The Emmy Awards last week had a couple of pleasant surprises with Tatiana Maslany winning for Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Orphan Black) and Rami Malek winning for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (Mr. Robot). Malek accepted his award acting like his television character in saying, “Please tell me you’re seeing this too.” Other wins for genre shows include the expected wins for Game of Thrones, along with Sherlock: The Abominable Bride winning for best TV Movie.
Mr. Robot concluded its second season last week, but unfortunately the season was not up to the level of the first. Perhaps it has problems comparable to the second movie in a trilogy, leaving cliffhangers without the dramatic events which concluded the second season. Sam Esmail discussed the finale with The Hollywood Reporter:
The climax of the finale comes before the final scene: Tyrell shooting Elliot. It effectively ends the argument about whether Tyrell is still real or imagined by Elliot. How important was it to you to definitively answer that question by the end of season two?
That was, to me, the season’s arc. After Elliot’s head-trip, that he goes inside himself and inside this illusion that he uses to cope with the fact that he’s been in prison and inside all of this battle and all of the battles he’s had with Mr. Robot, it’s like the game is over. Elliot has to snap back to reality and literally, it happens with a gunshot, with a bang, by Tyrell.
It brings the season full circle, too, with Mr. Robot repeatedly shooting Elliot in the head in season one, and of course the gun in the popcorn at Coney Island. Chekov rules dictate that this gun had to go off at some point.
Exactly. And it was imperative that this was the defining real — and I kind of want to underline that (laughs) — moment for Elliot, because he’s actually been shot twice in the show now. He was shot in episode four of the first season in that fever dream hallucination, and was obviously continually shot in the beginning of this season. This one, we wanted to make it feel very different.
Mr. Robot tells Elliot that he’s willing to go “all the way.” Apparently, that means allowing himself to be shot. Throughout the series, Mr. Robot has always read as an entity very much interested in self-preservation. What does it say about Mr. Robot and his commitment to the cause that he’s willing to make a sacrifice play?
It redefines the stakes. Mr. Robot was all about self-preservation. Up until this point, that kind of included Elliot, because obviously self-preservation includes Elliot’s body, if you look at it that way. Now? All bets are off. In fact, everything to him is about the plan, and he’s willing to die for this cause. That’s how extreme his passion is for this whole project, for this whole revolution. It kind of realigns the stakes for us. Now Elliot cannot even trust his life with Mr. Robot, which happens to also be Mr. Robot’s life. It also raises the stakes in terms of the extremes Mr. Robot is willing to go through in order to pull off this plan. It’s two different levels that have been kick-started and raised a lot higher for next season…
Esmail discussed the structure of each season,the return of Tyrell, and the cliffhangers in Season 2 with Entertainment Weekly:
So let’s dive in, by the end of the episode, we’re seeing what Stage Two is — or at least what a part of Stage Two is. When was the concept of what Stage Two would be brought up in the writers room? Was that discussed hand-in-hand with how season 1 ended?
That was actually brought up in the writers room — if you can believe it or not — during the first season. That was something that was worked out in my head when I was just thinking about the feature. It was intentionally in that feature stage. We obviously talked about it in the writers room, but if the endgame of the first season was hacking Evil Corp, the endgame of the second season would be to take down their paper records. Once you take down their digital property, you would know that they would then try to rebuild the database and go to analog. That would be the executional plan for the season 2 arc. The way we kind of went about it in the second season was very, very roundabout. One thing that I knew heading into the second season — knowing that was our endgame — was that I did not want this to feel like this was the first season redux: Here’s the new plan, here’s the new arc of the season, here’s the new plot, so let’s watch our guy struggle and figure out how to bring down the building where they’re housing all of these paper records. Going through the conversations, we talked a lot about how to really keep it with Elliot’s storyline and his emotional journey, his struggles with Mr. Robot. We thought that was the most authentic and organic next step to Elliot’s journey anyway. After the big realization, he’s not just going to ignore that and continue on with the plot. That’s how it all folded up with the structure that we came up with for the second season…
Tyrell came back into the picture last week, long after we expected him. What was the conversation like when deciding at which point he reenters?
The decision to keep him out of the season had a lot to do with Elliot. Like I said, going into the second season, we wanted to have Elliot reconcile this relationship with Mr. Robot. He made this damning realization about himself at the end of the first season. Any notion of dismissing that in an episode or two — “Oh, I’m seeing this hallucination, and sometimes he takes over. Okay, now let’s move on and get to the plot” — felt completely disingenuous. It honestly always felt to us that the only way Elliot could proceed is to get into this battle with Mr. Robot, to reconcile how he’s going to live with this, how he’s going to negotiate with this, how he’s going to work through this. That all was predicated on Tyrell’s absence, because once he comes back in, it blows up the whole thing. Whether Mr. Robot lied to Elliot or what he withheld from him, all of the sudden, the show becomes about that and the plot machinations of that and not about what Elliot’s emotionally going through in terms of this serious disorder that he’s discovered about himself. Tyrell’s absence was a byproduct of what we felt Elliot’s journey needed to be for the entire season. Once we Tyrell came in, it went back to those plot machinations, folding Elliot back into the overarching journey of the revolution.
