BY ALLISON KEENE
Warning: Spoilers below for the lastest episode of Mr. Robot, “Mirroring.”
Mr. Robot has been the most surprising series of the year, not only because of how gorgeously cinematic it is, but because of its authentically tech-oriented details, and how unexpected it is as a USA series. The narrative has been incredibly twisted and engaging, and even those who always guessed there might be some Fight Club-esque nature to Elliot (Rami Malek, a former TV Performer of the Week) and Mr. Robot’s (Christian Slater) relationship, the revelations — particularly regarding Darlene (Carly Chaikin) — have kept viewers on our toes.
The acting has been phenomenal across the board, but in “Mirroring,” Martin Wallström took things to a new level. His thwarted tech officer Tyrell Wellick is a man plagued with dark impulses. In an incredibly difficult scene in an early episode, we watched him pay a homeless man in order to beat him mercilessly. He first affected an air of power that seemed to suggest complete control, but that facade quickly faded. His can’t get a meeting with the boss, he’s overlooked for a promotion, and a scheme created with his robot-like wife Joanna (Stephanie Corneliussen) ended in murder.
As Tyrell, Wallström has been a kind of mirror to Elliot; different from Mr. Robot, definitely, but someone who understands him and his skills, shares his dark impulses (though to an extreme), and who can wear a haunted look like simply no other. Elliot is one of kind of crazy, but Tyrell is wholly another. He’s like Mad Men’s Pete Campbell meets Patrick Bateman. We’ve seen breaches of his veneer of calm before at the office, like when he lashed out and fired three men for chatting inanely, but it’s interesting that his boss clearly saw something unhinged in him as well — enough that he fired him over police suspicions of Sharon Knowles’ death. If he had truly believed Tyrell was innocent, would he have made that move?
Of course, Tyrell is not innocent, and one of the most chilling moments was when he expounded on the experience to Elliot. (Earlier, him creeping into Elliot’s apartment was a true meeting of wild-eyed men). Tyrell slowly puts on his surgical gloves as he explains the details of the murder he committed to Elliot, casually mentioning a lack of remorse, and then: “That moment stayed with me. I thought I’d feel guilty for being a murderer, but, I don’t. I feel wonder.”
He feels that same wonder about Elliot, and his casual (but very real) threat spurred Elliot to take him to the arcade. Here, Tyrell is no longer threatening, but exhibiting that wonder and even admiration at Elliot having thought of everything. It’s a complete turn from unleashing his rage at the office, barking out his anger like a cornered canine. And that, itself, was a complete turn from the mask he wore beforehand to seem as normal as possible (and before that, his anxiety-ridden terror at being caught, like Raskolnikov breaking down after burgeoning the pawnbroker in Crime and Punishment). Ultimately in the office, he begs for mercy. He’s a chameleon, but he’s not as good at controlling it as he thinks. But Wallström is.
To that end, Wallström’s Tyrell is also capable of believable tenderness, like in the maternity ward with his wife, looking at their daughter (who she basically forked out of herself). Joanna tells a story that alludes to her giving birth and giving her child up for adoption when she was 15, and how cruel she has felt ever since. Tyrell’s eyes well up, and he expresses his love for her, asking why she felt she could never tell him (whispered Swedish never sounded so good). She snaps quietly that she no longer wants him as a husband, but after his wide-eyed protestations (looking positively vulnerable in the process), she says he can stay if he fixes it. More haunted than ever, he sets out to find Elliot.
Rami Malek is Mr. Robot (in more ways than one), but the show’s excellent supporting casting shouldn’t be overlooked, particular Wallström. Tyrell is still a narrative wild card, but the prospect of him teaming up with Elliot (whether Elliot likes it or not) will be a gold mine. To see these two actors working opposite one another regularly will surely take Mr. Robot to yet another level of greatness. But this week, it’s Wallström who deserves the spotlight.
The Season 1 final of Mr. Robot premieres Wednesday at 10 p.m. on USA. You can also see the full list of all former TV Performers of the Week here.