Tales From A Red Wheelbarrow (eps1.91_redwheelbarr0w.txt) Part 12: Defensive Wounds
Tales From a Red Wheelbarrow (Mr. Robot, USA Network)
I am doing a deep dive into the book Red Wheelbarrow by Sam Esmail and Courtney Looney, which was released recently. Today I am covering the entries for June 2nd and 3rd. The name of the books is a reference to the William Carlos Williams poem "The Red Wheelbarrow," and I suspect the book is an attempt to hack tv through literature.
If you have not seen Seasons 1 and 2 of Mr. Robot, and are not reading Red Wheelbarrow, it is possible that there will be spoilers * Spoiler Alert *
Why Is Mr. Robot Attacking Elliot?
A Handshake is a kind of repair, and in Season 2, we saw the beginning of what appeared to be a repair between Elliot (Rami Malek) and Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) during the "handshake" episode, only to see the agreement torn apart by Elliot's nearly deadly paranoia at the end of the season.
Before we got to that handshake, however, we saw some really insane violence between the two personalities...or did we?
I have explained this many times before but I believe that the "nice" Elliot that we know is only the most dominant personality in a larger Elliot ecosystem including Mr. Robot and E-Prime (the combination of all things Elliot Alderson).
In a person with Dissociative Identity Disorder, the Alter's (Alternative Personalities) are just the parts of a person most well-suited to deal with the particular situation at hand.
So, the Elliot we know is the parts of E-Prime's personality most well-suited to handle the day to day operations of E-Prime.
This is very similar to the practice of division and compartmentalization that happens in addiction.
Many addicts create a separate "public-facing" personality that makes it seem to all the world as if the addict is a normally functioning human being while behind the mask there are entire other worlds of being full of cravings and fantasies.
This division is similar to dissociation in that both involve being unable to honestly confront or be open to certain social realities in real time.
How do I know this? Well, I am not a medical professional, but I do suffer from Depression and Panic Disorder, I am a Recovering Addict (6.5 years of Sobriety), I also spent a week researching DID before Season 2 because I wanted to be accurate, and I did research and write an eBook on addiction and recovery.
I could certainly be wrong, but I feel I am making educated guesses.
So, anyway, we know, also similar to addicts, that Elliot has a much easier time getting to know people by hacking them than he does face-to-face. He can talk to people, interact with them, and even care about them but has a very hard time connecting on any deep level (with the exception of Darlene, Angela, and maybe Tyrell).
So what am I suggesting?
I am suggesting that the larger Elliot, when taken as a whole, is a much angrier person than we see in our experiences with the "nice" Elliot. The five/nine hack could, for instance, be seen just as easily as an attempt at revenge as much as an attempt at "saving the world."
This anger, when not addressed or properly satiaed would/could be just like the pain an addict might feel in withdrawal. In other words, it is no surprise to me that this other kind of withdrawal, the withdrawal from his revenge plan, is very physically painful to Elliot.
I am suggesting that the larger Elliot came up with a plan to take down E-Corp and wants to finish the job so badly that the destruction of E-Corp is the equivalent of Heroin to him.
I am saying that the division we see between Mr. Robot and Elliot is a DID version of someone arguing with themselves about choosing to continue or stop participating in desired but unethical addictive behaviors.
I can tell you from experience that those discussions are very painful, as emotionally painful as getting your butt kicked is physically painful. Maybe even as emotionally painful as getting stabbed or shot.
So it is no surprise to me that the June 2nd entry starts with Elliot waking up and imagining that he is being repeatedly stabbed by Mr. Robot.
Mr. Robot represents the part of Elliot that desperately, almost compulsively, wants to get on with the plan and "nice Elliot (or Elliot 2)" represents his desire to change behaviors and avoid even more guilt and shame.
When Elliot later says "The Pain Is Real" I totally understand what he means because some of my worst panic attacks, attacks so bad that I often wished that I was dead, were magnified by my own internal debate between my feelings of desire and feelings of guilt and shame generated by my continued participation in activities that in my heart knew I knew to be unethical.
No matter how moral you think taking E-Corp is, Elliot knows that he has, through instigating the hack, created massive collateral damage. Elliot knows that he is at least partially responsible for what is happening to AlllSafe. Elliot knows that in pursuit of his five/nine plans he even hacked an entire jail free.
That must be a lot of guilt to carry, but his desire to get revenge and/or save the world is apparently even stronger than the weight of his guilt (we know this because, as we during Season 2, Elliot does reintegrate and get back to work).
So, no matter how bad his feelings of guilt are (and they were strong enough for Elliot to choose jail) his desire to finish Stage 2 is felt even more strongly and this is why it is even more painful for him to hold off. Mr. Robot
But, you might be asking yourself, why would Mr. Robot try to physically hurt Elliot?
My best guess is that Mr. Robot doesn't think that he is hurting Elliot.
I think that he thinks that he is helping Elliot turn back to the light of their original plans.
An addict's logic always ends in one place, getting on board for the next hit or drink or poker game or for the next stage of the five/nine hack.
Elliot 2 was right to write Krista (Gloria Reuben) because his only real hope of getting past this is to address the true roots of his desire to take down E-Corp (like his messed up anger/love towards/for his father that he thinks he can't resolve because E-Corp took his Father away from him).
