Every Mr. Robot Episode Title, Explained
Hello, friend. Mr. Robot has some of the most deliciously cryptic episode titles on television, but they’re chock full of clues -- if you know how to decode and decrypt them.
Most have a dual, or binary, meaning, if you will -- a technical computer term, often relating to the hacking happening in the story, but also something relating to the characters and their struggles. In Season 1 (or rather, “season_1.0”), the episode titles have suffixes that act as file extensions. In Season 2, the suffixes switch to an encryption format. And in Season 3, the suffixes relate to archives and system operations. The numbering of the episodes might also be confusing, until you think of each episode as a computer program and its subsequent iterations. (A launch of a piece of software is 1.0, its next release is 1.1, and so on.)
Here, we have attempted to dissect the titles and formats of every episode, which should prep you for Season 4. And, of course with a show like Mr. Robot, we know there are more interpretations to add, so please tweet them to @WhoIsMrRobot. Spoilers ahead!
Season 1, Episode 1 – “eps1.0_hellofriend.mov”
A Quicktime format. The root is a reference to “Hello World,” a simple message program used to teach the most essential aspects in a programming language. The “Hello” command was also used as a “sanity test” to not only make sure the disc and the computer were speaking the same language, but also whether it’s possible or reasonable to proceed, if the language’s compiler, development, and run-time environment are correctly installed. (We all know by now that in Elliot’s case, he’s got … a run-time error). It also refers to the video file fsociety had left to recruit Elliot (Rami Malek), which he finds when he tracks down the source of the E Corp denial-of-service hack. The DDoS attack, in a way, is also a sanity test –- to see what E Corp’s security is like and find its weaknesses. “Hello friend” are the first words used in some email worms, and “Hello friend” are the first words Elliot says to us, the audience. (“Hello friend. Hello friend? That’s lame. Maybe I should give you a name, but that’s a slippery slope. You’re only in my head. We have to remember that.”)
Season 1, Episode 2 – “eps1.1_ones-and-zer0es.mpeg”
A compressed audio or video file. The root is a reference to base-2 math, which is the foundation of binary code, the building block of all computer systems, because it’s easier to translate on an electrical level (on/off, or to be more exact, high/low voltage). Elliot has to make a binary decision, to choose one of two opposing sides -– remain passive and work with E Corp, or become active and join fsociety. (“Are you a one or a zero? Are you a yes or no?”) He has to decide if the two are truly in opposition -– is one good, and the other evil? Are fsociety the good guys? Or is life not that binary?
Season 1, Episode 3 – “eps1.2_d3bug.mkv”
An open-standard file format with multiple audio/video tracks in one file, typically used on torrent sites. The root is a reference to debugging, the process of problem-solving computer code, and finding bugs planted that might make code run improperly. Elliot applies this thinking to his life: “I’m gonna lead a bug-free life from now on,” he says. But after his attempts at a so-called normal life, free from fscociety, it becomes clear that this won’t be possible –- that Elliot might be the bug itself. And then Elliot realizes Colby was essentially a bug, too.
Season 1, Episode 4 – “eps1.3_da3m0ns.mp4”
A compressed audio/video file format which has replaced avi as the most common format for illegal files. The root is “daemon,” a computer program which runs in the background to help keep an OS running smoothly, without the user having control over it. (Usually low-level tasks, such as temperature control). Daemons are named after a thought experiment, Maxwell’s Demon, which would allow for the second law of thermodynamics to be violated, and sociologists have applied this thinking as a metaphor for socioeconomic inequality. (Apt, considering what fsociety hopes to do). Elliot also sees the daemon as a metaphor for the unconscious –- “primal urges, repressed memories, unconscious habits.” Elliot has many of these, including how Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) is a daemon his brain’s computer has been running in the background.
