SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “eps3.5_kill-pr0cess.par2,” the sixth episode of the third season of “Mr. Robot.”
After learning that Stage 2 of the Dark Army’s plan to take down E Corp’s building was still underway, Elliot (Rami Malek) did everything he could think of to stop it — from trying to hack into the system to calling in a bomb threat to exchanging messages with an increasingly violent Mr. Robot (Christian Slater). Elliot succeeded in saving the downtown New York building — but in a surprise twist for both him and the audience, there was an even bigger plan in place, as explosions rocked 71 other national facilities.
“That was a very delicate conversation because what we were doing was something very serious and relates to something very dangerous and horrifying in our own world, “Mr. Robot” creator Sam Esmail tells Variety. “We wanted to be sensitive to that but also be very true and honest at the same time and not shy away from it.”
Esmail admits that he was tempted to avoid the destruction and instead “have Elliot save the day,” but ultimately decided to go through it, in order to deliver on the theme of the season, which Esmail says is “Can you undo something once you’ve broken it?”
“Elliot’s finding out the hard way you can’t,” Esmail says. “So Elliot has to go through it and somehow grow from there. That’s the pushback that Elliot’s been doing this whole season. The next couple of episodes, we’re going to really see him come face to face with exactly what I’m talking about, and he makes a choice that allows him to accept and take the next step on the other side.”
Since the beginning of the series, the show has followed Elliot’s journey from his very subjective point of view, and Esmail felt strongly that this event be carried out the same way. So the episode followed Elliot thinking he had, in fact, saved the day, only to learn that everyone around him knew something he didn’t. The camera lingered on his reaction to the explosions before the audience got to see the footage, further staying inside his mind.
“Every episode we try to tell the best story we can in the most interesting way possible, and different stories call for different techniques and different ways of attacking it with filmmaking,” Esmail says. “Honestly, we let it live in the story and let the story dictate.”
Deciding to show the explosions as news footage was important to him, not only because it could avoid the “more action film tropes” that come up when an explosion takes place in front of a main character, but also because he feels watching news unfold on television is a common experience.
“What is our experience growing up when stuff like that happens in our world? Obviously the one story we all talked about in the writers room was 9/11, and most of us experienced that by watching TV, watching it on the news,” Esmail says. “We felt that was more universal than being in the action, and we wanted it to really land and really resonate.”
It will certainly resonate with Elliot, says Esmail. While thus far he has been mostly trying to deal with his blackouts on his own (with the exception of seeing a therapist and taking some medication), Esmail says Elliot is going to “reach that point very soon” where he’s going to need the help of others to fix all of the problems he’s caused and get his disorder under some kind of control.
“I don’t think this can happen in a vacuum, and I don’t think this can happen on his own, and that’s one of the primary struggles of Elliot: he keeps trying to do it by himself, and that’s his duality and his narcissistic side,” Esmail says. “He tries to fix it and creates problems and tries to fix those and takes it on his own shoulders. The story of ‘Mr. Robot’ is really about this guy who’s lonely — who’s alone and feels so disconnected from the world. That was our starting place, and I think his journey is about trying to find that connection. At the end of the day, the answer is forming that connection with somebody — finally reaching out and finding that relationship.”
“Mr. Robot” airs on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on USA.