The first season finale of Mr. Robot took place after two weeks of big revelations including Darlene being Elliot’s sister and, not only was Mr. Robot imaginary as many suspected from the start of the season, he was based on Elliot’s real father. The hack planned by fsociety took back seat those two weeks, almost feeling like a McGuffin for the season, and it wasn’t clear if this was ever going to be completed. In the finale we never saw the completion of the plan. Instead Elliot awoke to find a changed world with his plan having been successfully completed. For a while I wondered if it was all going to be a dream, but if so it is a dream Elliot never woke up from.
It is often unclear as to what is real in this show, as captured by the return of Mr. Robot and Elliot’s reaction:
You’re not real.
What? And you are? Is any of it real?
The episode was notable for the return of Mr. Robot after confirming that he was not real, and for the absence of Tyrell Wellick. The scenes with Mr. Robot take on a different meaning now that we know that it is all in Elliot’s imagination. Thus we saw the scene in which Mr. Robot provoked someone into beating him up, with Elliot winding up taking the beating.
The episode also has Angela not only working at Evil Corp, but appearing to have much more influence there than expected. Will she be on the opposing side to Elliott next season, or a major ally from within the enemy? Scenes involving Evil Crop also included the suicide scene which led the the finale being delayed a week. Plus the finale included a reference to Ashley Madison, which made it seem more like something really happening in the present.
Mr. Robot was renewed for a second season at the start of the first so we know we will be able to see the ramifications of the hack working, and the economic breakdown this appears to be leading to. Like Hannibal last week, the episode also ended with a surprising scene added on.
Sam Esmail discussed the final scene and much more about the finale in an interview at The Hollywood Reporter:
That was a very surprising last scene, with the return of White Rose. What were you trying to illustrate with that very last scene?
The fact that it became a post-credit scene was more out of a negotiation on how to end the season. Do we end on Elliot? Do we end on this scene that sets up what the next season arc is going to be? The story has always been about Elliot, and it should continue to be about Elliot, so I felt weird ending the season on this other scene that had nothing to do with any of our main characters. I was trying to figure out structurally where to put it in the last episode, and because it does such a good job of queuing up our next season arc, I basically came up with the idea of putting it after the credits, which is something not typically done on television shows. I just thought, “OK, that’s a great way to use the classic strategy of creating a coda, which is exactly what it is, and allowing me to end the season properly on Elliot.”
Like you said, that’s not done a lot on TV. How receptive was USA to that idea?
When I wrote the script, I finished Elliot’s scene, and I wrote, “Fade to black, credits.” Then I wrote, “After end credits,” and then I put in the White Rose scene. Then when we got on the phone, their reaction to me was, “You can’t end a season on White Rose. You’ve got to end it on Elliot.” I said, “No, I agree, guys, but it’s after the credits. Don’t you think that would work?” They had no idea. They skipped those two lines, and then there was this moment where it clicked with everyone: “That’s f—ing perfect.” They were so into the idea that they figured out a way to do it.
How does that last scene set up next season and where you’re going with the show?
I’ve always said that the first season was the first act of my feature, so this is what I meant. I wanted the story of Mr. Robot to be Elliot actually accomplishing his goal, setting the world into chaos. What would happen to society if something like this occurred where, basically, if the consumer-debt industry were to be erased? What are the economics of that? What would the world look like? Would there be a revolution? Would governments take over? Would businesses take over? To me, that canvas was something I was interested in exploring, so, for me, that’s what that last scene sets up. We’re about to watch Rome burn. That’s the world Elliot’s going to enter next season…
I think once people figured out Mr. Robot’s real identity, they worried about how much Christian Slater would still be seen on the show. From what you just said, it sounds like he’ll be as much of a presence in season two as he was in season one.
It’s almost more so. It’s freeing because now Elliot is aware that Mr. Robot is this alter ego that he has to deal with. So it actually takes more of like a Jekyll and Hyde trajectory because now the audience is in on it, as well as Elliot, and now we’re going to basically go into that realm. But the story is really about the relationship that he has with his dead father, and how he could never reconcile the pain that caused him? How is he reconciling now as an adult male? Especially in the way that it’s manifesting itself.
It was very interesting to see how the outside world perceives Elliot when he’s having that confrontation with Mr. Robot in the restaurant and specifically Elliot holding himself up against a wall. Why was it important to show that?
Because I want to start stripping the subjectivity of Elliot’s world a little bit, giving us glimpses into what an objective version of this story might look like, even if it’s just slivers of that reality. Because I do think, in terms of telling a show that’s so deeply subjective into this unreliable narration, it can become untethered to a certain extent. As long we have those glimpses, I think that helps us keep track a little bit better and keeps the audience in check. But don’t forget, this is still in the eyes of Elliot, so we’ve started discovering these objective realities along with him. When Mr. Robot says that line, “This looks a little weird,” Elliot’s sort of realizing he’s doing this to himself. And then he proceeds on. So we’re still figuring this out with him, but I think that’s going to be part of this whole journey for Elliot, is trying to get into a more grounded reality…
It also was revealed recently that Darlene is Elliot’s sister, but we haven’t learned a lot about their relationship and why they weren’t close. How much will we learn in season two?
