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Mr. Robot Visits the Past to Fill in Tyrell’s Gaps

Tyrell Wellick’s whereabout was a driving subplot throughout season 2. After his important role in season 1, his absence the next stood out both among fans and characters on the show. Elliot never stopped questioning where he was. The FBI had a nationwide manhunt going. We all wondered if he was dead, and if not, where was he? What was he doing? Mr. Robot finally gave us those answers in a Tyrell-centric episode this week. In the process, they did some things that might make you warm up to Tyrell’s character.

Spoilers for “eps3.2legacy.so” below

mr. robot tyrell confrontation

Recap

The episode starts by going all the way back to the finale of season 1 and picking up where the final season left off. Elliot executes the 5/9 hack, and slips into Mr. Robot mode before grabbing the gun from the popcorn machine. When he tries to shoot Tyrell, though, the gun jams. Tyrell says this is proof they were meant to work together, an act of God. They begin talking about Elliot’s Stage 2 plan.

Irving arrives representing the Dark Army moments later. He gives Robot instructions and takes Tyrell with him. When Robot tries to intervene, Irving explains that because of their mistakes and the hack, the FBI is onto them and he has to hide Tyrell. It’s not until Robot gives the okay that Elliot goes with him.

Irving takes Tyrell to an isolated cabin far from home, where he will have no contact with the outside world.

After seeing Elliot’s arrest that landed him in prison last year, we see Whiterose’s reaction. Arrangements are made for Leon to protect him and begin to work for his release. Whiterose also meets with Frank Cody and gives him instructions to use his talk show to talk up Tyrell’s innocence. As well as back Trump for president. Holy crap, Trump was right. It was the Chinese.

Back at Tyrell’s cabin, a Dark Army interrogator (played by a stunningly terrifying Wallace Shawn) tries to determine his loyalty using a series of personal questions. Tyrell lies for a long time but eventually breaks down and admits he has no loyalty towards the Dark Army. However, he will always be loyal to Elliot. As a result he gets a phone, laptop, and internet access to begin work on Stage 2. We then see his side of the phone call to Elliot in prison from last season.

Afterwards, he’s upset. Irving shows him how to chop wood, saying it’s a good way to keep himself balanced. However, Tyrell already knows how to chop wood and takes up the habit as suggested. Time passes as Tyrell chops wood, works on Stage 2, and checks on his wife and kids.

After a scene showing Darlene handing the Femtocell off to Cisco, Tyrell is shown programming it for the FBI hack. Tyrell vents his frustration about not working with Elliot. He continues his work, and reads about Joanna’s new boyfriend and her filing for divorce. Irving tries to cheer him up and gives him a new pair of sunglasses.

mr. robot tyrell folk singer

He’s so close to becoming the frontman for The Lumineers.

Irving’s attempted comfort doesn’t work, and Tyrell decides to leave the cabin. He doesn’t get far before a cop arrests him. This cop sets up a meeting to hand him over to the FBI, but the agent who arrives shoots the cop. Turns out it’s Dom’s boss, and he’s a Dark Army asset. He vents his frustrations to Irving back at the cabin about the risks he has faced. Irving tries again to comfort Tyrell by talking about his own wife and kids.

And in the next scene reveals that he was lying during a conversation with a salesman at his car dealership.

Then Irving meets with Leon in prison after Elliot’s release is arranged. He goes back to the cabin to retrieve Tyrell and bring him to a different safehouse in the city. He shows him the warehouse overlooking the E Corp building and gives him instructions for contacting Elliot. Tyrell cleans up his mountain man look, because he wants to look good for Elliot. Dude’s seriously in some unhealthy love with Elliot.

From here we see Elliot meet Tyrell in the taxi and the aftermath of Tyrell shooting him. The episode ends with Angela explaining Elliot’s split personalities to Tyrell, and her talking to Elliot after his surgery while Tyrell looks on.

Review

Fans of Mr. Robot have waited a long time for this episode. The cliffhanger ending of season 1 created a mystery surrounding the location and wellbeing of Tyrell Wellick that loomed large in the background throughout season 2. With his reappearance at the end of the season, the questions only increased.

