Tales From A Red Wheelbarrow (eps1.91_redwheelbarr0w.txt) Part 15: Bye Reynaldo
Tales From a Red Wheelbarrow (Mr. Robot)
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 8th and 9th. 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 aka * Spoiler Alert *
Carla and Elliot
Throughout this long journey through Red Wheelbarrow, we have seen Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek) call Carla (Eve Lindley) "the same" as him and we have seen him alternate between being protective or her paternalistically and sometimes protective of her more like a brother (at times there were even hints of romantic intentionality).
I think what Elliot means by "the same" is that they are both when pressed more likely to blow the world up in anger than they are to productively move on from their pain.
They are both (when triggered by injustice) akin to that Burmese bandit Alfred (Michael Caine) describes who does bad deeds "just to watch the world burn" in the movie The Dark Knight Rises. Only in the case of Elliot and Carla, it is not pure nihilism that motivates their excesses, it is a desire for revenge/justice. But in both the case of Elliot (five/nine) and Carla (blowing up a row of cars to get revenge on the man who was rude to her in a club) the problem is in the large collateral damage such revenge/justice left in their wakes.
Carla smiles when she is reminded of blowing up the row of cars as if it was worth it to blow up the cars of a number of innocent club-goers and go to jail as long she got the car of that asshole (or at least that she can shoulder whatever guilt came with her explosive decision).
With Elliot, in order to get revenge on E-Corp for what they did to his Father, he was willing to plunge millions of people into poverty in the name of "saving the world." In a way, Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) represents the constant possibility of violence inside Elliot's fractured psyche. Mr. Robot represents the "Animal Man" and Elliot the "Spiritual Man" from Tolstoy.
In fact, Mr. Robot wears Edward Alderson's face because like his own spiritual and animal sides are fractured into distinct personalities in much the same way he cannot find a way to both mourn the loss of the parts of his Father he loved and make peace with the parts of his Father he hates. Elliot is constantly confronted by this schism represented in the violence of Mr. Robot's attacks. Mr. Robots personality is really just the itch he can't scratch, the part of him that wants to "watch the world burn."
Elliot is protective because he sees his failure to protect his from Mom in the ongoing drama between Carla and Santos. He wants to connect to her like he is connected with Darlene (Carly Chaikin) and he wants to protect her (and almost everyone else in his circle) to make up for how he failed to protect his sister Darlene.
Of course, he also has an intense narcissism, but as I have suggested before, it is most likely protective narcissism (I am the center of the world because it protects me from other central figures hurting me).
But there is one other element here, he is trying to connect to Carla to distance himself from the darkness he sees in himself. Elliot has said "I am Mr. Robot and Mr. Robot is me" enough times by now that we should understand that he fully gets that Mr. Robot represents his own animal desires.
When Elliot decides to visit his Mom in Season 2, it is totally unsurprising that Darlene has no desire to join him. But, why in the world would Elliot want to see his Mom given what he knows she did to Darlene (and occasionally to him). This is the face in the mirror that makes Elliot "hate himself" as he said in the June 7th entry of Red Wheelbarrow. He sees the dark part of himself, like the dark part he saw in his Mom and Dad, every time that Mr. Robot shoots him or helps him realize his plans for revenge.
Elliot's problem is that he knows deep down that Mr. Robot always wins because, like Carla when she smiled, he really does want revenge, five/nine really did make him happy, and he really does know it is wrong to want the things he really truly and deeply wants.
As much as he wants to protect people like Darlene and Shayla and Carla, at the end of the day, he wants his plan more.
Shayla was a casualty of Elliot's plan, Darlene is on her own at massive risk trying to run fsociety while Elliot cools his heels, and Santos is still wandering the halls of the jail with hatred in his heart for both Carla and Elliot.
He is trying to find any way he can (church group, scheduling, connection, therapy) to avoid the slow quicksand of his own insatiable desires (represented in the earnest face of Mr. Robot).
So, Elliot lets Carla read his notebook (the same one we are reading now).
After reading the entire book, Carla makes only one comment:
"I Know How You feel"
Rest In Peace Reynaldo
Almost immediately after Carla reads the notebook, they find her pet rat Reynaldo nailed to the bathroom stall with a note from Santos saying:
"This is what diseased animals get"
But the truly shocking thing is that at the end of June 9th, we find out that it was Elliot (Mr. Robot) that old Santos about Reynaldo the Rat.
So what would cause Elliot to use Mr. Robot to sabotage his relationship with Carla?
It all comes down to where the strength of his desire really lies.
Carla and connection represent the path where life becomes about sitting around a huge table in New York and laughing and loving with old friends and family. There is no place for revenge at the loving and happy table that we see in his Season 2 dream. There is no place for revenge if Elliot wants to break through and join his friends enjoying food and football in his Red Wheelbarrow dream.
