Remember wondering who came to Elliot’s door at the end of Season 1? I know I thought it might be Tyrell, and I’m sure others did as well. We were left with a cliffhanger insofar as Elliot had lost time and didn’t know what happened. One now has to wonder whether Mr. Robot did either. Regardless, the end of S4E3 and the start of S4E4, wherein Elliot returns home to find that Tyrell is there, is reminiscent of that cliffhanger, except now we know that Tyrell really is with Elliot.
Indeed, it’s his enthusiasm which leads to the blunder that provides the impetus for this episode. Why was Tyrell onboard with the idea of 5/9? Why did he ultimately seem even more committed to the cause than Elliot did himself?
At the beginning of the series, when he first proposes working with Elliot, he seems to be doing well. Of course, he gets passed over for the CTO position at ECorp, and we could think about resentment there, but that hardly explains his motivation to ultimately help Elliot carry out the hack, and be so devoted to Phase 2.
At times it has seemed as though his devotion has been to Elliot himself for some reason, as when he tells Mr. Williams (Wallace Shawn) that he will always be loyal to Elliot. And certainly there is something there, which makes it cut in S4E4 when Elliot yells that he doesn’t care about him. But that doesn’t feel like a full explanation, either.
The truth is, I think, that Tyrell actually cares, as he says in this episode—not just about what others think of him, but about the world. He’s always felt like an outsider trying to fit in, and he’s seen in Elliot a way to break out of that. Plus, it’s always been clear that he desires power. Thus his statements about how he and Elliot can be gods. But ultimately, I don’t think he means this in the sense of something like the ancient Greeks. He means it in a more Christian way: he believes that they can be saviors of the world.
Of course, everything goes terribly wrong. Joanna is killed, his baby is taken away, and it turns out he helped the Dark Army kill a whole bunch of people with Phase 2 (something he clearly didn’t want). So now he’s grasping at Elliot’s plan to take down Whiterose. He’s still on his side, not just because Elliot is Elliot, but because Tyrell is Tyrell.
This often enigmatic and strange character, it turns out, really does want to make the world a better place. We saw that in Season 3 when Mr. Robot took an episode to fill in what he was up to while Elliot was in prison. Yes, he’s devoted to Elliot, but that’s not it—we have to think about why.
And it’s that level of devotion, and enthusiasm, that gets them in trouble in S4E4. Or, well, it already happened at the end of S4E3, when he told Elliot he’d been promoted to CEO and enthused about taking ECorp down from the inside, but we see it again here. This time, though, it’s from the perspective of the Dark Army agent sitting outside in that white van, where he has been listening and eating Pringles.
Elliot and Tyrell engage in some trickery we don’t see, as we stick with the Dark Army guy, until they arrive to the van and Tyrell bashes him in the head with a hammer. He proceeds to believe that the man is dead, as he tells Elliot, and is right on to a plan about how to dispose of the body and the van.
So far so good.
Except the guy isn’t dead. After they stop for gas (not for the van—or, well, for the van but not in the normal way), they exit Salamano’s Stop and Shop to find that the vehicle is gone. So it’s back into the station and the attendant Tyrell told he was on Big Brother except this time she realizes who he is.
There is humor in these scenes, and it’s worth noting. Mr. Robot is often a funny show in its way, and the cashier blathering on as Elliot/Mr. Robot and Tyrell want to get on with it is a prime example of that. Of course, then Mr. Robot explodes on her and one has to wonder if this led her to give them bad directions.
They proceed to wander through the woods of upstate New York in a sequence that seems like a clear allusion to the “Pine Barrens” episode of The Sopranos. Besides the fact that they are after someone they thought was dead, we have the tension between the two (three) characters. At turns, Tyrell asks Elliot is he’s ever thought of walking away from it all, and if he’s ever cared about him. The details aren’t precisely the same as in “Pine Barrens”—though in both instances they stumble upon a van—but the resonances are too clear not to think that Sam Esmail had that episode in mind as a source of inspiration. And, yet, nothing feels derivative here in the slightest.
When they finally find the van, the Dark Army operative is still not dead, even though he’s run off the road. He shoots at Elliot and misses, but when he turns to shoot the other way, he hits Tyrell in the gut. Then he kills himself. Did he think he had killed Elliot? Why hadn’t he killed himself earlier? Did he somehow know they would stumble upon him? And, most importantly for our friend’s fate, did he manage to contact the Dark Army about what had happened? There were problems getting cell service up there, after all (another resonance with “Pine Barrens”).
Some of Them are So Small
Darlene, meanwhile, has gotten Olivia’s log-in info, but discovered that it isn’t good enough to move money around. She leaves an angry message for Elliot—since he bailed on meeting her at Allsafe—and then deletes it before going to his apartment and finding the notepad where he wrote “They’re listening” for Tyrell.
Properly freaked out, she tracks his phone, sees he’s upstate, and proceeds to work on stealing a car. Of course, Tobias (Jon Glaser) catches her, and off we go on the adventures of Darlene and drunk Santa!
