A definitive ranking of every 'Mr. Robot' title screen, from the quirky to the stunning
(Editor's note: Detailed spoilers for Mr. Robot season two ahead.)
Elliot went to prison (for a while, actually); Dom survived two shootouts with the Dark Army; Alf appeared in Elliot's zany, '90s sitcom-themed utopia; we learned about the campy, horror movie origins of fsociety's monopoly mask; and the penultimate episode cryptically teased a sci-fi element that could blow the lid off the realism of the series. In other words, Mr. Robot has a fluid identity — one that compellingly captures the damaged psyche of the show's unreliable narrator and protagonist, Elliot (who, of course, is Mr. Robot).
But one element of the series that remains a constant is creator Sam Esmail's imaginative use of title screens — the moment at the beginning of an episode which flashes the show's name with a distinct red lettering. The titles can subtly establish the tone — again, on Mr. Robot, this is key.
Below, Mic has ranked all of Mr. Robot's title screens ahead of Wednesday's finale, taking into consideration the visual aesthetic and the buildup, in addition to the context for the sequence and the score (we'll mostly be using stills below, however). Here's how they rank:
The context: The episode opens with a flashback to the first time Shayla met Elliot, which, as we find out, bears particular weight for Elliot after Shayla was killed by the man who supplies her drugs, Fernando Vera. The specific drug Elliot was looking for — to countermeasure his morphine so he wouldn't become addicted — meant Shayla had to go through Vera. An out-of-focus Shayla looking back beneath the title, the last we see of her in the series, is particularly resonant.
The context: A bystander douses Joanna Wellick in red paint, calling her a "capitalist pig." It's Carrie-esque, but also perfectly embodies her frustration in season two, waiting for her husband Tyrell Wellick's return, as he sends her mysterious gifts in the mail and makes cryptic phone calls.
The context: Tyrell Wellick blows off some steam by giving money to a homeless man — in turn, getting permission to beat him up. It speaks a lot to the American Psycho-tinted nature of Tyrell, as well as Esmail's affinity with putting characters (here, the beaten-up man) on the edges of the screen.
The context: The opening to the episode is one of many inklings that there's something Elliot isn't telling us. It's revealed that Mr. Robot's female leads, Darlene and Angela, know each other, as the two attend a ballet class.
The context: The meaning behind the show's name — in addition to Elliot's alter ego in the personification of his dead father — is revealed to be his father's old computer repair store. The title screen itself is eschewed for the actual name of the store, with Esmail's credit thrown in at the bottom.
The context: While the real-life Elliot is being beaten up by Ray's goons, Mr. Robot creates a cheery utopia for him in the guise of a '90s sitcom. It's Mr. Robot's attempt to reconcile with Elliot after, understandably, losing his trust — and the entertaining Full House-style credits were the icing on the cake.
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The context: Though technically two episodes, these aired together as the season two premiere and were separated by an intermission. We're just going to count the initial opening of Elliot waking up in his mother's house (or so we're led to believe) to the tune of Lupe Fiasco's "Daydreamin'."
The context: Elliot gives a solemn promise: This is the last line of morphine he's going to take. The shot gives us a fun field of depth while he snorts it, preceding Elliot's intense withdrawals later on.
The context: After finally revealing that Elliot's been in prison for all of season two, we get an accelerated look at what his life was like behind bars, and how he created an illusory world for himself. The shot for the title, meanwhile, is of trans inmate Hot Carla and her propensity to burn books at the grate in the prison rec yard.
The context: The origin of fsociety's Monopoly mask stems from Darlene and Elliot's favorite horror movie growing up, The Careful Massacre of the Bourgeoisie. The killer in the fictitious film dons the mask, and Elliot does the same at Darlene's insistence when she buys one at a Halloween shop. It triggers Elliot's Mr. Robot persona to come to the foray and reveal his plan to take down Evil Corp to Darlene. It was — in its own right — pretty scary.
The context: "I, Elliot Alderson, am flight," he opens. "I am fear. I am anxiety, terror, panic." Esmail teases the viewer with Shayla's fate; it looks like they're on a date at a diner, but in reality it's a hostage situation for Shayla, who's been kidnapped by Vera and his lackeys. This, unfortunately, happens to be the last time Elliot sees Shayla alive.
The context: Speaking of Vera: Here he is coming to the realization that Elliot set him up, putting him in prison. That grin isn't creepy at all, no sir.
The context: fsociety's hack on Evil Corp was a success, with the title screen coming in the form of a news report of rioting on the streets in the wake of the cyber attack.
The context: What works here isn't just the shot of Evil Corp CEO Philip Price barely visible in his office (though again, Esmail loves squeezing people in and it looks great). The aural cue from Mr. Robot's Emmy-winning composer Mac Quayle steals the show — turning to heavy metal as viewers are moved from Price at the office to Joanna Wellick getting dressed to go meet Elliot outside his apartment. Esmail, for his part, loved it too.
The context: Mr. Robot's pilot has a simple black backdrop, but Elliot hacking the owner of Ron's Coffee Shop precedes it. Elliot exposes Rohit (changed to Ron because consumerism, we guess) to the FBI, though he does it in-person to tackle with his own social anxiety. In the brief scene at the coffee shop, we get a lot of important context about the series' protagonist, from his anxiety and his hacking skills to the tragic death of his father.
The context: Elliot asks viewers to join him in a lucid dreaming exercise in which he repeatedly says, "Mind awake, body asleep." What's particularly clever here isn't the title itself (it's another black screen) but rather the faint whispers that join Elliot. That moment — as well as Elliot literally asking us to search his apartment earlier in the season — provided an entertaining example of audience participation.
The context: Elliot turns down Tyrell's offer to work at Evil Corp. But as Tyrell (if it really is Tyrell, of course) noted in last week's episode (quoting Casablanca): "Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." That strange-yet-compelling friendship had its first of many weird turns in the show's second episode.
The context: Season two did an excellent job of giving viewers the backstory to fsociety's origins, including Darlene's meeting with Trenton and Mobley and (pre-FBI investigation) Ron's Coffee Shop. She reads them Elliot's de facto, paranoia-laced mission statement — fittingly, the first thing he tells the audience back in the series pilot:
What I'm about to tell you is top-secret. A conspiracy bigger than all of us. There's a powerful group of people out there that are secretly running the world. I'm talking about the guys no one knows about, the ones that are invisible. The top 1% of the top 1%, the guys that play God without permission.
The context: Elliot gets back to hacking, albeit, at the behest of Ray for his shady website. The screen pans out to black to show the title, though the real delight was Esmail's use of lighting once Elliot returned to hacking. He'd get into a dimly lit zone only to be thrust back into reality when Ray's goon gets his attention (which wasn't really reality because he was in prison).
The context: The reveal here — that Romero would be the one to help find fsociety's original headquarters — wasn't particularly effective, in part because perceptive viewers would've already noticed that fsociety was an acronym for the arcade's original name, "Fun Society," back in the pilot. Moreover, among a show with so many stunning visual cues to its title, panning up toward the clouds was its least effective.