him about society so much – opening the flood gates for Elliot to go on a long-winded, edgy tirade about disappointing “heroes” (replete with stock footage of Steve Jobs and Lance Armstrong), pseudo-intellectual status updates, and anything mainstream, delivered in the same callous tone that Rami has concocted and would be a trademark of his for episodes to come.
For all the kudos Mr. Robot has been getting from the hacker community, it’s also worth noting that most users consider the drug sequences (maybe not his reliance on the psychotic Fernando Vera for his Suboxone hookup when he could probably just scour the dark web) as fairly realistic, especially the depiction of withdrawal symptoms. According to those who have taken opiates in the past and quit cold turkey, the cold sweats and other touches were spot on – and we have Rami again to thank for nearly a half episode of painful television.
It wasn’t exactly a surprise but it was still a moment everyone was waiting for – the official confirmation that Mr. Robot is “Ghost Dad”. This culminated in a scene at eps1.8_m1rr0r1ng.qt in which Elliot confronts Mr. Robot (and later Angela and Darlene) in a graveyard and demands that all be revealed. In this scene, Rami shows a perfect mixture of confusion and anger but still wary that he knew it all along and is slowly piecing it together.
Darkness, My Old Friend
This was the episode Rami submitted to the Emmy’s and the one that netted him the “Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series” and while I can think of a better entry acting-wise, it is one of the best introductory episodes for those starting out and that’s not only because it’s the pilot but it encapsulates the totality of Elliot – what he’s about, his quirks, and why he’s one of the best protagonists in TV right now. This also holds the distinction of quite probably the only time we got to see Elliot show some vulnerability – particularly his “bawling at the corner” scene. He’s got range, people!