BY MIKE AYERS
Warning: This Story Contains Spoilers About “Mr. Robot” seasons 1 and 2.
For half of season 2 of “Mr. Robot,” the show’s lead character Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek) was in a self-exiled state. At first, viewers were told that he had retreated to his mom’s apartment to lie low after the 5/9 hack – but six episodes in, it was revealed that Elliot was actually in prison. There were clues along the way that things might not be as they seemed – the “diner” in which he met his friend Leon (Joey Badass) resembled a dirty cafeteria and there were many illusions to prison bars in the scenery. One of those clues is now an official part of the show’s lore and story – the journal Elliot scribbles down in daily has been turned into a book titled “Mr. Robot: Red Wheelbarrow (eps1.91_redwheelbarr0w.txt)”, out Nov. 1, written by the show’s creator Sam Esmail and writer Courtney Looney.
“It’s the unfiltered world through Elliot’s eyes that you won’t get from the show,” says Esmail.
Since there is a 30-day time gap between the end of season 1 and beginning of season 2, Esmail says a lot of what happened during that time was left unexplored – a deliberate move that has characterized the show since its debut in summer 2015.
“The way I describe how we tell the story in ‘Mr. Robot’ is that you’re standing very close to a picture and you’re always taking a step back where more details and pieces fall into place,” he says.
For a show immersed in the digital world – it’s about a massive hack – the book is a unique analog piece of the puzzle and features Elliot narrating throughout, as well as asides from the character “Hot Carla.” Also included are little artifacts like newspaper clippings, a church group pamphlet, and an empty cigarette pack with notes jotted on it. For “Mr. Robot” fans, who look for meaning in everything, these new, tangible nuggets will give clues to the story as well as dive into the feelings of loneliness and isolation that the season explored.
“I wanted to create this next-level engagement where you can also learn things about the story if you dig a little deeper,” he says. “The great thing about it is, that’s up to the audience to engage in.”
Esmail and Looney worked on it in their spare time when season 2 was shot earlier this year. They wanted to make sure it didn’t come off as a random collection of this character’s thoughts, either, and framed it like a novel, told in this character’s voice.
“It was like if we’re going to do this, it’s going to have a beginning, middle and end,” he says. “It needs to have all the elements you’d want to find in any book you’d pick up. We didn’t consider this fluff. This wasn’t just promotional. It had to be a stand alone, substantive story that explored a different side of Elliot.”
Even though the book is continuing the stories explored in season 2, Esmail and his team are busy working on writing season 3. When asked if any of the recent real-life events such as the recent DDOS attack using the “Internet of Things” and the WikiLeaks hacks are making it into the writers room, he says “Mr. Robot” remains neutral. “We don’t think about it like that,” he says. “We never let our story be influenced by outside news. It is tempting – because some of the crazy shit that’s going on, it writes itself.”