Season 2, arguably, has a bigger cliffhanger than season 1. What do you think are the big questions fans are going to be asking heading into season 3?
I think the one big one will be “What happened to Angela? Has she really been flipped? Or is she now playing some other motivation?” And I think that’s great. I know that people sometimes get frustrated that we leave Angela’s motivations in the dark, but I think that’s what adds to the intrigue of her. That’s why I’m so continually fascinated by her character: You can’t quite nail her down to which side she’s playing. It feels like she’s always playing both sides. I think that’s going to be a big question.
What else? Obviously, Leon and the coda and what will become of our affable heroes, Mobley and Trenton. Darlene and what will become of her relationship with Dom and how that will transpire, especially as that relates to Elliot. I think those will be the questions, but the fans and all of the viewers have always surprised me with the questions they ask. Sometimes they’re questions I didn’t even think we were asking.
Here are a couple of excerpts from an interview which Vulture held with Sam Esmail:
MZS: Why did you make the decision to delay the revelation of the real nature of Mr. Robot until late in the first season, and why did you wait to confirm that Elliot was in fact behind bars in the second season? Why didn’t you just let us in on that from the beginning?
SE: We talked about that. We said, okay, let’s just tell the audience, right? And then he’ll be in prison and then he’ll imagine it away and go into his reprogramming mind, similar to what we did in the pilot. And then someone was like — that someone was probably me [laughter] — what if we didn’t tell the audience? Okay, all right, what does that mean? What do we get out of that? Is there some added value to that, and if not, we shouldn’t do it.
I started looking at it as, well, if we start hinting something is going to be off here, we’re not going to hide it that well. It’s gotta be real. It’s gotta be like, no, there is something a little off, we’re hinting at it, we’re really in his coping mechanism, what Elliot would do, but the audience is going to sense it and is going to maybe predict it, maybe not. I mean, I didn’t really know, but I didn’t really care either way.
In our show, reality becomes our subtext. So if you have a scene with two characters, one of them loves the other, it’s more interesting for that person to hate that person on the surface but subtextually you feel, oh, well that person actually loves them. And you sense that maybe or maybe you don’t, and then you’re surprised when that comes out. Either way, there is another layer of engagement. It’s a lot more interesting. If everybody is saying on-the-nose dialogue to each other, if everything is on the surface, that becomes less intriguing, that doesn’t let me engage on it on a level that I think could be deeper and richer.
We have this opportunity with our character, who is obviously narrating to us and considers us a friend, felt betrayed by us the first season. What if he feels like, well, I’m gonna lie back, I’m gonna withhold from you and I’m not gonna tell you everything. I mean, I’ve not seen this done before, but now we’re developing this weird relationship with the audience. Whether you saw the prison coming or not, that’s not the point. The point is that now you’re having this subtextual relationship with him that you didn’t have in the first season. And then to add that now, under the unreliable narrator device, not only do we see it through his eyes, but he could also be lying to you. That’s another storytelling device that we could throw in…
GE: You’ve talked about how the Arab Spring has inspired the show a bit in terms of the theme of revolution. And, along those lines, this season we see the revolution not working out. But it’s also a very American story in how it focuses on what it feels like to be an outsider. Your star, Rami Malek, is Egyptian-American, as are you, and one of the members of fsociety, Trenton, is an Iranian-American. Are you partly trying to play on the feeling of being an immigrant in America, in terms of building the mood and tone of the show?
SE: Yeah. The thing about it is, when I made those choices, some of them in the screenplay, some of them in casting, which then inspired certain character choices, it was never to talk about it. Elliot is obviously of mixed race, his mother and father are different ethnicities, but we do not talk about it. Trenton, we dip our toe into it, but we do not talk about it, we let it just inform it.
And the reason why, and I did that very deliberately, because when I wrote Elliot I didn’t know, right? I didn’t know who it was gonna be and it didn’t really matter to me. And then when I cast Rami, who is obviously brilliant and perfect for the part, how do I reconcile his ethnicity — is he Egyptian, not Egyptian? I mean is there something here, should I be diving into that? And then I felt like there’s some reverse racism going on here. Wait a minute, I can’t cast Rami unless I address the fact that he is Egyptian in some way? I didn’t want that to now all of a sudden dictate anything about the character that would’ve happened had I cast someone white. But I couldn’t just ignore it either, right? Because it needed to inform who he was.
