WARNING: This post contains spoilers about Mr. Robot Season 1. Read at your own risk!
In this time of uncertainty and international unrest, no TV show hits home quite like Mr. Robot. The show tackles issues of identity, security, the internet, capitalism and rebellion — all culminating in the “ultimate hack” of sinister corporation E Corp by hacker group fsociety, which is led by the mysterious Mr. Robot. As all of this is going on (and even that’s a lot), the viewer grows and regresses alongside main character Elliot (Rami Malek) as he tries to figure out who he is and who his father (Christian Slater) was, and what it all means.
At the end of Season 1, we learned that Darlene (Carly Chaikin) is actually Elliot’s sister, and that Mr. Robot is a combination of Elliot/Elliot’s father/Elliot’s dark side. As it turns out, Elliot is not just a member of fsociety, he’s the leader. As with any spellbinding TV show, the viewer was left with a lot of questions heading into the new season.
Of course, the show received inevitable comparisons to the movie Fight Club, where main characters played by Brad Pitt and Edward Norton are actually the same person. These parallels aren’t preposterous, but Mr. Robot goes far deeper, and Season 2 promises to take us even further.
Global News spoke with the entire cast of Mr. Robot in New York City, where the series is shot, and each member of the impressive roster promised more of the same — intrigue, tantalizing cliffhangers, unexpected twists, mental gymnastics — in the upcoming season. Audiences can expect more flashbacks, which will help explain exactly what’s going on in Elliot’s world, and perhaps more importantly, what’s going on in his head.
The evolution of Elliot
Elliot’s mind-bending journey continues with more unexpected developments in Season 2, and while we weren’t made privy to exactly what happens, Malek revealed that things get darker, and if you can believe it, more complex. Let’s put it this way: there’s a therapist on-set to help the cast deal with any issues they’re having.
“The way I’ve tried to reduce the pressure of Season 2 is to think of it as an extension of Season 1,” said Malek in his measured, slow tone. “Some major things that we deal with are the fallout from Season 1, the consequences and repercussions of everybody’s actions. This idea of control, and is control an illusion? There’s also this sense of rebellion. They’re fighting for something… to change the world they’re living in. There’s this real sense of revolutionary spirit this year.”
Slater agrees, adding that the more that’s revealed about Elliot’s dad, the more we can learn about Elliot himself, since the two are intrinsically tied.
“The two Mr. Robots provide a deeper layer of understanding, a deeper understanding into Elliot,” said Slater. “They’re definitely getting the opportunity to present two very distinct characters in one show, which is unique and special. There’s a reason for it all, which is very exciting.”
“Elliot’s dad is a vulnerable guy,” Slater continued. “He’s a human being, he’s not this godlike, omnipresent character that Elliot imagines him to be. He’s clumsy, klutzy and scared, dealing with some real issues. It’s an opportunity to explore those two aspects: who he wanted his father to be, and who he actually is.”
New York as character
With its stunning backdrop of tall buildings and masses of people, New York City is the perfect setting for Mr. Robot. At once anonymous and very much a part of things, the gigantic metropolis is even structured like a grid, not unlike a computer system. The city is gritty and full of intersecting lives, and what goes on in the streets is just as unpredictable as what can happen in cyberspace.
“New York City has been another character for us, probably the greatest asset we have,” said Malek. “For me, I instantly feel my awareness of acting has been reduced. Considering these characters and how alienated and ostracized they feel, to juxtapose them against this crazy skyline every day, it dwarfs you and makes you realize how small you are in this world. It makes that fight seem insurmountable, but somehow all these characters are able to strive against all of it.”
The big Times Square scene at the end of Season 1 was deliberately shot in the massive public area, one of the most famous places in world. It’s like the main nerve of electricity, with countless screens buzzing all around you — obviously a very fitting place for Elliot to have a revelation about his past. (Did you note that Darlene was not present in that scene? What’s that all about?)
Paranoia is real
It shouldn’t be surprising that every Mr. Robot cast member now has difficulty trusting the internet and cybersecurity. They’ve all been trained to code (some more than others), and have learned the importance of changing passwords. There have been multiple attempts to hack the cast in real life, so their concerns are justified.
“With all the insight I’ve garnered from this show, I’ve become fairly paranoid and fearful,” said Malek. “I’m not kidding. I change my passwords a lot, and I’ve gotten really good at guessing other peoples’ passwords. The less information that I put out into the ether, the less I’m susceptible to some kind of attack.”
“It’s made me much more aware, as far as security goes, as far as my kids go,” said Slater. “I’m fortunate that I’m involved with a show like this, and I’m working with technical experts. I can monitor and keep track of my daughter (with her consent, of course, I’m not Big Brother), at least until she’s 18.”
New kid on the block
Season 2 will feature a new character, played by Meryl Streep’s daughter, Grace Gummer (who you may recognize from American Horror Story or the now-cancelled Extant). She works in cybercrime for the FBI, and is onto Elliot. While she couldn’t reveal very much about her role, she gave Global News some tidbits.
“What I love about her is she’s a light in a really dark world,” she continued. “She’s eternally optimistic and alone in her life, but not lonely… there’s a lot going on. She’s very complex, just like all the other characters on the show. Rest assured, she’s real, not a figment of his imagination!”
From the mind of Sam
One thing that’s consistent among all the cast members is their undying devotion to series director and creator Sam Esmail, who they credit with Mr. Robot‘s success. It’s surprising that a brand new show, especially one about something so niche, could win the Golden Globe for Best TV Drama, but it did.
Esmail meticulously shoots the show like a movie, and for Season 2, the cast was given a phone-book sized script to read before shooting — all 12 episodes at once, the full season.
“I feel like as soon as we started shooting, it was like a well-oiled machine,” said Malek about the process. “We’re extending and broadening the story. I feel very strongly about what we’ve done so far. Feeling less than. Feeling disenfranchised. This idea of human perseverance, that’s what makes this show accessible, you could really dive in with these ethical and sociopolitical conceits, but when you ground them in what we’re dealing with as humans, it makes it entertaining.”
“This season, more so than last season, feels like we’re shooting a movie… although I think last season was unique in its own right,” said Slater. “When we all came back and Sam handed us our phone-book-sized script — which, by the way, is unprecedented; I’ve never seen that happen in TV before — which was the full story. So it’s going to be a journey. On top of that, Sam is directing each and every episode. He was there 98 per cent of the time last season, and this season it’s 150 per cent of the time. Sam is our oracle, otherwise we wouldn’t know where we were.”
Through flashbacks, we’re going to find out a lot more about the characters’ origin stories, and hopefully get the answers to questions we’ve had for almost a year.
“We set the bar very high for Season 1, so we had to ask, ‘Where do we go from here?’ This season, I keep saying we not only reach that bar, we exceed it,” said Chaikin. “We find out how fsociety was started, we do get a lot more backstory throughout the entire season; where I’ve been, and more about who Darlene is in relation to the world… there are so many layers, and we get to see them unfold.”
“There are qualities that you saw in the first season that’ll be expanded in this season,” says Portia Doubleday, who plays Elliot’s lifelong friend, Angela. “Some characters are expanded in an unpredictable way. Things are going to be a lot more explosive.”
“What does ‘evil’ look like?” she posited. “I think what’s so dangerous about what evil is… we could only wish we knew what it looks like. Not everyone is ‘all bad.'”
‘Mr. Robot’ Season 2 premieres on Showcase on July 13 at 10 p.m. ET/PT.