Post Mortems

Mr. Robot Creator Says Finale's Big Reveal 'Is the Heart of Future Seasons,' Names the Scenes That Wowed Him

The following contains spoilers from the Mr. Robot Season 1 finale.

USA Network’s Mr. Robot wrapped Season 1 on Wednesday night with an intense hour in which the brilliant Elliot Alderson (played by Rami Malek) came to realize,, more than ever, that his sense of reality had been “hacked.” That he was in the midst of a major psychotic break, to the point that he had been assigning the face of his dead father to an avatar he dubbed Mr. Robot (Christian Slater).

Having haggled with that harrowing epiphany — and on the heels of an odyssey in which he tried to ascertain what he’d been up to in the three days prior, that frenemy Tyrell Wellick was now ominously MIA — Elliot retreated to his apartment, where someone came knocking. Meanwhile, in a provocative post-credits scene, Angela’s E Corp boss Phillip Price was seen chatting with… White Rose, aka the transgender Dark Army leader who helped with fsociety’s epic hack, in disguise (BD Wong explained to Vulture).

TVLine spoke with Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail — who safeguards secrets like Apple — about booting up this ambitious drama, the finale’s big twists and the Season 1 scenes that wowed him.

TVLINE | I first wanted to invite you to think back to mid-March, to the SXSW Film Festival (where Mr. Robot won the audience award in the Episodics category). What was going on in your mind before the pilot screened there?
Honestly, in making this show I knew it was so peculiar and specific, I just hoped that we would survive. I always joked that if we could just get “cult status” I’d be pretty happy. [Laughs] It’s all kind of a blur but what was insane was the Q&A afterwards. We had a line of people to ask questions, and we were told that wasn’t really happening at the other screenings. Mr Robot SXSWIt was interesting to see people really engaged with and excited to talk about the show. That’s what I love about television or films — after you finish watching it, you want to run to your friends and talk about every detail. The fact that we got that level of engagement was really exciting.

TVLINE | When you first shopped the show around, what sort of feedback did you get? Were there concerns about the directing, the grayness of the characters…?
People’s biggest concern was with the VO (voiceover), they felt there was too much VO. And also they thought that the tech stuff was going to get a little complicated. I hate that stigma that VO has — for me it’s one of the best tools in screenwriting, even though it goes against a lot of rules in screenwriting. Some of my favorite films — Clockwork Orange, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas — have amazing VO. There’s an intimate relationship you can have with an audience that you can’t have with just dialogue in scenes.

As for the tech stuff, on the one hand people were interested in that because they felt it was in the zeitgeist and very current. But on the other hand, Hollywood had so gotten it wrong every single time they tried to do it, in film and in television, they were concerned they’d have another miss.

TVLINE | Why do you think it is that a heavily narrated, distinctly directed drama that is dense with tech lingo and rooted in questions of morality was able to “pop” in the middle of the summer?
To be totally frank, I have no idea. But here’s what I will say: I went to see the Joe Edgerton movie The Gift last weekend, and I remember feeling like I had no idea what’s going to happen next. The plot went in directions I didn’t know it was going to go, so I left the movie feeling like, “Well, that’s really rare now.” And that to me is upsetting, because I remember that in all the paranoid thrillers that inspired Mr. Robot — like Se7en or The Usual Suspects, The Sixth Sense, The Game — that’s the feeling I would have. You left The Usual Suspects wanting to talk about it with all your friends. And I think if anything this show really surprised people in every episode. Sometimes they didn’t love the surprises, but oftentimes the fact that it was surprising was good enough. Maybe that’s something that distinguishes us from a lot of films and television shows.

TVLINE | Obviously some Mr Robot Finaleviewers were for a while theorizing about whether Mr. Robot was real or not. How did you make yourself OK with that, the fact that people got a jump on that twist?
I actually wanted the audience to be a little ahead of Elliot on that. And we were telegraphing it intentionally, to the point that people thought it was a misdirect. Even with the Darlene reveal [that she is Elliot’s sister], I was never obsessively hiding anything, because I think that’s actually dangerous to do to an audience, because then it starts to feel cheap and it reduces that moment to a “Gotcha!” That was never the intent for us, especially the moment in the graveyard. I wanted you to be with Elliot in his slow realization that this serious disorder is starting to creep up on him. That was purely an emotional point for that character, so I wanted the audience to not be distracted and really be with him in that moment. Even with the Darlene twist, I thought people were going to guess that, too.