That goes into the whole idea of the emotional journey that Elliot [takes]. We haven’t even cracked the surface of his past. What were the court-appointed therapy sessions all about? What was his family history was all about? Why Darlene helped Elliot create fsociety? There’s a whole backstory. Going even further back to childhood and what his relationship with his father was and how did that devolve? We got a little taste of it at the beginning of episode nine. Not to mention their mother. All of that is still in the wheelhouse of what we’re going to explore in the next few seasons because that’s all going to inform Elliot’s journey and how he battles his demons, aka Mr. Robot.
Angela made a lot of big moves in the finale. Why do you think she chose the path that she did? What can you say is the next step of her evolution?
Because this show is really about identity and about change and about these young people who are trying to find themselves, who are trying to find who they are and how they fit in the world, Angela’s character arc is really fascinating because she’s the path of the American dream. She is the sort of person that has the mentality of, if you work hard enough, you’ll get the big job offers, you’ll get the big job promotions, and you’ll work your way up the ladder. If you want to affect change, you do it within the system because the system allows for that, allows the younger generation to come in and influence society, and the point is to have a bottom-up strategy of having change come from the younger generation. Angela has that levelheaded, American idealism of trying to affect change from within. That, to me, is a very interesting parallel to have running through the series in contrast with Elliot, who’s very much trying to affect change from outside the system. We never try and spell out what’s right and wrong and who the clear good guys are versus the bad guys, and I just think that both the approaches of Elliot and Angela, you can look at from both good and bad sides, and that, to me, is interesting. When those two parallels collide, I think that’s just going to make for great drama and great story.
Can you say how long after the events of the season finale the season-two premiere will pick up?
We will have a continuous storyline, meaning we won’t necessarily time-jump in story and not ever give you the gap. I don’t know where exactly season two will pick up.
More on the hack and other topics at Entertainment Weekly:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: For the finale, you skipped the hack and threw the audience into the deep end. What was the thinking behind that choice?
SAM ESMAIL: We’re shifting down gears into this new world where we’re aware, along with Elliot, that Mr. Robot is his alter ego and that he sort of is this demon that lives inside of him and that Elliot can’t account for all of his actions because of him. That opens up this whole interesting can of worms that we’re basically setting up for next season, one of them being this element of time loss. Let’s not forget that in episode 9, Darlene mentions that he was the one that created fsociety with her. We’re not even aware of that, neither is Elliot. There’s that to explore. Now we’re missing three days. In those three days, what happened? Where is Tyrell? What was the deal between him and Tyrell that allowed the hack to still continue? All of that sets up really interesting questions for the second season. One of the things that I love about the finale is that it’s essentially queueing up where we’re going to go and on top of that, shifting the direction of our story. Now it’s not about this mystery within himself that Elliot’s trying to resolve. Now it’s grown more external. He’s aware of what’s going on inside of him, and it’s leaking out. How’s he going to deal with that?
Is the mystery of those three days the immediate conflict once season two picks up, or is that something you’ll explore over time?
I think everything is going to be looked at over time. The whole backstory of fsociety, as well as those three days, is something that I think we’re going to delve into in the next season. I don’t know exactly when yet, but we’re definitely going to show it…
The finale also pivots Angela and the perspective we’re getting from her, which is from within Evil Corp. Is that something we’ll more of in season two?
Absolutely. The thing about Angela that I think is interesting is that she parallels Elliot in an interesting way because she’s actually embracing the more traditional route of the American dream. You work hard. You’ll get the job offers. You’ll get the promotions. If you really want to affect change, you do it by having a good work ethic and sticking to your principles. Maybe then you can influence and make changes from within the system, whereas Elliot is on the other side of it and trying to change from outside the system. I can see the good and bad of both. You can make arguments for both sides equally. It’s almost 50-50. That morally ambiguous gray area is where I love the show to be, especially where we see those paths collide. That makes for a really interesting story…
The Ashley Madison reference had me laughing. Was that a clever bit of ADR [automated dialogue replacement]?
It was. The weird thing is that in the pilot, Ashley Madison was one of his vices. When this whole thing happened, it was something that I was going to use in the season finale, when I wrote that scene, but then I was like, “Well, I already mentioned Ashley Madison. How many references can we have?” So I kind of edited it out. When we were reshooting it, this whole hack happened, so I thought this was perfect. In post, I thought, “I have to put this back in.”
An additional interview at Vulture, including that final scene:
Is that why season one ends with that B.D. Wong single-take scene? To keep the audience truly guessing?
I always knew I wanted to end the first season like that. I didn’t want the audience to come away thinking FSociety had won because they took down the bad guys. Evil Corp is done, so the stakes are gone. But I always knew there was another layer. We’re not even half-peeling this whole thing off yet, and we are going to show you a little bit of it. I always had that scene in my head as the last scene of the season, because I wanted to tell the audience the stakes are going to go even higher.
But I felt weird ending the scene not on Elliot. It didn’t feel right to end on these two other characters we barely knew, and that’s when I came up with the idea of putting it in as a coda. It always kind of was a coda, and we put it in the post-credits. It wasn’t trying to break new ground, but it felt natural for that kind of scene.
You’ve spoken about Joanna Wellick having a larger role for season two, but are there any other hints you can give about what to expect next season?
The good thing about the show is that we surprise you. One thing people have been asking is if Christian [Slater] will be around for the second season, and I will say 100 percent. Maybe to add a bit more spice: We will explore a little bit of Elliot’s family life.
In terms of his mother?
His mother, and even Darlene. Also, this show is about this person discovering that he has this disorder. That was what the original feature was going to [be] about, that’s what this show is just about to scratch the surface of. What we are really setting up for the second season is what happens when you become self-aware of your own disorders
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