I swear, since this season of Mr. Robot came back, my laptop has been acting the fool. They’re onto me!
First off, a shout out and thank you to the spectacularly talented Mr. Ross Kurt Le, who pocketed the whole damn show last week in his portrayal of a burgeoning Whiterose.
Last week! We got gorgeous character studies of Whiterose and Elliot, examining the personal connections they each make and lose and make and lose in the pursuit of their ultimate goals. Whiterose had Chen, who was like Grant before he developed his hard edges, and Elliot had Olivia, who was Shayla if she’d lived long enough to lose hers. We checked in with Vera to discover that like Whiterose once did, Vera wants to use Elliot to build a world but unlike Whiterose, he wants Elliot to do it willingly. Whiterose is God, Vera is the Devil; look which one wants consent. And to round it all off, Tyrell reappeared — literally — in Elliot’s apartment, blurting at some volume about their plan to defeat Whiterose.
We pick up where we left off with the Dark Army spy in the van outside, cursing as Elliot does something to interfere with the bugs in his apartment. DA Spy leaves the van to just look at what’s going on, and he’s greeted at the door by a hammer-wielding Tyrell. We know, for a fact, Tyrell is a murderer but it’s no less disturbing how he kills the man with one blow, and coolly orders a stunned Elliot to wipe the audio recordings — then they’ll ditch the body and the van. They pack and drive into the night. Sometime later Darlene is outside some offices, still pissed Elliot bullied her into staying behind on the Olivia job, reporting she’s now hacked Olivia’s accounts, and they still don’t have the fucking access they need. She will need to physically be inside the bank to do it and now, Christmas Eve is a perfect time because security is low, so if Elliot could go ahead and pick up his phone, that’d be greeeeaaat. Darlene launches into an epic, heartbreaking rant about how selfish of an asshole Elliot is, openly wishing to find him hanging when she arrives at his apartment.
Thankfully, the messaging service gives her a chance to delete and re-record her message and she does because, Jesus fucking Christ, D.
Over at Dom’s place, she’s having a girls night in with her hand and a video of Darlene’s interrogation but that’s not doing it for her. She logs on to a sex chat and to some ‘thick dick’ dude’s attempts at getting something going, she just falls asleep. I mean. That was sad, but also deeply funny. To like, me, anyway.
Darlene has reached Elliot’s place, finds it empty and cold and with the note he scrawled to Tyrell ‘They’re listening’ left on the desk. She checks her phone and finds Elliot, SmartBoi (or someone using his phone) has texted her coordinates to where he’s going.
The coordinates are a gas station in the middle of snowy nowhere and I realise the country can get snow while the city may be too warm, but this is like fucking Fargo and also, is still this show, so maybe this is only half real? I mean, it’s Christmas Eve, Dom did just fall asleep on camera, and it’s a trope that you’re allowed to assume everything is someone’s dream if they fall asleep … I don’t want this show to end, but I’m gonna be so relieved to find out what’s going on.
Tyrell fills gas canisters and to Elliot’s suggestion they buy shovels, he coldly orders ‘No’. All he wants is the gas and a lighter.
Inside, Tyrell, Elliot, and Robot all bunch around the counter and we learn the internet is down, so no touchless or E-Coin payments are available. How astonishingly convenient for our boys. No record of even this small purchase. When he can’t pay, a mute Elliot steps aside so Tyrell can pay and do all the small talk with the lady behind the counter. It’s exactly the same as when he’s been tagging out to let Robot talk to Darlene — even filmed the same way. And when the woman begins asking if she recognises one of the boys, Tyrell answers, but the woman’s eyeline is all for Elliot. So, in case you’re wondering, yes Esmail is playing keep-away with whether this Tyrell is physically present. When Elliot tries to move things along, he’s ignored like he’s not there, and Tyrell finally just agrees she knows him from Big Brother (… Sam, pls). The boys head outside and as the music gets spooky Christmas-y, they find the van has vanished, and neither Tyrell nor Elliot moved it. Their guy has escaped.
Back in the city, Darlene has hacked a car to try and use its GPS or something, but the drunk street-Santa owner has returned and … are we doing Home Alone now? The guy is soused enough that Darlene easily talks him out of calling the cops, and then offers to call him a cab to get home since he is … steaming. I mean hammered. It turns out he needs to get upstate, so Darlene offers to drive him home if she can borrow his car afterwards. He agrees, calls her ‘Dolly’, and they head off.
Back at the gas station, the lack of internet means the boys can’t track the van with their phones, and the nearest town with a connection is too far to walk unless they talk a shortcut. The lady suggests her husband can drive them when he comes to pick her up from work, but Elliot just wants the shortcut. There’s a pretty funny blink-and-you-miss-it-moment when Walstrom shoots an exasperated glance at Slater before remembering he’s not meant to be able to see him. Hee!