TVLINE | That one admittedly blindsided me good.
But if you look back it wasn’t like we hid that very well. I find that in the movies that work with me, they actually tell you the twist, though they do it in a clever, nuanced way. I remember reading how the Sixth Sense producers wanted to cut the line “I see dead people” because they thought that would give [the twist] away. But what’s brilliant is you tell the audience without explicitly telling them, and then when the reveal does finally happen it feels earned.

TVLINE | In the finale’s Times Square scene, Mr. Robot insists to Elliot, “We’re all together now.” But Elliot at least for the time being was able to block it out. Will that be dropped, or is will it be a recurring taunt moving into Season 2?
People always ask me, “What’s the show about?” I couldn’t really answer that question in all honesty until now. Originally I wrote this as a feature and this was the 30-page mark, the realization Elliot has about his fragmented personality. Having to face his alter ego and starting to reconcile that in a real way. That to me is what the heart of the future seasons of this show will be about. Mr Robot FinaleSo when Mr. Robot says he’s not going away, that’s true for Elliot and the show.

TVLINE | How much should we worry about the conspicuously missing Tyrell? You have such a magnetic actor there in Martin Wallstrom.
Yeah, he’s great…. I think I’m going to plead the fifth on that, so I don’t spoil anything for anyone.

TVLINE | What do you want to say about who’s at Elliot’s door?
What’s great about that, because we obviously talked about it a lot, is that the audience is allowed to participate with us. Your imagination can run wild. There are a lot of possibilities that we introduce in the episode that could answer that question. The fact that the audience can theorize and put who they want behind the door and play that out is for me the fun part. So I’ll answer your question like that!

TVLINE | Is the after-credits POTW-MrRobot_Wongcoda to suggest that BD Wong (Law & Order: SVU) will have a more prominent role in Season 2?
I would be stupid not to work with BD Wong again. He’s such an amazing actor, and the scene that he did in [Episode 8]…. He was just brilliant.

TVLINE | His first scene was, what, three minutes? And yet he created such a character in White Rose.
Oh my God, just from top to bottom. The rhythm,, the cadence, everything. He’s just an excellent actor.

TVLINE | It was ironic that you purposely edited into the finale a timely Ashley Madison hack reference, only to have the episode wind up reflecting a different current event (the live, on-air Virgina shooting), in an unfortunate way (and thus was postponed a week).
Yeah…. The Ashley Madison thing was there in the pilot, one of the pieces that Elliot uses as leverage against Lenny. So what happened was in the original draft of the finale… I used Ashley Madison again, but then I felt like, “Eh. I’ve already made referenceMr Robot Finale to that, let’s cut it.” And then when we were editing it, the actual Ashley Madison story came out and I was like, “How can we not?” It just makes total sense, so we put it back in.

TVLINE | Will Krista be a more active character in Season 2?
Absolutely. Another great actress, Gloria Reuben. She was obviously rocked by what Elliot told her and she will obviously be distrustful of him, but I think that because she knows how damaged he really is — and because shes’ a psychiatrist — she can find a way to empathize with him and hopefully engage with him again.

TVLINE | Which scene from the first season, once it was all put together, most wowed you?
The White Rose scene wowed me in that every time I pictured that scene, it could have gone so many different ways, and whatever BD did, along with Rami, in that scene, elevated and made it 10 times better than anything Mr Robot FinaleI pictured in my head. It felt very organic. And for all the elements of that scene mixed together to feel organic, that’s an incredible feat.

The graveyard scene was another scene that needed to be pulled off perfectly. Everything from the directing to Carly [Chaikin] to Portia [Doubleday] to Christian, and obviously to Rami’s heartbreaking, vulnerable performance, where he made that realization one would have about their own psychotic break…. If you think about that, it’s almost unfathomable to imagine, yet somehow he finds a way to make that feel incredibly real and authentic. That really wowed me, for sure.

TVLINE | And as we were saying, it’s probably a scene that some viewers had pre-written in their heads, so you have to put your own distinct stamp with it.
Yeah. The thing is it was all Rami’s performance, and if there was even a little bit of a miss there, we would have gotten nailed for it badly. But Rami delivered in spades.

