Up until this week’s episode of Mr. Robot, “Eps3.5_Kill-Process.Inc,” Elliot (Rami Malek) still hoped he could reverse the damage fsociety had done in the 5/9 hack. As long as ECorp could find the hard copy records of the world’s financial information, they could figuratively hit the “undo” button. Elliot even prevented the destruction of ECorp’s New York building, but then found out that 71 other buildings went down, and all the records along with them.
Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail spoke with Rotten Tomatoes this week and revealed that, when he first conceived Mr. Robot as a movie, this week’s events were central to the film.
“Honestly, the ending of this episode was actually the original midpoint of my feature,” Esmail said. “I think this is the point where Elliot realizes there’s no going back. The only way out of this is by going through it and trying to get out on the other side.”
There’s also no going back to when Elliot could control Mr. Robot (Christian Slater). As a separate identity in Elliot’s Dissociative Identity Disorder, Mr. Robot actively stole 15 minute chunks out of Elliot’s day, going as far to physically knock Elliot down to delay him.
“That’s actually something very true to real life when it comes to DID, Dissociative Identity Disorder,” Esmail said. “Losing time and stealing time, this really disorienting feeling of not being in control and also not really being in control not just your actions but of your memories. This season we took it to a whole new level. Now we’re actually kind of seeing both sides of that.”
The audience knows when Elliot loses consciousness to Mr. Robot because the screen flickers with pixelation, like a computer glitch. By now, the viewer understands how Mr. Robot works, so the pixelation is a shorthand for “uh-oh, Mr. Robot just took over.”
The show needed two seasons to get there though. It took most of season 1 to explain that Mr. Robot was one of Elliot’s alternate identities, and season 2 to lay out the back and forth between them. Season 3 is the payoff.
“I don’t think we could’ve just jumped into the story here like that,” Esmail said. “I think we needed to really seed all of that. Not only that, but motivate it. When you’re exploring a kind of dangerous disorder as this, you really want to stay as authentic as possible and not let it turn into plot machinations. You want it to feel earned and motivated. We do that by showing all the trial and error of Elliot as he’s trying to navigate what this is, who he is, what he’s ashamed of, his fears. That’s what we did in the first two seasons to allow us to get to this point.”
This week’s Mr. Robot was also monumental for Angela (Portia Doubleday). Angela was instrumental in plotting the destruction of the New York building, but even she did not know about the other 71, Doubleday said.
Now Elliot also knows that Angela has been working with Mr. Robot. This is a betrayal to their relationship, but Doubleday thinks Elliot, and Darlene eventually, will be able to forgive her.
“[Angela] might be compromised in a moment but they really understand her vulnerabilities as a character and a person,” Doubleday said. “Even though things have changed so much, I think there’s a level of loyalty that they have and responsibility because they do deeply care about each other.”
To Esmail, the damage is further reaching. “Usually someone with a disorder like that relies on their close friends or family members to help them through that and not to actually use that against them,” Esmail said. “In that case, it’s a huge betrayal and a huge loss of trust. This will effectively change their relationship forever. It’s exploring what that difference is.”
Angela has been working for E Corp on the inside with a long game plan to make them pay for the chemical cover-up that led to her mom’s death. For the first time, Mr. Robot showed young Angela speaking with her mom about her impending death. This was as revelatory for Doubleday as it was for the audience.
“It’s a huge key this season,” Doubleday said. “It’s motivating her throughout and has been from the beginning. I think that’s a very instrumental piece that we kind of need to see a little bit more into what her motivations are.”
Esmail had planned the flashback to come a tad earlier, but ultimately felt it was more relevant now given Angela’s role in the climactic events of this week’s episode.
“There was another episode that was a little more Angela-centric that I think we had initially planned for, but we thought it fit better here because it really helped you understand Angela’s motivation,” Esmail said. “A lot of Angela’s backstory is kind of murky. We felt that because this episode, the stakes were being raised so high and really due to Angela’s actions, that we really needed to motivate that by showing that scene.”
Last week, Darlene (Carly Chaikin) also confessed to Elliot that she has been working with the FBI. As far as this week’s events go, that takes third place to the ECorp attack and Angela working with Mr. Robot, but it’s still a big deal. Chaikin also feels Darlene and Elliot can get past this, especially since they’re siblings.
“I think they can get through anything,” Chaikin said. “I think something like that of course will always change a relationship in the same way that I found he’d been working with Tyrell. But I think at the end of the day, our bond is so strong that nothing could actually break us. Also, because she’s not doing it in a malicious vindictive way. It was the only option she had. But of course, she didn’t tell him so he would feel betrayed.”
Dom (Grace Gummer) was Darlene’s last chance after so many of her fsociety allies were killed. Darlene has been a loner, but a woman like Dom can give her safety.
“I’ve always kind of felt like it’s interesting because Dom is one of the only people that knows everything, that knows what Darlene’s been up to,” Chaikin said. “There’s not very many secrets between them.”
At one point there was an even tighter bond forming between Darlene and Dom, but it didn’t make the cut.
“They took out a part of our conversation that her and I had in the car scene where I was saying to her, ‘I know that you’re lonely too,’” Chaikin said. “I think that she can see the loneliness in her and that they both are just looking for someone. I think it’s the same underlying thing of every single character having some sort of bond with one another based on being lonely.”
Elliot, Darlene, and Angela now have to adjust to a new world of their own making. If season 3, episode 6 was the halfway point of the story, that would make season 5 the end. Esmail isn’t quite clear whether he will need two more seasons or could wrap it up in the fourth, but he already knows the ending. It’s the same ending he had when Mr. Robot was a movie.
Since the show launched in 2015, the story has remained in the year 2015. Esmail said the show will not catch up with real time.
“I imagine the series is going to end in early 2016, so we’ll never catch up to our present timeline, which for a lot of reasons I’m happy for,” Esmail said. “As f—ed up as the Mr. Robot world is, we have our own share of problems in our current reality. That was the reason why. We wanted to embrace a catastrophic event like that. It would kind of be foolish to blend that with the real world, because we would really need to change the dynamic of what would happen in the economy and politics.”
Esmail is developing a series about Hollywood legend Angelyne with his wife, actor Emmy Rossum to play her. Earlier this year, The Hollywood Reporter’s Gary Barber traced the billboard queen’s actual lineage in an article that will serve as the basis for the show.
“That honestly came from Emmy,” Esmail said. “She came to me with the article. I actually had never heard of Angelyne prior to the article. I read the article and I just thought it was so fascinating. I thought the themes were really interesting and compelling. Also Emmy is a force and she’s a very passionate force. She was behind it and that was enough for me to be sold on it.”
With Mr. Robot still in season 3, Esmail has not had time to reflect further on the approach an Angelyne series would take or even whether it would begin before he’s finished with Mr. Robot.
“We’re in the very early stages, so I think we still have a lot of questions that need to be answered,” Esmail said. “I need to finish Mr. Robot at some point.”
Mr. Robot airs on Wednesdays at 10/9C on USA.