BY JOSH WIGLER
[Warning: This story contains spoilers Wednesday's season three premiere of Mr. Robot.]
Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek) and the others in his universe are stuck in the past. The present events of the USA Network drama take place in 2015, shortly after a worldwide calamity that occurred on May 9, appropriately known as the Five/Nine Hack.
The operation, helmed by the darker side of Elliot best known as Mr. Robot (Christian Slater), brought society to its knees, through a massive hack against the all-powerful global conglomerate known as E Corp — or "Evil Corp," as Elliot likes to call it. The goal was to bring down an oppressive power structure and give control back to the people. The act of cyber warfare instead launched the world into an inescapable tailspin, with the top 1 percent of the top 1 percent now in a position to capitalize on an otherwise awful situation for literally everyone else.
This was the revolution Elliot dreamed into existence — and now, after spending an entire season dodging the new world order that he helped create, he's finally ready to set things right.
In the season three premiere of Mr. Robot, Elliot delivers an epic monologue that serves as a mission statement of sorts for the episodes ahead. The scene breaks the fourth wall on a few different levels, as Elliot oscillates between narrating his thoughts and speaking them directly to the camera. What's more, the scene features direct imagery from Donald Trump's presidential campaign rallies, juxtaposing them against Elliot's harsh remarks on how his world has spiraled so out of control — remarks that seemingly apply just as much to our own world as the fictional universe of Mr. Robot.
Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, creator Sam Esmail explains the origin of the sequence, which owes roots to the Mr. Robot writers room's own reaction to the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
"We always look for the emotional truth in every scene," says Esmail. "We can't help but include what we're going through in what we write. In fact, I think it's imperative that you do. That's how you stay honest about what you're trying to say in your work. Elliot's our guiding force on Mr. Robot, and when he comes to this realization that in trying to save the world, he was actually at fault — that even though he had the best intentions, he hurt people, he didn't help people, and all of the consequences were his to own — that paralleled and resonated so much with what we were going through in the room during the election last year, which was catastrophic and tragic, not just for the country, but for the world."
"We felt responsibility for it," he continues. "It had nothing to do with whether we voted against Trump or not. We felt responsible, whether it was avoiding the signs, or not voicing our side as much, or taking it for granted. We felt some sort of responsibility. It felt wrong not to include that really strong reaction and strong feeling into the show, because it so overlapped with what Elliot was experiencing in that montage. We just let that be our guiding force: What feels honest and true to us? It's all a creative expression. It's not meant to be about facts. It's meant to be impressionistic at times. We felt like we could take the liberty here, because it resonated so strongly."
It's not the first time Mr. Robot has evoked Donald Trump. The current president of the United States was referenced in season two, when former E Corp chief technology officer and out-and-out scoundrel Terry Colby (Bruce Altman), the self-declared "Last Honest Man" in the world, mocks Trump's candidacy in vulgar terms: "Can you believe that cocksucker is actually running this time? I mean, if I wanted, the things I have on him could put me on his ticket."
"Politics are for puppets," replies E Corp CEO Phillip Price (Michael Cristofer). "Besides, if you did run for office, you would no longer be 'The Last Honest Man.'"
The latest and most explicit Trump moment yet won't be the last time the former Celebrity Apprentice host finds his way into the Mr. Robot conversation, according to Esmail. "It looms over [the season] in the way that it looms over us, the creators behind the show," he says. "We have always infused what we're experiencing and feeling into what we write and shoot. In that way, it will be felt."
With that said, viewers won't see Trump elected president in the world of Mr. Robot. "We'll never catch up to it, which is a good thing for the people in the Mr. Robot world, as fucked up as that world is," says Esmail, who directed every episode in season three, as he did in season two. "At least we will never see a Trump presidency in that world."
Below, read a transcript of Elliot's monologue, which features lines of dialogue from fictional conspiracy theorist and broadcaster Frank Cody (Erik Jensen), as well as actual news footage of Donald Trump.
Elliot Alderson: Darlene's right. I can't trust them. This was too easy. But at least I stopped them for now. I can go home knowing that. But was she right about me? Am I sticking my head in the sand? Did my revolution just bury our minds instead of freeing them? Decrypting Evil Corp's data was meant to empower us. Instead, it left us powerless, scaring us into even more submission. Five/Nine didn't get rid of the invisible hand. It turned it into a fist that punched us in the dick. Like a botnet, the fear I've created is spreading so fast, it's practically airborne. It's swallowed us whole, digested us, and now we're stuck in its asshole, waiting to be dumped out. And while we're here? They're having their way with us. They've packaged the fight into product, turned our dissent into intellectual property, televising our revolution with commercial breaks. They've back-doored into our minds and robbed our truth. They've refurbished the facts, then marked up the price. This is what they do. It's what they're good at. This is their greatest trick.
Conspiracy Theorist and Broadcaster Frank Cody (Video Footage): They're trying to break the truth. They're trying to take that away. And now they're moving to the next step. Do you know what the next step is?
Elliot Alderson: Lobotomizing us into their virtual reality horror show.
Conspiracy Theorist and Broadcaster Frank Cody (Video Footage): Why? So they can take away your power. And I'm not talking about your electricity!
Elliot Alderson: This all started because I tried to hide from society. Remember? Fuck society. Well, I fucked society alright. I reset it to zero. If I don't do anything about it, it will continue to grow in this malignant way. And that's what I'm afraid of most: the future that I set into motion. Who knows what could come from this? What if instead of fighting back, we caved? Gave away our privacy for security? Exchanged dignity for safety? Traded in revolution for repression? What if we chose weakness over strength?
Donald Trump (Video Footage): These are not the people who made our country great. These are the people who destroyed our country.
Elliot Alderson: They'll even have us build our own prison. This is what they wanted all along: for us to buy in on our worst selves. I just made it easier for them. I didn't start a revolution. I just made us docile enough for our slaughtering. I can stand here and blame Evil Corp and every conglomerate out there for taking advantage of us, and I can blame the FBI, NSA and CIA for letting them get away with it, blame all the world leaders for aiding and abetting them, and blame Adam Smith for inventing modern day capitalism in the first fucking place, and blame money for dividing us, and blame us for letting it — but none of that's true. The truth is, I'm the one to blame. I'm the problem. This was my fault. All of it. I did this. Fuck me.