And then that’s when it grew out, what you were saying, this outcast status or this outcast look about him, that then felt intrinsic to how Rami plays Elliot and how potentially I wrote Elliot. And it all becomes a more subconscious choice. Even when I wrote the Trenton character, and I wrote her in as Iranian-American, I didn’t do that because I wanted to explore Iranian-Americans, I did that because I was thinking about what kind of people would join this group from all walks of life. I’m also kind of reflecting on my own reality, my own circle of friends … that this type of person felt that way, that it felt right to be in this group.
And so it all came from this really genuine place of what organically makes sense, what informs this character that I’m trying to write, or trying to come across in the best way without it being about like, okay, here is this really diverse cast. And honestly, I think that’s really important because one of the things I get worried about with this diversity thing that’s going on right now, I don’t want people to look at it as homework. I don’t want people to write something and say, well, now we’ve gotta make them black and we gotta make them Native American.
Technology producer and writer Kor Adana has more at The Hollywood Reporter:
Another season of Mr. Robot is in the books. Now that it’s over, what, to you, were the ultimate goals and purpose of this season, as far as evolving the stories of Elliot, fsociety, E Corp, the Dark Army, and everyone else involved in this complicated web?
Ultimately, I believe we succeeded in creating a cohesive second chapter that organically fleshes out the world that fsociety essentially destroyed at the end of the first season. Elliot’s discovery of the Mr. Robot personality opened the door for us to experience his inner conflict and his longing to regain control of himself. Even though he enacted the 5/9 hack, him reconciling his relationship with Mr. Robot was at the top of his priority list. The quest for control and grip on reality is a large component of Elliot’s journey this season. The consequences and repercussions of the hack heavily influenced the other storylines. Price, Whiterose, Darlene, and Angela are all navigating this new world and are forced to confront questionable decisions they made previously.
In the finale, Stage Two is finally revealed, and it has fiery ramifications for Evil Corp. As best as you can, can you summarize what the plan involves, for those who haven’t yet wrapped their heads around it?
Rebuilding their records of loans and debt is the goal here. E Corp is transferring all of their paper financial records — titles, deeds, statements, transactions, credit records — to one of their processing facilities. Their plan is to digitize all of the paper content in an effort to recreate their databases. Knowing this, Elliot/Mr. Robot, Tyrell and the Dark Army have collaborated on a plan that would set off a large explosion in the datacenter of that processing facility. If they’re successful, anything stored in that building (paper documents included) would be destroyed. Stage Two is the logical next step of the original E Corp plan. Remember when Mr. Robot said that you have to take a conglomerate down limb by limb before they can unravel? The paper documents represent another one of E Corp’s limbs.
The Flash returns on October 4. The extended trailer above shows more about the Flash Point story.
Legends of Tomorrow will be much different next season–which is a good thing. Here is the synopsis of the first episode, which guest stars Stephen Amell and airs on October 13:
After the defeat of the immortal villain Vandal Savage and the exposure of the corrupt Time Masters, a new threat emerges. Dr. Nate Heywood (Nick Zano), an unconventional and charming historian, is thrust into the action. After making a shocking discovery, Nate seeks out Oliver Queen (guest star Stephen Amell) for help in finding the scattered Legends. Once reunited, the Legends continue their new mission to protect the timeline from temporal aberrations – unusual changes to history that spawn potentially catastrophic consequences. Their first stop is 1942 to protect Albert Einstein from being kidnapped before the Nazis destroy New York City with a nuclear bomb. Meanwhile, Ray (Brandon Routh) notices that Sara (Caity Lotz) has a mission of her own, which leads them both to face her nemesis, Damien Darhk (guest star Neal McDonough). Victor Garber, Arthur Darvill, Dominic Purcell and Franz Drameh also star. Dermot Downs directed the episode written by Marc Guggenheim & Phil Klemmer and Greg Berlanti & Chris Fedak.
One aspect of the upcoming season which is of interest, the Justice Society of America, is not seen in the trailer.
SciFi Now looks at ARQ, a time travel movie which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and is now available on Netflix.
The BBC is doing the obvious to get attention for the first episode of Class. Peter Capaldi will have a cameo. This will air on the BBC in October, and be paired with Doctor Who next spring in the United States.
In other Doctor Who related news, The Mary Sue looked at the controversy over what Karen Gillan’s Jumanji costume (picture above).
Maybe it is because I’m used to timey wimey plot lines, but I predicted the twist in This is Us well before it was revealed in the pilot. Now we will have to see where the show goes after this setup. I’m looking forward to checking out all the actual time travel shows premiering this season. There were three episodes of The Good Place, staring Kristen Bell and Ten Danson, last week. The comedy, which does have a genre aspect, was off to an entertaining start.