BY KYLE FOWLE
For all of its aesthetic, tonal, and thematic similarities to the first two seasons, season 3 of Mr. Robot isn’t operating in quite the same way. The biggest change is the fact that there isn’t the looming presence of some sort of twist, and there’s a more coherent story being told. It feels like there’s more information out in the open — Elliot remains largely in the dark, but we see a lot of what he doesn’t — and that’s leading to a show that’s more noir thriller than some sort of paranoid, Fight Club-esque mystery.
What that means is that Mr. Robot can use all of these previously unknown details — about Elliot, about Mr. Robot, about Angela’s involvement with the Dark Army, about Whiterose’s role in all of this — to generate more tension. It’s a much more satisfying way of creating that nerve-wracking feeling; when we’re given a better understanding of how everything ties together, from the FBI’s use of Darlene to the fraught relationship between Elliot and Tyrell, our anxiety is allowed to flourish. We see just enough of the connecting threads to make us worry about what’s to come, but not enough to ruin any potential reveals down the road.
With that said, one mystery has continued to go unrevealed: What exactly happened to Tyrell the night of the 5/9 hack, and how did he and Elliot eventually end up back in a warehouse together after months apart? What did Tyrell do in all that time? Why does he feel so connected to Elliot? Why wasn’t he there for his wife and child? What’s his role in the Dark Army and the execution of Stage 2? “Eps3.2_1egacy.so” answers these questions, and the result is the best episode of the season so far, a self-contained flashback episode like no other that looks at how Tyrell and Elliot got to where they are now.
We begin on the night of 5/9. Elliot has just put his plan in motion, and E Corp is crumbling. Tyrell sits at the computer, staring in awe at his partner’s work. Elliot walks over to the popcorn machine, and we know what’s coming. We know the gun is in there, and the show plays on our expectations. It’s a visceral way to begin the episode, immediately situating us in a scene we’ve been aching to see. “You want answers? Here they are,” says Mr. Robot.
Elliot, as Mr. Robot, aims the gun at Tyrell and pulls the trigger. It jams, and no shot is fired. Mr. Robot clears the chamber, the bullet casing rolling to the spot where it will be found later. He points the gun again, but Tyrell is no longer scared. He’s laughing. “We’re gods!” he says. He sees this as divine intervention. He’s Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction, seeing his avoidance of certain death as a message from a higher power. Elliot told Tyrell he always failed to look above him. Not anymore. Tyrell believes he’s received a message. Unlike Jules though, he doesn’t retire from the game to contemplate whether or not he’s the Shepherd.
Jules Winnfield: “There’s this passage I’ve got memorized. Ezekiel 25:17. ‘The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.'” Is Elliot fighting the inequities, shepherding the weak through the valley of darkness, or is he upholding the tyranny of men? Whiterose sees Donald Trump on her screen and understands that he can be used as a puppet, if the right strings are pulled. Perhaps Elliot is unknowingly supporting the tyranny of evil men, or at least a system that allows them to thrive.
If divine intervention saved Tyrell in that moment, it’s apparently Irving and the Dark Army who save both him and Elliot after the fact. More of what we didn’t see, more light in the darkness: Irving, someone we assumed was only recently a player in all of this, walks into the arcade after Elliot and Tyrell begin to discuss their plans for Stage 2 in the immediate aftermath of the 5/9 hack.
Elliot and Tyrell have no idea who he is. “If you’re seeing me, that means you boys f—ed up,” he says. The Pulp Fiction comparisons continue, as Irving might as well be The Wolf. He’s the man sent to clean up the mess when everything goes wrong. The Wolf would show up in 10 minutes even when he was 30 minutes away. Irving shows up right on time, telling Tyrell that he needs to get in the car outside because soon enough, everyone will be looking for him.
After the credits roll up the screen, a change of pace from the usual smash cut, Irving and Tyrell arrive at a large cabin in the middle of nowhere. While Elliot begins to go on the journey that will lead him to prison, Tyrell is told to wait. He’s eager to get started on Stage 2 with Elliot, but Irving says it’s not possible. He tells him to lie low and that all things will be revealed in time. Considering everything this episode tells us about Tyrell, that’s certainly true. Sometimes patience is key. You have to be confused before you can achieve the gratification of seeing everything click into place. Enlightenment is not achieving complete understanding; it’s accepting that there is no understanding.
So, we’ll take the information we’re given and use it to fill in the rest. When Whiterose hears of Elliot’s arrest, there’s no panic, and we get a better sense of how she’s in complete control of everything. It’s becoming clear that she’s the biggest player here, the one with the master plan and the tools to pull it off. One of those tools is Donald Trump, the man who could (does) create endless chaos and allow Whiterose to operate with impunity.
The other tool is a PR machine to keep Tyrell Wellick from being smeared in the media. Was Joanna, when she went after Scott Knowles, acting on Whiterose’s behalf? Did Whiterose perhaps have something to do with Joanna’s murder, or was that just angry male violence, something she didn’t see coming?
