The third episode of season two of the USA Network series Mr. Robot began where the last episode left off with Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek) on the phone. It has been very clear that Elliot is an unreliable narrator as a result of his psychological problems and many have suggested that he is not living with his mother but is in an institution. There are many clues that this is indeed the case. In the first scene Elliott is using a wall phone; it is hard to believe that any private residence has a bright red wall phone in 2016. His strict “mother,” possibly a psych tech, is sitting in a room with only a chair and a TV. In fact, everything about his current living situation supports the interpretation that Elliot is in an institution: the sparse furniture and drab walls except for the wallpaper with vertical lines reminiscent of bars in a locked facility; the regimented daily schedule (e.g., he eats with Leon at same time every day); the fact that Leon had never appeared before; the lack of access to a computer.
It seems most likely that Elliot is in a psychiatric facility. In an episode last year Darlene (Carly Chaikin) and Angela (Portia Doubleday) confront Elliott in a cemetery about his deteriorating mental health. Darlene is crying in the first episode before taking Elliot’s place leader of fsociety. Perhaps she and Angela joined forces to have Elliot committed. One of his delusions is that people are restraining him and forcing cement down his throat. In reality it could be that they are forcing him to take his medication which initially has the effect of making Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) disappear.
It is relatively easy to be suspicious of what Elliot experiences, but the question is should the viewer mistrust all that happens outside of his presence too. At one point there is a comment that all that we see is an illusion. Either way, there are some interesting plot developments in this episode. The first involves Angela’s interactions with the E Corp CEO, Phillip Price (Michael Cristofer). At the end of a meeting with Angela in his office, Price notices that she is drawn to a poster featuring the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, an event that led to WWI. Price comments that it is amazing that one person can change the world with a bullet in the right place. Later when Angela meets Price at an exclusive restaurant there are two other men from the company at a table with him. After they leave Price tells her that they were involved in the cover-up of the leak in her hometown and that they have been involved in insider trades. He gives her a CD with information that could put them away for years and tells her that their lives will be destroyed but if she “removes emotion from this, you’ll do fine.”
There is some evidence that this interaction is not part of an elaborate delusion. The upscale restaurant where they dine has no other patrons and Price must pay for the dinner upfront in cash. This is consistent with the fsociety hack that made credit cards useless. There are also demonstrators in front of the restaurant.
In a flashback we that learn Romero, a member of fsociety, owns the arcade where they met and that he had served time for computer crimes. He is later found dead. FBI agent Dominique DiPierro (Grace Gummer) arrives at the Romero home to find that inept local police officers have destroyed much of the evidence. She later visits with Romero’s mother and in the course of looking for a glass in boxes packed for a move, she finds evidence (i.e., papers with computer programs and a handout for an end of the world party). Ray (Craig Robinson) tells Elliot that stumbling toward the right answer is a good as it gets and Dominique does stumble upon the evidence. Following up on this evidence leads her to the arcade where fsociety met and she sees the sign on the arcade — with letters missing — that reads: F Society. “Fun Society” was the original name of the arcade according to Romero.
In the scenes with Dominique alone in her home we learn that she suffers from insomnia. She is also dependent on technology as she asks Alexa to turn off music and for information. The lack of control in life and our dependence on technology are two major themes in the series.
It is not entirely clear who Ray really is. He tries to get a computer tech to help get a site that was losing money back up using physical coercion and threats, but he also appears as a therapist to Elliot. They meet in an office with Ray behind a desk. He has the composition book that Elliot had thrown away and explains that he had access to it because he is a friend of the chaplain who leads the group Elliot attends. This suggests that Ray and the leader of the church group Elliot attended work in the same facility.
The question for future episodes is the same as it has always been: what is real and what is illusion.