Once again, Tyrell and Robot float around in the background and only one of them interacts with the woman at a time until all of a sudden, she bellows ‘Tyrell Wellick!’ because she’s recognised him at last. The boys’ collective flinch is fucking hilarious. Tyrell denies himself (3 times?) and finally Robot snaps and curses at her, demanding to know how to get to town. I’m trying not to love the way Elliot hovers behind Robot, dead-eyeing the woman. She directs them through a small shortcut that should take them to ‘Pike’s Hollow’. The boys storm out.
Dom wakes from her power nap and apologises to ‘HappyHardonHenry’ that she’s exhausted. He offers an IRL booty call. This wakes her up and she clarifies she’s into girls, which is great for ‘Henry’ because … she’s actually a girl, she just pretends to be a guy online for fun. Dom invites her over.
… some part of this episode is a dream now, either way. I don’t make the TV rules.
In the spooky, snow-coated woods, the boys are walking and city boy Elliot just assumes they’re lost, while Tyrell is confident they’re on the right track. Tyrell notices the quiet, then asks if Elliot has ever considered just walking away, disappearing, going somewhere nobody knows and reinventing himself. Tyrell thinks about that. He sounds a little like Whiterose. Robot/Elliot begin to kvetch and worry they’re lost, then blame Tyrell that they’re lost and that the Dark Army guy clearly wasn’t dead and drove off. They hear an animal and stop and start to freak out. Now it’s Tyrell worrying while Elliot wants to keep going and find the creek. Tyrell worries that the cashier knew his face, so she’ll remember seeing him out at the gas station. Robot talks to us and wonders how long you can search for something you just can’t find. At what point do you give up?
Driving Mr. Santa, Darlene notices the lack of signal and no messages from Elliot. She tries to make conversation with Santa/Tobias, who is in the morose stage of his drunk. He worries for a friend, Jimmy, who has fallen on hard times, and has been wondering what the world would look like without him.
In the woods, Tyrell is singing (beautifully, I might add) and Elliot shushes him. Tyrell points out how Elliot never ever changes clothes (or at least, owns several versions of the same black jeans, hoodie, and shoes). He’s realised Elliot doesn’t care, unlike Tyrell in his $6000 suit. Tyrell realises that’s why he’s failed. He’s been an outsider his whole life, worried what other people thought, seeking their approval and acceptance. He recalls the ‘first day they met’ (… is it, T?) how E-Corp were about to become Allsafe’s most important clients, and Elliot just didn’t give a shit.
The ‘animal’ makes a noise again (anyone starting to think it’s the van? If not the actual Dark Army guy, it’s the van’s spinning wheels because it’s in a ditch and he’s dead with his foot on the gas) and Tyrell gravely intones they’re going to die, that the Dark Army man will have reported back on them by now. They hear a car horn and realise they’re close to traffic or a town, and then they see headlights and a passing car. They sprint after it, reach the road and turn around to find … the gas station. For their hours of walking, they’ve just made a big loop and come back on themselves.
In the car, Darlene learns Tobias was playing Santa for kids with cancer because he’s probably just a genuinely nice person who is having a really bad time. He’s drunk because it’s a tradition with the other volunteers. He admits it’s the last year he can do it. He can’t handle the sadness, especially when some of the kids are so small, as if they were just born to die. Darlene asks how he gets through it and Tobias reveals his wife used to go too, but ‘since the accident …’ he trails off, pulls from his pocket a bottle of Percocet and a little bottle of booze. Oh, Tobias.
At Dom’s place, ‘Henry’ is there and they flirt and talk over it being messy and the fact she only has one beer they have to share. They start to make out and Dom goes to freshen up, finding the bathroom decorated as if for a romantic bath with rose petals, candles, the water freshly drawn. ‘Henry’ suddenly has a Dark Army opera mask and shoves her in the bath, holding her under until Dom is still. She wakes, still in her bed from before, the real ‘Henry’ having logged off hours ago. Dom has missed Christmas Eve. This is all very Dickensian.
Darlene has reached Tobias’ house and they see an identical car already parked in his driveway and realise he was driven to town by a friend — they accidentally stole someone else’s car. Excellent. Darlene says goodbye, and Tobias he says ‘Goodbye is final’. Darlene hops out after him and wants to help him and Tobias is suddenly confused. She repeats back all the sad things he said and guys, ‘Jimmy’ was Jimmy Stewart, he was referencing It’s a Wonderful Life, the line about Goodbye is Steinbeck, and his wife isn’t dead or in some tragic way impaired, she threw out her back putting up their decorations, so he didn’t have as much fun with the kids. The Percocet is literally just the prescription that she needs. Darlene tells him he scared her and Tobias, who is my new favourite human, sweetly asks if she’s okay and needs to talk. She says no, but then gives in. In another amazing monologue she admits she’s lost absolutely everyone except her brother and now he might be in trouble, and she cares and it pisses her off she cares, but she does. She’s afraid this time he might be dead. Tobias just says, ‘Okay’.
