Tales From A Red Wheelbarrow (eps1.91_redwheelbarr0w.txt) Part 6: Mailbag & Bob
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 May 21st and 22nd.
Normally, 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.
Oh, and did I mention a T-Shirt was coming? You can order it now HERE from Teespring, perfect for Hacking the Holidays (only 5 days until the campaign ends). You can order it in white, blue, red, gray, or lime. You can order a hoody, a long-sleeved shirt, a regular t-shirt, or even a sticker.
If you have not seen Seasons 1 and 2 of Mr. Robot, it is possible that there will be spoilers * Spoiler Alert *
A Post-Election Discussion With Sam Esmail
Okay, so last week I posted an article on Reddit that quoted a bunch of Sam Esmail's post-election tweets.
I sent him a Tweet summarizing what people were saying in the discussion, and these are the responses he sent back to my account:
I shared them on Reddit, but not everyone saw them (after the fact), so share them I have.
In other news, someone posted that the resulting discussion was the most civil discussion of politics that they had ever seen on social media. That in and of itself is pretty cool! It was an interesting discussion, some HRC, some Bernie, and some DJT all having a conversation together.
Also, just to be open, I am a Bernie fan who voted for Bernie in the primaries and HRC in the Presidential election.
Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.
Even I Get Tired of the Endless Negotiations Sometimes
A good deal of the Red Wheelbarrow entries for May 21st and 22nd are bound up in the ongoing negotiation between Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek) and Mr. Robot (Christian Slater).
By now everyone should be pretty familiar with my take on this negotiation between them (Elliot Prime, Elliot 2, and Mr. Robot).
Rather than rehash each of the continuing small battles, this time I am going to answer some of the questions or comments that you have sent me about the show's central and ongoing personality crisis.
I got the following comment on Reddit:
"We don't really see Elliot prime partially because he is the combination of all of the fragmented parts.
In a sense, the clearest you got to seeing him was the "glitch" moments (which arguably happened inside lucid dreams) when both Elliot and Mr. Robot were present during times when Elliot 2 often dissociates. But he is clearly there.
We see him in the planning that has been done, the organization that was created, and the linkages between power-players that Elliot chooses to remain "out of the loop" on. Probably the best example that he exists is when Darlene talks about an Elliot we rarely see almost with total Awe.
The real conflict in the series may seem to be between Elliot and Mr. Robot, but it is really all about accepting who HE is and what HE has done (IMHO). As always, I could be wrong!
While another Redditor said:
To which I responded:
"Just hit a particularly good part of Red Wheelbarrow that discusses this more. It should be in Part 6. I think it might be more accurate to say Elliot Prime IS Elliot's mind :) But, I could certainly be wrong!"
So, as promised, here is that exchange that I teased from Red Wheelbarrow (May 21st 1:48 p.m.):
Mr. Robot: My answer is this and always this. I want to work together, but I want to work for what we agreed upon. For what you created me to help you do. We can't do that from in here, so I want out. We could be great...doing amazing things. So my question to you is: Why won't you let us be us?
Elliot: He knows why. People get hurt. I don't want that on me. And if he wanted to argue that, then he'd tell me what happened that night. But no, he doesn't want to work together because he doesn't want to be honest with me and I don't want to work with liars.
Mr. Robot: Elliot says he doesn't want people getting hurt to be on him. Well, fuck him. Everybody gets hurt, and somebody is doing the hurting, and that somebody is usually us, all of us. That's what we do, that's what makes us human. Santos is laid up partially because of him.
You might remember, from our earlier discussions, that Elliot set up one of Carla's tormenters (named Santos). Elliot used his lockpicking skills to allow another of his Kitchen working crew (who he knew wanted to hurt Santos) access to a mop, which he proceeded to use to dislocate Santos' shoulder and break his nose (landing Santos in the infirmary).
Mr. Robot, fearing this would come back on Elliot, during one of his entries in the journal mentions that he went to Santos to apologize for being sloppy with control of the mops.
Elliot is, of course, mortified (and this disclosure does end up costing Elliot a fat lip and some bruises at the hands of some of Santos' friends).
