As the first season finale of USA’s Mr. Robot approaches, we have a lot of questions for Sam Esmail about what the finale — and the rest of the series — might look like. Luckily, Esmail was willing to sit down and give us some answers. Read on for our latest interview with the Mr. Robot creator, who opens up about his characters, his plans, and his old love for Lost.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Tyrell is a bit of a wild card now, and his wife, as you’ve said many times, is going to be set up as an even more important character. What should we be looking for in the finale in terms of those two?
SAM ESMAIL: A lot of that kicks into gear next season, but in the finale, as things sort of collide, it’s going to be less about Tyrell and Joanna’s relationship and more about Tyrell and Elliot. Next season is when we see the rise of Joanna in a much more dynamic way.
Tyrell is such an interesting character. Will he switch sides and not be the bad guy? What will his role be?
I kind of think that he’ll always be … the best way I can describe it without judging him as a character is that he’s incredibly damaged. The fact that he takes the moniker of the quote-unquote “bad guy” is not something I feel comfortable about either way – as much as I wouldn’t even put the moniker of “good guy” on Elliot. I think they’re actually just both very damaged people, and they’ve both been motivated by very different things. Obviously Tyrell has crossed more ethical lines. And Tyrell’s obviously all about self-preservation and I guess operating more under a selfish desire to get ahead, whereas Elliot on the flipside is seemingly altruistic and operating more on the benefit of other people.
But the interesting thing is that you could think that’s a clear-cut thing, where you think one is good and one is bad. That’s not really the case. It gets murky on both ends, and both sides of the coin can actually reveal a lot of narcissism. So I’d say that’s how we’re going to keep Tyrell – as marquee as possible.
Let’s talk about Angela. What should we be expecting from her? [For Sam’s thoughts on Ollie, read our interview that went up last week.]
Angela’s arc, you maybe thought that she was one way in the beginning of the season, but now she’s make some actions and is a lot more duplicitous than one might think in the beginning of the season.
How will the finale end? Will it be a cliffhanger, or will it be more a firmer resolution?
Honestly, the thing about how I wanted to end this season was that I wanted to set up the larger story of Elliot’s journey. So that’s where we’re ending. A lot of things happen in these episodes that are going to give people who are following the show a lot to process and a lot to rethink and a lot to figure out. I think what I wanted ultimately was the experience coming into season 2 to be, “Okay, now I’ve got everything.” In the feature-screenwriting world, this [season 1] was the Act 1. This is our setup, essentially, to sort of inform you, “Here’s what the series is going to be about.”
Usually television shows maybe do that in the first couple episodes. We essentially took the whole season to do that, and now, going into season 2, you’ll know — you’ll know what relationship we’re going to be focused on, and what ultimately the dynamic of the series moving forward will be. So that’s where I want audiences to be by the end of the season.
So will season 2 be more focused on Elliot as a character or on driving forward the hacker-thriller elements?
I think the first season, there’s a lot of character development. To me, none of the thrilling elements work if you don’t have a character that’s fleshed out, that feels real, that you can relate to or empathize with or understand.
So we’re always doing both. But at the end of the day, what a good story is, for me, is really about a person and how they’re growing and how they’re evolving. The emotional journey is 100 percent the heartbeat of the show. And that’s something that we’ll never lose.
But yeah, the overarching story in terms of Evil Corp and the plot to take that down is going to be present throughout the whole series.
How much should audiences trust what they’ve seen so far, in terms of what we’ve been told is real and what isn’t?
I think the important thing to remember is that one of the themes of this show is reality. What is real? And it’s a conversation, because technology has sort of unearthed this identity issue that people have nowadays in terms of what their online presences is versus what their real persona is. Which identity is it, and who is the person you are? Is it the person you want to be perceived online, or is the person you want to be perceived in-person, or is the person that’s behind closed doors? And there really starts to formulate this clear divide between all these identities in a real interesting way, and it’s a combination of all of them. At the core, what does that mean? And what is real?
So the show really does discuss that. And I know it’s starting to sound really cerebral, but I think at a certain extent, I kind of want to wear down the audiences in terms of that question of reality and just say: Emotionally, what feels real? Because at the end of the day, whether you thought the F Society was real or not, whether you thought Mr. Robot was real or not, whether you thought Angela and Tyrell and all these theories I’ve been reading – no matter what, you’re with Elliot on this ride.
You’re figuring it out with him. That’s the most important part. It was fun for me, when I used to watch Lost, I would go online and come up with my own theories – that’s probably part of the interactive fun of a show like this, to go off an interpret events and characters in a different way.
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