Warning: Spoilers ahead for Mr. Robot.
Fans of Sam Esmail‘s Mr. Robot know that nothing in the show is as it appears. Last season’s big reveal was that the titular character, played by Christian Slater, is only a figment of Elliot’s imagination. The young hacktivist was himself “Mr. Robot” the whole time, and he was merely projecting an image of his dead father to talk to.
Season two premiered this week, and Elliot is in a completely different place than where the audience left him. He’s now living with his mother, disconnected from all technology, and trying to come to grips with his own psychosis. He has a strict daily regimen that he keeps: he wakes up at a certain time, does chores, eats lunch with the same friend, does more chores, watches a local basketball game, eats dinner with the same friend, goes to a church group, and goes to bed at a certain time. He’s keeping a journal of all his thoughts, and he’s still seeing his psychiatrist, Krista.
It’s all very creepy, and it doesn’t feel quite right. Maybe that’s because it’s not what’s really happening?
A new fan theory has come up, thanks in large part to the Mr. Robot subreddit. The theory suggests that Elliot is actually in a jail or asylum of some kind. And, when you look at the details of the first episode, that theory doesn’t seem so crazy. Follow me down the rabbit hole, if you would, as I break this down point by point.
Look at Elliot’s bedroom. It’s just a bed and a desk. Doesn’t it look like a jail cell of some sort? Plus, the way his mother wakes him up and puts him to bed every day feels like the way a guard would for a patient/prisoner.
Gideon comes to visit at one point, and the whole interaction feels very stilted. Watch the scene again and it plays out a lot like a “visiting hours” scene in a prison film. Even the way Elliot’s mother chimes in when he gets worked up is a stand out moment (again, she’s a guard in this scenario).
He’s still seeing Krista on a regular basis, despite the fact that they didn’t leave off on the best of terms last season. We know that he was only seeing her in the first place because it was court ordered. Is it possible that these sessions are also mandated?
The season premiere introduces two new characters into Elliot’s life, Leon and Ray. Leon is the friend that Elliot eats every meal with, and who speaks (hilariously) about Seinfeld. The theory suggests that Leon is another inmate in the institution. That would explain why he talks about Seinfeld all the time; it’s the exact kind of syndicated network show that would be playing in an institution.
Ray, meanwhile, is a local that comes to the neighborhood basketball games with his dog. He continuously tries to be friendly with Elliot, even though Elliot wants nothing to do with him. He also seems to know about Elliot’s past and his technological prowess. How? It might be because Ray is another guard/orderly wherever Elliot is being held. It’s why he knows things he couldn’t know; it’s why he keeps trying to be friendly; it’s why he brings his Bloodhound everywhere.
The church group is by far the strangest part of Elliot’s daily routine. He admits that he’s not religious, but that he still enjoys going to the group. It could be that the meetings are just one of the few things to keep his mind busy in the institution. It would also be another subtle nod to Fight Club, much like the ones that ran rampant through the first season. In the movie, the Narrator attended group meetings for afflictions he didn’t have. That’s the perfect parallel to Elliot attending church groups when he doesn’t have a religion.
While all of this is going on with her brother, Darlene is running fsociety. At one point, Mobley asks her if she’s been to see Elliot and she brushes off the question, clearly annoyed by the situation. It felt very reminiscent of when Elliot asked Mr. Robot who he was in the pilot, and his response was, “that’ll come later.” That moment paid off in a huge way; maybe Darlene’s moment will too.
Now please allow me to add my own idea to this theory. Season one ended with Elliot answering a knock at his door, but we never see who was there. Perhaps it was men in white coats come to take him away? Darlene and Angela were both sincerely worried about Elliot’s mental state after his breakdown; committing him might have been their way to help.
The final clue comes courtesy of the USA aftershow Hacking Robot. At the end of this week’s episode, host Andy Greenwald asked the cast to describe their characters in one word. What word did Rami Malek use to describe Elliot? Committed. Does he mean committed to the cause? Or does he mean committed to a mental health facility? There are a ton of ways to interpret that word, but it’s conceivable that Malek was giving fans a huge clue as to where Elliot really is.
Personally, I love this theory, but what do you think? Is Elliot really living with his mom, or is he in an institution? Sound off in the comments!