However, when Elliot first reads Mr. Robot's entry he does something very interesting. He says:
"It's fucking hard enough surviving in here...how am I supposed to do it when I keep sabotaging myself."
Elliot goes back and crosses out the part where it says "I keep sabotaging myself" and replaces it with:
"HE KEEPS SABOTAGING ME??"
Notice both the Freudian slip (I/HE) and the multiple question marks at the end of the entry (one would expect exclamation points after an all-caps exclamation, no?).
Several interesting things here reinforce what I have been suggesting throughout:
* Mr. Robot claims that Elliot created him. This is consistent with my interpretation of DID in that someone with DID elevates elements of their personality to handle the tasks that "they" are most capable of dealing with successfully.
* Mr. Robot is in charge of exactly what I have suggested throughout Season 2. He is in charge of doing the things that Elliot cannot emotionally accept doing himself but which he feels are necessary.
Elliot responds to this by saying "I don't want to see people hurt" in response to Mr. Robot saying "the plan you created me to help you do.
Just like in the case of Santos, this reveals that the plan was Elliot's (Elliot Prime).
Elliot 2 just doesn't see himself as doing the kind of things that are necessary for these plans to take place.
Mr. Robot is 100% right here, Elliot just demonstrated that he is capable of violence when it is called for (he just feels differently about people getting hurt when he thinks they deserve it than when they are collateral damage).
I am he and you are me....I am the walrus (I could be the walrus...I'd still have to bum rides off of people).
Probably the major quest Elliot embarks on during these two days is hunting down a story about Tyrell Wellick (Martin Wallstrom) that Ralph cut out of the communal daily paper.
Apparently, the newspapers and television shows are all engaged in a daily "Where's Waldo" style (E-News style) search for Tyrell. What interests, Elliot is that, in this case, Ralph chose to cut out the article.
Anyway, he ultimately finds out that another inmate named Bob collects and stacks newspapers in orderly patterns all over his cell. He approaches Bob to ask to borrow the copy of that particular paper but Bob says no.
Realizing that Bob uses his papers to establish "control" over his cell environment, he comes back and offers Bob other elements (salt packets) that Bob can stack instead. This trade works, and Elliot gets the clipping shown above.
As I have mentioned before, the Easter Egg aspects of these inserts were solved in r/ARGSociety, so if you are on Reddit, you can find the solutions there (I am in awe of the lengths some people take to solve these things).
Two quick comments:
* It seems odd to me that Ralph or Bob would interfere with the secret messaging Elliot ultimately gets through these hidden messages to him.
Prior to this, when he didn't get messages it was because Mr. Robot was involved. I am starting to believe that he is making up these stories to cover up for the fact that they hide messages which he decodes.
* I am still kind of confused by how the earlier "envelope" insert was presented to anyone who purchased Red Wheelbarrow.
We got the inserted envelope all in one piece but it required someone to use steam to take the entire thing apart to be cracked.
If opening the entire envelope was necessary when Elliot cracked it, why is the envelope in one piece when we get it?
Anyway, we now know (or at least strongly suspect) that Tyrell is real and was alive the whole time. Elliot is preoccupied throughout Red Wheelbarrow and much of Season 2 with Tyrell because he is afraid that he shot him with the popcorn machine gun.
The main dispute between Mr. Robot and Elliot throughout Red Wheelbarrow and the first half of Season 2 is Elliot being furious that Mr. Robot won't "tell him" what happened the night of the 5/9 hack (when Tyrell disappeared).
Darlene Visits Jail
What that picture depicts is an "Init 1" situation (which is apparently code between Darlene and Elliot Alderson for "I need to open up emotionally to someone right now").
I guess that these are the cool little things you learn when you read a book about a television show.
So, Darlene (Carly Chaikin) visits Elliot in Jail, he notes that she seems "Harsher" and "More Militant" when she visits, which is how we see her at the beginning of Season 2.
Elliot mentions that Darlene is linking up and integrating all of the newly developing fsociety groups and that the original members are still around but reluctant to keep moving forward with new projects.