Back on the road, the boys are still walking and Elliot realises it’s after midnight and therefore, Christmas. Robot encourages them to keep going, but Tyrell has cycled back to morose and scared again, and is convinced they’re doomed either way. He stops, claiming to have a rock in his shoe, sits down to fuss with it, clearly having just given up. Elliot waits and Tyrell speaks. He’s realised it’s not just ‘everything’ Elliot doesn’t care about. It’s Tyrell, too. He asks if Elliot ever cared, and Elliot’s like ‘Uuuh’ and then admits, no, he didn’t. Tyrell hears the animal again and calls it the sound of death. Tyrell wants to be left behind so Elliot tags Robot in.
Robot paternally encourages him and then Elliot comes back and starts yelling that Tyrell got in the way, and stopped Elliot from fixing things. Elliot screams at him to stay and die since he’s done. Tyrell screams after him that they’re dead, all signs point that way, but Elliot won’t see that it’s over. Robot speaks to us again about finding lost things. He talks about how Elliot is disappearing inside himself and sometimes lost things don’t want to be found.
Elliot comes back to Tyrell and tells him he’s wrong. Elliot says he doesn’t like being an outsider, either. Tyrell asks why he came back and Elliot admits it felt wrong to leave him. Besides that, Tyrell is the only person who actually likes him. Elliot admits he’s known they were dead since the van disappeared, but he has to keep going for Darlene. He admits he’s been a horrible brother and treated her like shit, but the least he can do is warn her to run away, give her a chance to escape. Aaw, Elliot. Tyrell asks how long they have and they know it’s not very, but Tyrell is geared up to get moving again.
Sitting in her stolen car outside Tobias’ house, he returns to knock on the window and remind Darlene that she has to worry about herself as much as her brother. He hopes her brother is okay and says ‘Merry Christmas’, and then warmly returns to his wife. Darlene drives off.
On the spooky, frosty road, the boys come upon a deer struck by a car who must have lain dying for some time. Just ahead up the road, they see the van. It’s crashed into a snowbank.
The boys approach the van cautiously as in her car, Darlene freaks out, unsure of what to do. Elliot and Robot approach the driver’s door. Inside, the Dark Army guy is alive and has a gun, fires on all of them before shoving the gun under his chin and ending it. Elliot and Robot head back to Tyrell and oh shit oh shit he’s been fucking shot right in the gut. Elliot wants to get him to a hospital, but Tyrell has accepted his fate. He tells them to burn the van and the evidence, makes Elliot promise to take care of Whiterose, and starts to walk off into the night. Elliot tries to call him back as Tyrell calmly says he’ll just go for a walk. He disappears into the icy mist. No. Nope.
Darlene sits in the car and looks conflicted over going home or staying out to find her brother. Dom washes her face after her nightmare. In the woods, Tyrell keeps walking, weakening with every step. The strange animal sound is louder now and then Tyrell kneels over … something that glows. He stares in awe and almost joy at whatever it is as we fade into white.
I’d love to come here and say that having a random cashier recognise Tyrell and call him by name should have been enough to confirm, at last, that he is a real flesh and blood human who is separate and distinct from Elliot. But, I can’t. I can’t say that. I’m not even sure any of that episode happened at all.
The whole thing, more so than other episodes, felt like a strange and slightly off-kilter dream that Elliot or Darlene was having. And it felt that way before, during and after Dom’s actual dream. The fact that Dom had a dream fake-out in the middle of the episode with Esmail doing the exact trope I mentioned was … intentional.
That whole thing was one big, lengthy headfuck and I think Sam Esmail might be a supervillain. I mean, yes, sure, okay. That woman addressed Tyrell to his face but she also never once acted like she was speaking to two people. And yes, Tyrell left footprints in the snow but so did Robot, because it’s hard not to leave footprints in snow when you shoot scenes outdoors in snow so don’t think too hard about that. In the grand tradition of Tyrell and Elliot scenes, Tyrell just appeared from the ether, and then quite literally disappeared back into it. The fact he visited Elliot over Christmas Eve, taught him a lesson, and then vanished again. They referenced Big Brother, and then Darlene hung out with a guy who talked about a film that dabbles in the idea of alternate realities (in a soft, Christmas, family-friendly way, of course).
And at the end, Tyrell’s Pulp Fiction-like reaction shot to whatever was glowing in the woods … In recent years, a theory has emerged that all of Tarantino’s films exist in an alternate, Berenstain-style universe changed by the assassination of Hitler at the end of Inglorious Basterds (a theory which Tarantino may have run with in Once Upon a Time In Hollywood). The idea of a strange, glowing device in the woods is reminiscent of Stephen King’s Tommyknockers, which is a story about a small town full of people who are mysteriously changed and altered by something buried in the woods near their home …
It’s all just — it’s all intentional. I don’t know if it means that was really the real Tyrell or not; I just know it’s all on purpose, so it means something. Whatever did happen, he’s not dead. Just like before, until I see a body, I won’t believe that.
Next week, there’s some kind of dramatic first-of-its-kind episode as the Christmas Day hack finally goes into effect.
(Editor’s note: The Swedish Christmas song Tyrell sings is Jul, jul, strålande jul.)