BY SARAH LEWITINN
Earlier today, at October 21, 2015 at 7:28am PT, people in Hill Valley, California awaited the arrival of Marty McFly as he speeds his DeLorean through the streets and into our present. By the time you’re reading this post, the best installment in the Back To The Future franchise — Back to the Future Part II, duh — is now about an intrepid young’un who travels to our past.
As everyone should know by now, the film’s objective is to deliver McFly through different periods of time to “fix” things that had gone wrong surrounding his father, George McFly. Its take on what was once our future (but is now our present and will soon be our past) was exciting, and left people hopeful for hoverboards, 3D movies, instant food, interactive advertisements, and the Cubs winning the World Series. In case you haven’t been paying attention, all that shit is happening … like, right NOW! (Well, except maybe the Cubs part.)
[Before we get much further, now is probably a good time to state the following: SPOILERS AHOY. If you haven’t completed Season One of Mr. Robot, now is a good time to stop reading. If you have finished it, though, and want to have your mind blown, please continue on, by all means.]
In the USA Network series Mr. Robot — a show that is too good to exist and makes me wonder if I fell into a coma and have been dreaming up it’s existence (am I here now?)— we learn in the pilot episode that Back to the Future Part II is the favorite movie of the protagonist, Elliot Alderson. We also soon discover that Elliot strives to fix the wrong doings that were done to his father. We also soon discover that the homeless-looking, middle-aged misfit (Christian Slater) that Elliot has been following around and referring to as Mr. Robot is actually his father, and actually not there, and actually dead, and actually Elliot experiencing dissociative disorder. Our unreliable narrator has, somehow, become even less reliable and who the fuck knows what’s real or not.
At the Mr. Robot panel for the Paley Center of the Arts on Wednesday, October 14, I posed a question to series creator Sam Esmail: Will Mr. Robot be taking a sci-fi turn? There are several Back to the Future Part II references throughout the show, and I have a theory: Tyrell Wellick is Elliot’s father.
Esmail’s response was terse:
‘“Well, I will say this: Back to the Future 2 is my favorite movie of the series and probably one of my favorite movies – obviously one of Elliot’s favorite movies – and it is set in 2015… and the CUBS! They won!”’
If you’re uncomfortable with the idea that Mr. Robot is about to become a sci-fi show that will might very well include time-travel, then the theory I’m about to propose can work within the “Tommy Westphall Universe” theory where everything is taking place in Elliot’s brain and he’s basically recreating a version of his favorite movie (Back to the Future Part II). Borrowing from Grantland writer Andy Greenwald’s pet theory, Elliot so obsessed with ’90s culture that he’s imaging Slater’s character from Pump Up the Volume as his father. Like, literally, Christian Slater the actor is appearing as a meta character.
If you’re comfortable with entertaining my theory of time travel, then let me take you on a wild ride in my DeLoreon:
Actually, now that I think about it, maybe Tyrell is actually the time traveler? Shoot. Back to the drawing board.
- Just like Marty McFly, Elliot Alderson typically wears the same outfit when he’s in the zone (time traveling / hacking).
- The famous “Hello Friend” line is Elliot’s future self talking to his current self.
- Elliot is often referred to as the key to everything. He has no memories, maybe because his past is getting created by his present/future.
- Elliot is focused on taking down E Corp – the company he feels is responsible for his father’s leukemia. He seeks revenge.
- Upon re-discovering the memories that inform Elliot that Mr. Robot is his father, he goes through a series of photos which include the two of them dressed as Doc Brown and Marty McFly.
- A photo on Elliot’s bookshelf which was once of just he and his mother now includes his father (Slater) and a sister. Revisits of that photo and the family unit (ie in the Times Square scene during the finale) don’t always include his sister. This is similar to the family photo that Marty uses to let him know if his missions are successful.
- By the way, we only know that Darlene is his sister because ELLIOT says so, but she doesn’t. Even in the interactions between Darlene and Angela, their kinship isn’t explicitly expressed.
- We’re led assume that leukemia was the cause of death for Elliot’s father, Edward Alderson – however, this is never actually said, just implied. The switching of personalities in the scene at Elliot’s childhood home which finds Elliot flying out of a window leads me to believe that Elliot actually killed his father in this way, which resulted in a life of medication and court-required therapy. This makes Elliot the real E(vil) Corp or, shall I say, Elliot Corp.
- Just as Marty does in the film trilogy, Elliot takes on different personas in order to alter the course of history. Remember, as the mysterious leader of the Dark Army White Rose (B.D. Wong) told him/us, Elliot “hacks people.”
- Speaking of… we also learn that White Rose “hacks time.” Perhaps White Rose is Elliot’s Doc Brown?
- We know that Elliot’s father was an engineer (which, I should note, is also Tyrell’s background); his mother refers to his father as weak and unable to do whatever needed to be done. We come to understand, through Elliot’s eyes, that his mother is kind of a cold-hearted, stop-at-nothing, power-hungry woman… or is that Joanna Wellick? The Wellicks and Aldersons also look alike.
- In an attempt to divert attention from Tyrell’s murder suspicion, Joanna stabs her own uterus with a fork to induce labor and possibly ends up causing brain damage (personality disorder?) to the fetus (aka Elliot).
- Immediately following the birth of Tyrell’s first child, an unnamed son, we discover that his wife, Joanna Wellick, had a daughter (Darlene?) many years earlier and gave the child up for adoption to a family that “seemed nice.”
- Following a meeting between Mr. Robot and Tyrell which has the two of them going head-to-head over who has a bigger life-ruining secret, Tyrell returns home and delivers a peculiar on-knees speech to Joanna about the need to find God and how some “tech” found a short cut.
- Shortly after the birth of Tyrell’s son, Elliot takes Wellick to F-Society headquarters and reveals his plan “to save the world.” The hack that ultimately takes down E-Corp is executed shortly thereafter.
- In the season finale, Elliot wakes up in Tyrell’s car and not only are three days missing but so is Mr. Wellick.
- During his search for Tyrell, Elliot encounters Joanna in a very peculiar meeting outside the Wellick’s brownstone. Her story as to Tyrell’s whereabouts are confusing and filled with lies, she then tells Elliot frankly (and in Dutch) “if you’ve done anything to hurt him I will kill you.”