Season 1, Episode 5 – “eps1.4_3xpl0its.wmv”
An early file compression format generally used by Windows, designed to compete with Quicktime. The root, “exploit,” is a sequence of commands that leverage vulnerabilities in a computer system. (Essentially, a hack). Here, fsociety attempts to plant an exploit to infiltrate Steel Mountain, but that’s not the only thing being hacked. People make the best exploits, as Elliot tells us. And so Elliot exploits the innocence of a low-level employee, while Tyrell Wellick (Martin Wallström) tries to exploit the wife of a rival, to hack the executive hiring process, and possibly Elliot as well. It’s all just social engineering.
Season 1, Episode 6 – “eps1.5_br4ve-trave1er.asf”
A proprietary audio/video format designed for streaming. The root here isn’t related to hacking, but to what Fernando Vera (Elliot Villar) claims his name means. (It’s also his Twitter handle). But the real “brave traveler” of this episode might be Angela Moss (Portia Doubleday), who tries to go after those responsible for the death of her mother.
Season 1, Episode 7 – “eps1.6_v1ew-s0urce.flv”
A file extension for video in Adobe Flash. The root, “View Source” is a browser command to display the current page’s HTML source code, in essence, to inspect its honest self. (Highlight the text and right click). Elliot used “view source” as a way to learn to code HTML -– find a site, copy and paste, modify and manipulate -– and he wonders what it would be like to be able to do that with people. Is Elliot’s M.O. of hacking people and going through their information a version of seeing their source code? To learn their true motivations? (Angela does this, too, with Colby).
Season 1, Episode 8 – “eps1.7_wh1ter0se.m4v”
An Apple audio/video format used to encode files for iTunes. The root here isn’t related to hacking, but another hacker, who seems to be borrowing a handle from WWII. The White Rose was a small resistance moment which protested Hitler and the Third Reich. Many were students from the University of Munich, and they tried to counteract the propaganda of the Third Reich with their own leaflets and graffiti, some of which was smuggled out of Germany and distributed by Allied aircrafts from the sky. (See the film Sophie Scholl: The Final Days for an excellent depiction of how the students operated, until their executions.) By evoking an anti-Nazi resistance movement, it makes us question whether or not Elliot and the Dark Army’s side is as pure, whether their targets are as evil.
Season 1, Episode 9 – “eps1.8_m1rr0r1ng.qt”
A Quicktime file. The root, “mirroring,” is the practice of creating a real-time copy of a data file or a screen display, so that the data is continuously available, even if one drive fails. Elliot, essentially, has mirrored himself with Mr. Robot, a projection of his father. In case you missed the Fight Club parallel, the episode provides a sonic mirror, ending with the same Pixies song as the film.
Season 1, Episode 10 – “eps1.9_zer0-day.avi”
Microsoft’s avi compression format, which has since been phased out and replaced by mp4. The root is a critical computer vulnerability, meaning the developer has zero days to fix it -– everyone’s running out of time. Certainly, Elliot, fsociety, and the world’s financial markets can relate. The catch is that Darlene’s (Carly Chaikin) custom malware program is an encryption program. Data can be recovered here.
Season 2, Episodes 1 and 2 – “eps2.0_unm4sk-pt1.tc” and “eps2.0_unm4sk-pt2.tc”
The season opener of two back-to-back episodes refers to a discontinued volume encryption program, TrueCrypt, which had file security problems. The root refers to a simple bitwise operation where a mask is data that turns bits to 1 (on, or high voltage) or 0 (off, or low voltage), to put images over a screen. (Think early video games). Elliot, who used to talk to us (the audience) freely, is less trusting, now that he’s aware of his own mask and struggling to live without it. “Hello again,” he says. “I don’t know if I can tell you secrets like before. Friends are supposed to be honest with each other, and you weren’t.”Actually, Elliot, it’s the other way around.
