BY MELISSA LEON
Christian Slater, who plays the titular anarchist and leader of hacking collective fsociety, opens up about the finale twist and the show’s future. [Warning: Spoilers]
The day before USA Network was supposed to air the first season finale of its mind-bending mystery-thriller Mr. Robot, Christian Slater, who plays the titular character, reflected on the show’s surreal timeliness.
“It’s terrifying. The television show is supposed to represent this dystopian universe,” he told me. “Is this the world that we want to be mirroring?”
He was referencing the Ashley Madison hack, which is name-dropped in the episode’s opening scene. A cheating ex-boyfriend confesses to psychiatrist Krista that his name, credit card number, and email and physical address were exposed along with 32 million other affair-seekers’ private information. (The line was re-dubbed in post-production to keep up with current events. “And then that Ashley Madison hack happened and my wife found out about everything anyway,” douchebag Michael tells Krista.)
But the day after our conversation, Slater’s words resonated with new, unfortunate meaning. USA Network delayed that night’s airing of the finale, “eps1.9_zer0-day.avi,” after a Virginia TV news reporter and cameraman weregunned down during a live segment—a tragedy bearing an uncomfortable resemblance to a graphic scene in the episode. In the scene, the disgraced CEO of E Corp—the monster conglomerate that controls 70 percent of the world’s consumer credit industry and which just so happens to have the same corporate logo as Enron—puts a gun in his mouth during a live TV interview and pulls the trigger. The feed stays live for a few horrifying seconds as blood pours out of James Plouffe’s (Richard Bekins) nose and mouth and gray matter slides down a glass window behind him.
The scene is one of several shocking moments in the finale, in which the fsociety hackers’ global revolution actually comes to fruition, freeing millions from the shackles of debt and bringing the 1 percent to their knees. And yet, everything continues to fall apart.
Elliot Alderson—our protagonist, a genius but delusional hacker brilliantly portrayed by Rami Malek—can’t remember pulling the trigger on this new world order. Tyrell Wellick (Martin Wallström), the American Psycho-style sociopath obsessed with climbing the ladder at E Corp, is nowhere to be found. His wife, the Machiavellian Joanna, can practically smell the deception on Elliot’s face. And Whiterose (BD Wong), it turns out, has been secretly embedded within the financial elite this whole time.
Making matters worse, Elliot’s delusions—Mr. Robot, we learn in Episode 9, is actually a figment of his imagination, modeled after his late father—are taking hold of his entire reality (and consequently, ours as viewers; we are Elliot’s imaginary friends, to whom he narrates each episode). He hallucinates his entire family—mother, father, and himself as a boy—in the middle of Times Square and insists to himself, and to them, that they are “not real.”
“We’re living in a very peculiar and unsure time. The Internet definitely could be a weapon of mass destruction—it’s not going to come in a bomb, it’s going to come as a cyberattack.”
“What, you are? Is any of it real?” Mr. Robot shouts back at Elliot. “I mean, look at this. Look at it! A world built on fantasy. Synthetic emotions in the form of pills. Psychological warfare in the form of advertising. Mind-altering chemicals in the form of food! Brainwashing seminars in the form of media. Controlled, isolated bubbles in the form of social networks. Real? You wanna talk about reality? We haven’t lived in anything remotely close to it since the turn of the century.”
That may be true. As Slater told me over the phone, “We’re living in a very peculiar and unsure time.”
Below, read The Daily Beast’s conversation with Slater about the finale, the Internet’s potential as a weapon of mass destruction, and what’s in store for Season 2.
Mr. Robot has always felt timely to a surreal degree. Ashley Madison was mentioned briefly early on, but in the finale an updated line about the hack and data dump had to be dubbed in. How strange has it been to watch the news sometimes mirror what’s going on in the show?
Yeah, that part’s funny. I guess it’s more scary than anything else. It’s terrifying. We’re living in this world and the television show is supposed to represent this dystopian universe. Is this the world that we want to be mirroring? Not necessarily. It’s definitely disconcerting and a little worrisome. We’ll be filming an episode and something will happen in the New York Stock Exchange and [the cast and crew will] all kind of be looking at each other scratching our heads going, “Hmm. Well, this is…” It’s definitely worrisome. There’s no doubt about it. We’re living in a very peculiar and unsure time. The Internet definitely could be a weapon of mass destruction—it’s not going to come in a bomb, it’s going to come as a cyberattack. It’s pretty amazing to see what a small group of people can do if they really know how to control the universe.
How much are you on Elliot’s side about the mission of fsociety? It’s a little hard not to be won over by its crazy, anarchic potential.
Yeah. I mean, the idea of wiping out debt, getting rid of student loans and evening the playing field is certainly a very interesting and exciting topic. It’s questionable. You don't necessarily know [how it’s going to go] and I think in Season 2, the aftermath will most likely be dealt with greatly. It’s going to be interesting to see, even for me, how that unfolds and what the repercussions of these actions actually are.