Mr. Robot has proven time and time again to be one of the most ambitious series that the USA Network has ever aired — if not the most ambitious. It is collectively regarded — including by hackers themselves— as one of the few programs that paints an authentic portrait of hacking culture. Perhaps this is because main character Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek) — fashioned in all-black garb — is the human representation of the dark corners of the internet. In a show that is characterized by hackers’ esoteric lexicon and conversations that are possible hallucinations, this week’s episode finally took us into familiar territory as our favorite ’80s icon made a cameo; no, not Madonna, not Jane Fonda’s leg warmers, but Alf.
Yes, the alien-life-form Alf, from the ’80s NBC sitcom ALF, made a guest appearance on “Master Slave,” easily Mr. Robot’s most ambitious episode. It was far from disappointing.
Given that absurdity is not an oddity on Mr. Robot, Alf’s cameo was nothing out of the ordinary. The ’80s sitcom character’s appearance was not just orchestrated for the heck of it, but because it fit the show’s message.
“For many of us in the writers room — myself and [creator] Sam Esmail included — the classic American sitcom stands out as sort of mental ‘comfort food,’” Adam Penn, the episode’s writer, told the Wall Street Journal. “Regardless of what problems or anxieties arise in each of our lives, families like the Tanners (of ‘Full House’) or the Winslows (of ‘Family Matters’) were there every Friday night, figuring things out together. These families, and the worlds in which they lived, presented a rose-colored window into a version of reality in which any problem is manageable.”
The beginning of “Master Slave” takes viewers back to the days of 1980s and 1990s sitcoms, as Elliot imagines the Aldersons are starring in a family sitcom. Similar to old-school sitcoms, the Alderson family pseudo-sitcom features 4:3 aspect ratio, a laugh track, even the Full House title sequence font. Elliot’s hallucinatory family sitcom juxtaposes different emotions and adds a laugh track over a sequence where Mr. Robot is splattered with blood while beating up Tyrell Wellick (Martin Wallstrom). This back and forth between emotions is representative of Elliot’s instability and paints a picture of the difficulties he faces daily — Elliot here is using nostalgia as an escape from reality, given that he was in a hospital bed while imagining this family sitcom.
Before the episode premiered, show creator Sam Esmail announced to fans on Twitter that they would be missing out if they did not watch the cable TV premiere of the episode. Here’s why:
The premiere of this episode was an experience, and an extremely trippy one. There were sitcom-esque opening credits, which featured the Family Matters font and a troubled Angela (Portia Doubleday). The opening theme song was penned by the famed Bennett Salvay and Jesse Frederick.
During commercial breaks, a fake E-Corp commercial, that looked like it could have been released in the early ’90s, aired. Other old commercials were also played.
As is evident by this episode, the psycho-thriller Mr. Robot has gone super psycho. Could it get any more psycho? Well, you’ll just have to watch.
Mr. Robot airs Wednesday nights at 10/9c on USA.