Tales From A Red Wheelbarrow (eps1.91_redwheelbarr0w.txt) Part 2: Self-Immolation
Tales From A Red Wheelbarrow
There is a bit of irony in coming up with a "brand" name for everything, but I am not exactly corporate and do it only so people know what to expect.
Anyway, I am doing a deep dive into the book Red Wheelbarrow, which was released last week.
Normally, I write a recap of Mr. Robot called “Who Is Mr. Robot's Landlord.”
If you are not familiar with my writing on Mr. Robot, check out The complete #OPS Guide to Season 2 of #MrRobot.
Part One of “Tales From a Red Wheelbarrow” came out about a week ago and dealt with all of the references, implied and directly on the show, to “Red Wheelbarrow.”
Today we are going to deal with the establishing letters at the beginning of the book (I am primarily covering May 13th and May 14th).
If you have not seen Seasons 1 and 2 of Mr. Robot, it is possible that there will be spoilers
* Spoiler Alert *
Why Is Elliot In Jail Redux
Okay, during Season 2 we learned that Elliot pled guilty to hacking his therapist Krista's (Gloria Reuben) ex-boyfriend Lenny Shannon's a.k.a Michael Hansen's (Armand Shultz) computer and blackmailing him out of his "prize" dog Flipper (the irony being that Lenny was cruel to the dog that he supposedly valued so much).
On the subject of Flipper, one of the things that upsets Elliot the most is having to return Flipper to Lenny (Elliot makes specific note of how upsetting it is to have to return Flipper to Lenny in his writing from May 14th).
We also learned, obviously, that the knock on the door at the end of Season 1 was the police coming to arrest him for hacking Lenny.
Many people wondered, for good reason, why Elliot (Rami Malek), since he is one of the world's greatest hackers, would not erase his traces. Given all the dirt that Elliot found on Shannon, it is also a surprise he didn't leverage all the things he knew in a trial setting or to get lawyers to convince Hansen to back down from prosecuting the case (the differences between 'legal' and 'illegal' blackmail are confusing at best).
Most of the early dialog in Red Wheelbarrow (and Elliot says that the purpose of Red Wheelbarrow is to talk to us and share what he cannot tell us directly because we have disappeared from his view) involves explaining why he decided to let himself be arrested and put in jail.
Part of his dissociative identity disorder is that he has an "Alter" named Mr. Robot (Christian Slater). Whenever things get particularly upsetting or dangerous, Elliot dissociates and Mr. Robot takes over.
During the night of the 5/9 hack, Mr. Robot took over for a particularly long period of time. When Elliot regained consciousness, he had no memory of what happened to Tyrell Wellick (Martin Wallstrom) during that night and he cannot find him anywhere after that night (except finding a mysterious jump drive).
We learn later in the season, particularly during the "Word Up Wednesday" episode, that Elliot is terrified that he killed Tyrell with Darlene's (Carly Chaikin) "Popcorn Machine Gun" (Darlene took a gun from Xander Jones (Nick Mills) - a hookup - and it ended up in the popcorn machine at fsociety headquarters).
This speaks to a larger problem, which Elliot takes great pains in explaining throughout the Red Wheelbarrow book.
Elliot is only gradually coming to understand that Mr. Robot carries out the bad things that Elliot wants but does not want to do "himself." In other words, Elliot still believes that Mr. Robot separate from him.
Most of the Red Wheelbarrow book and much of Season 2 is about Elliot coming to truly understand himself.
The easiest way I can explain it is this:
Elliot 1 is the larger Elliot that makes all the strategies and sets all the goals
Elliot 2 is the dominant personality, the nice kid we have all come to love and respect.
Mr. Robot is his Alter, in charge of carrying out all of the "wet work" and taking all of the beatings and protecting Elliot 2 from the things he is not equipped to handle (the things he disassociates from).
Everyone wants to be the hero of their own story and Elliot is no different, it is really hard for him to accept that he has done bad things (letting people out of jail, collapsing the economy, giving Flipper back to Lenny etc.). It is understandable to want to blame all the "bad" stuff on Mr. Robot. But, as he learns (too slowly) it is not an accurate distribution of blame.
Dissociative Alter's have tasks. They are the parts of a person's personality best suited to handle certain tasks. Dissociation is born in trauma, instead of being present during things that upset them dominant parts of a dissociative personality hand-off those unpleasant moments to the fragment personality parts best suited to handle those moments.
At the end of Season 1 and during his time in jail, Elliot still thinks that Mr. Robot is a separate person trying desperately to take over Elliot's body and consciousness.
Basically, Elliot sees what is happening to him like most movies and television shows have always seen DID, as two distinct people fighting for control of one single body.
But, as Elliot learns gradually over the course of his time in jail and throughout Season 2 (but tragically refuses to accept entirely) he is Mr. Robot and Mr. Robot is him.
Dissociatives are fragmented parts of a mostly unified whole.
