At the most basic level, the TV show was a deathmatch between two dominant cult films of the end of the 90s: the narrator from Fight Club and Patrick Bateman from American Psycho over the stakes of capitalism. Mr. Robot is Sam Esmail’s attempt at re-purposing and repairing of these two opposing representations in order to succeed where they both failed. Therefore Mr. Robot transcends tribute and arrives at re-invention.
Basically, Mr. Robot himself is Tyler Durden reimagined in the 21st century version. And the E Corporation suit, Tyrell is the Swedish version of Patrick Bateman, but married to an equally psychopathic wife, a Lady Macbeth type.
With Project Mayhem & fSociety, both Fight Club and Mr. Robot had vigilante groups led by mysterious but charismatic individuals hellbent on causing financial chaos by deleting debt, and free people from the shackles of corporations. One used explosives, the other used coding. But Mr. Robot goes further than mere imitation because it is set in a dramatically different world where the landscape for rebels and revolution is fundamentally changed. The criticism of corporations has moved from mass produced coffee tables to big data, surveillance & political freedom.
In American Psycho, Patrick Bateman was a smooth talking, suit wearing, greased haired golden boy on his way up the corporate ladder. But beneath the perfect Yuppie facade lurked a psychopath who had uncontrollable desire for murder. In Mr. Robot, Tyrell, tho equally psychopathic, is less about culture and more about promotion. As a caricature of corporate culture, utterly obsessed with power, he functions as the perfect embodiment of the antagonist for Elliot.
With the conclusion of the first season, Tyrell appears to be established as the major villain, but it is also Tyrell’s origin story in the corporate machine that runs parallel to Elliot’s hacking collective that is out to destroy that machine. Mr. Robot is more than just the typical Joseph Campbell journey of the hero overcoming the mountain, it also shows the emergence of the mountain, Tyrell as the 1 percenter versus the 99 percenter in Elliot.
However, as season one turned out, my analysis may be flawed, because Tyrell is no longer on the side of the 1 percenters, and that the Chinese Hacker White Rose actually is. Bring on Season Two!