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Warning: spoilers ahead.
Since Mr. Robot’s first season, the show’s savvy viewers sensed something amiss, suggesting that Elliot’s daily regimen was a conspiracy and that he’s been behind bars since Season 1. The first season, full of mystique and enigma, delivered all the confusion and puzzle-solving fans could possibly ask for, though it is hard to say the same thing about Season 2. What was supposed to be the series’ biggest mystery has already been uncovered, even as early as this season’s premiere, proving viewers’ conspiracy theory right.
Elliot has indeed been hallucinating his daily regimen, as he’s been in prison for the entirety of the show. The basketball court is the prison rec yard, the diner where he and Leon discussed Seinfeld is the cafeteria, and his “mother” is actually a strict female guard, according to HitFix. Showrunner Sam Esmail spoke about this season’s big twist to HitFix saying, “we didn’t really hide it that well.”
With the fans’ prison conspiracy theory proven correct, Esmail hopes that this won’t cause viewers to start questioning the reality of all other parts of the show. Regarding the possibility of viewers starting to doubt the realness of the show entirely because of an unreliable narrator, Esmail says, “That could get really frustrating. I want us to be tethered. For me, it’s about the authentic experience of what Elliot is going through.”
Though Elliot’s new regiment of sleep, diners and basketball seemed a little out of wack, Esmail didn’t expect fans to catch on this quickly to the fact that Elliot has been locked up and hallucinating his routine all along. Esmail spoke about this big twist to HitFix:
“It was weird. One thing that we always do is we never want to cheat the audience. We never want it to be some extraordinarily contrived thing where we’re basically lying to the audience and what they’re seeing isn’t actually happening, and we’re fooling them. In doing that, and being honest with what is going on, even though the surroundings aren’t actually what they are, we didn’t really hide it that well, right?
I didn’t expect people to catch on from the very first episode, but I thought people would start to theorize and catch on. Look, a reveal is great when it’s surprising, but it’s terrible when it feels like a cheat. To me, the fact that some people who guessed it may not be surprised, it verifies that we didn’t cheat anybody, because it adds up and makes sense to them still.”
Despite the big “reveal,” Esmail doesn’t expect Mr. Robot’s upcoming episodes to be any less of an enigma. It doesn’t seem contrived that Elliot is behind bars, as it fits with his history of mental illness. Mr. Robot will continue to be a scavenger hunt and mental triathlon for its viewers. After all, Mr. Robot has still left many things unsaid, such as why Elliot is in prison in the first place.