Rami Malek: For The Win

Courtesy of ABC
Courtesy of ABC

Rami Malek (to the Emmy Audience): Please tell me you’re seeing this too?

Here at NJATVS we pride ourselves in maintaining a sense of quality over quantity. We cover the great shows, past or present. As individual viewers however, we put next to no stock in award shows. Specifically the Emmy’s. The Emmy’s are famous for snubbing some of the best performances or shows going all the way back to the days of I Love Lucy. Names and titles like The Wire, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Michael C Hall-Dexter, Roseanne, Jackie Gleason, X-Files, Sports Night, John Noble-Fringe, and even some as recent as the 2016 snubs of Orange is the New Black and Christian Slater in a supporting role for Mr. Robot. And don’t even get me started on James Spader getting the snub of all snubs for his portrayal of Raymond “Red” Reddington on The Blacklist. Not only should he have been nominated, he should have won in a walk.

Look, we get it, you can’t please everyone all of the time. But when you have shows or performances that are undeniable, ignoring them in favor of something else under a different criteria is just irresponsible. Here’s the thing though, when it comes to the Emmy’s, they miss MOST of the time. This isn’t like the 1995 Oscars where they had the impossible decision of Forrest Gump vs The Shawshank Redemption. They seem more interested in creating television dynasties than rewarding those who deserve it. Now if I may be completely transparent, I absolutely did not have a problem with this when they got it right with The West Wing. However, Mad Men won too much, Breaking Bad did not win enough, Game of Thrones has already won too much and definitely should not have beat out Mr. Robot.

Make no mistake about it, Mr. Robot is the best show on television, network, cable, or subscription service. Netflix puts out the most highly concentrated high-end shows when you factor in the Netflix/Marvel arrangement. Cable puts out more good to great shows. And the Networks are going to do what they do. Big budget shows that may or may not lack staying power. But when you consider all factors, nothing is as complete, riveting, and as well written or delivered as Mr. Robot. An argument can be made for Blacklist, but it would be a tough sell over Mr. Robot.

The jaw dropping moments have been incredible. The “reveal” episode of a few weeks ago was downright mind-blowing. Yes in hindsight there was a great deal of hints sitting in plain sight, but it’s written so well, you nor I were ever going to see those things until Rami Malek, Christian Slater, Sam Esmail and the gang wanted you to see them. After season 1, there weren’t too many in this TV community that didn’t forecast a sophomore slump. Mr. Robot has answered the call in season 2 with no fear or hesitation. Short of Shayla in season 1, I’m more than prepared to say they exceeded expectations in season 2.

Rami Malek is an absolute treasure for the job he’s doing in bringing us inside the mind of Elliot Alderson. On the surface, a hacker with mental health issues navigating through the world is not that difficult. However, trying to equate the character of Elliot to the previous description makes about as much sense as saying Reddington is just another spy, Walter White is just a high school science teacher and Tyrion Lannister is just comic relief.

I’m sure, like a number of others, my first exposure to Rami as an actor was in Night at the Museum. Maybe some of our more astute readers will remember him in big television hits like 24 or The Pacific. But even with Night at the Museum, if it hadn’t been for a great performance from the late, great Robin Williams, Rami would have stolen that show too.

Rami’s portrayal of Elliot Alderson is probably as perfectly done as any character I’ve ever seen. The balance of the inner turmoil, mixed with the appearance and sense that this man has lived with said turmoil for most if not all of his life. This man is hardened from his own pain. It’s almost as if he moves through the world with a self-created protective layer over him.

He dramatically dislikes the things that most of us cling to (social media, entertainment news, latest apple products, etc). Is he just damaged beyond repair? Is he brilliant beyond belief? Are his hacking skills really anything more than busy work to take his mind off of the parts of life he loathes? Is it an unbalanced combination of all of the above? From the opening scene at Ron’s Coffee, Mr. Malek grabs you and never let’s go. He has the rare quality of being inviting but guarded.

Now, to the matter at hand. The Emmy’s are a joke. All the respect in the world for those who win them, but it’s just naive to think the award went to the deserving party all or even most of the time. While I don’t generally watch award shows, it was particularly strange for me to watch an award show whose nominees (for the most part) I had no interest in. I kept watching wondering why. We get toward the end and I hear “And now best actor in a drama” (or something to that effect). Then I actually said out loud, “Let’s see how they screw this one up.”

Kyle Chandler-Bloodline
Rami Malek-Mr. Robot
Bob Odenkirk-Better Call Saul
Matthew Rhys-The Americans
Liev Schreiber-Ray Donovan
Kevin Spacey-House of Cards

I’m surprised for a moment but I did remember that Rami Malek was nominated. Then my first thought is to handicap it. Kyle Chandler, nope. Rami Malek, can’t see how he can lose. Bob Odenkirk, he’s really good but not on Malek’s level. Matthew Rhys, nope. Liev Schreiber, ok that one’s tough. Kevin Spacey, damn. Kevin Spacey is already an accomplished, award-winning actor and he’s basically the defacto spokesperson for Netflix. He’s the face most people think of when they hear ‘Netflix’. House of Cards took Netflix from being a great little service to a juggernaut that now has almost as many homes with computers as homes with Netflix. He was the first Emmy nominee for a show that wasn’t on traditional television. Then the moment arrives.

“And now…the Emmy goes to…Rami Malek, Mr. Robot”

I literally jumped out of my couch with my arms extended (shades of Michael Phelps after Lezsak came back to win the 4×100 relay over the French in Beijing). I felt like I won something. This was not just a win for Rami Malek, his family and the show. This was a win for all of us. Those recognize the difference between unreal television that bends the limits of what was previously thought possible. And the procedural repetitive system shows the flood your television programming. Those of us who recognize the distinct lines that separate good from great from exceptional. And Rami’s first words made for maybe the greatest award show moment, maybe ever.

Courtesy of NBC
Courtesy of NBC

Rami Malek (almost in character): Please tell me you’re seeing this too?

Rami went on to thank the one’s you’d expect him to thank. Then he made a move that was classy, thoughtful and not at all preachy. We all know the Bono’s of the world just ruin whatever moment was intended. Rami’s moment was not at all that. He took a moment to recognize the “Elliot’s of the world”. It may have been small in the scope of things, but Rami Malek’s Emmy win and acceptance speech were both exactly what they should have been. The win did what it was supposed to do. Recognize an incredible acting performance and bring more attention to what in my mind is easily the best show on television. It also proved that every now and again, an award show doesn’t have to be a popularity contest. If it were, Spacey would have won again.

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