And of course I know Elliot is not an addict in the traditional sense, but his purpose-directed anger functions much in the same way as does the desire for a drug to an addict. It has become a craving beyond logic and not reducible by the mere application of reason alone.
This kind of recovery takes long and really hard work in therapy.
Everything else, other than doing the work, is an exercise in shifting deck chairs on the Titanic. No matter what happens in Elliot's attempts to start having genuine and meaningful relationships with Carla (Eve Lindley) or Leon (Joey Bada$$) he is still just moving chess pieces around on a monopoly board (he isn't really addressing his core problem aka Edward).
So, most of the June 2nd and 3rd entries are taken up by examples of Mr. Robot stabbing Elliot in the chest, shooting Elliot in the head, slitting Elliot's throat, and finally chopping Elliot's fingers off. Elliot, of course, sees most of it as if it were real with blood everywhere but he is still able to carry on despite the deeply felt painful illusions.
I really empathize here because I have had this same experience of feeling totally destroyed but doggedly pretending that everything is okay during my own panic attacks.
On Mr. Robot, As in Life, Friends Matter
I am certainly not saying that Elliot's progress on the friendship front isn't meaningful, it most certainly is.
So, when you encounter trauma as a child, it often becomes very hard to trust people except on a very superficial level, certainly not enough to let them close enough for meaningful intimacy to take place.
Elliot, until now, has had a very hard time letting people in.
But now that he has started to let both Carla and Leon inside his walls he is finding that he wants more (he has loosened his walls consistently since bonding with them) but he is also encountering unanticipated problems as well.
Both Carla and Leon in the last few days have come dangerously close to placing Elliot in the middle of the five/nine hack. Carla asked him directly and Leon gets him to admit that he once met Tyrell Wellick (Leon notices how often Elliot searches the paper for the Tyrell news).
So, things are getting a bit too close to the truth for Elliot's comfort (at this point he has no idea that Leon might actually already have some idea who Elliot is).
Anyway, Elliot is also having dreams about Tyrell (who may have become another friend...yes, a friend that shoots him, but still a friend). He dreams that he and Tyrell are walking on China's Great Wall together and after walking and talking for a bit Tyrell starts to outpace him and Elliot can never, no matter how hard he tries, catch up to him.
Eventually, Whiterose shows up next to him and angrily asks Elliot why he, "made her wait."
Elliot has no idea what this means, but I suspect it represents how Tyrell (Martin Wallstrom) is working on Stage 2 and that maybe Whiterose could be less than thrilled that Elliot is in jail instead of working alongside Tyrell (now that I have the rest of the story from the end of Season 2).
This could add another element to the urgency of Mr. Robot's attacks on him.
It is certainly possible that Mr. Robot is literally protecting him from spending so much time in jail that Whiterose loses patience with him and gets truly angry (we know now that they collaborated and that Whiterose is helping Elliot with Stage 2).
But Not Too Much Progress...(sigh)
So, Elliot has made some progress in interpersonal relationships but he has also started backsliding.
As you hopefully remember, one of the reasons Carla has started allowing herself to be closer to Elliot is that he seemed to learn his lesson about meddling in Carla's life without affording her agency and consent.
One of Elliot's core problems is that he tends to make decisions for his "friends" without them even knowing what he is doing (often because he gets to know his friends without them knowing he is getting trying to get to know them).
Well, we find out that Elliot has started another scheme to try to "help" Carla by conspiring with Leon (who he has sworn to silence) to help get Carla her hormone shots (Leon is one of those guys who can 'get" things in jail).
Elliot is also expressing real anger and rage towards Santos, which suggests that he is likely to intervene with Santos again as well. So, while he is getting better at letting people in, it is increasing his paranoia and his protective narcissism is also reasserting itself.
This is starting to give me a better feel for what happened at the end of the season.
Anyway, Elliot's jail plan is not likely to succeed (as we already know after watching Season 2).
Anyway, that is the end of Part 12.
Normally, during the season, I write a recap of Mr. Robot called “Who Is Mr. Robot's Landlord.” I also recap Black Mirror, Game of Thrones, Halt and Catch Fire, The Flash, Better Call Saul, and put out new Spotify playlists every Tuesday (among other music content).
If you are not familiar with my writing on Mr. Robot, check out The complete #OPS Guide to Season 2 of #MrRobot. Mr. Robot tries to hack tv and I try to hack Mr. Robot.
And if you need to catch up on this series:
Missed Part One? Catch Up Now. Missed Part Two? Catch Up Now. Missed Part Three? Catch Up Now. Missed Part Four? Catch Up Now. Missed Part Five? Catch Up Now. Missed Part Six? Catch Up Now. Missed Part Seven? Catch Up Now. Missed Part Eight? Catch Up Now. Missed Part Nine? Catch Up Now. Missed Part Ten? Catch Up Now. Missed Part Eleven? Catch Up Now.
Don't forget, my Mr. Robot eBook is coming soon too.
Thanks for reading!
What do you think the violence between Elliot and Mr. Robot means?
Why can't Elliot stop meddling in Carla's life without her consent?
Let me know what you think, leave a comment!