Mr. Robot, S01E01 – “Hello Friend”
Episode Number: S01E01
Original Air Date: June 24, 2015 (released on-line May 27, 2015)
Time: 64 minutes
Synopsis: By day, Elliot works for a cybersecurity firm, but in his downtime, he uses his hacking skills to bring justice to the wicked. He’s approached by a mysterious underground group—they want his help to bring down a massive international conglomeration he’s been paid to protect.
The show begins with a blank screen and a voice. Elliot Alderson, a down-on-his-luck cybersecurity engineer, is imagining us, the audience, into existence.
He warns that “you’re only in my head,” then adds that “we have to remember that.” With the opening lines, the audience realizes that this person is mentally troubled and has a somewhat tenuous grasp on reality.
Elliot goes on to tell us he’s passing along to us “top secret information” on a group of men who are “secretly running the world,” speaking over a montage of scenes of corporate bigwigs arguing in a conference room.
We see Elliot for the first time on a subway on his way to work. Adorned in a dark hoodie, he’s convinced two men on the subway are following him. He thinks about a mistake he made—last night he was supposed to go to a friend’s birthday party, but he went elsewhere.
Notes: The group of men shown as “controlling the world” are not random—it is a group of directors and lawyers Elliot will soon encounter. The first face the audience sees in the entire series that of Tyrell Wellick.
Characters: Elliot is played by Rami Malek, best known for playing Ankmenrah, an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh in the Night at the Museum series of movies. He got his start with roles on Gilmore Girls and season eight of 24 and also appeared in films such as Short Term 12.
Quotes: Elliot: “What I'm about to tell you is top secret. There's a powerful group of people out there that are secretly running the world. I'm talking about the guys, no one knows about the guys who are invisible. The top 1% of the top 1%. The guys that play God without permission. And now I think they're following me.”
Elliot is waiting in a coffee shop when Ron walks in and sits down. Others recognize him—Ron’s the owner of this and a chain of similar coffee shops. Elliot moves to his table and sits, telling Ron he likes his coffee shop.
He also tells Ron that he’s hacked Ron’s entire computer network, mentioning this as if it’s not a big deal. Elliot’s learned that Ron is a major peddler of child pornography. Elliot explains that he knows what it’s like to be different, but that doesn’t excuse what Ron is doing. Elliot explains his father died of leukemia caused by the company he worked for, although Elliot couldn’t prove it.
Ron thinks Elliot is blackmailing him. He offers to pay, but Elliot stands, telling Ron he isn’t in it for the money—in fact, he’s already called the police, who show up just as Elliot leaves.
Walking home, Elliot considers himself a good hacker who uses his preternatural skill with computers to right the wrongs of the world.
Notes: Ron started Ron’s Coffee shops six years ago, but his name is Rohit Mehta. Now he has 17 shops with eight more opening in the next quarter. Interestingly, when Elliot is talking about the coffee shop’s stellar Internet access speeds, he uses the past tense—“I like coming here because your wi-fi was fast”—perhaps indicating that he won’t be coming to Ron’s shops any more or assumes they’re about to go out of business. In fact, the wi-fi was so fast Elliot got curious why a coffee shop would need a connection that fast, leading him to hack Ron’s networks and discover a website Ron operated called “Plato’s Boys.” Elliot copied everything on Ron’s network—all the emails, files and his cache of 100 terabytes of child pornography he serves to his 400,000 users—and tipped off the police.
Filming Locations: The scenes at “Ron’s Coffee” were filmed inside a real coffee shop—Think Coffee, located at 123 4th Avenue in New York City’s East Village.
Quotes: Elliot: “That’s where you’re wrong, Ron. I don’t give a shit about money.” Elliot: “It's good. So good, it scratched that part of my mind. The part that doesn't allow good to exist without a condition.”
Terminology: Tor is free software for enabling anonymous communication. The name is derived from an acronym for the original software project name “The Onion Router.” Onion routing protocol or “Onion routing” is implemented by encryption in the application layer of a communication protocol stack, nested like the layers of an onion. Tor encrypts the data, including the destination IP address, multiple times and sends it through a virtual circuit comprising successive, randomly selected Tor relays. A Sysadmin, or system administrator, is a person who is responsible for the upkeep, configuration, and reliable operation of computer systems, especially multi-user computers, such as servers. Afk means Away from Keyboard, Internet slang for doing something away from the keyboard and out in the real world.
Subway to Work
We’re back on the subway with Elliot, who is convinced he’s being followed by two men who keep glancing at him. Elliot thinks the “higher ups” don’t want someone with his “powers” running around. Suddenly a homeless guy starts talking to Elliot, calling him “kiddo” and telling him that we live in “exciting times.” Elliot ignores him.
Later, Elliot walks into work at AllSafe Cybersecurity, telling us that he only hacks at night. By day, he’s a “regular cyber security engineer.” He passes through a cubicle farm of other workers, including the employee sitting next to him, Lloyd. Elliot’s called into the office of Gideon Goddard, the manager. Gideon is talking to Angela Moss, another employee and a friend of Elliot’s from childhood. They are arguing over another hack of E Corp, which occurred overnight, and what they should do about it. Someone is attacking the E Corp. servers on a weekly basis. Gideon is unsure whether or not Angela can “handle” them as a client and chastises Elliot about him not following the office dress code.
