Warning: This post contains spoilers for “Mr. Robot.”
“Mr. Robot” paints a complex psychological web. Given its heavy influence from “Fight Club,” it practically begs you to believe that everything we see is in Elliot’s (Rami Malek) head.
Indeed, in season one, it was revealed that the hacker (Christian Slater) Elliot blindly followed was actually the ghost of his dead father. In season two, the show has given even more hints at the possibility that Elliot’s entire reality is an illusion. Indeed, every poster and billboard for the show is plastered with the line “Control is an illusion.”
Naturally, Redditors on r/mrrobot have been trying to back up this theory. Some surmise that Elliot is actually in prison or a psych ward, and everything we are see on the show is an illusion.
Reddit user jerryrock333 laid out all the clues:
“The bars and vertical lines, Leon’s constant talking about Seinfeld reruns, the basketball game, Gideon looking over his shoulder during their meeting, Elliot telling us he can’t trust us, etc. All of it really is good evidence supporting the theory.”
This theory is really convincing.
When reading those clues out loud all I can think is how convincing it sounds.
Elliot is currently staying in a place outside of Manhattan that looks like a prison. He talks about being on a very strict schedule. The show itself is shot in a hazy way that makes it seem like somebody’s dream. And again, Elliot is an unreliable narrator. As a show that enjoys tricking the viewer, it clearly has another big twist up its sleeve.
But would be really hard to make this theory work.
Some Redditors are perpetuating this theory and at the same time calling it out. Again, the idea that Elliot has been imagining everything is fairly plausible, given that it’s happened before. In short, the real issue is how uninspired this idea is.
The “it’s all a dream” or “it’s all in my head” storytelling trick is, let’s face it, a cop-out.
When your story is running out of steam, it’s one way to throw in a quick shock. This kind of twist worked in “Fight Club” and “Memento.” If you’re going to use the device, it must either say something thematically, or the story must still hold up even after the twist is revealed. “Fight Club” and “Memento” pass on both of these levels. Meanwhile, you can look at most of M. Night Shyamalan’s work and see that sometimes, a story as a whole doesn’t hold up following a twist ending.
The twist from season one of “Mr. Robot” worked: Finding out that Mr. Robot was both Elliot’s father and a ghost added an extra layer to both Elliot and his messed up family dynamics. Plus, season one still works as a whole.
If this theory did come true, it would ruin the show.
Putting Elliot into prison or an asylum could boost the show thematically by saying that dependence on technology has caused us to lose all control over our lives. That’s interesting, but the show has already said this loud and clear, given that Elliot can’t even seem to remember whether or not he actually pulled off the huge E-Corp hack.
It would be both too big of a risk, and too easy, for the show to pull the rug out this much. When a show has as good of a first season as “Mr. Robot” had, there is a lot of pressure for the second season to live up to the hype. This is what caused shows like “Homeland” to succumb to the sophomore slump. While “Mr. Robot” is still full of promise, the reviews for season two so far have been mixed, and the season premiere experienced a ratings slip.
Suggesting that almost everything we’ve seen so far isn’t real would be less of a great, mind-blowing twist, and more of a lack of confidence in the world and characters that captivated viewers in season one.
This whole theory sounds very convincing. And that’s what worries me the most.
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