Tales From A Red Wheelbarrow (eps1.91_redwheelbarr0w.txt) Part 14: A Seat At The Table
Tales From a Red Wheelbarrow
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 6th and 7th. 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.
Also, thanks again to Sam Esmail for letting me interview him last week (he was actually nice enough to interact with me many times during 2016). If you missed that interview, you can find it HERE.
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 *
The Importance of People (Connection)
As I mentioned last week, one of the things starting to be made clear in Red Wheelbarrow is that while Elliot (Rami Malek) talks about maintaining a rigid schedule being his main anti-Mr. Robot strategy the real battle is really about which possible future should be followed.
In Leo Tolstoy's book Resurrection (mentioned both during Season 2 and also in Red Wheelbarrow), the main character, Prince Dmitry Nekhlyudov, refers to this same struggle as the difference between his spiritual and animal self.
To Tolstoy, the spiritual self is the one who is able to traverse the baser desires (like the need for revenge in Elliot's case) in favor of following goals more in line with one's higher being and the animal self is the one unable to overcome his or her baser instincts to commit violence or act in anger or with lust more than love.
As I have suggested all along, the battle between Elliot and Mr. Robot is not one for "control" of one body, it is a battle over strategic direction. Will Elliot rejoin the battle to "save the world" (which, when truly evaluated is borne of a desire for getting revenge on E-Corp, no different than Darlene's desire to kill Madame Executioner) or will he try to learn to connect to the people who cares about and establish true intimacy and friendship.
In other words, Elliot is really trying to hold off his own anger and baser self, represented by the face of his dead father in Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) through learning to meaningfully connect with other people (in this case Leon and Carla). On June 6th Elliot says:
"I gotta keep trying to communicate with Leon - with anyone - and distancing myself from HIM."
Throughout the book (and Season 2) images of connection have been juxtaposed with the strategic path desired by Elliot Prime and by Mr. Robot (Stage 2). Perhaps the most meaningful example is when Elliot dreamed that he was "with" his friends but somehow suspended in time and prevented from truly interacting with them. It reminded me of the Greek myth of Tantalus who was punished by being placed permanently right under delicious grapes that were always just out of his reach (no matter what he did).
In season 2, Elliot has a dream of a world where he can sit at a table with all of the people he cares about and interact with them all meaningfully (not just by searching their information or watching them longingly from afar). In other words, Elliot wants to reach the grapes that Mr. Robot (and stage 2) are keeping from him. And it isn't just "talking" with his friends, he wants the future where they all can exist and be happy. There may be temporary successes down the road offered by Stage 2 but there will never be a spiritual Elliot on that road.
Again, the best way to look at it, IMHO, is that Elliot is having an internal debate between the part of him that wants to finish E-Corp for good and the part of him that wants to learn to be at peace with the world (and connect meaningfully with his friends). While he might be able to work with some of those friends to reach the goals of Stage 2, that path will forever be antithetical to finding peace (think of Edward Snowden, Elliot would most likely always be a fugitive and never have a home even if Stage 2 was successful).
True connection is the antithesis of "Stage 2." Mr. Robot's path is antithetical to a meaningful and connected future for Elliot. In jail, connection means being honest with Carla (Eve Lindley) and maybe also with Leon (Joey Bada$$).
Sadly, as we know, Elliot is heading (even if it is kicking and screaming) towards finishing Stage 2. But, for now, Elliot is flirting with rigorous honesty born of trust to those who he feels are trustworthy.
Which brings us to one of the most confusing passages in the entire Red Wheelbarrow book. Elliot has decided that he should allow Carla to read the notebook (Red Wheelbarrow) and Mr. Robot replies:
"No one can know your truth. I'm telling you, only I can understand it all. Please let me do what you want me to do. Let me protect you. Tell him. You know it's true too."
To which Elliot responds:
"Is that true? Tell me once and for all. Do you side with HIM on this? Oh yeah, you can't talk to me right now. This is all on me."
I had to read this about twenty times before it hit me that in this instance the HIM they are both referring to is actually us (Elliot's friend). The confusion happens because usually HIM throughout the book and Season 2 refers to Mr. Robot and for about ten seconds I was starting to think that there was another HIM (which had me worried). But, no, the HIM, in this case, is all of us of both genders beyond the fourth wall represented in Elliot's head as YOU and in Mr. Robot's voice as HIM.
But then Elliot starts explaining to us that he suspects that the reason he desires to be close to Carla is that she is "just like him (Elliot)." In a sense, this description is true because Carla chose to blow up a bunch of cars and go to jail rather than suffer insults from an asshole who was intentionally cruel to her while Elliot chose to risk the implosion of the entire US Economy in order to take down E-Corp.
But, in another sense, Carla is much more like Darlene than she is like Elliot. At least from the perspective of Elliot's internal battles. Elliot is constantly trying to "save" Carla just like he tried unsuccessfully to protect Darlene from their Mom as a kid.
This, of course, happens between Mr. Robot's attacks on Elliot (which I have suggested work like panic attacks or guilt) and Mr. Robot's attempt to make up with Elliot and then followed by more attacks (good cop bad cop Mr. Robot style). Despite all the warnings and all the attacks, June 7th ends with Elliot giving Carla the notebook.
If you have ever had a full-blown panic attack, and I have, it is really hard to know what you are doing will make it worse but go forward anyway. I tip my cap to Elliot Alderson (even though he is a fictional character).
A Few Loose Ends
So, during June 7th, Elliot had a dream where he is watching Tyrell Wellick (Martin Wallstrom), dressed in his usual suit, digging vegetables up in a garden while Angela Moss (Portia Doubleday) is swinging (you know on a rope swing). Tyrell, speaking in a number language, keeps encouraging Angela to swing higher and higher as the rope swing starts to unravel. Elliot is trying to get her to stop but she can't hear him or doesn't care.
Some of this is because Mr. Robot and Tyrell are speaking to each other through code (see all the puzzles in Red Wheelbarrow).but the other part is yet another example of Elliot wanting to connect to the people he cares about but not being able to actualize it (see above).
Oh, and one other thing, Elliot's nemesis Santos was released from the SHU (which if you haven't been to jail or prison is segregation...segregation is, basically, solitary confinement). Which means that very soon, some shit is probably going to hit the fan.
Anyway, that is the end of Part 11.
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. Missed Part Twelve? Catch Up Now. Missed Part Thirteen? Catch Up Now.
Don't forget, my Mr. Robot eBook is coming soon too.
Thanks for reading!
What do you think the Tyrell dream was about?
What do you think Elliot's central dilemma is?
Let me know what you think, leave a comment!