There are specific hints, even in the beginning of the Red Wheelbarrow book that this is the case. Many times throughout the book Elliot slips and says that he cannot "trust" himself. For instance:
May 14th, 2015
"I can't trust myself out there and until I can I need to be cut off. No internet. No computers. Nothing for HIM to do but stare at the walls while I figure this shit out."
Yes, he is still blaming it on Mr. Robot, but he includes Mr. Robot in his description of himself. His confusion is understandable (to be honest, even writing about it can be complicated).
Elliot is also hopeful that he can figure out how to "erase" Mr. Robot entirely. He thinks that Mr. Robot wants to destroy him too (or at least make him do "evil" things). But the truth is that Mr. Robot is just trying to carry out Elliot 1's plans and trying to keep Elliot 2 on track.
Ultimately, this whole process of discovery ends in the Handshake between Mr. Robot and Elliot that falls apart when Elliot bets everything on Tyrell being a second "Alter" (not real).
A second benefit of being in jail is that he can hide from the intense scrutiny following the 5/9 hack. Mr. Robot primarily wants Elliot 2 to "get back in the game" and follow up on Stage 2 instead of hiding out in jail. His goal is to carry out the strategy of Elliot 1.
Seen from this perspective you should understand that Elliot is both the person who, because of great rage at E-Corp, wants to take corporations down regardless of the consequences and the person who was so gentle and caring with Shayla.
Elliot 2 hates the "bad things" that Mr. Robot does and thinks that hiding out in jail will stop Mr. Robot from doing more bad things he also hopes that he can learn to control or eliminate Mr. Robot from his consciousness.
Elliot also believes that, perhaps, he can protect himself from the post 5/9 drama. He is not entirely convinced that he did the right thing. Another way to think about the fighting between Mr. Robot and Elliot is to see it as a debate between embracing what he did (5/9) and the guilt he feels over who it hurt etc.
Why Is Elliot At His Mother's House?
Elliot gave us a window into his coping mechanisms early in Season 2 when he overdosed on Adderal. Instead of seeing it as an overdose, he saw it as being kidnapped and tortured by shadowy men in black.
So, we already know that he misled us for the first half of Season 2 because he was angry at us. However, we find out that he was also misleading himself at the same time.
In the Red Wheelbarrow book, he explains his unique process of coping, in the context of interpolating Jail into his Mother's House, in much more detail.
* He explains that he feels very depressed by being in Jail. Jail is harder on him than he expected. He talks about hearing screams at night, being constantly surrounded by people and never being able to truly escape from them, and about being constantly at risk of saying or doing the wrong things. He also hates both his job in the kitchen and his job in the laundry (a bit odd since when I was incarcerated laundry man was one of the best jobs you could have).
* He explains that he is even more depressed because he believed that in going to jail he would exterminate Mr. Robot (exorcise him). When Mr. Robot remains a part of him (because he is him) it is very depressing to Elliot.
Anyway, he explains that jail is much easier to handle if he can translate it into more familiar terms. He decides to imagine that being in jail is just like being at his Mother's house. He even makes a drawing explaining how is brain is translating the data to better help him cope.
So, the additional context here is that he was misleading himself about jail too and it is part of his coping mechanism. It would also be easy to see why, given how depressed it was making him, he might not want his "friend" to see him in jail.
How Elliot Met Carla
So, in a strange way, Red Wheelbarrow is also the story of Carla (Hot Carla). In a sense, she is the narrator of Red Wheelbarrow and she is the one who preserved the book for us to read.
Throughout the book, Carla (Eve Lindley) gives us insights into the differences between what she saw when Elliot was in jail and what Elliot describes during his time in jail.
In addition, Elliot becomes fascinated by, interested in, and even protective of Carla throughout Red Wheelbarrow (if I had known she would become such a major character I would have found more pictures of her...I am working on remedying that).
Anyway, if anyone ever asks the trivia question "when did Elliot meet Carla"
Technically, the answer is, "when Mr. Robot told her that he "liked her eye shadow" on May 14th, 2015.
Elliot 2 first interacts with Carla for the first time later in Red Wheelbarrow, but technically Elliot first interacted with her through Mr. Robot.
If there is one definitive take away from Red Wheelbarrow it is a much deeper understanding of Carla. Carla has had a very hard time in prison but still maintains her dignity throughout (very much like Sophia on OITNB after she is harassed then thrown in solitary for months).
Wrapping It Up
Okay, well, that wraps up the foundational stuff. There is a TON of new stuff coming soon
You can expect:
I am putting out an eBook of answers to as many Season 2 questions as I have found answers to. It should be out in the next month for sure.
I am doing a few Teespring campaigns for some Mr. Robot and "Who Is Mr. Robot's Landlord?" themed T-Shirts. If you are into all the little details of the show, you will like the shirts. More information on that very soon.
And, of course, many more Red Wheelbarrow pieces.
Hope you are having as much fun as I am!
If you have any questions you think that I might be able to answer, please feel free and ask me!
What was your favorite detail from Elliot's first two days of journaling?
Let me know what you think, leave a comment!