Season 2 of Mr. Robot is officially less than 24 hours old, but there's already a fantastic theory going around the internet right now — spurred mostly by the acute denizens of Reddit — that will blow your mind... provided you have any mind left after the excellent Season 2 premiere.
Simply put it states that everything Elliot's (Rami Malek) experiencing right now, which he calls his "loop," is all a construction of his imagination and that he's actually — wait for it — in jail or a mental institution. That sounds crazy, doesn't it? But when you look at the evidence, it's more and more apparent that this theory is a lot closer to fact than fantasy. Let's break down the examples that support the theory and solve this thing once and for all.
It's a bed and a desk. That's it! You know who else have rooms that consist of a bed and a desk? Prisoners and people stuck in mental institutions. Sure, Elliot is claiming that he's simplifying his life to stay offline and resist the temptations of Mr. Robot (Christian Slater), but c'mon. A bed and a desk is a little too simplified. No zen fountain? No motivational poster of a cat hanging from a tree? Just a journal? No one would do that willingly to themselves.
Elliot told Krista (Gloria Reuben) that he's living with his mom because she's the strictest person he knows. You know who else is strict? Prison guards (and underpaid and angry guards at a mental health facility)! Given his difficult and abusive relationship with his mother growing up, it makes sense that Elliot would imagine that real-world authority figures were his mom. Elliot's mom says the bare minimum to Elliot, mostly commands like, "Time to get up," and she watches television while paying half attention to Elliot, just like an annoyed guard would. Bonus hint: take a close listen when Elliot's mom opens the door to his room when we first see her in the premiere. Even for a pocket door, that doesn't sound like a normal door opening, does it?
Here's what Elliot does each day... 8am: Breakfast with Leon (Joey Bada$$). 10am: Cleaning up around the house. Noon: Lunch with Leon. 2pm: Watches basketball. 4:30pm: More cleaning up. 6pm: Dinner with Leon. 2 Days a week: Church group.
Is this Elliot's regimented routine, or is it a prison schedule? He eats with Leon in the same place three meals a day? Ummm, that would be torture if it were real. As the theory goes, Elliot would be eating in the cafeteria at these set times because that's when the prison/facility serves its inmates/patients. The cleaning duties would also be part of the prison routine, and in the show we saw Elliot doing dishes and folding laundry. Those are prison chores, bro. Elliot watching basketball could easily be the typical prison yard time, and if you watch the basketball, it's A) terrible quality ball, like mid-'90s Los Angeles Clippers quality basketball and B) it's hyper-aggressive. You think prisoners are good at basketball? No way, they might just want to shove each other around. The church groups are also offered to prisoners if they so wish. And did you notice that everyone in the church group, beside the woman leading it, is — as far as I can tell — a dude? Prison!
This is Elliot's friend, but this is the first time we're hearing about him? At best, he's another prisoner. But he could just as easily be a figment of Elliot's imagination. He talks a lot about Seinfeld, maybe because that's what is shown in the prison. And think about the two episodes he mentioned, the one in the Chinese restaurant and the one in the parking garage. Both are episodes that take place in one location, i.e. bottle episodes. It could be a sneaky way for the writers to drop clues about Elliot's current state, like he's trapped in the same location.
Elliot's therapist is back and continuing sessions with Elliot. Now, I don't think she's a fantasy, I think she's perfectly real. So wouldn't she be proof that Elliot wasn't in prison or an institution? Well, let's take a look at Krista's office in Season 1:
Versus Krista's office in Season 2:
Spot the differences here. She's sitting in a different spot. The table beneath that painting is missing. The lamp to Elliot' left is simplified. The couch now has arms. Maybe Krista's a chronic redecorator, or maybe Elliot can't quite recreate all the details of Krista's office... because he's imagining the whole thing! To fit this in the theory, we could guess that Krista is continuing therapy with Elliot wherever he is rather than in her office. Is this becoming clear to you yet?
Hot Carla the pyro
She's briefly seen on the basketball court in the first hour of the premiere. So some woman is just lighting stuff on fire in the middle of New York City? Hmm. Her presence would seem to fit the idea that Elliot's loop might be a mental institution rather than a prison. Can anyone out there think of a way to fit her into the prison theory?
Elliot's new pal Ray (Craig Robinson) is most likely a prison guard looking to take advantage of Elliot's skills. Why do I say a guard? He breaks up the standoff between Leon and the aggro baller and says, "We're all here just to have a good time, right?" And also because he has a dog (though in reality it's probably not a sweet pooch like Maxine). He could have access to Elliot's files and know why Elliot is there, and therefore know that Elliot is a computer whiz with a hacking background.
When Gideon (Michel Gill) visits Elliot, it's so damn formal. He's sitting on one side of a table while Elliot sits on the other as his mother (a guard) watches nearby. It's exactly what a prison visit looks like, isn't it?
Tyrell's phone call
When Tyrell (Martin Wallstrom) calls Elliot at the end of the episode, Elliot is talking on a wall-mounted phone. A wall-mounted phone! The only people who still have those are grandmothers in the rural countryside... and prisons. Right, Piper from Orange Is the New Black?
Elliot is in a long hallway talking on the phone, just like how prisons have them set up. My lord, it's so obvious.
Did you pick up on this when you were watching the closeups of Elliot's ramblings in his journal? Sheesh, Esmail is spelling it out for us!
Let's not all pat ourselves on the back for this. As quickly as the pilot episode we picked up on the possibility that Mr. Robot wasn't real, and Esmail said he wasn't trying to hide that twist because the real effectiveness of it was in Elliot's reaction when he found out, not ours. So it's reasonable to believe that if Elliot is actually in prison, it wasn't hidden too hard and the real payoff will come down the line.
So why would Elliot be in prison? Krista's ex could have turned him in, or there's something that happened between what we saw in the Season 1 finale and what's happening now. Remember, Elliot told us he doesn't trust us anymore, and that he isn't telling us everything and keeping some secrets to himself. If he is in prison, could it mean that he might try to break out? He opened up a jail in Season 1, so it's not impossible.
What do you think?