To choose connection instead of revenge he has to give up Mr. Robot. Mr. Robot keeps coming back because he represents Elliot's desire for revenge.
As I have mentioned before (many times), Mr. Robot is the part of Elliot's personality best suited to deal with violence and to handle pain. Mr. Robot is not a separate person, he is the parts of Elliot's fractured personality best able to do bad things or handle trauma.
Mr. Robot will only continue to exist for as long as Elliot, or a substantial part of Elliot, still wants to watch the world burn. The only other reason that Mr. Robot would show up is if Elliot were in immediate physical danger. Mr. Robot is not the dominant part of Elliot's personality he is summoned by need (desire being a form of need).
At the end of A Nightmare on Elm Street, when the kids finally dispatch the supernatural killer Freddy Krueger, he almost immediately finds a way to return. Why did Freddy return? Right after they dispatch him, Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) looks back over her shoulder to see if he is still there.
That moment of doubt was all Freddy needed.
His power came from the terror of the people he haunted, the fear and uncertainty about generated his the power to attack.
Elliot may dream of connection, he might even pursue it, but at the end of the day, it is his desire that powers Mr. Robot and as long as a part of him wants to carry out Stage 2 Mr. Robot will exist.
It might be simpler to just see Elliot as a dissociative example of someone who is torn between two career paths but terminally unwilling to make a final decision and pick a career.
What we are seeing when we see Mr. Robot is the literal debate between the angel and devil on Elliot Prime's shoulders. The angel is the dominant personality, but has been corrupted and isn't always a pure angel.
Elliot's uncertainty, his unwillingness to truly remove the conditions necessary or Mr. Robot's existence, are why this battle is ongoing.
Elliot needs to either make peace with the death of his Father or give up his dreams of violent and spectacular revenge on the company that "killed" him.
Until he does that, Mr. Robot will continue to fight his kinder instincts.
Ultimately, Elliot is trying to "beat" Mr. Robot not make peace with the trauma that created and empowers him.
Elliot, like Nancy, will never escape his own Freddy Kruger until he stops looking over his shoulder (desiring revenge).
So, despite his authentic desire to protect Carla, he also sometimes works against connection to her. As he puts it on June 8th:
"I don't think we can come back from this."
He wants to protect Carla and wants to connect with her, but he also sees that connection as poison to his larger plans. He hurts Carla to preserve Mr. Robot.
The Nihilism of Seinfeld
Most of the rest of June 8th and 9th are taken up with snippets of stories of Leon (Joey Bada$$) watching Seinfeld. One of the minor subplots of Red Wheelbarrow is that Seinfeld is a nihilistic show (not just that it is a show about 'nothing' but that it is literally about how life means nothing). There were references in the June 9th entry to the "Chinese Restaurant" episode being about how anticipation of the event is actually more important than the event itself and of the "parking garage" episode making almost the same point (that we should not be so concerned with getting to the end of things aka enjoy the journey).
This is probably more interesting in the context of my interview with Sam Esmail about him saying "Fuck Plot" on a podcast. As Elliot puts it here:
"I don't think I feel a need to always have a story."
There is also a bit about the world hunting for Tyrell Wellick (Martin Wallstrom) in which Elliot juxtaposes his own desire to know what happened on the night of five/nine with the world's desire to find Tyrell.
For most of Season 2, it became apparent that Elliot was convinced that he killed Tyrell with the popcorn machine gun (we know now that Elliot did not shoot Tyrell but that it is actually Tyrell that shoots Elliot with the popcorn machine gun to protect Stage 2). He thinks Mr. Robot is keeping the information from him to protect him from the harsh truth of what he has done but in reality, he was just compartmentalizing information.
Eventually, Elliot negotiates a new "handshake" with Mr. Robot so that he gets to see all of the things that would normally be kept away from him in the larger Elliot Prime (so that he can live with a cleaner conscience). But, Elliot does such a bad job of accepting the truth of what the larger him has done that it results in him getting himself shot.
He wants to know, but he needs to be able to disassociate himself from the bad things in order to continue Stage 2.
To understand this better, imagine anyone that you have known that creates elaborate lies to explain away their own bad behaviors, this is another version of that same kind of psychology.
Elliot wants to believe he is "saving the world" not that he is putting together a plan that could destroy E-Corps but might kill a ton of E-Corp employees.
The part of him that wants to be a hero doesn't want to know about the broken eggs in the omelet.
Anyway, that is the end of Part 15.
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. Missed Part Fourteen? Catch Up Now.
Next week Elliot starts talking to us again, which (I think) means that we have caught up to the start of Season 2.
What do you think about Elliot's complicity in the death of Reynaldo the Rat?
Do you disagree with me about Mr. Robot's psychology? What is your theory?
Let me know what you think, leave a comment!