BY VICTORIA SONG
Hello friends, are you really reading this?
If you are, chances are you know about my friend Elliot Alderson too. And maybe you also happen to know about that shady Mr. Robot and the group he hangs with, fsociety. But I digress. Remember how we were all worried about him a few months ago? How he just…stopped talking to us?
About that. Well, I got the answer sitting in my lap.
Okay, okay. I’m just gonna trust you’re actually reading this and that we’re all on the same page. Yeah? Cool. Today, me and 349 of Elliot’s other ‘closest friends’ piled into BookCon at New York Comic Con to hear Mr. Robot creator and executive producer Sam Esmail and show writer Courtney Looney talk about the series’ first official tie-in book, MR. ROBOT: Red Wheelbarrow. (Also titled eps1.91_redwheelbarr0w.txt—a nod to the oh-so-l337 episode titles of the show).
Elliot started out season 2 of Mr. Robot writing in a ratty old composition journal at his “mother’s house.” And now Esmail and Looney have decided to release Elliot’s journal to the public, and with it, the story of what he really got up to in the two months between season 1 and 2. You might think of it as a nifty promotional cash grab, but Esmail and Looney insisted that it’s a genuine part of the overarching Mr. Robot story and the key to decoding Elliot’s mental source code in Season 2.
This isn’t Esmail’s first foray into creating standalone stories that expand the Mr. Robot universe. There’s also a 13-minute virtual reality experience and a mobile phone game, but this is a distinctly analog medium for a show so steeped in technology. The book itself looks like your typical composition journal—albeit one that’s been through a bit of wear and tear. Think of it as getting your hands on a prop from the show: The cover looks like it’s been burnt a bit, there are mysterious inserts like blank envelopes, as well as a card from Darlene, and a few NSFW pictures doodled in the margins of quite a few pages. The bulk of the book is filled with Elliot’s scribblings—in Rami Malek and Christian Slater’s actual handwriting!—as he vomits his thoughts onto the page, literally and figuratively.
Not to spoil anything, but if you’re one of those diehard fans who spend hours analyzing each episode for clues, this book should tide you over until next year as Esmail and Looney have peppered hints about Season 3 onto its pages. The most obvious one is in the title ‘Red Wheelbarrow.’ And if that sounds familiar to you, it should. It’s the William Carlos Williams poem that Tyrell and Elliot bond over that Esmail says acts like a ‘codeword’ for Elliot and may play an important role next season. There’s also some new backstory as the book fleshes out Hot Carla, a pyromaniac inmate we got a glimpse at in Season 2, and her mysterious relationship with Elliot.
But will reading this book change the way you view season 2 as a whole? Esmail definitely thinks so. “The way we construct the story or storytelling pattern, [it’s like] you’re standing this close to a painting, and you’re taking steps back,” says Esmail. “More things are filled in, and more things you thought you knew are recontextualized.”
You can currently preorder the book, which will be available November 1 for $29.95. But if you find yourself wishing that you could hear Rami Malek’s dulcet tones read Elliot’s turbulent thoughts—you’re in luck. Esmail mentioned that an audiobook, also featuring Hot Carla, is in the works.
Until then, I’m gonna suggest that we all close our eyes. Mind awake, body asleep.