Angela is mad at Elliot—he stood her up the night before and didn’t come to her birthday party at a local bar. He’s painfully antisocial and we see, through a flashback, that he went to the bar but was too self-conscious to go inside.
She says “stop thinking about something else” and he says he’s thinking about work. She says Gideon likes him—he thanks Angela “all the time” for bringing Elliot in as an employee—but also says she thinks Elliot secretly hates working there. In his head he agrees—he likes most of the people but hates that he works to protect corporations. He lies and says “I love it here” and she knows he’s lying and they both laugh.
Angela’s also concerned about herself—she says she’s late on her last two student loan payments and can’t get Gideon to give her a raise. Her boyfriend Ollie Parker joins them—Elliot hates him and excuses himself. Ollie tells Angela that he knows Elliot hates him and thinks Elliot is in love with Angela.
Notes: The show’s creator, Sam Esmail, can be seen in the subway scene—he’s wearing glasses and standing to the right of Christian Slater’s character. Elliot is AllSafe employee #ER28-0652. On most TV shows, when a character has internal dialog, the other characters are oblivious. In this scene, Angela calls him out for “thinking about something else” and waits impatiently for his voiceover/internal thoughts to finish. It’s almost as if she can hear him thinking and is waiting for him to be done.
Characters: The homeless man is played by Christian Slater, best known for appearing in such films as Interview with a Vampire, Heathers, and True Romance. Angela Moss is played by Portia Doubleday. Gideon Goddard is played by Michel Gill, who also appeared in House of Cards as President Walker. Ollie Parker is played by Ben Rappaport.
Filming Locations: On the street, Elliot passes the Pig ‘n Whistle Irish Pub on 3rd Street in New York City. It opened in 1969. There actually many restaurants and pubs with very similar names—another is located at 202 West 36th Street. There was also a famous Pig ‘n Whistle located in Hollywood that closed in 2011. From inside the offices of AllSafe, you can see the facade of the Mobil Building at 150 East 42nd Street. According to Untapped Cities, the building was the former headquarters of the oil company.
Quotes: Ollie: “I can’t have that kind of negativity in my life.”
Terminology: A Rudy Attack uses a particular Denial of Service tool to execute massive numbers of slow attacks to bring down network— RUDY stands for “R-U-Dead-Yet” and is named after an album by Finish melodic death metal band Children of Bodum.
“We Are Cowards”
Elliot meets with his court-appointed psychiatrist and therapist, Dr. Krista Gordon. She talks about the first time he came to see her. Elliot isn’t listening—he’s thinking about how easy it was to hack her and gain access to all of her accounts. Elliot thinks that she’s bad at reading people even though she’s a psychologist; she is recently divorced and apparently has horrible taste in men. She’s been “dating losers on Eharmony,” and her latest is Michael Hanson. Curiously, Elliot could find nothing about him on-line, “no LinkedIn, no Facebook,” and something about Hanson bugs Elliot.
Krista says that Elliot’s not “yelling like before,” which is good, and tries to get him to talk about his feelings, but he’s reluctant to share. She says he has lots of anger issues, including being mad at society. Elliot thinks “F*ck Society,” and Krista says he has a lot to be angry about, hinting at a troubled past.
He likes Krista, telling her she understands what it’s like to be alone. Elliot realizes he’s said too much, saying things he shouldn’t know about her. They discuss him going to the party last night, and Elliot lies, saying he enjoyed himself and even got a girl’s phone number. She says he’s “hiding again” and warns him that when he’s hiding, “the delusions come back.” She also asks about his sightings of “the men in black,” and he lies, saying the meds she’s given him are working.
Notes: It is unclear if Dr. Gordon is a psychiatrist or psychologist, but she is acting as his court-appointed therapist and can prescribe medication. Krista’s password is Dylan_2791, her favorite singer and her birth year backwards. Her Eharmony account describes her as a “buxom” single woman, aged 44, who is looking for men 39-50 in New York City. She’s Hispanic and Catholic, doesn’t smoke, drinks socially, and doesn’t want kids but its “OK if my partner has kids.” During Elliot’s tirade against our modern society, it appears that he’s talking to Krista and finally opening up, but we learn he’s just imagining telling her what he really thinks. And he starts off his speech by saying “I don’t know,” but it’s clear he has plenty to say. When he talks about how “all our heroes are counterfeit,” we see videos of Lance Armstrong (accused of doping in 2012), Bill Cosby (accused by upwards of 60 women of rape or sexual assault), and Tom Brady (suspended by the NFL over 2015’s Deflategate).
Characters: Krista is played by Gloria Ruben, an actress and talented singer. According to IMDB, she toured with Tina Turner as a backup signer and sang the Canadian national anthem at the 1998 baseball All-Star game.