Season 2, Episode 3 – “eps2.1_k3rnel-pan1c.ksd”
A file encoded by Keep Safe encryption. The root, “kernel panic,” is when a UNIX operating system detects an internal fatal error and both the software and hardware shut down. (If you’re a Windows user, think the blue screen of death). Elliot is attempting a biological reboot -- by popping Adderall and avoiding sleep -– and he crashes, hard. His stack trace, or crash dump, can reveal the error of his ways. (In other words, read the diary.)
Season 2, Episode 4 – “eps2.2_init_1.asec”
Android’s mobile encryption system (Android Secure Encrypted), used with Google’s Android OS by default. The root, “Init,” or initialization process, is part of the boot-up sequence in Linux-based OS, which starts up the system and is responsible for every process thereafter. (Init 1 is single-user mode, generally used for local problem-solving). Darlene says “Init 1” because that’s the first command Elliot ever taught her. For these two siblings, it means, “Help!”
Season 2, Episode 5 – “eps2.3_logic-b0mb.hc”
An offshoot of the discontinued TrueCrypt encryption known as VeraCrypt. The root, “logic bomb,” is a piece of malicious code that will execute only when certain circumstances or conditions are met. In this case, Elliot is targeting the FBI’s Android devices so he can listen to their calls and texts as well as monitor and modify their data connections. Should the FBI take an image of the networking device, all memory will self-corrupt.
Season 2, Episode 6 – “eps2.4_m4ster-s1ave.aes”
A file encrypted by open-source AES Crypt software. The root refers to how a master computer can control a slave device, such as when a computer communicates with a printer attached to it. For Elliot, the question is whether or not he’s in control, which is what his sitcom fantasy is all about.
Season 2, Episode 7 – “eps2.5_h4ndshake.sme”
This could actually be one of two things: the open-source SmartEncryptor, or the propriety Samsung encryption used for archiving text messages. You’ll forgive us if we’re not quite sure, considering this is the episode we discover Elliot has been in jail, not at his mom’s house. He’s been corrupting his own memories, archiving and encrypting them both, for recovery later. The root, “handshake,” refers to the automated process of communication between a computer or server and the devices connected to it. But Elliot is also offering us (the audience) a handshake deal as well –- not to lie to us anymore.
Season 2, Episode 8 – “eps2.6_succ3ss0r.p12”
Secure files from the Personal Information Exchange, which are used to authentic someone’s digital signature. The root, “successor,” refers to a back-up when a system fails, and in this Elliot-free episode, Darlene is his back-up or successor. Let’s see what she’s made of!
Season 2, Episode 9 – “eps2.7_init_5.fve”
Microsoft’s own BitLocker full-volume encryption, which comes standard with all Windows after Windows 7. The root, “Init 5,” is the normal start-up runlevel in multi-user mode for Linux-based systems, full networking and graphical desktop support back on, so Elliot uses it to mean a “return to normal.”
Season 2, Episode 10 – “eps2.8_h1dden-pr0cess.axx”
AxCrypt, a highly regarded, free software that uses algorithms and is malware-free. The root, “hidden process” is spyware which infects the machine and is hard to detect. The notion of a “hidden process” works on several levels here: with Joanna Wellick (Stephanie Corneliussen) enlisting Elliot’s help to find Tyrell; with Mr. Robot himself, who disappears halfway through this episode; and with us as the audience, Elliot’s imaginary friend. Many of these relationships are one-sided.
Season 2, Episodes 11 and 12 – “eps2.9_pyth0n-pt1.p7z” and “eps2.9_pyth0n-pt2.p7z”
This file extension is the encryption used for compressed email messages, p7zip. The root, “python” is a high-level programming language which emphasizes code readability. (If you’ve been watching Elliot closely, he sometimes hacks in Python scripts). Dom also explains her own “python approach” -– sitting on information, lying in wait before striking -– which should seem familiar. Mr. Robot is also a patient predator, friend.
