9:59am PT by Josh Wigler
'Mr. Robot': Cracking the Code on Season 2 Finale and the Road Ahead
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the season two finale of USA Network's Mr. Robot.]
With its second season officially in the books, the team behind Mr. Robot are finally ready to pull the curtains back on the secrets of Elliot Alderson's imperfect little loop.
Kidding, of course. The secrecy remains in full effect. But whether it's confirmation from creator Sam Esmail that Elliot and Tyrell Wellick's first meeting has already been seen on the show, or that the late Leslie Romero did indeed die from a stray gunshot wound, the typically ironclad vault is starting to open up at least a bit more as Mr. Robot enters its off-season.
Technology producer and writer Kor Adana pushes the ball forward in that regard, joining THR for one last look back at season two, the Easter eggs hidden throughout the year, the specifics of Elliot's Stage Two plan and Dom's "python" strategy, and more.I'm never about withholding things arbitrarily," Sam Esmail tells THR answering Elliot's fate before the finale's conclusion."]
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.
Is it safe to blame Stage Two, and the battery power it requires, for the recurring brownouts in the back portion of the season — brownouts that eventually became an outright blackout in the final pre-credits scene?
Looking at this on a macro level, Stage Two and the brownouts aren’t directly related. In the wake of the 5/9 hack, credit is completely destroyed. So people aren’t really borrowing or lending anymore. You have big companies that can no longer fund themselves… companies that used to manage their payroll with credit. This affects transportation and shipping industries as well. For example, if power plants are struggling to get a hold of fuel, it would be difficult for them to maintain steady supply of power on their electrical grids. The battery power that Stage Two requires is more isolated to the datacenter of that specific E Corp building.
Elliot ends the season learning some hard lessons. Tyrell Wellick is real, and Mr. Robot is real committed, so much so that he's willing to die for the cause. This is very new information for us. How long have you and the writers known about Elliot's alter ego's readiness to die, if that's what it takes to stop Elliot from interfering with his master plan?
It was pretty clear early on in the writers’ room that we wanted to have this moment with the gun and that Mr. Robot would be willing to sacrifice himself, and Elliot, in order to destroy Evil Corp. Mr. Robot has always had this anarchistic view of fsociety’s operations. Of course, Mr. Robot is probably one of the most selfish characters in our show, so this moment of sacrifice is pretty telling. He believes in his cause wholeheartedly. He doesn’t want to die, which is why he was trying to talk Elliot out of it at the end of the finale, but he understands that it’s a necessary step. This is bigger than him or Elliot.
Tyrell confesses his love for Elliot during his call with Angela. What's the nature of his feelings for Elliot in your mind? Romantic? Familial? Something more nebulous?
Nebulous. There’s something interesting about having an antagonist who cares so deeply about your protagonist and wants to connect to establish this team. I think Tyrell sees so much of himself inside Elliot… it’s a relationship that goes beyond romantic attraction or familial bonds. The notion of wanting to be gods together is so inclusive, yet at the same time completely contradictory. Tyrell has a lust for power, but he also has a longing to share that power with Elliot. It’s a fascinating dynamic.
Angela's trip down the Land of Ecodelia robot hole has seemingly placed her on the Dark Army's side, at least for now. What can you say about the current state of Angela as we see her in the finale, talking to Tyrell, preparing to meet up with Elliot?
Knowing what we know at this point, it seems as though she’s complicit with whatever Dark Army’s plans are, but with Angela, you can never be too sure about her intentions.
Joanna Wellick learns that Scott Knowles was the man who sent her the phone and the gifts. She uses this as an opportunity to get her bartender boyfriend to set up Scott for his own wife's death. Has this been Joanna's plan with her lover all along, or is this a spontaneous decision? And what does this say about Joanna? We've always known her as ruthless, but this feels especially venomous.
Personally, this is one of my favorite Joanna moments. She has definitely been laying the groundwork for Derek all along. I believe this always involved building up his loyalty to a point where she could persuade him to give the authorities a different story about what happened that night. The revelation that Scott Knowles was behind the gifts presented an interesting opportunity for Joanna to capitalize on her control of Derek. I think that was a pleasant surprise for her. She knew how valuable it was in an earlier episode when she said, “of all the gifts he sent, this is the greatest.”
Can you elaborate on Dom's "python strategy," and how exactly that worked for her from a theoretical perspective, and how it ended up working out practically?
Surveillance is the key to the python strategy. The FBI was actually using their illegal surveillance program as a part of this approach. Let’s follow the guys we know about, with the assumption that they will lead us to Tyrell, the man in the middle. This is why the FBI didn’t start bringing people in early on and even when they did, they were very selective about who they interviewed.
In the post-credits scene, Trenton tells Mobley there might be a way to reverse the damage done by the hack. Is there any insight you can share about the mechanics of what she's thinking? From a layman's perspective at least, it's very difficult to imagine how they can put the toothpaste back in the tube.
Can they put the toothpaste back in the tube? Well, maybe some of it. Trenton says something very important in this scene: "What if we could generate the keys?" To me, that means that Trenton has a hunch or plan for somehow regenerating the specific encryption keys that were used for the overall 5/9 encryption job. If she’s right and that is indeed possible, she could theoretically decrypt all of E Corp’s data and restore the debt records. I don’t think that would necessarily reverse all of the damage the hack caused, but it would definitely be a big step in the right direction.
Sam spoke about season three continuing the Star Wars model, as Elliot and the show go through something of a Return of the Jedi moment. For you, is there anything specific about that movie that informs your thinking as the season starts coming together?
Return of the Jedi brings a couple of themes/motifs to mind. Luke definitely comes into his own as a leader, so I would love to see Elliot return to that role for fsociety. There are also some themes at play in Return of the Jedi that would be interesting to explore. The rebels needed to team up with the Ewoks at the Battle of Endor to bring down the Death Star’s shield. There was a real sense of unity and accomplishment there. Since the conflicts of season two caused our core group of fsociety members to separate… if they do end up uniting again, I’m interested in how that would play out.
As the master of the show's Easter eggs, what are some of your proudest moments of season two, as far as fan engagement and interaction?
Now for episode 10, we planted an Easter egg site in Elliot’s browser at one point. To put it simply, it asked for a special kind of password. The only way you could get that password was to scan a QR code that was on the wall on the Hacking Robot set. (The Hacking Robot after show aired after that episode.) After that, there was a series of overall show trivia and problem solving to find the solution to that puzzle. It was a lot of fun for our team at USA digital marketing to put that together and I really enjoyed watching how the Reddit community banded together to solve it. This pales in comparison to what we have planned next, but it was probably the most rewarding moment thus far.
How about Easter eggs that you seeded into the season, but fans didn't catch onto? Are there any hidden clues the Reddit detectives haven't even picked up on yet?
Follow THR's Mr. Robot coverage all season long for interviews, news and theories.