Quotes: Krista: “What is it about society that disappoints you so much?” Elliot: “Oh, i don't know. Is it that we collectively thought Steve Jobs was a great man, when when we knew he made billions off the backs of children? Or maybe it's that it feels like all our heroes are counterfeit. The world itself is just a big hoax. Spamming with our running commentary of bullshit masquerading as insight, our social media faking as intimacy. Or is it that we voted for this? Not with our rigged elections, but with our things, our property, our money. I'm not saying anything new. We all know why we do this, not because Hunger Games books make us happy but because we wanna be sedated. Because it's painful not to pretend, because we're cowards. F*ck society.”
Terminology: Eharmony is a popular on-line dating website used by Krista. The Men in Black are a mythical group of government agents dressed in black suits who perform clandestine activities—they were also the subject of a popular film series.
Meeting E Corp
Back at AllSafe, Elliot is working when he’s approached by Angela’s boyfriend, Ollie, who is making an effort to befriend Elliot and asks him to lunch. Elliot passes, and Ollie wants things between them to be less awkward. Elliot doesn’t mind if things are awkward—he’s not a fan of Ollie’s for several reasons: Ollie likes George W. Bush, Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen, the music of Josh Groban and Maroon 5, and the movie The Hangover.
Ollie’s also cheating on Angela with a woman named “Stella B.” Elliot has thought about telling Angela but decides against it: she has “shitty taste in men” and Elliot’s not quite ready to see who she dates next.
A group of people arrive from E Corp, the largest conglomerate in the world, to discuss the latest hack of their servers. E Corp, which Elliot refers to as “Evil Corp,” has contracted with AllSafe to handle cybersecurity. Gideon shows Terry Colby, the Evil Corp CTO and Tyrell Wellick, among others, around the office ahead of their meeting. Tyrell, the Evil Corp Senior Vice President, Technology, chats with Elliot—and Elliot’s impressed: Tyrell is an actual techie, using a Linux system and knowing his way around a computer.
Notes: Ollie’s password was “the easiest to hack” as it is “123456Seven.” In discussing E Corp and their reach, Elliot sees computer monitors, tablets, cell phones and laptops manufactured by the company. In his mind, E Corp is “Evil Corp” and from this point forward, the show follows that conceit, changing all future logos and mentions of the company, even by other people, to “Evil Corp.” The logo for E Corp, a capital letter “E” turned askew, is nearly identical to the corporate symbols for Enron, an American energy company that went bankrupt in 2001. The “E” is also very similar to the “e” in “Dell,” another computer company. Elliot is one of six on-site engineers on the E Corp account. As for Elliot’s internal dialogs, Wellick doesn’t wait patiently for them to be over; he actually interrupts one in this scene and correctly guesses what Elliot is thinking.
Characters: Tyler Colby is played by Bruce Altman, best known for appearing in such films as Glengarry Glen Ross and Matchstick Men. Tyrell Wellick is played by Swedish actor Martin Wallstrom.
Quotes: Wellick: “So I see you're running Gnome. You know, I'm actually on KDE myself. I know this desktop environment is supposed to be better, but you know what they say: old habits, they die hard. It’s going to be fun working with you.”
Goofs: Elliot doesn’t think much of Terry Colby because he still uses a Blackberry, although these devices are favored by many for their secure communications.
Terminology: Gchat is short for Google Chat, an instant messaging service which was renamed Google Talk and then replaced with Google Hangouts. A Blackberry is a mobile phone and messaging device and was the first widely-available device with keyboard—it was so popular for a while, it was known as a “crackberry.” Linux is a Unix-based open source operating system and the primary alternative to Microsoft’s Windows and Apple’s Mac OS. KDE and Gnome are two of the more popular desktop environment applications of Linux which allow the user to create a Windows-like desktop interface for manipulating the files and programs on their computer.
After work, Elliot heads home and thinks about “saving the world.” His version of that is freeing everyone from their financial shackles and all of their personal debt. Inside his dingy apartment, he feeds his fish Qwerty. Later, when he’s crying uncontrollably, he wonders what normal people do with their sadness and loneliness. He assumes normal people reach out to friends and family, but that’s not an option for him. We see a flashback of him and his mother—she’s smoking and holding his arms down and doesn’t seem very loving. Instead, Elliot does morphine, and goes on to explain how he can use it without getting addicted.
He realizes he’s out of Suboxone and calls Shayla, his neighbor and dealer, who comes over and delivers more. She says it’s “on the house” but Elliot pays her, not wanting to be in her debt. She mentions she tried to find him on Facebook but he says he doesn’t have an account. She offers him some Molly and they end up sleeping together. After, Elliot says that you shouldn’t ever “make decisions when you’re on morphine.”
Notes: Outside Elliot’s apartment, there are two signs on the building next door that read “Prime Commercial Space Available - E Realty Corp,” showing again just how large—and insidious—E Corp is. To keep from becoming a Morphine junkie, Elliot limits himself to only 30mg a day. He also checks every pill for purity and has 8mg of Suboxone “for maintenance” in case he goes through withdrawals. In my research, I was unable to find out exactly how that works, but several websites talked about doctors prescribing Suboxone to treat withdrawal from opiates such as morphine. Unclear on the show, it may mean that Elliot is taking them together, or alternating between the morphine and the Suboxone to prevent addiction. The Promises Treatment Center has a lengthly page on Suboxone Maintenance and how their detox program works: they use Suboxone alone for 7-14 days with patients interested in breaking their opiate addiction without suffering acute withdrawal symptoms.
