The creator and director of acclaimed cyber-thriller series Mr. Robot, Sam Esmail, recently sat down with The Hollywood Reporter to discuss the second season of the show and explain how all the commendations that Mr. Robot has received have affected the future and longevity of the series. Season two of the gripping drama, which stars Rami Malek, Portia Doubleday and Christian Slater, premieres tonight on USA Network.
Mr. Robot revolves around the introverted, socially anxious and clinically depressed Elliot Alderson (Malek), who works as a skilled security engineer for cyber-protection company Allsafe in New York City. Elliot continually suffers from a bevy of mental health issues, including anxiety, paranoia and depression, often laboring under delusions and unable to successfully connect with other people face to face. He uses his abilities as a hacker to gain information about others, accessing their social media and personal information to learn more about his coworkers and acquaintances instead of speaking with them in person. Eventually, his hacking skills come to the attention of a mysterious cyber-anarchist (Slater), the titular Mr. Robot, who enlists his help in bringing down E Corp by destroying its data and freeing all consumers from their debt.
The show deals with a series of complex themes, including mental health and moral relativism, and frequently deals with the ethical dilemma Elliot faces in bringing down one of the world’s largest corporations, who also happens to be Allsafe’s biggest client. His double life and Robin Hood-esque mission make for a unique and engrossing plot, unsurprisingly drawing a variety of accolades after the show’s inaugural season, including a Golden Globe, Writer’s Guild Award, Critics’ Choice Award, Peabody Award and many more. Esmail has made huge waves in the entertainment community for receiving such acclaim for his very first television program. The newcomer commented on how all the attention the show has received has affected the show’s direction, as well as whether this attention inhibits the shows ability to take risks, telling THR:
I’m never trying to break the rules for the sake of breaking rules. It’s not an us-versus-them mentality because I don’t feel that way about USA; I think they’re actually really supportive of us. I think they are as confident as we are that maybe we can take risks because it’s really paid off. There were a lot of risks that we took in the first season that did well for us and I think now we have that confidence that we can continue taking risks and not play it safe. I think there is sometimes an instinct, when things go so well and you’re winning awards, that now you just have to do what you did the first season and stay in that lane and I actually think USA, smartly, agrees with me that, no, we are going to keep continuing the journey, and as long as it’s organic to Elliot and the world that we’ve created in the first season, we can keep taking even more risks.
Esmail went on to explain why he made the creative choice to direct season two in its entirety, stating that his specific vision and the desire for stylistic unity with season one’s cinematography played a large role in the decision. He also revealed a little about the process behind the storytelling within the show, stating that he “never wants to compromise” a storyline because of how the audience will react, nor does he plan to shift the plot in a way that would at all jeopardize Elliot’s endgame—something that Esmail and the other writers already evidently have in mind.
In discussing the longevity of the show, and how many seasons he envisions for Mr. Robot in the long run, Esmail remarked that, despite the overwhelming success the show has achieved so far, he would never want the series to exceed five seasons, though he is hopeful that the series will be renewed during season two:
[USA Network] jokingly sometimes slip[s] in, ‘Oh, when we go into season seven, or eight, or nine.’ And then of course, I laugh and I’m like, no, that’s not going to happen. I feel like, again, because they’ve been so supportive on everything else that they wouldn’t budge on this. They know that we should end this in the right way and not just drag it out for the sake of everything else.
It’s admirable that Esmail and other contributors to Mr. Robot clearly value nuanced, logical storytelling over pressures to please audiences and over-commercialize the show—it’s likely how they’ve attained so much acclaim so far. You can tune in to the season two premiere of Mr. Robot tonight at 10 p.m. EST on USA.