Well, now we have answers. Were they satisfying? I definitely believe so. And in large part because the episode crafted those answers second-hand into an even more satisfying look at Tyrell’s mindset during this previously unexplored absence. Exploring the mind has always been Mr. Robot’s greatest strength. The same proved true here.

Full confession; I’ve never been a particularly big fan of Tyrell Wellick’s character. He always struck me a bit too exaggeratedly odd, a hard feat in a show full of exaggeratedly odd people. Everything about him, from the acting to the writing, always seemed to try too hard. I know this was purposeful, but intention doesn’t always make up for execution. As such, I was never invested in his character the way most Mr. Robot fans are. So when I say this was the absolute best episode Tyrell Wellick has ever been in, I hope that means something considering I never liked the guy.

I’m not sure I can point to specific reason why Tyrell worked so much better here than he ever has. Perhaps a lot of it came as a result of season 3’s continued refinement of the Mr. Robot formula. I would certainly credit that factor among the chief reasons. Most of all, though, I think what worked here is that this was our best look at the true Tyrell Wellick. His barriers fell aside, he was left lost in the void, and for the first time Tyrell laid bare. Where we only saw glimpses before, we now saw a lot of what makes this man tick.

The result was an episode packed full of remarkably well-executed scenes I expect will stick with fans all the way through to the show’s end. Tyrell’s interrogation (let’s be honest, that’s what it was) was fantastic and went a long way in showing us the real Tyrell. In the end, he’s a terrifyingly insecure man. We’ve always known that to an extent. We knew he hated his father and didn’t want to be like him. This desire created his god complex. We knew his loyalty to Elliot.

Now, though, we saw just how deep into the very essence of his being these traits run, and how they inform on his every decision. We saw how he coped with isolation and his vision of himself and Elliot breaking down. His humor and habits shined through, creating a realism about him I always found lacking. He was less plot-important malfunctioning robot and more human. This episode was a much-appreciated deeper look that made for excellent TV.

Along the way, we also received some answers to just what happened when Elliot grabbed the gun from the popcorn machine over a season ago. How Tyrell ended up with the Dark Army, where he has been, and how Whiterose worked to get Elliot out of prison. We learned that Dom DiPierro’s boss has been so reticent about taking action against the Dark Army because he works for them. Irving played a large role revealing more about his methods and role within the Dark Army.

We even got a tragic glimpse of Darlene and Cisco, and their desire to settle down into a normal life after “just one more job”.

Ultimately, your opinion of this episode will depend on how invested you are in Tyrell. It will also depend on your tolerance for an episode focusing on character and filling in gaps rather than progressing the main story forward. This episode certainly felt more like a controversial season 2 episode of Mr. Robot than the first two episodes of season 3 did. I greatly enjoyed season 2, so maybe my enthusiasm for this episode is greater than majority opinion. And if you don’t care about Tyrell, this one was probably a bore.

As someone who didn’t care about Tyrell before, though, I do now. I suppose this could change the next time he shows up on screen beside Elliot. For this one engaging hour, though, I thirsted for more.

Assorted Thoughts

  • “Some things are better left unsaid. Subtext, you know?” I don’t know, Mr. Robot, sometimes subtext isn’t enough.
  • On the Trump topic, I’ve noticed a bit of pushback against this episode for “diving into the real world” regarding Trump’s presence this season. Um, have these people already forgotten Mr. Robot’s very prominent real-world political scenes throughout the first two seasons? You know, the ones calling Obama a puppet and explicitly showing the American government to be under the control of a corporation? Why is it a problem now when it wasn’t then?
  • “Not that I’m a fan of murder, but when it comes to neo-Nazis…” Or, you know, actual Nazis.
  • Bobby Cannavale would have made a great Negan.
  • Loved the timing of the “God is my copilot” thermos. I was stunned that wasn’t Tyrell drinking from it.
  • At this point I’m kind of shipping Tyrelliot. It would be a toxic disaster of biblical proportions, but what fun it would be. Well, maybe fun is the wrong word.

Images Courtesy of USA Network

Bo
Written By

Bo relaxes after long days of staring at computers by staring at computers some more, and feels slightly guilty over his love for Villanelle.

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