Characters: Elliot’s mother is played by Vaishnavi Sharma. Young Elliot is played by Jack Corbin. Shayla is played by Frankie Shaw.
Filming Location: According to Untapped Cities, Elliot’s apartment is located at 217 E. Broadway on the Lower East Side. In the background, you can easily spot the distinctive One World Trade Center tower.
Quotes: Elliot: “Sometimes I dream of saving the world. Saving everyone from the invisible hand, the one that brands us with an employee badge, the one the forces us to work for them, the one that controls us every day without us knowing it. But I can't stop it. I'm not that special. I'm just anonymous. I'm just alone.”
Terminology: Morphine is an addictive opiate. Suboxone is a prescription drug used often to help with withdrawal symptoms or as a less-addictive alternative. Molly is the street name for the psychoactive drug MDMA, more commonly known as ecstasy.
A Dinner Date
Laying next to a naked Shayla, Elliot gets an alert on his phone: Krista, his psychiatrist, is out on a date with Michael Hanson. Elliot dresses and leaves, going to the restaurant. While observing Krista and Hanson, Elliot also spots two “men in black” watching him from a nearby cafe. Hanson and Krista exit the restaurant and Hanson hails a cab. Elliot, pretending to be Hanson, calls the cab company and gets Hanson’s home address. The homeless man appears again and accost the “men in black,” begging for spare change.
At Hanson’s address, Elliot runs into Hanson mistreating his little dog and asks to use his phone, saying he needs to call his mother. Instead, he uses the encounter to get Hanson’s phone number by calling his own number and seeing it come up on the screen. He deletes his outgoing call and hands the phone back, thanking him.
Notes: Michael Hanson’s cab number is 56Y2 and his home address is 306 Hawthorne. Hanson’s phone looks to be running an altered variation of iOS: the icons are similar and have similar coloration, although the “Phone” app shows a camera aperture icon and the “Storage” icon looks a lot like the icon for Dropbox. The time on his phone reads 2:12AM. There is also a “B of E” app, which implies a Bank of E Corp. According to the phone, Elliot’s phone number is (212) 555-0179. Hanson’s phone call history include calls to people named Jacob Medary, Bernadette Pino, Adam Brustein and Drew Wood.
Characters: Michel Hansen is played by Armand Schultz.
Filming Location: Krista has dinner with Michael Hanson upstairs at Pierre Loti, a real wine and tapas bar located at 300 East 52nd Street in Midtown East. Pierre Loti operates two other locations in New York City. The two “men in black” observe Elliot from the outdoor seating at the nearby Gulluoglu Baklava and Cafe, located at the corner of Second Avenue and 52nd Street.
Goofs: When Elliot is looking at Hanson’s phone before making the call, the display only shows the time and cell signal strength. After the call, when he’s deleting the number, it shows the sound level (muted) and the battery level.
On is way home from Hanson’s house, Elliot gets a call from Angela—another hack of E Corp has begun. This time it’s a DDOS attack. She and Ll0yd are at the office, trying to stem the damage, but she needs Elliot’s help. Arriving later, Elliot gets up to speed. Lloyd says it’s the “worst DDOS attack” he’s ever seen.
Gideon arrives and wants to know what’s going on and where the attack is coming from. “Everywhere,” Elliot answers. “USA, Finland, Thailand, Kuwait,” then goes on to say that it’s a new kind of attack: a rootkit. It’s a set of instructions installed inside the company servers that can “delete system files and stop programs.” It also can replicate itself like a virus. Gideon realizes they need to fly to a server farm near Washington DC to stop the attack. He takes a private jet and takes Elliot with him.
Notes: Judging by the shape of the home button, Angela is using an iPhone. She’s calculated that for every hour the Evil Corp servers are down, the conglomerate loses $13 million. And, by the way, we actually see the Angela character use her mouth to say the words “Evil Corp,” so we are clearly seeing whatever Elliot is seeing and hearing, even though in “real life” she probably said “E Corp.” Angela reads an article on-line about the “massive” corporate hack of Evil Corp, which includes trending information from Google+ and Daily Beast. Gideon tells Angela to “call Prolexic” for help, presumably another cybersecurity firm.
Goofs: It is unlikely, given her IT background and position at AllSafe, that Angela would not be familiar with a rootkit or what it is capable of.
Terminology: A DDOS attack is a distributed denial-of-service attack, using multiple computers to flood a single server’s bandwidth or resources to shut it down. The DNS is the Domain Name System, the decentralized naming system for websites and other locations connected to the Internet. “Stopping the services” means shutting down all the underlying programs running inside an operating systems, such as error detection, file system manipulation, program executions, and communications.
At Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C., Gideon and Elliot arrive at the Evil Corp server farm. Elliot assists them in shutting down every server and then rebooting them in the proper sequence.
