BY ETHAN ALTER
Warning: This post contains spoilers for Season 2 of Mr. Robot.
He may claim to be our friend, but Elliot Alderson kept a whopper of a secret from Mr. Robot fans during Season 2 of USA’s acclaimed hacker drama. When the season began, Elliot (newly minted Emmy-winner, Rami Malek) claimed that he had moved in with his mother in order to more successfully follow the strict regimen he had programmed for himself to avoid visits from the devious Mr. Robot (Christian Slater). Midway through the 12-episode run, though, that illusion became too difficult to maintain and he finally revealed to us that he had been locked up in another house — the Big House — the whole time. Not a cool way to treat your buddies, dude.
We’re going to Elliot a pass, though, and not just because he’s in kind of a strange place right now, due to the continuing fallout of 5/9, the disappearance and reappearance of Tyrell Wellick, and being shot in the gut. After reading about what he experienced in prison, we’re feeling much more sympathetic about his need for privacy. Those details are contained in the new tie-in novel Mr. Robot: Red Wheelbarrow, which hits bookshelves on Nov. 1 from Abrams Books.
Written by series creator Sam Esmail and Courtney Looney — who penned Season 2’s eighth episode — Red Wheelbarrow is a meticulous recreation of the notebook that Elliott keeps scribbling in during his stint in jail. The entire story is penned in his distinct handwriting, with occasional interruptions by his “ghost dad,” as well as interjections from Hot Carla, the transgender inmate and pyromaniac who was a minor character during the second season. (She’s the one to whom Elliot entrusted his notebook with the understanding that she’d burn it to ashes; and while the book does betray evidence of a light toasting, Hot Carla admits that this is one tome she couldn’t consign to the flames.) There are some other surprises tucked away in the notebook’s singed pages as well, including a newspaper clipping detailing possible Tyrell sightings and a card from Elliot’s sister, Darlene (Carly Chaikin), that doesn’t sound at all like the surly Fsociety firebrand we’ve come to know and love.
Because Elliot is in lock-up for the duration of Red Wheelbarrow, we don’t learn a great deal about what’s happening outside the walls of his prison. Instead, the book mostly concerns itself with the shifting alliances happening in his cell block, as he becomes tentative pals with Hot Carla and seeks to protect her from a particularly aggressive inmate. But certain details about the outside world–and Elliot’s carefully guarded past–do seep into the narrative, helping to fill in some of the between-season time gap as well as previously undisclosed details from the first half of Season 2. Here are three of the big Mr. Robot revelations you can expect to learn from Red Wheelbarrow.
Leon Was Spying on Elliot From the Beginning
The final scene of Mr. Robot’s Season 2 finale revealed that Elliot’s jailhouse buddy, Leon (Joey Bada$$), was actually a Dark Army spy working for Whiterose (BD Wong). Based on the events of Red Wheelbarrow, that’s a twist our hero really should have seen coming. At several points in the book, Elliot takes note of the fact that Leon — who makes a point of befriending the new inmate not long after his arrival and then bolts right after Elliot leaves — seems particularly interested in his feelings about Tyrell Wellick. He also makes a point of mentioning that he’s glimpsed Leon meeting with a Chinese woman during visitation hours, a woman who must be one of Whiterose’s foot soldiers if not Whiterose herself, perhaps wearing a different guise than the one we saw her in during that Season 1 encounter with Elliott. We also discover that, prior to his Seinfeld obsession, Leon binge-watched the entire seven-season run of Mad About You. Now we desperately want to know his thoughts about the controversial series finale.
Mrs. Alderson Was a Real Piece of Work
Both Elliot and Darlene have strongly intimated that their mother, Magda, had a bit of a Type A personality. In Red Wheelbarrow, Elliot recounts a childhood story to Hot Carla that places Mrs. Alderson well into Mrs. Bates territory. According to his version of events, Darlene once brought an adorable stray kitten into their strictly no-pets household. When their mom inevitably discovered the new feline tenant, she decided to enforce the house rule in the most horrific possible way: forcing Darlene to drown her cat. Fortunately, Elliot’s ever-resourceful younger sister managed to save the poor creature from a watery grave, running away from home for four days and not returning until she had found a more loving home for her pet. We have yet to meet Magda in the flesh yet (remember, her brief appearances in Season 2 were all part of Elliot’s elaborate mental projection), but this story already has us terrified to make her acquaintance.
Keep Up With Your Code
Remember when Elliot downed dangerous levels of Addreall in order to rid his mind of Mr. Robot once and for all? It didn’t work, of course, but it did result in him spewing lots of new computer code into his notebook, which the truly obsessed–and the truly fluent in computer-speak–can obsess over until the series returns. And if hacking code isn’t your thing, there are other puzzles hidden throughout Red Wheelbarrow that are just crying out to be solved. For example, tucked away in the notebook is a torn-out page from Dostoevsky’s Resurrection from the Underground that’s covered in pencil-scribbled games of Tic-Tac-Toe. That may sound random, but if there’s anything we know about Mr. Robot, it’s that nothing is random. Who knows: lying in all of those X’s and O’s is a secret that could blow the whole series wide open.
Season 1 of Mr. Robot is currently streaming on Amazon Prime. Season 2 can be purchased on Amazon Prime and iTunes. Red Wheelbarrow is available on Amazon and other booksellers.