'Mr. Robot': Contemplating Whiterose's Alternate Reality Theory

Elliot Alderson isn't the only 'Mr. Robot' figure submerged in multiple realities.
Michael Parmelee/USA Network

[Warning: This story contains spoilers through season two, episode five of Mr. Robot.]

There's a closet filled with fantastically expensive and historic dresses, with two individuals standing before it. One of these individuals is China's minister of state security, Zhang (BD Wong) — a figure we've known only as Whiterose, a transgender hacker with a Dark secret, until now.

"Have you ever wondered how the world would look if the 5/9 Hack had never happened?" says Zhang, speaking with Dom DiPierro (Grace Gummer), a mid-level FBI agent deeply entrenched in the investigation into the hack. "In fact, some believe there are alternate realities playing out that very scenario, with other lives we're leading, and other people that we've become. The contemplation moves me very deeply."

It's a contemplation that ought to move Mr. Robot viewers deeply as well. Given the show's premise about a troubled hacker with two distinctly different sides of his personality, the question of reality has very much been on the story's mind from the very beginning. It's not enough for some that Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek) interacts with a figment of his dead father (Christian Slater) on an everyday basis; there are those who theorize that Elliot is connected with other characters in similar ways, or perhaps even more complicated ways, with one of the more out-there ideas positing that Elliot and Tyrell Wellick (Martin Wallström) are family members separated through time... or through alternate realities, if you will.

Unless the already weird Mr. Robot takes an even weirder turn, don't expect the USA Network series to take a turn for the Fringe — even if Observer-like black-hats appeared earlier this season. It's best not to focus on Whiterose's moving contemplation about alternate realities in the sci-fi sense; but it's absolutely a notion that defines the series and its roster of characters all the same. Whether or not other universes exist, the one Mr. Robot takes place in comes loaded with people living out multiple existences, multiple realities.

Begin with Zhang, as the one who tossed out this theory in the first place. Until the latest episode, called "eps2.3_logic-b0mb.hc," viewers knew this character as Whiterose, leader of the Dark Army that helped bring E Corp down, but also someone with unknown ties to the evil company. This week's episode makes it clear: Whiterose is also a high-ranking government official within China, operating on two very different sides of the shadows. What's more, Zhang/Whiterose boasts very different public and private personas: as a man working for the government, and as a woman working against it. Which one is the real reality? Whiterose appears more at ease in her personal moments, but it's unwise to assume too much about this mysterious figure.

The episode also shines a spotlight on Ray (Craig Robinson), the friendly neighborhood criminal in Elliot's current orbit. Ray has spent his time on Mr. Robot helping Elliot reach a breakthrough with his internal personality struggle, and at the same time, also trying to recruit Elliot into working on his secret online business. How dark can Ray's secret be, given his affable nature? Pretty dark, apparently, as Elliot identifies Ray's site as Midland City, a Silk Road analogue where drugs, weapons and humans are trafficked in equal measure. 

It's as baffling a contemplation to Elliot as it is to Elliot's "friend," the viewer, who has come to know and appreciate Ray over the course of season two. "Ray is kind," Elliot muses. "Ray is dangerous." How can these two different sides exist simultaneously?

For that answer, look no further than Elliot himself, a young man with a streak of Dexter Morgan in him, wanting to use his uncanny abilities as a digital vigilante to help others. But there are times when his dark passenger gets the better of him — the times when Mr. Robot launches plans that cause empires to crumble and all-but-fall in an instant. Elliot is the man who rescued a dog from an abusive owner, but he is also the man who wagged a revolver in his teammate Romero's face ... and, until proven otherwise, remains one of the lead suspects in Romero's eventual death.

Elliot has always been the show's best and clearest example of multiple realities existing in the same space, to the point that he might be literally living in two realities right now. But he's far from the only example. Whiterose and Ray aside, there's Angela Moss (Portia Doubleday), simultaneously aligned with E Corp and fsociety; Elliot's sister Darlene (Carly Chaikin), simultaneously the charismatic fsociety figurehead while privately overwhelmed with the heaviness of the crown; Joanna Wellick (Stephanie Corneliussen), who sings lullabies to her newborn child in the same breath that she reveals why it's cruel to kill a human being swiftly without giving them reason to contemplate their own demise first. The list goes on.

Whiterose's supposition about alternate realities shouldn't get the science fiction wheels spinning too fast, but it should absolutely gets fans contemplating the dualities that exist within each of the multidimensional figures lurking within Mr. Robot — and it's a moving contemplation indeed.


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