While investigating the network, Elliot discovers a small computer file embedded in the system from an organization calling itself “fsociety.” Thinking it’s a joke—the name is close to what Elliot said in the psychologist’s office—he opens the file. It’s the culprit behind all the recent hacks—and he finds a cryptic message to leave the file in place on the server. Not sure if he should delete it or not, Elliot decides to leave it but makes it so that he is the only person who can access the file remotely.
Later, on the flight home, Gideon thanks Elliot and opens up to him, telling Elliot that he’s gay. Elliot isn’t sure what, if anything, to say.
Notes: Evil Corp represents 80% of AllSafe’s business—if they lose Evil Corp as a client, AllSafe will go out of business.
Terminology: The root directory is the primary or top-most directory in a computer file structure hierarchy and the first one accessed by a computer during its boot-up sequence. A server farm is a collection of computer servers, usually housed in a protected and climate controlled facility.
Elliot takes the subway home. He’s thinking about how to track down “fsociety” when he sees the homeless man again. He’s wearing a jacket with a patch on it that reads “Mr. Robot.” The homeless man asks if Elliot’s had a rough night, and says he’s getting off at the next stop. He says Elliot should follow him, but only if he “didn’t delete it,” talking about the file in the Evil Corp server farm. “If you deleted it, we got nothing to talk about.” Curious, Elliot follows.
While waiting on the next train, Elliot wants to know what’s going on and if the homeless man, known as Mr. Robot by the patch on his jacket, has been following him. Elliot follows him to Coney Island and an abandoned arcade with the sign “fsociety” out front. Inside, Elliot and Mr. Robot are greeted by a group of hackers using the arcade as a real-world base of operations. They only hack out of this location and never communicate electronically.
Notes: In the hallway leading to the subway, we see several posters for E Corp, including one that says “We Change the World.” Another E Corp sign actually says the words “Evil Corp,” so we are starting to see things as Elliot sees them. Next to one of the Evil Corp posters is another poster for a movie called “Villains” with a tag line that reads “Evil Always Wins.”
Filming Location: The MTA station is the Church Avenue Station. Coney Island, Wonder Wheel,and the “f society” building are all real-world locations at Coney Island in southern Brooklyn. The address for the Fun Society Arcade, a real location, is the Eldorado Bumper Cars and Arcade, 3027 West 12th Street at Coney Island in Brooklyn. It’s a real, operating arcade and open to the public. You can even see the blue side door that Elliot enters. The “Fun Society” sign was added by the producers of the show. All of the interior scenes from the TV show were shot on a set at the Silvercup Studios, located in Queens, New York.
Quotes: Mr. Robot: “My dad was a... petty thief. Never could hold down a job, so, he just robbed. Convenience stores, shops, small-time stuff. One time, he sat me down, he told me something I never forgot. He said, "Everyone steals. That's how it works. You think people out there are getting exactly what they deserve? No. They're getting paid over or under, but someone in the chain always gets bamboozled. I steal, Son, but I don't get caught. That's my contract with society. Now if you can *catch* me stealing, then I'll go to jail, but if you can't, then I've earned the money." I respected that, man. I thought that shit was cool as a little kid. A few years after that, they finally caught him. Sent him to jail. Dies five years later. My respect goes with him. I thought he was free doing what he did, but he wasn't. He was in prison. Just like you are now, Elliot. But I'm gonna break you out.”
Goofs: Mr. Robot tells Elliot they’re going to Brooklyn when they change trains. Actually, once they’re at the Church Avenue station, they’re already in Brooklyn. And as the approach the “f society” building, they appear to be coming from the south, in the direction of the ocean. In reality, they would be approaching it from the Coney Island/Stillwell Avenue Station, located two blocks north. They would travel south from the Stillwell Station on Stillwell Avenue, cross Surf, and then make a left on Bowery to reach the fsociety arcade location.
Terminology: A dat file is a small data file containing computer information in a text or binary format. IRC is Internet Chat Relay, and IRC contacts would be people that Elliot knows through the various channels and communications hubs that use IRC to communicate. IRL is “in real life,” meaning out in the real world. O-Megz is the name of a fictional hacker group similar to LulzSec, an infamous group of hackers that was brought down when one of the founders, an hacker known as Sabu, was arrested and turned in other members of LulzSec as part of a plea deal. VPN sessions would be a reference to using a Virtual Private Network to anonymize communications over the Internet.
Later, on the way home, Elliot thinks he’s crazy. “That didn’t just happen, right?” He’s worried and scared and says that he’s saying “all this to an imaginary person,” meaning the audience. He finds Angela on the steps to his apartment. She wants to watch his favorite movie—Back to the Future 2—and smoke some weed. He invites her in and they find Shayla still there—she was at his apartment when he left to spy on Krista and Michael Hanson’s date and she’s still there, sleeping. Angela says it’s “good” he’s dating someone and leaves, telling Elliot to “have fun.”
Elliot asks Shayla to leave and begins researching “Mr. Robot” and fsociety and their location—but he can’t find much. The building ownership is murky, owned by a company called “Fun Society Amusement, LLC” for 13 years before the owner was shot and killed eighteen months ago. He prepares a envelope of incriminating evidence similar to the one he created on Ron, planning to turn in fsociety.
