BY JEFFERSON GRUBBS
In Season 1, fans became convinced that Mr. Robot was merely an alter ego of Elliot Alderson. In Season 2, they became convinced that Elliot's mother's house was really a prison. And in Season 3, fans are now sure that Mr. Robot is exploring parallel universes. Sounds too crazy, even for this show, right? Alternate dimensions would definitely give Mr. Robot far more of a science-fiction bent than it had during its first two seasons; but given how the popular fan theories about the first two seasons ended up panning out, the idea of parallel universes shouldn't be dismissed out of hand, either. In fact, there are plenty of clues that the Mr. Robot parallel universe theory isn't just the product of an over-imaginative fan base.
Word has it that the Nov. 8 episode, "eps3.4_runtime-err0r.r00," will be a doozy. According to USA Network's promo of the upcoming hour, it is "a groundbreaking episode" that "everyone will be talking about," aired "without interruption." Critics who have already seen the episode — like Entertainment Weekly's Kevin P. Sullivan — are hailing it as "unlike anything the show has done before, in the best way possible," and warning fans to miss the episode "at your own peril." Could Mr. Robot finally be about to tip its hand in regards to the existence of parallel universes? If so, it's time to brush up on the theory and its evidence.
1. What If Five/Nine Never Happened?
The show's first flirtation with the idea of parallel universes came from Dark Army leader Whiterose back in Season 2. In conversation with FBI agent Dom DiPierro, her alter ego Minister Zhang asked, "Have you ever wondered how the world would look if the Five/Nine Hack had never happened? In fact, some believe there are alternate realities playing out that very scenario, with other lives we're leading, and other people that we've become. The contemplation moves me very deeply."
But just because Whiterose is intrigued by the idea of parallel universes doesn't mean they actually exist, right?
2. The Doors
During Angela's Lynch-ian encounter with Whiterose during Season 2, the idea of parallel universes came up once again. "I've always found doors fascinating inventions," Whiterose mused after asking why Angela didn't simply leave the room. "They hold the entry to unlimited imagination. Before you open any door, a world filled with possibilities sits right behind it. And it isn't until you open it they are realized. Such potential they bring to our minds. And yet a lock stopped you from all of that."
The idea that unlimited possibilities exist until we take action is central to one theory of parallel universes, referred to as the many-worlds interpretation, or the multiverse. According to this theory, every time you make a decision, a parallel universe springs into being in which you made the opposite choice — which means there are infinite versions of you out there, living lives that vary in major or minor ways from your own.
3. Project Berenstain
In Season 2, the FBI's surveillance program targeting fsociety is codenamed "Project Berenstain." That isn't just a random reference to a children's book — it's a deliberate allusion to a very specific theory involving parallel universes called "the Mandela Effect." Examples of the Mandela Effect include people mis-remembering The Berenstain Bears as The BerenSTEIN Bears, or mistakenly believing that Nelson Mandela died in prison.
While some believe the Mandela Effect is merely an intriguing phenomenon in which masses of people have the same memory glitch, others believe it's proof that parallel universes exist… and their influence is bleeding over into ours. Perhaps we remember it being spelled "Berenstein" because, in an alternate dimension from our own, that is how it's spelled. But even if that's true, why would that affect our perception in our universe?
4. Making Copies
The scientist in the opening scene of Season 3 might have the answer to that question. In the show's first glimpse inside the Washington Township Plant, an employee took a group on a tour of the Evil Corp facility where Elliot's father and Angela's mother both contracted the cancer that ended their lives. "If I close my eyes, I can imagine that everything we experience — everything we think, see, and do — is unfolding simultaneously in a parallel universe," he said, sounding very much like a Whiterose acolyte. "And if so, how many copies of ourselves exist? And might our mental states be conjoined, for better or worse?"
The idea that people are connected to their doubles in a parallel universe finds echoes in Mr. Robot's obsession with duality, from Elliot's bifurcated identity to Whiterose's own public/private persona. Could Mr. Robot himself actually be the result of a blurring between the show's universe and one in which Elliot's father is still alive?
5. Rage Against The Machine
At the end of Season 3's Washington Township sequence, the camera zoomed out on a giant, complex machine hidden in the bowels of the plant, the nature and purpose of which is still unknown. Various theories include a time machine and a quantum computer, but some fans think the device it most closely resembles is a particle accelerator, or Large Hadron Collider.
Given that the existence of parallel universes is one of the theories the real-life LHC is meant to prove, it's reasonable to assume that Whiterose is using the device to try to open a portal to an alternate dimension — one where the Five/Nine hack was foiled. And if so, could she be trying to open a portal to… our dimension? Obviously, no "Five/Nine hack" ever took place in our reality. Could the entirety of Mr. Robot be taking place in a parallel universe that's about to collide with our own?
6. Code Words
As Elliot walked down the streets of NYC in the Season 3 premiere, he passed a QR code plastered to a wall. When scanned, the code leads to the resumé of an employee supposedly applying for a job at Evil Corp; clicking on the "Contact Me" link leads you to his Reddit profile; one of his recent posts makes fun of a Reddit page titled "r/REALMysterySpot"; one of the prominent threads on that page is titled "Gravitational Waves Leaking from Parallel Universes?"; and one of the comments on that thread reads:
"was going to create a new post but there's a secret particle collider in NJ and i've heard tail of some animatrix shit going on there."
One of the replies says:
"calling bullsh*t on this. only thing i could find that's even REMOTELY close to this in NJ is an E Corp power plant that gave a bunch of people lukemia in the 90s. BFD."
And the first commenter responds:
"def a hadron collider. my cuz is an egghead science nerd and super smart. i believe him. even drunk as he was he made me pull out the battery and sim card of my phone before he started talking about the place. something going on there has him a paranoid android... can't get more specific right now. says there's a real gestapo vibe about the place. says ppl go missing all the time."
7. Angela's Ashes
In the Nov. 1 episode, Angela met with Dark Army representative Irving at the Red Wheelbarrow rib joint. Although they're ostensibly there to discuss the execution of Phase 2, Angela clearly has something else on her mind. "I have to ask, did Whiterose ever show you?" she inquires. When she asks whether Irving believes in it, he responds with a lengthy monologue about the unimaginable capabilities of technology. "I think anything is possible," he summarizes.
The pair are clearly discussing something Whiterose has shown the both of them — most likely the same device lurking in the Washington Township Plant. And given both Whiterose's and the Washington Township employee's ruminations on the existence of parallel universes, it's not difficult to connect the dots.
Will Whiterose succeed in her efforts to open a portal to another dimension? Better buckle up, Mr. Robot fans, because the show is somehow about to get even weirder than it already was.