Perhaps more so than any show since Lost signed off with its final, confounding, Sideways-flashing season, USA's Emmy-nominated drama Mr. Robot is a perfect target for speculation and theorizing. The unreliability of our narrator, the revelation that supporting characters can exist solely within our protagonist's head, and the labyrinthine nature of the show's plot are perfect for amateur sleuths to sink their teeth into. Which characters actually exist, and which are hallucinations? How much of what we're seeing is objectively "real," and how much is merely a construct of Elliot Alderson's mind? Various Mr. Robot theories have grappled with these questions to varying degrees of success. But there's one in particular that would explain a lot about two of the show's most intriguing new characters.
By now, chances are good you've already heard the "Elliot is in prison" theory that has become the most common refrain since the show's two-part premiere last week. It makes an awful lot of sense: the fact that Elliot lives most of his day-to-day life within the confines of one room, that he eats all his meals in the same place, that he spends his free time watching basketball games and attending support groups… all these activities certainly suggest a prison-like existence.
Proponents of this theory often wonder whether new Seinfeld-referencing character Leon (played by rapper Joey Bada$$) is really just another figment of Elliot's imagination, like Mr. Robot. But another theory suggests that Leon isn't the new character we should be wondering about — but rather FBI agent Dominique DiPierro (Grace Gummer) and Elliot's new acquaintance Ray (Craig Robinson). Within the prison construct, some claim that Ray and his canine companion Maxine represent a friendly social worker and a therapy dog. But what if Ray's presence is less benign? What if he and Dom are actually the same person?
I know it sounds crazy, but bear with me here. If you believe that Elliot is really in prison, then it's possible that Ray isn't just a chatty neighbor, but rather someone trying to win Elliot's trust in order to withdraw information from his fevered brain — à la "Jennifer Lopez from The Cell, an empathetic agent inserted into his dreamscape to scavenge intel," as Entertainment Weekly's Jeff Jensen put it. And if everything we're seeing around Elliot is fake, then wouldn't it stand to reason that Elliot's new confidante would also look different from outside the character's perspective? Say, more like Grace Gummer, perhaps?
Think about it: both Ray and Dom have an easy, buddy-buddy rapport with the people we see them interact with (Elliot and the bodega owner, respectively). We've never seen them onscreen together — nor Dom with Elliot, more importantly. And Dom's last name, DiPierro, is suggestive of the Spanish word "perro," which could mean that she is literally "of the dog"… as in our furry friend Maxine?
OK, so that last one might be a bit of a stretch. (Or is it?) But the theory actually makes a weird amount of sense. If you subscribe to the belief that Elliot really is in prison — or psychiatric lockup or whatever — and we know that Dom has been interrogating Gideon Goddard, then you can bet she would also be interrogating Elliot Alderson. So while we see Elliot's interrogator as an affable neighbor from his deluded perspective, whenever we see the character away from Elliot's point-of-view, we see her for who she truly is.
If any of this is correct — the specific theory that Dom and Ray are the same person or the general idea that Elliot is in prison — then one important question remains: does Elliot know the truth, or not? While it's possible that he's simply fallen even farther down the rabbit hole and constructed a false reality for himself in order to cope with being locked up, it's also possible that Elliot is very much aware of what's going on and is withholding that information from the audience… just like we "withheld" the information about Mr. Robot from him last season when we all figured out the big twist well before Elliot did.
Our protagonist doesn't trust us anymore (he says so himself in his narration during the Season 2 premiere), so we in turn can't trust anything he tells us. But whether or not he knows the truth about Dom and Ray, this twist would represent a new step for Mr. Robot. While we've all been so obsessed with figuring out which characters are actually representations of Elliot — Tyrell? Darlene? All of fsociety? The entire show?? — we never stopped to consider which characters other than Elliot could be representations of each other.
Images: Michael Parmelee, Peter Kramer/USA Network