SPOILER ALERT: This story contains details about tonight’s Mr. Robot Season 1 finale and Season 2.
Season 1 of USA’s Mr. Robot came to a close tonight with the episode “eps1.9_zer0-day.avi,” and even though creator Sam Esmail set up a slew of cliffhangers to keep us debating until Season 2 comes together, the whole doppelganger jawdropper from the penultimate episode — that computer maestro Mr. Robot actually is Elliot Alderson’s father and that the young hacker has imagined him all along — continued to rack our brains.
For a series that has shamelessly paid homage to Stanley Kubrick and David Fincher, Esmail duly emphasized the Fight Club-like notion he has laid out: Elliot (Rami Malek), in all his conversations with Mr. Robot (Christian Slater), has been talking to himself the entire time, able to summon his father whenever he wants like an imaginary friend. We tragically witness the perils of Elliot’s deranged psyche in a coffee shop: He isn’t really choking his father against a wall, he’s literally choking himself.
“He has a dissociative identity disorder,”Esmail said. “There are archetypes. People who suffer from this disorder sometimes have a mother figure at play or a father figure.” The series creator, who originally conceived Mr. Robot as a feature film, said he had the idea for the title character’s duality from the onset. However, is Mr. Robot alive in some virtual reality? In Episode 9, he pleads with Elliot by his grave never to reveal to E Corp that they’re related. “There are greater things going on,” Esmail teases, “It’s just about how I reconcile the two.” Mr. Robot would have gone out with a bang just by ending with the big father reveal, but Esmail says, “I didn’t want to put too much weight on that. I felt that the ending shouldn’t be that shocking, rather more conclusive. No big wow and without the characters seeing their repercussions of what was going on.”
Indeed, we see an end to Elliot’s means. His hacker gang, fsociety, has succeeded in cyber-stabbing the 1% aka E Corp. This has triggered an avalanche of Occupy Wall Street-like protesting throughout Manhattan. An E Corp senior executive commits suicide –a tragic nod to Enron executive J. Clifford Baxter, who shot himself to death prior to his subpoena by a congressional committee in January 2002.
But in the final gasps of tonight’s episode, we see that all is not well in the state of Mr. Robot’s Denmark: Enigmatic Dark Army hacker lord White Rose (B.D. Wong) — a transgender woman masquerading as a businessman at E Corp who we thought was on Elliot’s side — appears fraternizing with the company’s new chief Phillip Price before a fire in a castle-like building. They allude to plot points that are bound to play out in Season 2 of E Corp’s involvement in the Congo with coltan mining. Given Mr. Robot‘s mirror of the real world, all of this makes sense. Coltan, an ore, yields tantalum, which is used in the production of electronic products. The mass excavation of the ore has been blamed for triggering internal strife in the African country. If you’ve already watched it, here’s another look:
Says Esmail about the cliffhanger that plays out after the final credits: “Because fsociety in essence succeeded, I wanted to let audiences know that there wasn’t necessarily a victory, rather something larger at play. There are chess movies higher up, higher than the biggest conglomerate on the planet. I wanted the looming threat of something more devious.”
Another dangler from tonight: Where the heck was Tyrell Wellick (Martin Wallstrom), the ex-E Corp wannabe CTO who joins Elliot’s cause to take the corporation down at the end of Episode 9? Plot-wise, this enabled Elliot to come toe-to-toe with Tyrell’s Lady Macbeth, his wife Joanna (Stephanie Corneliussen), who ultimately will become a formidable foe to Elliot next season. “Her motivations are a little murky this season, but they will get clearer next season. We’ll see her rise,” says Esmail, who considers her “the hinged version” to Tyrell’s nemesis.
However, Tyrell being MIA speaks more to Elliot’s mental condition. Esmail reveals: “Elliot has lost his sense of time. When did he lose time before? He created fsociety but doesn’t remember that. He’s had conversations that he isn’t even privy to. We’re going to explore that dynamic. When can you trust yourself? Tyrell is the first big mystery into that. He is missing. How does Elliot figure that out?”
Adds Esmail: “The show is about a guy who has this disorder in real time that we’re discovering with him. What do you do when your alter ego has acted as you? How do you deal with that emotionally and practically on a real-world level?”
But as Elliot executes what seems to be his ideal world, a revolt against the 1%, is he even happy? Does he even realize what he accomplished? Esmail provides a practical answer, over a psychological one. After all, Mr. Robot has demonstrated a flair for breaking the fourth wall, predicting headlines in our hack-attack society rather than ripping them (read: Elliot threatened to expose an adulterer husband well before the hackers cracked into the Ashley Madison website this summer).
Esmail’s aim, once again, is to be ahead of the curve in season 2, eluding to the show playing out future economic activity in the U.S. Currently, he’s still breaking story with his intimate writing staff.
Says the creator, “We talked with a lot of economists who follow real time events, in regard to the aftermath of something like this happening. At the end of it, which side would people be on after seeing real life consequences? Hopefully we can make economics sexy and entertaining.”