Season 3, Episode 1 – “eps3.0_power-saver-mode.h”
The “h” extension is used to define files with C or C++ programming languages that contain constants, function prototypes, and external variable definitions. Power saver mode, most of us are familiar with –- it’s a computer setting that reduces consumption and battery capacity by shutting down non-essential functions, or idle device altogether. It’s especially apt for a city suffering a widespread power outage.
Season 3, Episode 2 – “eps3.1-undo.gz”
The “gz” refers to Gnu Zipped file archives to compress large files on Unix systems. Undo is a basic command –- use it to revert back to an earlier edit. Simple to do in a document, not so simple to do when it’s about undoing the Stage 2 hack, which requires storing all of Evil Corp’s records digitally and securely, diverting all the paper records, and stepping up the self-care. Time for therapy!
Season 3, Episode 3 – “eps3.2_legacy.so”
The “so” file extension is a shared function library loaded by C and C++ programs, and they can be easily abused by hackers who use malicious functions to hide files from the user. Legacy refers to old or outdated data, software, or hardware -– perhaps in this case, it applies to where Tyrell was hiding during Season 2, which we find out in this episode.
Season 3, Episode 4 – “eps3.3_metadata.par2”
The “par2” extension means it contains error-correction data that can be used to fix corrupted files or recreate missing files. Metadata is the story behind the data -– how it was created, where, when, by whom, etc. –- and as Elliot tells us when he goes dumpster diving through computer trash, it can be illuminating.
Season 3, Episode 5 – “eps3.4_runtime-error.r00”
The “r00” files might be a single archive or one of several parts of a split archive. When the files are extracted and recombined, the original data is restored. A runtime error can be logic errors, memory leaks, infinite loops -- and they can give you data recovery issues. Many metaphoric runtime errors in this episode, especially when a blank-slate Elliot tries to remember what he did as Mr. Robot.
Season 3, Episode 6 – “eps3.5_kill-process-inc”
The “inc” extension is a text file which contains data referenced by a program’s source code. “Kill process” refers to terminating a running computer process, and Mr. Robot tries to execute a kill process by taking over Elliot’s body, throwing him down the stairs and against the pipes, as the Dark Army has its own kill process, blowing up 71 E Corp storage facilities around the country.
Season 3, Episode 7 – “eps3.6_fredrick+tanya.chk”
The “chk” extension contains database files that reference different software reporting features and configuration settings. The names refer to the aliases used by Sunil Markesh, a.k.a. Mobley (Azhar Khan), and Shama Biswas, a.k.a. Trenton (Sunita Mani). R.I.P., Trenton and Mobley. May we someday see your backup email that went to some trusted third party about undoing the 5/9 hack…
Season 3, Episode 8 – “eps3.7_dont-delete-me.ko”
The “ko” is a Linux kernel module file (such as a device driver). “Don’t delete me” is commonly used to tell people, well, don’t delete this! Elliot is methodical about wiping down his computer and shredding files and folders. He does a lot of deleting in this episode –- even trying to delete a part of himself. But Trenton’s final missive is the ultimate “don’t delete” –- because she has an idea about how to retrieve info once thought deleted. Since E Corp’s digital data was encrypted, not deleted, there’s still a chance at retrieval.
Season 3, Episode 9 – “eps3.8_stage3.torrent”
A ".torrent" is a file used by torrent programs. “Stage 3” is Elliot’s hack, ostensibly to target E Corp’s Ecoin, but really to hack the Dark Army. He confirms the DA has hijacked his computer, he creates a PDF file he hopes they will download, the PDF executes malicious code, and he gets a backdoor to their network. Ta da!
Season 3, Episode 10 – “shutdown-r”
The –r parameter flag is used with a shutdown to allow a computer to reboot automatically afterwards. And “shutdown,” well, that’s what it sounds like. Reverse the hack. Remove power. Abandon ship. At least, until Season 4.
Speaking of season_4.0... it is coming in 2019. Watch the first three seasons of Mr. Robot, streaming now on Amazon Prime!