Notes: Elliot’s favorite movie is Back to the Future 2. Angela says she misses Qwerty, Elliot’s fish. The fsociety building is located at “3027 West 12th Street, Coney Island” and Elliot’s Google search shows the map and correct location, although the actual Google address for the search is obfuscated with dummy text in the address bar. Elliot’s bookmark bar in his browser includes links to the BBC, Huffington Post, NY Times, Google News, 4chan and reddit. The article about the shooting death of the “Fun Society Amusement” arcade mentions that he was shot in the back three times and the estimated time of death was 3AM. The article quotes a local resident, Bernadette Pino, with saying “I took my kids there all the time. He was warm and friendly.” There was also a Bernadette Pino listed in the recent call history on Michel Hanson’s phone when Elliot borrowed his phone. The article also mentions that the name of the owner wasn’t released to the press—and in the last lines of the article misspells the word “neighborhood” as “nieghborhood.”
Goofs: The Back to the Future 2 DVD box cover is not the actual artwork from the DVD box and there is no “Special 2015 Silver Edition” of the film.
Terminology: 4chan is an anonymous on-line photo sharing website. Reddit in an on-line discussion website. An IP or Internet Protocol address is the unique numerical label assigned to each device connected to the Internet—including Terry Colby’s IP address would allow researchers to trace the hack back to a particular computer.
The next day, he returns to fsociety and is greeted by Darlene, another hacker. He asks her where to find her boss, Mr. Robot, and she tells him to “cut the bullshit” and wants to know when he’ll give them access to the root directory. She says she wrote the rootkit Elliot found on the Evil Corp server and still needs to “put Colby’s IP in the dat file.” They plan to make it look like Evil Corp CTO Terry Colby is behind the hack.
Mr. Robot arrives and takes Elliot on a ride on the Wonder Wheel, a main attraction at Coney Island. While aloft, they have a lengthy discussion about fsociety’s plans. Elliot says he’s planning to turn them in, but Mr. Robot doesn’t think so—he thinks Elliot feels trapped by money and by corporations. He says fsociety is going to do something about it: they want to wipe Evil Corp’s servers. Evil Corp owns 70% of the global consumer credit industry. Done correctly, it would erase every financial record of “every credit card, loan and mortgage” held by them. Paper records would be out of date and unenforceable; with that, every citizen would be instantly debt free, the largest single transfer of wealth in the history of the world.
Elliot realizes fsociety needs his help. Mr. Robot tells him that tomorrow, AllSafe is going to get a visit from the FBI and U.S. Cyber Command. Mr. Robot wants Elliot to change the dat file he found to make it look like Terry Colby was behind the hack.
Returning home, Elliot’s in a great mood. He passes the Evil Corp posters in the subway again, including one where a student is worried about how she’s going to repay her student loan. At home, he checks Angela’s bank accounts with E Corp—he apparently has access to them as well— and finds she owes them nearly $200,000 in student loans. He creates two envelopes of information—one incriminates fsociety, while the other incriminates Terry Colby and would set into motion the fsociety plan.
Notes: Mr. Robot says he scored “the last bag of Twinkies from Gristedes.” This might be a reference to the temporary disappearance of Twinkies from store shelves in 2012, although the dates don’t really match up. According to Wikipedia, Twinkie production was halted by Hostess Brands in November 2012 during the company’s bankruptcy proceedings. They became available again in July 2013 and production resumed. Gristedes is a New York City-based chain of small supermarkets that began operation in 1891. Angela Moss attended the fictional Brooklyn Institute of Technology.
Characters: Darlene is played by Carly Chaikin.
Filming Location: Elliot and Mr. Robot go for a ride on the famous Deno’s Wonder Wheel located in Coney Island. While they’re on the ride, you can see several wide shots of the area around Coney Island and the nearby Luna Park, including the beach, the Coney Island Cyclone and Thunderbolt roller coasters. You can also see other rides that surround the real-world Deno’s Wonder Wheel, including the Spook-A-Rama and Bumper Cars.
Goofs: While perusing Angela’s Facebook page, it says that Elliot and Angela are “friends” and that they have 40 mutual friends. This implies that he in fact does have a Facebook account, but he told Shayla he didn’t have an account. It’s possible he is accessing Facebook through someone else’s account, but they would have to be “friends” with Angela and have many friends in common with her. The date on the on-line newspaper shows 22 January 2015, and mentions in the sidebar a “military jet crashes in Lincolnshire.” An American F-15 did crash in Lincolnshire, England, but the crash occurred in October of 2014, so it’s doubtful it would be in listed in the “top stories” sidebar three months later. Terry Colby’s terminal IP address is 220.127.116.113, but there are too many digits in the last number—they typically only go up to 256, so this is a fake IP address.
Terminology: The U.S. Cyber Command, part of the United States armed forces, centralizes military command of cyberspace operations and synchronizes digital defense of U.S. military networks.
