The season two premiere of acclaimed hacktivist drama Mr. Robot was decidedly strange. The story immediately jumped forward a month in time after fsociety's widespread hack. In turn, viewers went from Elliot ending the season by answering a knock on the door to beginning his monotonous routine at his mother's house — who, the show has hinted, abused Elliot as a child.
Obviously, something's off. The show has consistently provided its audience with narrative twists, ranging from ones that seemed inevitable (Mr. Robot being a Fight Club-esque dual persona) to the unexpected (Darlene is actually Elliot's sister). Thankfully, then, the fanbase is eagerly looking for clues from creator Sam Esmail, and one redditor believes to have cracked the code to Elliot's predicament: He's actually in prison or some kind of mental institution.
The theory, posted by user Extenso, posits that the viewer is seeing how Elliot is coping with his situation by presenting the institution or penitentiary as his childhood home — that knock on the door, then, was actually him being obtained by the police. Looking at his routine, the user said it parallels the daily routine of an inmate or patient.
He wakes up at the same time every day, and his routine includes getting breakfast, lunch and dinner at the same time, and at the same diner, with his "friend" Leon. It's odd, too, that Leon is friends with him, when Elliot is clearly letting him sound off about what Leon's watching on television (Seinfeld, apparently) without acknowledging him. The "church group" he visits twice a week could also be construed as part of mandatory therapy if he is, in fact, inside an institution.
Moreover, his interactions with his mother are sparse — she's consigned to barking orders at him, such as when it's time for him to wake up in the morning and when he does his chores. Therefore, she could be a prison guard or a nurse; he's just presenting that person as his mother who was an oppressive and authoritative figure in his childhood.
The hints could have been suggested in the show's cinematography as well. The scenes involving Elliot, whether at the basketball court he goes to in the afternoon to watch games, or the outside view of his mother's house — are lined with bars. These are subtle visual cues to the viewer that something's up.
The user continues to highlight proof for the prison theory in the comprehensive post, but perhaps the most telling evidence is the intentional framing of the shot where Elliot is journaling in a notebook as a way to keep his Mr. Robot persona under control. At one point, it's framed so that all we see him write out is, "I am in an illusion."
Elliot's perspective has always been distorted because of his probable dissociative disorder and hallucinations, making him a completely unreliable narrator for the viewer to follow throughout the series. As a result, given Mr. Robot's frequent narrative twists, the prison/mental institution theory does hold some weight.
The second season just started, but already, Mr. Robot is making its viewers conspiracy theorists — oddly fitting, given the subject matter.