As Whiterose makes plans to get Elliot out of prison, including reaching out to Leon to act as Elliot’s guide — Leon is so stoked that he gets to stab some Neo-Nazis — Tyrell is going through hell. He’s separated from Elliot, a man he said he loved during the cold open — all despite Mr. Robot’s protests to keep that part of the subtext — and now he’s being grilled by a man named Mr. Williams, who says he’s there to make sure Tyrell will remain loyal to the Dark Army and their cause.
He’s grilled with the same questions over and over again as a kettle whistles in the background. “Do you hate your father? Are you afraid of becoming your father?” he asks. “Did you kill Sharon Knowles? Will you remain loyal to us?” he finishes. Tyrell answers yes and no. There’s a caveat though. “I will always be loyal to Elliot,” he says. That’s good enough; he’s in. He can start working on Stage 2 while Elliot awaits his release.
Tyrell spends months in the woods, practically alone. He chops wood to stay balanced, continually checks up on the news about Joanna, and even has access to a baby cam that allows him to watch his child sleep. Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind” intermittently plays during the montage, as Tyrell’s facial hair signals the passage of time. “You know that ghost is me/and I will never be set free/as long as I’m a ghost you can see,” goes the song. An encapsulation of Tyrell and Elliot’s relationship — Elliot looks like he’s seen a ghost when he encounters Tyrell in the cab at the end of season 2 and here in the flashback — and certainly of Elliot’s relationship with his father.
“Are you afraid of becoming your father?” Elliot already is, sometimes.
The whole episode builds to a crescendo, once again playing on our own knowledge of what happens once Elliot is out of prison. When Darlene gives Cisco a machine to work on, he takes it straight to Irving. The Dark Army is apparently present at all times. But Irving warns him about getting too close to Darlene should things fall through. “She’s protected, not you.” We know that’s all too true.
Eventually, Tyrell gets sick of his isolation. He puts on sunglasses and a trucker hat — a Mr. Robot look, even if he doesn’t know that — and heads out for a walk as Cypress Hill’s “I Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That” plays. Tyrell is sick of being inactive, of sitting around waiting for something to happen. He’s not going out like that.
Venturing outside of the cabin turns out to be a bad idea though. A cop who “has a hunch” spots him and arrests him after a brief chase. We know Tyrell doesn’t actually get caught, so the tension in the following scene is derived from wondering how he’ll get out of this. There seems to be no hope, even as he breaks his thumb in order to try to slip out of the handcuffs while he’s in the back seat of the cruiser.
Just as he does so, the FBI pulls up. This is it for Tyrell, except it’s not. The window of the truck rolls down and a single shot is fired. Tyrell watches as the officer’s brain matter splashes across the glass that keeps him confined in the back of the cruiser. A man walks to the back door and swings it open. Tyrell cowers in fear as the man bends down and reveals himself: Santiago, Dom’s superior at the FBI.
Santiago takes Tyrell back to the cabin and lectures Irving on how slip-ups like this can never happen. And that’s it. He leaves, and we don’t hear from him again in this episode. How long has Santiago been working with the Dark Army? Why is he working with them? What could he possibly be getting out of his involvement? These are big questions, but at least more of this large conspiracy is being exposed. Again, we continue to know more and more while Elliot remains lost.
Essentially, “Eps3.2_1egacy.so” builds to the reunion of Tyrell and Elliot. Their strange relationship is the focus of this episode, and it’s perhaps the focus of the whole season. It may not be divine intervention — Irving confirms that the gun jammed — but these two seem drawn to each other. Tyrell cleans himself up and wears his best suit to meet Elliot again for the first time since 5/9. Unfortunately, after doing that, he also has to shoot him to stop him from destroying Stage 2.
As Tyrell freaks out while Elliot is operated on in the warehouse, his unlikely partner, Angela, looks on calmly. She seems to think everything will be fine. This Angela is far removed from the one Darlene criticizes for having to frustratingly coach through the 5/9 hack. This Angela is calm, cool, and collected. And in this moment she knows what to do to placate Tyrell, to ease his pain about Elliot not recognizing him and insisting he’s a ghost. She tells him that sometimes Elliot is another person. Elliot looks at Tyrell. The screen flashes and Mr. Robot’s smiling face appears. Then the credits roll.
Nothing is ever as it seems. Tyrell’s world is shaken, his perception suddenly changed. Ideas of perception dominate the episode. There’s how Tyrell perceives his relationship with Elliot, and how Elliot views him when he’s not Mr. Robot. There’s Irving lying to Tyrell, offering up a story about his two kids and his wife in order to keep the man under his control. Even Irving’s novel, which he writes at home, alone, late at night, contains a section that’s all about violence that comes from a single misunderstanding, one moment of misperception: in this case, a wink.
But now Tyrell is aware of more. He has a new understanding of what he and Elliot have experienced. Of course, Angela and the Dark Army are still playing with Elliot’s perception of things, leading him astray and lying to him about what they know. For once we’re out ahead of Elliot. We see, to a certain extent, how these pieces are connected. Elliot has always urged us to wake up and see the world for what it is. Now we wait for him to do the same.