Tales From A Red Wheelbarrow (eps1.91_redwheelbarr0w.txt) Part 19: Daddy Issues

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Tales From a Red Wheelbarrow

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This is part 19 of my deep dive into the book Red Wheelbarrow by Sam Esmail and Courtney Looney, which was released at the end of Season 20. Today I am covering the entries for June 24th, 25th, 26th and 27th. 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 *

19 Is Almost Enough

Kind of bizarre that I followed no real rules but this series is officially going to end at the round number of 20.  In an odd way, I am going to miss this series when it is finished. I certainly never planned on it going on as long as it has but, here we are.

I am still planning on doing some supplemental posts on the different books that Elliot (Rami Malek) references throughout (from Tolstoy to Salinger) but those will be more sporadic. So, this means that next week's post will likely be the last "official" TFARW.

It is still a LONG time until next season starts. As you may know, I recap Black Mirror,  Game of Thrones, Better Call Saul, and Halt and Catch Fire (I used to recap The Flash but nobody cared lol). However, I would be willing to recap one more show.

So, I am letting my Mr. Robot "friends" suggest a show for me to recap (the best idea would be a show I can digest now using Netflix, Hulu, etc.). Add a comment here or Tweet me your suggestion @OnPirateSat and I will start writing about something to tide us over until S3.

If I get enough responses, I will start in two weeks (after the last episode of Mr. Robot). 

Anyway, the entries from the 24th start with Elliot's recognition that the Adderall scheme failed followed by a visit from Darlene. 

What's In My Father's Face?

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When I first suggested that Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) might really be the dominant DID personality within Elliot Prime, someone immediately objected because Mr. Robot looks like Edward and not like Elliot.

Of course, my initial response was to mention that Mr. Robot's visage is most likely only how Elliot sees Mr. Robot (to differentiate him from his own face) but I think there is something more to explore here.

Mr. Robot's face is the face of his Father because he both deeply loved his Father while also being incredibly angry with him at the same time (for pushing him out of a window and for looking the other way while mom abused Darlene). Because his father died when Elliot was relatively young, he was never able to resolve any of his feelings of anger. In essence, all he has of his Father are these constantly competing feelings of love for the man that let him work at the store (the real Mr. Robot) and fury at the much more complicated Father he never got to understand.

I remember in my own relationship with me Father we had a great relationship when I was very young, followed by a very trying and often confrontational relationship through my teen years, and resolution of our many issues (some similar to Elliot's) as I grew into adulthood. Despite the resolution, I often see my Father's face hiding behind my own when I look in the mirror (which is both expected and in its own way terrifying).

And regardless of who is in charge, Mr. Robot is the manifestation of what Elliot hates and loves about his Father. Mr. Robot's face is his primal fear that he is "becoming his Father" and his primal desire to "annihilate" his Father while it also reminds him, visually, how much he misses him and loved him.

Perhaps, more specifically, a Lacanian might say Elliot seeing Edward's face signifies "Lack." Just like when I see elements of my own Father's face when I look at myself in a mirror, I also feel the fact that I cannot physically experience him in my life at the moment I see him in my reflection (my Father is still alive but lives a fairly long distance from me). For Elliot, Edward's face confronting him is a constant reminder that he cannot be in the presence of his real Father.  

We are all afraid that we will "become" our parents, but in this case, Elliot is beset by ghost on every side. He doesn't want to be the Father he "hates" but he is constantly reminded of the Father he "loves" and cannot touch. This is one of the reasons the Master/Slave episode in Season 2 is so powerful (Word Up Wednesday), we get to see all of the elements of Edward (as Elliot sees him) in such stark contrast. 

Edward is the guy who will talk about womanizing and laugh off the brutality of "Mom" but also try to protect, and more importantly, shelter Elliot when he is in pain or needs help. We are all complicated beings and become enmeshed with people in incredibly complicated relationships.

So, yes, Elliot sees Mr. Robot as his Father, but we have to remember that Mr. Robot is just one fragment of Elliot Prime's personality, most likely the parts of his personality he attributes to being the most similar to his Father Edward.

