USA's acclaimed techno-psychological thriller series Mr. Robot will be ending with its upcoming fourth season, and creator Sam Esmail and stars Rami Malek, Christian Slater, and Carly Chaikin tore themselves away from their computer terminals to say farewell to the show at the Tribeca Film Festival, a fitting venue for such a New York-centric show. (The show actually premiered at Tribeca in 2015.)
At the end of the panel, Sam Esmail broke a little bit of news about Season 4: It will be a "Christmas special" set over a week around Christmas in 2015, in the spirit of British TV shows Esmail loves. "Typically, how they wrap up their series is with a Christmas special," Esmail said. "So the final season of Mr. Robot is one very long Christmas special." He didn't give any other details about the plot of the final season, but did say that the ending is the one he's had in mind since the very start.
The majority of the panel was dedicated to reflecting on the show, which seemed to come out of nowhere when it premiered in the summer of 2015 and captured the imagination of a country growing increasingly uneasy with its soul being turned over to opaque technology and the untrustworthy corporations that wielded it. The show's modern day Robin Hood story of an alienated, mentally ill computer programmer named Elliot Alderson (Malek) using his hacking skills to fight an enormous global corporation to try to restore power to the people resonated with viewers uncomfortable with the technocratic status quo. "There's a lot of anxiety about what the world is going through right now, and I think Elliot tapped into that," Esmail said.
When Mr. Robot premiered in 2015, it was ahead of its time in a way no one could have predicted. "Our tagline in the first season was 'our democracy has been hacked,' and that was before our democracy actually was hacked," Esmail said, referring to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Season 1 is "kind of quaint now," he said, since it came a year before reality caught up to fiction. Esmail said that with the fast, non-stop nature of technical progress, he knew a show about tech was going to quickly seem dated, so he kept it set in 2015 so that it would become a "period piece of current day."
Still, what's happening in 2019 informs what happens on the show. "In the writers' room, even through this season, we're continuing to let current events inspire us, because that's what we feel passionately about," Esmail said.
The show's other legacy will be that it made a star out of a relatively unknown actor named Rami Malek, who is now an Emmy and Oscar winner who will be playing the villain in a James Bond movie. Malek reflected on his early days with the show and how much his life has changed since then and become more like Elliot's in a certain way. Back at the beginning, to better understand the socially isolated character of Elliot Alderson, Malek would do things like not talk to or make eye contact with cashiers, which was difficult for him as someone who likes to connect with the people he encounters.
"I was just trying to do what Elliot would do and hide from the world, and I found it to be a very lonely place," he said. "And only recently, because things have changed in my life, I find myself having to do that more, and how lonely that is, walking down the street, keeping my head down."
Malek added that he's "very privileged and blessed" to have the fame Bohemian Rhapsody has brought him, and he'd like to stop and talk to everyone, but he can't anymore. He also said that he'd never have the opportunities he's gotten without the show. "I only got Bohemian Rhapsody because the producers had seen me on Mr. Robot playing Elliot, and I don't know how they thought that guy was going to play Freddie Mercury, but had this show not existed, that would not have happened."
Mr. Robot will return for Season 4 on USA later this year (production started in February). Previous seasons are available to stream on Amazon Prime.