*Warning: This article contains spoilers for episodes 1 & 2 of Mr. Robot, as well as speculation on possible storylines*
Toward the end of the breathtaking first season of Mr. Robot, the hidden complexities of the standout show of 2015 began to unravel at the same pace as Elliot's fragile mind. Not only did we discover that Mr. Robot was in fact Elliot's father, we also discovered he was a hallucination, and the life-changing, consumerism busting revolution had been carried out by Elliot (Rami Malek) himself.
We witnessed the consequential dramatic collapse of corporate America, taken down by fsociety's devastating blow to its financial foundation. But these huge developments at the end of Season 1 left us with more questions than answers; now Elliot has become aware of his alter ego and the world has irreversibly changed, what happens next?
Such is the creative ingenuity of show creator Sam Esmail, despite the cat leaping out of the bag in Season 1 (probably running away and hacking all your personal information in the process), the double episode opening of Season 2 has managed to maintain the show's unmistakable tone.
So Much So, After Two Episodes, There Are Already Some Crazy Theories
Everything in Elliot's new world is a little... odd, right? We now know that Elliot has taken a self-imposed exile following the events at the end of Season 1, returning to the home of his no-nonsense mother. He lives an isolated life, consisting of:
- Breakfast, lunch and dinner in the same canteen with his new friend, Leon (the brilliant Joey Badass).
- Occasionally watching a basketball match in a yard in the neighborhood, despite the fact he doesn't like sports.
- Attending a Fight Club inspired "church group."
- Writing meticulous notes in his diary.
- Getting plenty of sleep.
In an attempt to control his own mind, and the intrinsic battle with Mr. Robot, this painstakingly vanilla existence is Elliot's attempt to settle his demons. But the problem is, this is Sam Esmail, a writer who loves toying with his audience. That has led to the theory that...
Elliot Is In Prison (Or A Mental Institute?)
Wait, what? Let's break this one down. Season 1 basically tore the rule book into a thousand shreds and let it fly off into the wind; we now know Elliot suffers from dissociative disorder, and as the unreliable narrator, we can never really be sure of the validity of what we're seeing.
It's unsurprising then that this theory has gained a lot of traction online, and as well as some more subtle hints (the Phil Collins song "Take Me Home" that features at the beginning is about a patient in a mental institution) throughout the first two episodes, the main exhibits are highlighted comprehensively by flintsociety on imgur. Let's take a look at the key points:
1. Elliot's Prison-Like Surroundings
The entire layout of Elliot's surroundings are extremely regimented, remnant of a prison. From the minimalist, boxed-in bedroom, the puny bed and scant collection of belongings. As well as Elliot's extremely organised desk, there are two items that seem a little out of place:
Yep, that's a comb and a toothbrush, on his desk. Almost as if he had to keep all of his belongings with him. Almost as if... he's in prison?
2. The Frequent Trips To The Canteen
Elliot's new routine sees him make frequent visits to the same canteen with his friend, Leon. He goes to the same, sterilised and bland restaurant numerous times every day.
While comparisons to a prison canteen are stark, the relevance is made even more interesting when you take a look closer: the people in the background, too, stay the same.
3. The Basketball Games
Elliot sits by and watches the game unfold, every day. While it is plausible that he could do this in his neighborhood, this is also another strong reference to the fact he could be in prison.
The theory also highlights the fact that there could be some familiar faces from the canteen who appear in the crowd.
4. Subtle Symbolization Of Bars
On top of these recurring references, there are also shots throughout both episodes that reference bars, either directly or indirectly. There are bars on the widows to his apartment, as well as stripes inside.
5. Is Ray All That He Seems?
Finally, the (one-sided) conversation Elliot has with newcomer Ray (Craig Robinson) could point to more clues. Ray explains how he knows Elliot's name, and appears to know details of his background. He also refers to the basketball players as "killers."
The way he is introduced — intervening before a potential fight kicked off between Leon and the other basketball player — could suggest that Ray is a prison guard, or someone of importance within the establishment.
So, Is This Really Far Fetched?
Within the boundaries of the show, it's entirely plausible. We still don't know what happened during the three day black hole in Elliot's memory, but at least this looks set to be revealed in the next episode, possibly giving us some much needed answers.
The theory also puts the Gideon visit, Elliot's lack of communication with the outside world, and the prison-like phone used to talk to Tyrell Wellick into a chilling context. It wouldn't be entirely unfeasible to suggest that his mother is another hallucination, taking the place of a guard or supervisor.
The other question is, if this does turn out to be true, does Elliot know? As the narrator, he keeps highlighting the fact that he doesn't trust us, the viewer (why ever not?), so it could be that he is deliberately withholding that information from us.
Until next week, there's certainly a lot to mull over. But, for now, bonsoir dear friend.
Do you think Elliot could be in prison or a mental asylum?