Mr. Robot looks like Edward much in the same way we all see our parents in our own faces. We are all, most likely, both comforted and haunted by our parents (to different degrees) in these encounters. But, in Elliot's case, this haunting becomes manifest, it has "anima" it's "ALIVE." 

To the original question, Mr. Robot most likely looks just like Elliot, but through Elliot's eyes, Mr. Robot looks like the Edward Elliot sees in himself. We see our parents in our face when we look in the mirror while Elliot carries his mirror with him at almost all times. 

When Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) looks back after the kids have killed Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) in the first Nightmare on Elm Street movie (1984) it is her moment of doubt about his death that gives Freddy the power to reconstitute himself. The kids are haunted by Freddy precisely because they believe in him.

Like most survivors of abuse, Elliot feels the seeds of abuse inside him (his hate for Edward and anger over the death of Edward manifested in the five/nine hack) and the confusing seeds of his love for Edward despite the pain. Elliot is haunted by Edward precisely because he believes in him.

When Darlene tells Elliot during their visit that she would rather be talking to HIM (Mr. Robot) Elliot is confronted, one again, by the violent world he has created in the name of his Father. How could Darlene, his beloved Sister, prefer his Edward to his Elliot?

Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots

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One of the most overlooked elements of Season 2 is the slow-motion car wreck it was for Darlene (Carly Chaikin), who puts on a brave face and soldiers forward out of love and admiration for her brother but is really the girl crying in her room alone at the beginning of the season.

During Season 2 we find a lot more about the trauma Darlene experienced as a child, while we know that she is trying desperately to maintain Elliot's "organization" through sheer strength of will (at the same time she feels uniquely unqualified to carry out its mission). During the season, she becomes a terrorist, puts her oldest friend in harm's way, becomes a murderer, loses a man that she loves, and ends up in FBI custody.

In her own way, she is as bifurcated as Elliot (which is why, I suspect, Esmail included the Body Double reference mid-season when Darlene goes to the hotel in disguise).  Outwardly, she is the iron tough leader of fsociety while inside she is the girl who wanted so badly to be saved from her family as a kid that she didn't mind being kidnapped by a crazy woman).

She loves Elliot so much she puts her brave face on and risks the whirlwind to run things while he is in jail (she is in real and serious jeopardy in FBI custody at the end of the season, Gitmo level jeopardy, as one of the leaders of a criminal conspiracy to destroy the US economy).

When she visits Elliot in prison on the 24th and asks him to be more like Mr. Robot, this might seem like a betrayal, but it was Elliot who put her in this position. She needs Mr. Robot because fsociety is falling apart at the seems, Romero is dead, Gideon is dead, most of the core members are on the run, and she is having to rely on the B-Team (a bunch of fringe followers). As we find out later, she has no particular talent for strategy. 

Darlene has been left holding the fraying explosive bag that Elliot handed her, and all Elliot wants to talk about has nothing to do with how she can keep things together. You hear a lot of talk about privilege in society today but Darlene is right to suggest that Elliot is in the privileged position here (despite being in jail). She needs help and direction, not to have a nice long talk about old times.

In a sense, the game of Chess that Mr. Robot and Elliot play for so-called "control" of Elliot prime ignores the value of the chess pieces entirely. If anything, Mr. Robot is being more thoughtful than Elliot here because Elliot's sister, friends, and co-conspirators are all at the most extreme risk while Elliot sits in jail and tries to resolve his Daddy issues.

Mr. Robot is clearly the more admirable personality fragment when he objects to Elliot sharing everything with Warden Ray Hayworth (Craig Robinson) after Ray finds Elliot's Red Wheelbarrow notebook after Elliot throws it away (for a genius, Elliot is pretty cavalier with his "confessional" notebook). Elliot seems never to remember how many bodies are at stake in his personal mental health games.

Anyway, Elliot agrees to play chess with Mr. Robot for control of Elliot Prime.

And, as we know, what he learns is that Mr. Robot is Elliot and Elliot is Mr. Robot. 

No annihilation, only stalemate.

He can't escape who he is. He can't escape his Father. He can't look in the mirror and not be haunted any more than the rest of us. We carry our parents with us.

He can stay bifurcated or integrate.

