Hacking in pop culture is always, always laughably bad. (Mr. Robot is the clear exception). Hackers and hacker culture haven’t evolved past The Matrix but this week’s Arrow takes the cake, beating every CSI and whatever the hell Snowden is supposed to be with the newest edition of Worst Hacking Ever. Already low hacking expectations were shattered in the CW’s Season 4 episode “Lost in the Flood,” where three ace tech pros in the DC superhero show square off against the show’s super-villain and his hacker ally.
Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) was a talented IT employee who’s become a 1337 h4x0r these last four seasons. This season, she hired an employee, Cliff Curtis (Echo Kellum), destined to become the tech superhero Mister Terrific while her father was revealed to be the Calculator (played by Tom Amandes), a logical Riddler with a dumber name because he was created for comic books in 1976.
So we have three techies in a silly superhero show. Fine, but that doesn’t excuse the peak pwnage in the hilariously ridiculous hacking scene. There was a lot of very loud typing — oh god, so much aimless typing — to screen savers showing the Eye of Sauron. Fuses were blown. It was madness. It was magical. It was bullshit, but magical.
I know it’s not exciting to film people sitting at computers, but look at this WICKED camera work:
There was INTENSE TYPING, over dialogue like:
Felicity: “Every time I knock down a firewall, five more pop back up.”
Calculator: It seems that Mr. Darhk has a counter-hacker in his employ.
Felicity: “And he’s good.”
How good is he? When he attacks, he smirks before crashing his index finger down on the “Enter” button.
When the bad guys took over their systems, because that’s a possible thing, he gave them a dope Lord of the Rings screen saver.
And then, AND THEN, our heroes beat them by, yup, typing wildly into that shit and blowing up their hardware. Like, it PHYSICALLY exploded.
It’s hard to be hard on Arrow because it’s about an archer who becomes a vigilante and is best bros with the Flash, a guy who runs at mach speed. And it did one cool thing right: It had a nice FBI burn.
At the center of the plot lies a hacking strategy that’s right out of the FBI’s fight with Apple over San Bernardino iPhone, specifically the safety feature that erases a phone on the tenth attempt at an incorrect password. It’s a smart way to integrate the real world into the plot, and reveal how Curtis’s character likely feels about the FBI.
Here’s the abbreviated dialogue:
Curtis: “Until the FBI gets their way, smartphones are protected by encryption — if you don’t enter your passcode after enough times, then the device bricks itself, right?”
“Instead of trying to break Rubicon’s encryption….”
Felicity: “We make it stop working in the first place.”
Calculator: “You’re suggesting as it is with a smartphone”
Curtis: We overload Rubicon with too many access requests…
Felicity: “And it shuts itself down.”
Calculator: “Unfortunately I doubt very much that Argos would leave Rubicon so vulnerable to such a brute-force attack.”
Hey, that’s not bad. Overly simplistic, but not bad. It gets the plot solved.