WARNING: The following obviously contains spoilers for season 1 of Mr. Robot, so go watch it.
Production is underway in New York City on the second season of last summer’s breakout drama Mr. Robot, and already the mind games are beginning.
Fans of the heady hacker thriller may be surprised to see Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek) back playing chess with his not-really-there friend, Mr. Robot (Christian Slater), after the massive revelation that Mr. Robot is Elliot’s mental projection of his dead father. But according to series creator and executive producer Sam Esmail, the evolving relationship between the two is a central component of the story moving forward.
“Now that Elliot is aware [of the truth about Mr. Robot], that has opened the door. We’re literally externalizing Elliot’s mentality and his inner conflict, Mr. Robot being the other half of Elliot,” Esmail says. “In the first season, because Elliot wasn’t aware, there was a mystery about who Mr. Robot was and what his real motivations were. Now we know, so what does that mean? What does Elliot really want?”
Which makes us wonder: How does a relationship between a man and his imagined dead father work? From the way Esmail describes Elliot’s dynamic with Mr. Robot, the answer is: grudgingly.
“What you’ve got to understand is that when Mr. Robot and Elliot go at it, he’s really going at it with himself,” Esmail says. “What I can say is that they’re communicating, but it’s almost under duress. Obviously, Elliot can’t escape him, and Mr. Robot doesn’t want to leave. It’s a conflict, but it’s actually more of an impasse that they somehow have to negotiate.”
This early into production and with the summer debut still months away, Esmail was reticent about the specifics of season 2’s story, but there was one thing he wanted to make clear: “I can comfortably say that season 2 is very different from season 1.”
That may be a surprising thing to say about any other show coming off of a wildly popular first season, but for fans of Mr. Robot’s unexpected turns and style choices, we’d guess that’s some dark, synthy music to their ears.
A version of this story originally appeared in Entertainment Weekly issue #1408–1409, on newsstands Friday or available for purchase here.