As the second season kicks into high gear, Mr. Robot finally drops its big twist.
It’s the first sentence ever spoken in Mr. Robot: repeated twice, over a black screen, before we knew anything—even the identity of the speaker.
This is, of course, one of Mr. Robot's many meta-textual flourishes, designed to make the viewer feel like an active participant in a static medium. But in a series obsessed with isolation, it's revealing that the very first scene is a desperate stab at a connection. In that opening monologue, Elliot even toys with giving his "imaginary friend"—the viewer—a name. He doesn't, but the effect is the same: He's talking to you—yes, you.
Of course, the audience's relationship to Elliot has grown exponentially more complicated since that initial introduction. Last year, when Elliot learned that Mr. Robot was a figment of his imagination, he didn't just rail at Mr. Robot; he railed at us. "You knew all along, didn't you?" he said in horror. And when Elliot finally addressed us again in the Season Two premiere, it was with the curdled anger of a sullen teenager. "I'm not ready to trust you yet. Not after what you did. You kept things from me."
In turn, we've all been betrayed by Elliot, who spent the entirety of the season lying to us (though that didn't stop most viewers from figuring out his secret anyway). This season's biggest fan theory has finally been confirmed. In the aftermath of the 5/9 hack, Elliot hasn't been hiding away at his mom's house. He's been locked up as an inmate in some kind of correctional facility. And now, apparently, he's on the verge of getting out and rejoining the real world again.
There's still a lot we don't know—like, say, the crime Elliot committed to get locked up in the first place. It's clearly not connected to the 5/9 hack, which would come with a much steeper penalty, or the alleged murder of Tyrell Wellick, which would come with the same problems. (More on that later.) And his incarceration seems to have been voluntary; when Darlene visited Elliot a few weeks ago, she said she "will never understand why [he] did this."
As Mr. Robot says, Elliot is a leader, and his absence has left a vacuum in the lives of the people he loves most. Outside the walls of the prison, Angela has never been more alone, and never more in need of someone to trust. Dom—a woman just as driven and isolated as Angela—instantly realizes that Angela has some kind of sketchy connection to the 5/9 hack. But she can’t prove it in time to prevent Angela from keying in the final commands that lead to the successful hack of the FBI, giving fsociety full access to the top-secret documents that might otherwise lead to their downfall.
It's a success that came at a great risk to Angela, who is both perennially underappreciated and perennially underestimated. But when Darlene finally approaches her in full confidence, vowing that there won't be "any more smokescreens" about fsociety, Angela flatly rejects her old friend. "Every Halloween, you and Elliot always made me watch that shitty scary movie," she snaps at Darlene, revealing that she recognized the obscure source of the now-ubiquitous fsociety masks, and pieced together Elliot and Darlene's role in the hack accordingly.
You might think Angela has endured enough to flip on her childhood friends and embrace her new role as an E Corp power player. But in the ongoing battle between fsociety and E Corp, Angela remains an intriguing wild card, refusing to trust anyone enough to treat them as an ally. When she tells her father about the deal she cut for the class-action lawsuit against E Corp, he bristles, telling her that he doesn't trust her or the company that seems to have successfully seduced her. She remains unapologetic. But when she sits down with E Corp CEO Phillip Price—whose relationship with Angela is an uncomfortable blend of paternalism and seduction—she rejects him too. In a rare moment of vulnerability, Price reveals it's his birthday, and asks if she'd be willing to celebrate with him. "No," she replies, with icy indifference.
At this point in Mr. Robot's narrative, Angela might have the right idea; as Elliot might say, any relationship is a vulnerability, and any vulnerability can be exploited. His brief, painful friendship with Ray ends when he lays the groundwork for the FBI to discover Ray's dark-web black market. Ray, at the very least, has a moment of clarity about the redemption he receives when Elliot destroys him and his unspeakably ugly website: "I should have taken a fucking stand. You are my answer. It's not the other way around. So thank you."