Hello, Roboteers, long time no speak! The Season Two Finale gave us so many secret clues to so many questions that we burnt out our internal CPUs just thinking about what’s in store for Season Three.
And Sweet Christmas, while we weren’t binge-watching Luke Cage or being followed on the subway by Mr Robot himself, we think we’ve worked out the show’s one big secret!
Firstly, I feel we’ve got to get one thing straight – some people still think that Mr Robot is a show that is (and I quote) “grounded in reality.”
It is not.
If you think Mr Robot is grounded in reality then a) either you or I are going to very disappointed when Season Three goes full on sci-fi or b) you should be probably watching another show.
Something like Fox News which fairly and accurately informs the public without bias. Failing that, try CBS’ reboot of MacGyver which is so realistic I thought I was watching a fucking documentary!
From talking fish to mental illness to ghost dads and forgetting you have a sister to the majority of Season Two being portraying Elliot as not in jail… can you and I agree that much of what we are seeing on Mr Robot is not grounded in reality?
Secondly, can we agree that while Sam Esmail weaves this amazing, rich tapestry of a story, he’s also setting us a puzzle?
Still with us? Good!
So if you were a master storyteller, where would you hide the tiny clues to the puzzle? Would you incorporate them into very real plotlines, or would you pepper them in amongst the surreal dreams, hallucinations and drug-addled sequences? That’s where I’d hide them. Fo’ Shizzle!
And when film and TV mysteries are finally revealed, don’t we usually say things like “Of course! The clues were there all along!”
Therefore, (drumroll please) I believe that Mr Robot takes place within a virtual reality. A virtual world of Whiterose’s making…
What you talking bout, Willis?
Before Season Two started, this 13 minute Sam Esmail written and directed “Mr Robot 360 Virtual Reality” made it’s debut at Comic-Con. If you have a VR Headset, you can watch it in all its glory here.
If you haven’t seen it already, maybe watch it before reading on…
Only one important thing happens in this flashback. A high as a kite Elliot goes on a date to the Coney Island Ferris Wheel with Shayla before they dance in a millennial iPod advert before Shayla disappears before Elliot’s very eyes.
Like many things in Mr Robot, this short film remains ambiguous as to whether this is a memory or a dream, or whether (Elliot believes) it’s real.
It’s a nifty editing (and sound editing) technique which we’ll see several more times in Season Two, but when I remember people, they don’t really vanish in a flash from my memories, nor does their voice break up like losing the frequency on a ham radio.
As an innovative storyteller and ubergeek, Sam Esmail could just be utilizing the kind of filmmaking technology he loves but what if this 360 degree VR short film provided us with one very big clue?
As Marshall MacLuhan would say; the very fact that this is a Virtual Reality film contains clues that “the medium is the message” – the vehicle is more important than the content i.e. Elliot is living in a VR world.
Let’s look at the evidence:
Elliot’s Far-fetched Storyline
A Virtual Reality world would certainly explain why Elliot’s story is so far-fetched because it could be a storyline that has been written for him, or that he is creating (dreaming) as he goes along…
E Corp caused the chemical leak that killed his father so, twenty-three years later, he becomes the lone hacker who brings down E Corp and a global financial collapse?
(A role that Whiterose told Angela was meant for her and Elliot)
A world where that company’s CEO has designs on World Domination, would happily bring about World War Three rather than admit defeat and treats people and life itself as a game – he even trades African countries like Monopoly hotels.
A world in which the USA is at cyber war with a shadowy, Chinese Dark Army run by a cross-dressing ministerial ambassador? A world in which Elliot finds love but then within weeks his girlfriend is killed in a storyline whereby Elliot must bust a drug dealer out of jail?
A world in which his best friend, Angela (whose mother also died) is drawn into whistleblowing, industrial espionage, kidnapping and being interrogated by children with text-based Commodore 64 adventure games?
Now, I’m not saying the series is unbelievable, I’m just trying to get to the answers and with my Private Dick-head on, it all seems a little far-fetched to be real. When you join me in putting your Private Dick-head on, you gotta admit… it’s almost like this whole world has been programmed or fantasized.
Living in Digital World
There are numerous times throughout the show when Elliot’s world is a world made up of zeroes and ones. Take another look at the Adderall sequence. Elliot hasn’t slept for many days, when he “wakes up”, becoming “enlightened” to see his world as it really is, his world is filled with Apple Mac volume, Basso error and other computer sound FX.
Shamans have been using drugs for thousands of years to break down the illusion of ego and “reality” and, after six days without sleep, the walls of Elliot’s reality break down and he begins to see his world as it really is…
We see digital glitches when Elliot’s hand physically disappears before his very eyes.
Clothes in the washer are projected onto Elliot’s retinas as Apple’s spinning wheel of death, he sees a basketball player repeatedly slam dunk the ball through the hoop on a low-quality loop, just like Neo’s
Clothes in the washer are projected onto Elliot’s retinas as Apple’s spinning wheel of death, he sees a basketball player repeatedly slam dunk the ball through the hoop on a low-quality loop, just like Neo’s deja vu in The Matrix.
Both we and Elliot even see the very code that makes up his virtual reality world.
In the Season Two finale, when Elliot has been shot, Mr Robot also flits in and out of existence in a digital glitch way, just as Shayla did. If his father is a ghost or a figment of Elliot’s imagination, why would he take on a “digital” look and disappear in such a zeroes and ones way?
I don’t think the fact that this is taking place in a virtual reality could have been made any more obvious than in this four-minute ode to prescription drugs!
Whiterose and Angela
One of the biggest questions raised by the two-part Season Finale was what Whiterose said to Angela in their 28-minute bizarro meeting. Whatever she discovered, it changed Angela forever. So what if the secret that Whiterose told her was… that this was all a game?
A non-real, VR world. A dimension in which her mother wasn’t dead… and where nothing was real. Wouldn’t that change you and give you the same kinda serene omnipotence as Whiterose? It would me.
I believe Whiterose is some kind of architect of the VR game, that’s why she can cause plane “accidents” and is so bloody busy overseeing the project that she can only give people minutes of her time.
I think Whiterose is mixed up in trying to create a new, alternate reality because their original one has gone very, very wrong. Perhaps the beginning of Mr Robot, some of Season One really happened and they are trying to reboot reality to a point before the hack?
Trenton’s words to Mobley, before they were politely interrupted by Leon may have a double meaning. Not only does Trenton think she can undo the 5/9 hack, but she can also fix whatever went wrong in the original timeline/reality. Maybe.
Speaking of Season Two final words, Angela’s last comment about how Elliot should see a friendly face “when he wakes up” (after being shot by Tyrell) indicates that most of what we’ve seen has taken place in Elliot’s VR game…
The next time we see Elliot in Season Three, he will be climbing out of a floatation tank, pulling an Oculus Rift off his face, electrodes strapped to his chest and head and an ECG machine monitoring his heartbeat.
Hell, he could even wake up from his concussion as an eight-year-old in hospital but more likely, he’ll wake up in a different reality – one where he can run down the streets in a world gone even more wrong.
So check out the series again, and take a look at all the lovely clues that Sam Esmail has dropped along the way.. the kind of clues that make you go “Of course! The clues were there all along!”