TVLINE | You have an acclaimed cable drama, you just this week got engaged to the lovely Emmy Rossum (Shameless)…. What else is possibly on your to-do list for 2015?
I wish I could take lots of vacation and go to the Caribbean, but I actually have to start working on Season 2 in a few weeks. So… not much! Except for more Mr. Robot.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Ellinaras78 says:

    This show was not too bad for a summer show. The problem is everything was entirely too predictable, all season long. If they hype it as something different and innovative they have to deliver, and well they didn’t.

  2. Jax&Juice's Girl says:

    HOLY SH******T I loved the finale!!!!!!!! I don’t know what else to say but……Tyrell’s crazy ass is MIA, His wife that weird looking bitch there’s something about her that I don’t like. The WHITE ROSE talking to that Evil Corp boss?…………And who the hell is @ Elliot’s door? I think it’s either Tyrell or maybe Angela or his boss 4rm AllSafe? Anyways this finale A++++++ can’t wait for S2!

  3. Ellinaras78 says:

    One more thing. Based on the hype of why the show was delayed one week, the expectation was for so much more. That was it? Last night’s Tyrant had a more surprising on camera shooting, and you didn’t hear anything about it, no warnings.

  4. Lisa says:

    That finale ended what may very well be the most solid first season of any show I have ever seen. Not a single wasted moment/episode.

    The use of music in this episode in particular was stellar. It’s been great all season, but they really outdid themselves in creating the mood.

    Also, that Joanna and Elliot scene was one of the most tense scenes of the entire show, which is incredible because nothing much really happened in it? It was all the work of the music, editing, Elliot’s paranoia and our knowledge of what Joanna is capable of. Well done, Sam Esmail.

  5. jenn says:

    Are we to assume Elliot is also Tyrell??

    • hope not, but the theories will sure compile, I know thats fur shur.

    • jesschwahl says:

      I don’t think that could work, there’s those times Elliot’s allsafe boss talked to Tyrell, and he certainly would notice if Tyrell and Elliot were the same person (minus a crazy twin storyline, but maybe) and when Elliot went to ecorp tonight Tyrells assistant didn’t react the way I assume she would have if her fired boss showed up, plus probably Tyrell would be banned from the building after getting fired too (although I guess security would be busy, the world ending and all).

    • If that were the case, I would be completely shocked, but with this show, nothing is really impossible as we’ve seen LOL

    • Only if everything is imaginary. In the pilot, Elliot and Tyrell have a meeting in a boardroom with around 10 lawyers in attendance as they talk to each other and different ends of the table.

  6. keenen says:

    Still have no idea what is going on…but would love to see Elliott return to therapy and start to come to terms with himself and not be desperate all the time.

  7. Wow wow wow! This show is like nothing else on TV. I wish more shows would be so original!!! Can’t wait until it returns!!!

  8. moony52 says:

    Anybody else think that Elliott is Tyrell somehow?

    • m3rcnate says:

      Nah, doesn’t add up. Tyrell had his own scenes, his entirely own life, a wife and a kid…there is no way Elliot is him for those reasons and more.
      If anything the clues point towards Elliot killing Tyrell. How? Remember where that gun was put? In the popcorn machine then that plot point never touched on again. Well, where were Elliot and Tyrell before the 3 day time jump and he is missing? Standing by the popcorn machine in the game store.

    • TeeOh says:

      I firmly believe that Elliot is Tyrell because Tyrell had a one on one meeting with Mr. Robot and Tyrell’s wife spoke to him in Swedish as if to see if it would flip him back to Tyrell. She very much seems to know of the schizophrenia.

      • JBC says:

        I was curious as to why Tyrell’s wife spoke to him in Swedish. I don’t think it is possible that Elliot is Tyrell, but who knows, lots of twists and turns in this show.

      • Argyle says:

        Someone that speaks Swedish translated it. She pretty much said “If you have hurt him I will beat you to death”.

    • Rachel says:

      Yes and no. Idk how he could’ve worked at Evil Corp and All Safe at the same time. And last night when Elliot is at Tyrell’s and the wife shows up she says, “can I help you?” Wouldn’t she say, “tyrell what r u doing?” Or in the scene where Tyrell offers Elliot the job at Evil Corp, who would he be talking to(in front of all those people?) And Elliot’s boss’ interactions with Tyrell? All that to say who knows and anything is possible with this show lol.

