'Mr. Robot' Season 2 Premiere: 5 Theories About Elliot's "Perfect Little Loop"

Is Rami Malek's protagonist actually in control for once, or is he in the middle of another illusion?
Michael Parmelee/USA Network

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the season two premiere of USA Network's Mr. Robot.]

"I am in control."

Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek) not only writes these words over and over and over again in his journal, but also stresses to us, the viewers, his "friend," that he's in control of his current circumstances: Living in a new neighborhood, under his wicked mother's roof, eating meals with the Seinfeld-obsessed Leon (Joey Badass), watching local basketball games every day, cleaning his room twice a day, attending church groups twice a week, fielding visits from familiar faces like Darlene (Carly Chaikin) and the late Gideon Goddard (Michel Gill) from time to time, journaling his activities with detailed time-stamps, and otherwise doing everything in his power to stay far away from the internet — all in an effort to keep his inner daemon, Mr. Robot (Christian Slater), at bay.

But Mr. Robot has his own phrase about control: It's an illusion, he tells Elliot. Where Elliot sees a "perfect little loop," Mr. Robot sees an "infinite loop of insanity." And while it's hard to trust the anarchic fsociety founder now that we know he's not even real, perhaps it's worth taking his side in this instance ... because mounting signs suggest that Elliot's loop is not at all as it appears.

Here are five theories about Elliot's current situation, following the Mr. Robot season premiere:

1. Elliot Is Leon

After the penultimate season one episode's reveal that Elliot and Mr. Robot are the same person, it's worth wondering if Elliot has manifested other personalities as well. The first major suspect comes in the form of Leon, Elliot's friend in the new neighborhood. Whenever the two meet, Leon does the talking, recounting philosophical anecdotes gleaned from Seinfeld — how a show famously about nothing proves that life lacks meaning. Midway through the episode, Leon aggressively stands up against one of the basketball players, his only interaction with someone other than Elliot in the episode — and in the interaction, he's standing right in front of Elliot, exactly how Mr. Robot would stand in front of Elliot and lead fsociety meetings back in season one. It's wise to consider Leon as another one of Elliot's delusions, at least until Leon boasts some scenes of his own — and even then, tread lightly; Mr. Robot had three scenes without Elliot in season one, and we all know how that turned out.

2. Elliot Is Everyone

Twisting the idea even further, the suspicions surrounding Leon should extend to everyone seen in Elliot's little loop. Is Elliot actually living with his mother, an actual nightmare figure from his past? "Better the devil you know than the devil you don't," Elliot tells his therapist Krista (Gloria Reuben) when asked why he chose to live with his mom, despite their famous differences. But what if it's not his mother? What if she's not real? It certainly wouldn't be the only time Elliot's seen visions of his mother, stemming as early as the beginning of the series and as late as the Times Square scene in the season one finale. Then there's Ray (Craig Robinson), the dog-owning neighborhood man with an eye for Elliot's skills. Is he in Elliot's head as well? As with Leon, everyone floating around Elliot's present orbit requires a skeptical eye until proven otherwise.

3. Elliot Is in an Illusion

Here's where we start tripping down the "Robot Hole," as it were. What if Elliot's "perfect little loop" isn't what we think it is? What if the world we're seeing through Elliot's eyes is very different from the physical world Elliot actually inhabits? From the very first scenes of the series, Mr. Robot established Elliot's unreliability. Every time he sees or hears "E Corp," he sees and hears it as "Evil Corp," and as such, so do the other characters in his specific scenes. In one of the final scenes of season one, a frightened Elliot freaks out and blinks all of the denizens of Times Square out of existence ... not literally, one assumes, but at least he's able to utterly block them out of his brain. It suggests Elliot's delusions have grown in scope and scale, so much so that he could theoretically invent an entirely different world for himself — like the world he claims to "control" throughout the premiere. Not for nothing, a close-up of Elliot's notebook blends two statements, "I am in control" and "control is an illusion," into a startling confession: "I am in an illusion."

4. Elliot Is in an Institution

Fans are running with the idea of Elliot's "illusion," with two main consensus possibilities emerging: Elliot's either in prison or a mental institution. Both theories suppose that the knock on Elliot's door at the end of season one belonged to authorities, and Elliot was subsequently locked away. This explains his mundane routines and the small size of his room, his consistent meals with fellow inmate Leon, the possibility that Ray is some sort of counselor trying to break through to his patient (perhaps he would know that Elliot "liberated" Flipper, hence the presence of Ray's dog Maxine), and that Elliot's mom is actually some sort of strict authority figure. Gideon visiting Elliot comes across as an institutional visitation when seen under this light, as does the Krista scene. ("Darlene comes by sometimes," he tells her, when she asks if he feels alone.) Aspects of Elliot's house boast institutional elements, from sliding doors to the red phone Elliot uses to speak with Tyrell. During an appearance on the aftershow "Hacking Robot," Malek described Elliot's journey this season with a single word: "Committed." Whether he's in a hospital due to his condition, or locked away in prison for any number of reasons — the fsociety hack, kidnapping Flipper, breaking Fernando Vera (Elliot Villar) out of prison, the suspected death of Shayla (Frankie Shaw), among countless other possibilities — the possibility that Elliot is locked away somewhere for some reason becomes increasingly more likely with each passing examination of the episode's many clues.

5. Elliot Is in on the Twist

Elliot's illusion and incarceration would come as a major surprise to many viewers, but would it come as a surprise to Elliot? Perhaps the most intriguing wrinkle yet suggests Elliot is fully aware of his actual surroundings, and is keeping the information away from the viewer. In the final stretch of season one, Elliot became increasingly volatile toward and hurt by us, his "friend," for not telling him about the Mr. Robot reveal sooner. (As if eagle-eyed viewers could convey this information to a fictional character, anyway.) In the season two premiere, when Elliot addresses us for the first time, he says: "I'm not ready to trust you yet, not after what you did. You kept things from me. I'm not sure I can tell you things like before. Friends are supposed to be honest." Is Elliot withholding the "honest" truth about his circumstances from the viewer until he feels like we're friends again? Are we the ones in the dark this time? If so, then Mr. Robot's right: This is an insane loop, and we're all swimming in the mouth of madness.

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