Things I Loved This Year: Why Do You Ask?

Each day this month (assuming I don’t get busy or bored!), I’ll reflect on a tiny sliver of pop culture that I enjoyed or appreciated this year — scenes, shots, gestures, verses, sights, sounds, moments. Today: a weird scene from a weird season of a weird show.

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Many of the most satisfying television moments bring you into an unfamiliar world and ask you to draw conclusions, a task that’s often futile. Mr. Robot did that a few times this year, none more memorable than the scene in which a sullen young girl sat in front of an antiquated computer screen and asked Angela (Portia Doubleday) if she’s ever cried during sex. What was the purpose of that question, and the others she asked? Why was a young girl delivering them? Why didn’t Whiterose (B.D. Wong) invest in some more era-appropriate technology?

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Things I Loved This Year: Women Dominate Prestige Dramas

Each day this month (assuming I don’t get busy or bored!), I’ll reflect on a tiny sliver of pop culture that I enjoyed or appreciated this year — scenes, shots, gestures, verses, sights, sounds, moments. Today: on three of the best “prestige” dramas, women rule the roost.

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Better Call Saul and Mr. Robot are as driven by their respective leading men as shows can be, a fact the titles make abundantly clear. The Americans has a dual focus on its central couple. But on new seasons of each this year, the MVPs were the women.

Nothing against Bob Odenkirk or his character Saul Goodman, a slippery con man who’s constantly caught between good intentions and material desires. Nothing against Rami Malek, who brings aching vulnerability and disaffected sensitivity to the role of Elliott Alderson, a hacker struggling with mental illness and revolutionary impulses. And nothing against Matthew Rhys, who deserves far more than the one Emmy nomination he secured this year for the shape-shifting masterstrokes on display as Philip Jennings, the KGB operative who always has going straight deep in the back of his mind.

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“Mr. Robot”: F-society, A-show

Robot

My favorite weekly game of the TV summer: guessing at what point in the cold open the producers of Mr. Robot will deploy the show’s gorgeous title card, and being wrong every time.

Mr. Robot

That impeccable command of timing is on display throughout one of the summer’s most unexpected TV pleasures. It’s surprising, given that creator Sam Esmail originally conceived the show’s narrative as a single feature film, and has said that the first season represents just the first 30 minutes of that movie. Having seen 90% of the first season, I’m hard pressed to imagine how a visual palette this stunning and a narrative structure this obtuse could make for a coherent feature film. Luckily, they never did.

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