  9. Thomas Phayboun says:

    Just whoooaaaaaaa!! The entire episode was just bam blooooom poooowwww!!! The trannie White Rose creeps me out. And I agree with what others are saying. Joanna is going to play a much bigger role and could possibly even be in with the hacking. Idk honestly, the whole Tyrell MIA thing is still blanking my mind. At the door, I will put money down that its Tyrell. Darlene and the rest of fSociety are to busy drinking it up so it couldn’t have been her. #Mr.RobotSeason2bound

  10. m3rcnate says:

    The one thing the show setup that they didn’t take action on (on camera) was the gun. Remember the sister put it in the pop-corn machine in-front of Elliot? Well, where is Elliot when he is with Tyrell before the 3 day time jump and Tyrell is missing? Oh yeah, in the Game store, right by the pop-corn machine. Interesting.
    I really really enjoy this show, so smart, so unique, and so spot on with the tech side of it. This show treats its viewers like they are intelligent which is hyper rare in Hollywood.
    The most impactful scene on me? I gotta say when Elliot absolutely eviscerates that guy who was giving him a tour around the data security facility. Gah…i still feel so bad for him, want to give him a hug so badly. Reminds me of the heavy scenes Will Smith had in Seven Pounds. Heartbreaking.

    • Et al. says:

      You’re right. They even included the ‘gun in the popcorn machine’ in the previously on segment. Yet it never occurred to me. What a fantastic show. Just a perfect season of television. I still can’t believe this is on USA.

  11. KaitK says:

    Loved this episode and season so far, definitely the strongest first season of any tv show that I’ve ever watched. The way they shoot it and the music choices are phenomenal. The scenes that showed how Elliot “interacted” with his father/alter ego were great. Not sure how I feel about him hallucinating, or whatever the correct word would be, his younger self and mother.

    Anyone else think that it’s possible that it’s gonna be Shayla at the door? I feel like it being Tyrell would be too easy of a choice for a show like this. A+

    • KaitK says:

      sorry for the reply my own comment afterthought… maybe it’s the psychiatrist? Would make a lot of sense considering the cold open

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  13. Joey Padron says:

    great finale. great first season. after credits scene was interesting. can’t wait for season 2!

  14. spdavid says:

    No idea why it was delayed since the scene in question doesn’t really reflect actual events very closely.

    Great show,looking forward to more.

  15. Ro says:

    Bummed because the DVR timer didn’t capture this episode. I was able to watch it, but couldn’t FF through the commercials and didn’t watch after the credits (past my bedtime). What happened after the credits?

  16. Dave Joseph says:

    So we have a main character who suffered a childhood traumatic brain injury? He now has acquired savant syndrome and a multiple personality disorder? What did he do to his father to cause him to throw him out the window, or was he mentally ill before he went out the window? Why is his “sister” not a part of the family image?

    • S. says:

      He told his mother that his father had cancer even though his father asked him never to tell his mother about the cancer.

      That was too much to put on a child. His mother abused him too. Poor kid no wonder he is messed up.

  17. Who took the video of Elliot throwing himself off the pier?

    • ScottJ says:

      It was uploaded to Vimeo by sk8r904. It is really there. I assume that as far as the show is concerned it was taken by some random skater who happened to be filming at the time and Tyrell(?) found it.

      • S. says:

        And it’s likely the time that Elliot was talking to Mr. Robot, and it shows Mr. Robot is not really there, just in Elliot’s mind.

  18. AKA says:

    They should have cut to Portia’s reaction when the guy shot himself in the face rather than showing that. It seems every week there is an imagine of a guy blowing his brains out on tv. The shocking thing now would be NOT to show it as it happens and have you wonder who he shot. Portia is the character and should be the focus, not some new guy. Also, this way, maybe they wouldn’t have to delay the episode.

  19. eric says:

    Can someone explain the point of having Tyrell in this show? He was cool for the first few episodes, but how many crazy people do we need?

  20. Heathers says:

    After hearing early on that people were surmising that Mr. Robot was not real, I kept watching to see if other character than Rami talked to him. I could’ve sworn I saw Darlene and the other two tech geek guys talk to him. Or is that also all in Rami’s head?!!! I seriously don’t believe that he is NOT real.

    • ScottJ says:

      The scene in the internet cafe explained this. When Mr Robot spoke to one of the customers that was Elliott’s body, but he was hallucinating that he was Mr Robot. The Elliott in the same scene was a hallucination – at least until he got punched. And then it reversed.

  21. Clara Kolterman says:

    The scene with Tyrells wife was so weird and intense I seriously thought she was going to murder her baby right there on screen