On the way to work the next morning, Elliot sees more “men in black” and the poster for the movie “Villains” again. At AllSafe, they meet with the FBI, U.S. Cyber Command, and people from Evil Corp, including Terry Colby and Tyrell Wellick.
Elliot is planning to turn in fsociety and places the envelope with the incriminating evidence on the table in front of him. Angela begins explaining the hack and AllSafe’s response to it but is cut off by Colby and unceremoniously booted from the meeting. Elliot defends her but Colby says she’s “not going to work out for us, not at this level.” Angered, Elliot switches envelopes—Wellick notices this as well—and passes the information that will incriminate Colby to the FBI.
Notes: AllSafe first noticed the breach at 2:07AM. Lloyd began working on the hack from the AllSafe offices at 2:35.
Terminology: The phrase “terminaled in” means to access the servers remotely from a terminal.
Nineteen days later, Elliot is angry—there have been no arrests in the hacking case, even though he gave the FBI enough information to lead to Terry Colby. Everything is the same as it was. He visits fsociety but finds no Mr. Robot and no other members of the hacking collective. He continues hacking Michael Hanson and realizes it’s not his real name. Elliot confronts “Michael Hanson,” exposing his lies and infidelities. Elliot tells him to break things off with Krista—or he’ll send digital proof to his wife and the police. One of the women he dated was underage—Elliot made up that part, but it was close enough to the truth for Hanson to believe it. And Elliot has one more request: the dog, Flipper.
Elliot copies all of his Michael Hansen files to a DVD and puts in his “digital cemetery,” a DVD storage binder, the kind with pages that hold eight DVDs each. There are lots of DVDs in the storage binder, each full of files on someone he’s hacked in the past. Each is labeled with a different label, the name of an actual musical group and album.
Notes: Krista Gordon heads her own company, Gordon and Associates. Michael Hanson lives in apartment 2C, likes the Yankees, and his dog is named Flipper. Angela Moss is friends with women named Patricia Cannon and Jennifer Edwards, and her Facebook profile page doesn’t show any photos of Elliot. “Michael Hanson” is actually Lenny Shannon and he’s cheated on his wife with at least seven different women, one of whom was underage. Some of the DVDs in Elliot’s “collection” include: The Doors, People are Strange; Boston, Don’t Look Back; Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers; Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here; AC/DC, Back in Black, Fleetwood Mac, Rumors; and Van Halen, among others.
Filming Location: Elliot confronts “Michael Hansen” across the street from Peak Thai. This is a real Thai restaurant located at 301 East 49th Street in NYC.
Goofs: When looking at Krista’s profile, it says they are “friends” and also have 40 mutual “friends.” This repeats the same issues from earlier with Angela’s Facebook profile—either Elliot really has a Facebook profile and has 40 mutual friends, or the producers of the TV show used the same fake header to replicate a Facebook-like website. There are misspellings here as well: the profile says she studied IT at the “Institute of Psych and Madness” in NY. This is unlikely as she is billed as a doctor and psychiatrist. It also says she attended “Sheepshead bay high school.” It also says that Krista is in a relationship with “Michael Hanson” and the font in blue, indicating that they are friends and that he has a profile on Facebook, but Elliot clearly stated early on that he couldn’t find a Facebook account for the man.
Terminology: A dictionary brute force attack is a technique to discover a password or other authentication mechanism by guessing thousands or millions of combinations—it’s actually called a dictionary attack, and a brute force attack is slightly different. Ashley Madison is an on-line dating website for people looking to have affairs; ironically, the actual site was hacked sometime in July 2015, just after this episode aired. Since the hack, Ashley Madison has re-branded itself.
The next day, Elliot meets with Krista and can tell she’s been dumped. At work, Elliot tries to talk to Angela, but she’s embarrassed about what happened in the Evil Corp meeting. And she’s mad that he stood up for her—it was nice, but it made her feel like she couldn’t do it on her own. They hug and everyone in the office is looking at them—until Elliot and Angela realize the people are looking at the TV monitor behind them: Terry Colby has been arrested for the hack of Evil Corp. In Times Square, Elliot is giddy to see multiple reports on the large screens of Colby’s arrest—and doesn’t notice the large black SUV that pulls up behind him.
He thinks he’s being arrested, but the men from the SUV take him to Evil Corp, where he’s taken to a conference room that overlooks the city. Tyrell Wellick is waiting for him there with a group of lawyers. Elliot looks at the camera and pleads to the audience: “please tell me you’re seeing this, too.”
Notes: The group of men shown in the conference room, Wellick and his lawyers, is the same group of men shown in the out-of-focus opening scene of the episode when Elliot imagines a group of evil men that control the world.
Characters: The CNBC reporter on TV is played by Gigi Stone. Mr. Sutherland, the head of the Evil Corp team, is played by Jeremy Holm.
Filming Location: Evil Corp is located at the corner of Lexington Avenue and East 57th Street in NYC. The exact address is 135 East 57th Street. According to Untapped Cities, this is the same building used as the offices of Norman Osborn in the first Spider-Man movie.
