Mr. Robot: Season 3 – Episode 3 REVIEW

Mr Robot Season 3

With Wednesday’s new episode, Season 3 of Mr. Robot has begun to answer some of the questions raised in previous seasons, and provide clarity where it once sought to introduce confusion. Entitled “,” the episode pauses the main action of the story to fill in the blanks of past events. Specifically, where has Tyrell Wellick been, and what has he been up to?

Tyrell was noticeably missing during all of season 2, his absence felt throughout. When we last saw him, he was helping Elliot on the night of the 5/9 hack in the Season 1 finale. His memory of that night missing, Mr. Robot tried to convince Elliot that he had killed Tyrell, only for him to resurface alive and well at the end of the second season to help carry out Phase 2.

This week we’re finally shown what actually happened on 5/9 – Mr. Robot let Tyrell live, and he went into hiding under the care of the Dark Army. Now the most wanted man in the world for his role in the hack, Tyrell worked behind the scenes on the plan to take down E Corp until he was finally able to reunite with Elliot. This episode works surprisingly well as a character study for Tyrell. Martin Wallström delivers a fantastic performance full of the odd mannerisms that mark Tyrell as strange and foreign to the audience. There’s something deeply unsettling about the character’s cross between near-robotic calm and psychotic instability, coupled with delusions of grandeur (“We are gods”). Isolated from his family and cut off from the outside world, Tyrell becomes even more unhinged, increasingly distraught, anxious, and out of control.

Mr Robot season 3
Credit: USA Network/Michael Parmelee

Strangest of all is his “love” for Elliot, a man he barely knows. It’s not quite romantic love – his jealousy and anger over Joanna’s affair and their divorce indicates that he is very much still in love with her. But while his heart is with Joanna, his mind longs for Elliot. He’s enraptured by Elliot’s intelligence and singular vision. He feels that they share a bond, standing apart from and “above” society. But it’s clear that the connection he senses is not really with Elliot, but with Mr. Robot.

Tyrell sees in Mr. Robot the same emotional volatility, cold and calculating nature, and unwavering dedication to his cause that he sees in himself. He’s distraught when he’s forced to shoot the man he “loves.” He can’t comprehend why Elliot – to him a god with unshakable commitment to changing the world – would want to prevent the grand plan he set into motion. Not until Angela finally reveals that Tyrell has actually been dealing with two different people.

This episode also further fleshes out Bobby Cannavale’s scene-stealing new character Irving, a wiseguy fixer for the Dark Army with an uncanny knack for manipulating people and making problems disappear. Though we’ve just met Irving, we learn he’s been working behind the scenes, pulling the strings of events in Season 2: hiding Tyrell, working with Cisco to hack the FBI, and planting Leon in prison to protect Elliot.

Mr Robot 1
Credit: USA Network/Michael Parmelee

Irving’s day job as a used car salesman typifies his character, a slick operator who knows what buttons to push to get exactly what he wants. His collection of novelty thermoses demonstrate his ability to play whatever role is necessary to make the sale. To sell Tyrell on the lie that he’ll be able to return to a life with his wife and newborn son, he played the role of a sympathetic father and family man. And he played it well! He certainly had me fooled.

Building on the political themes explored in the season premiere, one particular scene this week brought real-world politics firmly into the world of Mr. Robot. Whiterose, in her guise of Chinese State Security Minister Zhang, summons Alex Jones-esque conservative pundit and conspiracy theorist Frank Cody, revealing him to be an agent of the Dark Army. She asks him to back a potential candidate in the upcoming 2016 US presidential race, directing him to a television showing a speech by none other than Donald Trump. “The guy’s a buffoon,” Cody says.”He’s completely divorced from reality. How would you even control him?”

“If you pull the right strings, a puppet will dance any way you desire,” Whiterose answers. In this universe, if and when Donald Trump comes to power, it will be as a pawn of the Dark Army. Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail is clearly not a fan of President Trump. By tying his show to actual events, he’s making an explicit statement about American politics.It could be argued that this scene breaks the immersion of Mr. Robot. But it seems like Esmail is willing to take that risk in order to speak his mind. Is it heavy-handed? Perhaps. But does it really require all that much suspension of disbelief? Is it so hard to imagine that a foreign power could have influenced the election in Trump’s favor?

This episode doesn’t actually advance Mr. Robot’s story forward, but instead provides some much-needed clarity on events that took place behind the scenes last season. For a show that has thrived off of creating ambiguity and confusion, establishing a clear understanding of how and why events have occurred is a refreshing change of pace. The odd idiosyncratic characters that make up Elliot’s supporting cast get a chance to shine, as do the actors who portray them.

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Mr Robot Season 3
With a deeper understanding of who these characters are and where they've been, viewers will have new insight into their motivations and goals when the show catches back up to the present in the next episode.