This is the first mention of Mobley (Azhar Kahn) and Trenton (Sunita Mani) in Red Wheelbarrow and in order to protect them in case the notebook gets confiscated he calls them "Chubs and the Girl."
If anyone reading this is starting a new band, that could be a possible "insider" name that you could use.
Mr. Robot LOVES Darlene's new militant attitude and suggests that he wishes he could be working with her instead of Elliot right now.
Leon, Vonnegut, Friendship, and Hot Carla
Friendship is having a Leon (Joey Bada$$)
Okay, kind of kidding there.
So, Elliot is worried that he shouldn't be friends with Carla (Eve Lindley). He tells us a story about her staring at him through books while he is noodling around in the library and later suggesting that he read the book "A Man Without a Country" by Kurt Vonnegut.
But, he isn't sure he should be friends with her (because he is such a mess).
Later, he is having a discussion with Leon who tells him about the Mad About You episode called "Slips in the Shower," (where Paul sees important moments from his life in slow-motion as he literally slips in the shower).
Elliot thinks about Paul's ultimate conclusion from this event (that he has already won because he has a wife he loves and a kid) and starts to consider what he wants for himself. He decides that what he wants is happiness and that people and connections are key to finding that happiness.
I am pretty sure this is the genesis point for his friendship montage during Season 2 where he sees victory as sitting around a long table outside with all of the people who matter to him.
Elliot decides that he doesn't want to keep pushing himself away from people that he likes, so he does and starts to read the Vonnegut book sitting next to Carla in the library signalling that they are going to be friends (and yes, I will read it and report back, it is a long off-season).
In case you are keeping track, there have been three books suggested so far:
"Geek Love" by Katherine Dunn
"Resurrection" by Leo Tolstoy
"A Man Without A Country" by Kurt Vonnegut
Sam Esmail's book club is harder to access than Oprah's!
Oh, Elliot also checks out an unspecified book about practicing presence and gives his five-step plan for remaining present (another attempt to erase Mr. Robot).
Mailbag Part Two
I got another Reddit response that seems harsh but that I honestly think is fair, here it is:
I think I try (and might fail) to say that I could be wrong a lot. I also have publically (on Reddit) many times made lists of all of the things that I got right and wrong during the season.
I believe there are likely many correct ways to look at Mr. Robot. I also firmly believe that part of the world that has been created invites and even winks at different perspectives from beyond the 4th wall.
I also have tried very hard in my writing to make a point of my belief that art is co-productive. Meaning that, in a sense, art is what each viewer says it is.
Art is completed in the exchange between the viewer and the author/s. Your completed view is as valid as mine and as valid as Sam Esmail's in my opinion. Maybe this explains why it seems like I think I know more than I probably actually know?
You are certainly right that most television and literary criticism is mostly "educated guessing."
You are probably right that I have some ego and hubris. I was right about a TON of things in Seasons 1 and 2 but I freely admit that I was also wrong about quite a few things.
I will reinvest in being more humble but worry sometimes that people find that wishy-washy. I do think I grok Mr. Robot pretty well, but who knows.
Thanks for the criticism. I take it as constructive. I do work pretty hard at this.
I will also add that I don't mean, at all, to be unfriendly or to seem authoritative. I just really enjoy the series and try to share my thoughts.
There have been several other questions and comments, I will keep trying to work them in when it fits what is being covered. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I kind of started doing this by accident, I never imagined I would get so hooked on it.
Anyway, that is the end of Part 6.
There is also new Mr. Robot stuff coming from me soon
You can expect:
The T-Shirt (look above).
An eBook of answers to as many Season 2 questions as I have come up with. It should be out in the next month for sure (I am about halfway done).
And, of course, many more Red Wheelbarrow pieces. Including, eventually, the Tolstoy piece.
Hope you are having as much fun as I am! You can subscribe using the email signup below or through using Feedburner.
As always, thanks for reading! Hope you like the T-Shirt.
Do you think Elliot is making up stories about the inserts?
What is your alternative theory of Elliot?
Do you have any (civil) questions you would like to ask?
Let me know, leave a comment!