Mr Robot Fills the Hannibal Void in My Heart
I admit it. I marathoned all 22 episodes of Mr Robot in three days and I don’t remotely regret that decision. It’s helped soothe the pain that losing Hannibal last year has caused and if you have been similarly suffering withdrawals, you might enjoy it, too.
I’ve been hearing about how good Mr Robot is for a while, but it wasn’t until last Wednesday that the fandom caught my attention. I follow a lot of shippers and I could tell by the loud caps lock laced tweets and vague cries of “OH MY GOD” that something very shippy had gone down. I asked for details without spoiling the show and it was confirmed “a ship just went canon.” Well crap, okay, I suppose it’s time to dive into this show.
What I wasn’t expecting is that this show hit many of the markers that Hannibal did for me. Had I known this, I may have tuned in much much earlier. Now that I’ve dived into the fandom head first I notice there’s a huge overlap in the fanbase and it just makes sense now that I’ve seen it. Perhaps if you’ve been feeling the loss from Hannibal‘s indefinite hiatus (hush, it’s not cancelled and you can’t convince me otherwise), you may feel similarly soothed by Mr Robot.
Sometimes Hannibal gets criticized for being “too artsy” with its imagery, but Mr Robot follows down a similar path. The off-center framing, intentionally out of focus shots, and creative editing only add more layers to an already amazing script. Every visual is very intentional. On top of being beautiful to look at it, each shot adds to the story. It creates an atmosphere that supports the narrative.
Hannibal season 3 pushed these visuals to an extreme that Mr Robot hasn’t quite pushed. I personally enjoyed how far they pushed, though it did receive a lot of flack among mainstream TV critics. But Hannibal, like Mr Robot, was never really geared towards the mainstream. While ratings are important, NBC kept Hannibal around longer than many were expecting based on ratings alone. The artistry no doubt had a hand in that. It was an extremely high quality production. Likewise, Mr Robot stands out from the pack and while it hasn’t recieved a large amount of mainstream attention yet (Rami Malek’s Emmy win may change that), it definitely looks different from most shows on the air right now.
There are a lot of parallels between Will Graham and Elliot Alderson worth noting. First and foremost, both of them are neuro-atypical. Will states that his “horse hitched to a post that is closer to Asperger’s and Autistics.” It hasn’t been clearly stated in the narrative, but many people on the autism spectrum have speculated that Elliot is on the spectrum as well. As someone who isn’t part of the autism community I can’t personally state one way or another, but I’m happy for my friends who have been able to identify with them.
Beyond their possible autistic diagnosis, both characters also suffer from mental illness. Will’s was triggered by encephalitis while Elliot’s disassociative identity disorder seems to be there from the start. Both disorders cause our protagonists to become unreliable narrators for the story, which leads to many unique story telling techniques. The way the writers and directors of both shows use visuals and narrative structure to portray these illnesses is incredibly interesting.
You should have guessed this would be a thing from the very beginning of this recommendation. After all, it was my Twitter friends freaking out about a ship going canon that piqued my interest in the first place.
The following part of this recommendation will have SPOILERS for the season 2 finale. Read at your own risk.
Much like Hannibal, there’s a well dressed, wealthy, Scandanavian character who takes an interest in our neuro-atypical protagonist. And much like Hannibal, Mr Robot isn’t shy about feeding into the fandom ship and even dropping the “love” word when referencing the characters. During the season 2 finale, our fancy Swedish hacker Tyrell cries “I love him” at another character over the phone, pretty much sealing the deal that this ship is real (if only one-sided). This sent Twitter into a tizzy. This got my attention. This made me marathon 22 episodes in three days and become a Mr Robot fan.
Ships are powerful in fandom culture and the showrunners have fostered this ship in a delicate way that reminds me very much of the way Hannibal did it. Will Mr Robot make the love mutual between these two characters? I don’t know. I’d like for it to happen, but right now I’m riding the high of having at least the one-sided love legitimately canon. Tyrelliot is real. Praise the show runners, Tyrelliot is real.
This show may not be for everyone. Hell, even Fannibals may not dig it. But there’s a huge overlap between fandoms and I can understand why. If the above aspects of Hannibal are what caused you to adore the show, it might cause you to adore Mr Robot, too. Give it a shot at the very least. Us Fannibals deserve something good as we wait for season 4 to come to life for us.
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. She earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. She’s contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. She’s written for Friends of Comic Con and has essays published in Fandom Frontlines.
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