What a great way to introduce a main character—he dreams us, the audience, into existence, making us a co-conspirator in his future activities. Elliot is lonely and desperate to make a mark on the world, but he’s painfully anti-social and seems barely capable of operating in the “real” world. But he’s got some things going for him—he’s wildly talented in the hacking arts, and possesses a moral compass of sorts that requires him to fight evil and dream of ways to balance the scales of the world.
As the episode progresses, we learn that he’s working both sides of the equation. By day he works to protect the computer systems of corporations he despises, including the aptly-named “E Corp,” an updated amalgamation of Microsoft, Enron and Goldman Sachs. At night he’s a “white hat,” bringing down child porn distributors and outing cheating husbands. He’s unsure of how to operate in the world and unsure of what to do with all of his loneliness. Rami Malek is a talented actor, imbuing Elliot with a depth of emotion while simultaneously hiding most of his emotions or displaying them only in scenes where he’s fantasizing about actually sharing his opinions with the world. The scene with Elliot crying alone in his apartment is a powerful one, rare in modern television—the main character is so raw and emotional, at least in that scene, that we can allow ourselves to excuse his questionable behavior and lack of social graces.
His love for Angela is obvious, and her protectiveness almost torpedoes their relationship when he stands up for her in a high-level meeting. Angela understandably wants to stand on her own two feet, but Elliot isn’t good at social situations, so when he leaps into the conversation, it’s with two feet and without abandon. His awkwardness is evident only moments earlier, when the CTO of the largest corporation on the planet thanks him for stopping the latest hack, and Elliot’s response is an awkward “okay.” Not “thank you” or “that’s very nice” or even a nod—Elliot seems genuinely confused about how to respond to a compliment.
By the end of the episode, Elliot’s on his way to making new friends, starting with the mysterious Mr. Robot. The discussion between him and Elliot on the Wonder Wheel is fascinating, cutting back and forth between them as they discuss the central conceit of the show—how to balance the scales of society through a massive act of wealth redistribution. I have no idea how they filmed that scene—clearly each side of the conversation must have been filmed separately as they rode in the car, but the interaction between them is palpable. I’ll chalk it up to insanely good editing and two very good actors.
The pieces are coming together, and Elliot’s sly switching of envelopes during the meeting with the FBI sets in motion a plan that could result in the largest revolution in the history of the world—or get everyone involved with fsociety imprisoned for life.
From the beginning, you’ll notice many things that are different from “regular” TV shows. One of them is the naming convention for each episode, each rendered in what I like to call “computer speak.”
For example, Episode One is called “Hello Friend” in the credits but elsewhere is referred to what looks like a computer file name: “eps1.0_hellofriend.mov.” These are intentionally jumbled together and often intersperse numbers for letters and vice versa. For example, in episode three, the title transposes a “3” for what is supposed to be a lower case “e,” something often done by computer users and gamers. There are no blank spaces—often in password fields, there are no blank spaces allowed, so here they use an underscore—and end with a particular type of video file suffix. “.mov” is the file identifier for Quicktime movies, etc. For ease of reading, I’ll use the “English” translations for episode titles.
The title of the episode refers to computer users—often, the first piece of code or program they write in a new computer language is called a “Hello Friend” or “hello world” program, one that prints out the words on the screen.
According to Yahoo, the pilot aired on June 24th but was available On Demand for almost a month before that date to build awareness of the show.
The producers of the show frequently mention Facebook and show on several occasions a website with a very Facebook-like interface: it replicates the layout and design of a Facebook profile page but there are subtle differences. Elliot also refers to the page as “Facebook” and reads off a list of “Facebook Likes” from Ollie’s page as evidence of him being an idiot. With the way the page is laid out, with an “about” and “photos” section on the left, a “friends” and “following” area along the top, the positioning of the profile photo and background, and the chronological list of posts along the right side, it’s clear we are meant to presume that this is Facebook.
NOTE: All sites accessed on August 18, 2016.
Deno’s Wonder Wheel at Coney Island. http://www.wonderwheel.com/information.html#verticalTab4
Gulluoglu Baklava and Cafe. http://www.gulluoglubaklava.com/manhattan/
Hopes and Fears, Mr. Robot: every title and episode, explained. http://www.hopesandfears.com/hopes/culture/television/216489-mr-robot-episodes-titles-explained
Mr. Robot Wikia. http://mrrobot.wikia.com/wiki/Mr._Robot_Wikia
Peak Thai Restaurant. http://www.peakthairestaurant.com/
Pierre Loti Midtown. http://midtown.pierrelotiwinebar.com/
Pig ‘n Whistle on 3rd. http://www.pignwhistleon3.com/
Promises Treatment Centers, Suboxone Maintenance and detox methodology. https://www.promises.com/treatment-programs/suboxone-opiate-detox/
Think Coffee. http://www.thinkcoffee.com/locations
TutorialsPoint page on Operating System Services. http://www.tutorialspoint.com/operating_system/os_services.htm
Untapped Cities, NYC Film Locations for USA Network’s “Mr. Robot.” http://untappedcities.com/2015/07/29/10-nyc-film-locations-for-usa-networks-mr-robot/
Wikipedia, several pages. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page