I am certainly not saying that he can't become a better person. But, you really have to think about the narcissism of Elliot's dream sequence here (his dream is represented both during S2 and in Red Wheelbarrow).

Leon (Joey Bada$$) suggests that Elliot should, "Take a look into the future" he'd be "fighting for and see if it is worth it."

Elliot's saw the "future fairy tale" (remember everyone Elliot cares about was sitting together at a big table having a grand time) and decides that it is a future worth fighting for. But what the hell does that mean in this context, almost every single person at his dinner table in the fantasy is at risk in the real world because of Elliot.

Mr. Robot isn't really being the bad guy here. He is right, lots of the people Elliot purports to care about need Elliot to get back on the job.

Luckily, after the stalemate (aka the Handshake), Elliot decides to re-engage with technology and accepts Ray's offer to work on the TOR site.

Unfortunately, because Elliot wants to get to "the bottom" of what is going on with Ray's site he insists on getting in contact with Rat Tail (Luke Robertson) and we know what the result of that was (another body on Elliot's foreseeable consequences list). Seriously, RT had actually gotten free of Ray and the Nazi Gangsters he was using for security in the jail because he did not want to be a part of the terrible things happening on the TOR site and Elliot forces him back in (and as we know this results in the death of RT).

Massive Narcissism.

I should probably do a bit about the ethics of consequentialism here but Elliot is totally full of shit here anyway. He doesn't need to use RT to get to the bottom of what is going on with Ray's site. Elliot uses RT here because it will make his Robin Hood job easier. Elliot is the best hacker in the world, this was just an expediency measure.

In other words, Elliot did not use RT to save others. Elliot saved others from the site for sure by turning Ray in, but he sacrificed RT simply for expediency IMHO. 

This is why he sees his Father's face in his personality mirror. Just like his Father "looked the other way" when sacrificing Darlene to his wife, Elliot frequently sacrifices real people that he knows and real people that he doesn't (RT, everyone made destitute by five/nine). 

In the Michael Mann movie Heat,  Police Lt. Vincent (Al Pacino) tells thief Neil (Robert DeNiro) about all the dead bodies he finds haunting him when he doesn't solve cases. He talks about the bodies literally following him, still disfigured, and asking him for justice during his nightmares. Elliot does not suffer from Vincent's level of obsessive concern about the pawns on the chess board that he set up.

Instead, he is obsessed only with the mess in his own head.

Don't get me wrong, Elliot is capable of great compassion, he does try to save people, but his perspective is more than a bit corrupted by his almost incomprehensible level of narcissism.

I also think it is worth considering that both Elliot and Mr. Robot are willing to sacrifice real people (even loved ones) for the end goal of "revenge" on E-Corp but Mr. Robot might actually be the personality fragment showing the most compassion for their loved ones during most of Season 2. 

Just a thought.

Other News From Around "The Yard"

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Carla (Eve Lindley) has been hanging around with a guy named Charlie. It makes Elliot jealous but he is happy that she seems happy. He finds her alone and gives her a copy of Catcher in the Rye (Esmail is a huge Salinger fan). Later she gives him back a page from the part of CITR from when Holden takes Phoebe to the Zoo. I guess that is a decent approximation of Elliot and Carla's relationship.

Leon finally saw the Soup Nazi episode of Seinfeld but didn't love it as much as Elliot because he knew too many people like the Soup Nazi in real life (and didn't enjoy thinking of them). He refers to them as the "kind of person who doesn't allow for any deviating from their organized structure and time schedule." Elliot goes on to explain that these are the "kind of people who bug the shit out of" Leon.

Leon, most likely, currently works for one of those exact kind of people (whose name starts with a W).

Wrapping Up

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Anyway, that is the end of Part 19.

Normally, during the season, I write a recap of Mr. Robot called “Who Is Mr. Robot's Landlord.” I also recap Black MirrorGame of ThronesHalt and Catch FireThe FlashBetter 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. Missed Part Fifteen? Catch Up Now. Missed Part Sixteen? Catch Up Now. Missed Part Seventeen? Catch Up Now. Missed Part Eighteen? Catch Up Now.

Don't forget, my Mr. Robot eBook is coming soon too.

Thanks for reading! 

The Catcher in the Rye
By J.D. Salinger