While You Wait: Some Mr. Robot Alternatives

With the show airing its season finale (and fresh off the heels of Rami Malek’s Emmy win) a few days ago and in true Mr. Robot fashion, making its viewers dig further down the rabbit hole and scratching their noggins with whatever “answer” it reveals, us here at Mr. Robot Hacks feel your pain as Sam Esmail and company embark on a nearly year-long sabbatical to craft weirder shit for Season Three.

So what in the pipeline is worthy enough of possibly filling the void on your Thursday evenings or at least deserve a look? Well, we do have a few in mind.

Primer (2004)

Primer

It’s not about hacking but it does take Elliot’s favorite movie of all time (that would be “Back to The Future”) and takes it up to eleven. Primer is an extremely low budget indie film directed, edited, produced, scored, and starred in by one guy (eat your heart out, Clint Eastwood!) and is noted for its confusingly technical take on time travel that is accompanied by a fan-made flowchart to explain how the concept works. The dialogue is also heavy on the engineering jargon and doesn’t even bother with dumbing it down, much like how Mr. Robot favors the realism of black screen and green text over spiffy UIs. The look and feel conjures similar tones too.

Stranger Things (2016)

Stranger Things

I feel almost embarrassed listing this because you’ve probably watched it already and are most likely crazy about it too, just like the rest of the internet when it first aired just a few months ago in Netflix. Well in the rare off chance you haven’t seen it yet, it shares quite a number of similarities with Mr. Robot – the most obvious being the overt 80s feel that pays homage to the iconic directors of that period, namely Spielberg and the late John Carpenter with a heavy dose of David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” thrown in. Unlike Mr. Robot however, Stranger Things is literally set in that era.

Black Mirror (2011-Present)

Black Mirror

A British anthology series that specializes in incredibly bleak and depressing cautionary tales about the pitfalls of society’s dependence and misuse of modern technology? Doesn’t exactly jive with the techno thriller that is Mr. Robot on paper, but it kind of works as a companion series to the occasional hacking scenes of the show which indirectly serve as warnings. Take the season two premiere’s “smart home hijack” for instance – Jon Hamm’s Christmas episode beat us to the punch already with their “cookie” Aesop. Season Three is just around the corner too – and from the few synopses we’ve read, the satire is still very much intact despite being absorbed by the Yanks.

Sneakers (1992)

Sneakers

One of the few examples of a film that somewhat avoids the “Hollywood Hacking” label straight up, and something that Fsociety would likely approve of. It’s also the only mainstream film that explore the social engineering side of hacking and whose computer experts doesn’t spam and smash the keyboard. The cryptology work is accurate too, although it does fall victim to the meticulously viewer friendly display. Either way, it’s the closest thing to accurate by Hollywood standards which is pretty amazing considering that it came out in the early 90s.

Dexter (2006)

Dexter

Before Elliot Alderson, there was Michael C. Hall’s Dexter Morgan – mild-mannered socially awkward worker by day and vigilante by night with a similar penchant for delivering internal monologues and aided by his “dark passenger” (or basically “ghost dad”). Fortunately for Mr. Robot, with a creative genius at the helm, I doubt we will ever see Elliot go into hiding from the FBI and become a lumberjack.

3 thoughts on “While You Wait: Some Mr. Robot Alternatives”

  1. Great recommendations, I always love when Sneakers gets some recognition. I’d recommend Halt and Catch Fire for this list, it’s definitely unconventional like Mr Robot. The characters all avoid adhering to the conventions of their roles, whether housewife, nerdy reclusive coder, or misunderstood entrepreneur. It doesn’t suffer from any lack of on neat visuals, great soundtrack, or complete detours and redirects in the story. This is all in an early 80’s PC industry, and definitely gives me the feeling of it being the child of an unholy alliance between Mr. Robot and Mad Men.

    1. I have to agree with the show Halt and Catch Fire as an alternative. To be honest I expected to see it on the list. Great story writing about the beginnings of the internet.

    2. Hi Sumner!

      I cleanly forgot about Halt and Catch Fire. They do have a similar tone and the themes are somewhat close as well.

      I do appreciate that you agree with the inclusion of Sneakers – people tend to cringe at that film in terms of hacking, opting to dwell on its cartoony embellishments rather than the better parts.

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