I haven’t had a whole lot to say about Darlene this season, but it’s not because I’m uninterested in her arc. She’s pissed at Elliot (for good reason) and has lost everything just as much as he has. I think her story parallels his, but he keeps pushing her aside rather than realizing that they’re in this together. Our friend Elliot really is a dick, when you think about it. At least it’s clear he realizes it from what he says to Tyrell.
Drunk Santa Tobias might not seem like the best confidant, but there is something about him that is overwhelmingly genuine. My first impression was that he was one of those SantaCon types, but it turns out he plays Santa at Sloan Kettering for kids with cancer. He’s not a drunk, he’s just drunk this Christmas Eve, and though he is really drunk, he manages to provide Darlene with some insight. She has to take care of herself.
Of course this leaves her screaming on the side of the road as she’s unsure whether to go back to the city or not, but he isn’t wrong. Darlene has largely been a character in Elliot’s story, even when she took the lead with fsociety while he was in prison. And she remains caught up in that. What would Darlene be doing with herself if it weren’t for Elliot?
Before Season 4 began, I wondered who I might root for at this point. It’s certainly not Elliot, if you’re me. I mean, I like him and I don’t want him to die or anything like that (and neither does Darlene, really, despite what she says in that deleted voicemail), but I’ve questioned his thoughts about what should happen next for awhile. The appeal of the 5/9 hack was clear to me. But as much as I’ve enjoyed how Mr. Robot has explored the question of how things might actually go in the wake of such an event and how bad it might be, I never got fully sold on the idea that undoing the hack was the best way forward. And now I’m not sure what exactly he wants to do when it comes to Deus Group, but even if he succeeds, I predict similar unforeseen consequences. The problem with capitalism is that it has no center. It’s constantly de-territorializing and re-territorializing unlike previous social formations. There is no King to be killed.
I decided that of everyone left, the one I was rooting for the most was Angela. Even given her problematic level of devotion to Whiterose’s project at the end of Season 3, she was the one I most wanted to see get what she wanted. And then Season 4 began with her being summarily killed.
So at this point I don’t know—and to be clear having someone to root for is not at all something I need from a show I like—but I think maybe we should be rooting for Darlene. I’m not sure what she wants, exactly, though. Perhaps rooting for Darlene at this point merely means rooting for her to survive, like Elliot does.
In a shot early on in the episode, she’s standing in front of a sign that says “the parmenides.” As far as I can tell, this is not a real place in NYC, but even if it were, I’d find the inclusion of this sign to be significant. Plato’s dialogue is dense stuff, digging into the problem of the One and the Many, and the monism of Parmenides himself is equally difficult to work through. But these thoughts about the One and the Many certainly resonate with the themes of Mr. Robot. There’s the question of how the many (three?) personalities of Elliot relate to the one person he is, or if there is such a one that unites them. And, if we end up in Many Worlds theory territory with Whiterose’s project (which is my favored prediction), there will be the question of how those many cohere into some overarching One. If you’re feeling ambitious, go give Plato’s Parmenides a read.
So…How Much of This Stuff with Dom Happened?
Dom tries to masturbate to the interrogation of Darlene (which is pretty creepy, if you think about it, no matter how much you like her), but fails. I mean she fails to get off. So she goes onto this IRC she’s apparently been on before to chat with this person she’s apparently talked to before about liking thick dick.
After an offer to fuck IRL, she tells the person in question she’s actually into women, at which point they say they are actually a woman, and Dom invites them over. A woman arrives, she offers to split the single Tecate she has on hand—which, lame—and they start to make out before Dom excuses herself to go to the bathroom. And then her date enters wearing a Dark Army mask and drowns her in the bathtub. Or does she? The very last shot makes it seem as though Dom emerges from the water alive…
But then we cut to Dom back at her computer, and it seems that she fell asleep while this guy bragging about his thick dick sent a couple of more messages. So she just fell asleep and dreamed all of that, right?
If this were any other show, I’d be more confident, but I really don’t know where Mr. Robot is going. Perhaps this all occurred in an alternate reality or something like that? I don’t know, but what I do know is that dreams don’t tend to work in such a straightforward way, and I would expect Mr. Robot to recognize that.
Tyrell is one of my favorite characters on this show, and I think he’s dead. We could be unsure. That last scene was kind of like Pulp Fiction and the briefcase, but like Pulp Fiction, I don’t think we’ll ever know what he saw. It would be possible in terms of the narrative for him to live, but as the screen fades to white at the end, I don’t think so. That seems to indicate to me that he’s dead. Throw in the fact that it would take a deus ex machina, given his situation, and it seems pretty certain. (This last shot and such also reminds me of Laura Palmer at the end of Fire Walk With Me, which I’d guess may also be intentional.)
And I’m devastated. Maybe not as much as I was with Angela, because I loved Angela, but it’s close. I may not have loved Tyrell as much, but I think he was my second favorite character on the show (behind Irving, who I presume is working on his book).
So, you should watch this slideshow and listen to the song he was singing in the woods: