The climax of the finale comes before the final scene: Tyrell shooting Elliot. It effectively ends the argument about whether Tyrell is still real or imagined by Elliot. How important was it to you to definitively answer that question by the end of season two?
That was, to me, the season’s arc. After Elliot’s head-trip, that he goes inside himself and inside this illusion that he uses to cope with the fact that he’s been in prison and inside all of this battle and all of the battles he’s had with Mr. Robot, it’s like the game is over. Elliot has to snap back to reality and literally, it happens with a gunshot, with a bang, by Tyrell.
It brings the season full circle, too, with Mr. Robot repeatedly shooting Elliot in the head in season one, and of course the gun in the popcorn at Coney Island. Chekov rules dictate that this gun had to go off at some point.
Exactly. And it was imperative that this was the defining real — and I kind of want to underline that (laughs) — moment for Elliot, because he’s actually been shot twice in the show now. He was shot in episode four of the first season in that fever dream hallucination, and was obviously continually shot in the beginning of this season. This one, we wanted to make it feel very different.
Mr. Robot tells Elliot that he’s willing to go “all the way.” Apparently, that means allowing himself to be shot. Throughout the series, Mr. Robot has always read as an entity very much interested in self-preservation. What does it say about Mr. Robot and his commitment to the cause that he’s willing to make a sacrifice play?
It redefines the stakes. Mr. Robot was all about self-preservation. Up until this point, that kind of included Elliot, because obviously self-preservation includes Elliot’s body, if you look at it that way. Now? All bets are off. In fact, everything to him is about the plan, and he’s willing to die for this cause. That’s how extreme his passion is for this whole project, for this whole revolution. It kind of realigns the stakes for us. Now Elliot cannot even trust his life with Mr. Robot, which happens to also be Mr. Robot’s life. It also raises the stakes in terms of the extremes Mr. Robot is willing to go through in order to pull off this plan. It’s two different levels that have been kick-started and raised a lot higher for next season.
Elliot survives the gunshot, at least for now, based on the phone call between Tyrell and Angela. Can you explain the choice to at least somewhat resolve Elliot’s fate and not leave it as a cliffhanger?
For me, it was never about… as weird as this may come, coming from me, because I do love suspense, I’m never about withholding things arbitrarily. If we’re not going to pay it off with something new that could be impactful, or if the way we’re going to pay it off isn’t going to be impactful, it doesn’t service me to withhold it just for the sake of surprising people. At the end of the day, I don’t think anyone would have been surprised that Elliot is going to return in season three. Honestly, the bigger cliffhanger for me, if you want to call it a cliffhanger, is Angela’s involvement, and her complicity in all of this. That’s the bigger question mark I wanted to leave for the audience.