‘Mr. Robot’ Boss on Big Season 2 Twist: ‘We Didn’t Cheat Anybody’
There’s no un-ringing the conspiracy theory bell, and Mr. Robot may be learning that the hard way. After a breakout year with just enough twists to keep voracious Redditors humming, Season 2 has struggled to generate the same mystery, and indeed saw its biggest twist uncovered as early as the premiere. Now. showrunner Sam Esmail chimes in, admitting “we didn’t really hide it that well.”
You’re warned of full spoilers for Mr. Robot Season 2 from here on out, including last night’s “eps2.5h4ndshake.sme,” but those who sensed something amiss in Elliot’s ironclad new regiment of sleep, diners and basketball courts were finally vindicated. No, Elliot isn’t staying with his mother, but rather behind bars, and warping the world around him to look like like a Queens neighborhood.
Of course, Mr. Robot itself would be nothing without savvy, scavenger-hunting fans, who themselves picked up on the prison theory as early as the July premiere. Creator Sam Esmail hadn’t counted on viewers cluing in that early, but nonetheless justified the twist to HitFix:
It was weird. One thing that we always do is we never want to cheat the audience. We never want it to be some extraordinarily contrived thing where we’re basically lying to the audience and what they’re seeing isn’t actually happening, and we’re fooling them. In doing that, and being honest with what is going on, even though the surroundings aren’t actually what they are, we didn’t really hide it that well, right?
I didn’t expect people to catch on from the very first episode, but I thought people would start to theorize and catch on. Look, a reveal is great when it’s surprising, but it’s terrible when it feels like a cheat. To me, the fact that some people who guessed it may not be surprised, it verifies that we didn’t cheat anybody, because it adds up and makes sense to them still.
In particular, Esmail noted their intent to stay “as authentic to Elliot as possible” by keeping at least some mystery to his perspective, even if it ran the risk of viewers constantly questioning the show’s reality. All of Season 2's Elliot story has actually taken place, albeit in a slightly different context than we’ve seen it, which Esmail insists was truer to the character:
We’re not in it for gotcha moments or shocking the audience, but we’re in it for interesting reveals and deepening and enriching Elliot’s experience. We felt that him going through his prison sentence in this way was more true to life to Elliot than actually having seen it as a prison.
It’s worth acknowledging that Season 1 also featured story turns that weren’t deliberately hidden from viewers, sometimes even for the sake of disguising even bigger twists. Season 2 has at least five episodes left in its run, but will Elliot’s prison reveal finally take the weight off? When did signs of his reality become too much to ignore?