Mr. Robot Recap: An Unnecessary Detour

Mr. Robot

Season 3 Episode 3
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: Michael Parmelee/USA Network

For the life of me, I don’t know why this episode exists.

“eps3.2_legacy.so” isn’t a bad episode, per se. It’s competent, it features a couple of nice music cues (Mr. Robot is one of the few shows on television that can prominently highlight Gordon Lightfoot and Cypress Hill in the same hour), and contains one good scene, courtesy of legendary actor Wallace Shawn. Beyond that, there’s nothing much to say about it because it’s almost entirely pointless.

I suppose some people are just champing at the bit to know the full story of Tyrell Wellick’s disappearance. He vanished at the end of the first season only to reappear at the end of the second, and up until now, Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail didn’t provide a bunch of details about his whereabouts or his actions. I erroneously assumed this was because those details were irrelevant. Wellick was obviously in hiding because the FBI was hunting him for his involvement in the 5/9 hack. Any more information would further bloat an already very bloated story .

So what does Esmail do? He crafts an entire episode that covers Wellick’s time apart from Elliot. We learn that Mr. Robot didn’t shoot Wellick at the arcade on the night of the hack, and that he joined forces with him in order to carry out their attack against E Corp. Irving from the Dark Army then took Wellick into hiding at some large compound where he helped devise Stage 2 while Elliot was in prison. Wellick spends his days uncovering details about his wife through gossip blogs, watching his young child through a camera, chopping wood, and generally stewing in silence while he awaits the return of his glorious partner.

Beyond the fact that “eps3.2_legacy.so” expounds upon a story that doesn’t require any explication, it also directly hinges on the audience caring about Wellick and his psychological agony. Again, I suppose some viewers do care about Wellick, but to me, he was always the major weak link in the series. Back in the first season, Wellick never quite transcended his Patrick Bateman–esque characterization (and, sadly, neither did Martin Wallström’s performance), and his corporate story line always seemed like an afterthought. Though Esmail did tie him and Elliot together in the season’s penultimate episode, he then appropriately chose to elide Wellick in favor of Elliot. Wellick’s absence was never quite felt afterward.

Yet Esmail doesn’t really communicate anything new about Wellick in this episode, or at least anything that a mildly attentive viewer didn’t already ascertain on their own. Wellick truly believes that he and Elliot are destined for greatness, and that his main motivation lies in his loyalty to him. Wellick’s professional failure, personal emasculation by his wife, and possible hatred of his father contribute to his current psychological state. At one point, he tries to escape the compound to return to the city, either to reconnect with his wife or Elliot, only to be caught by a local cop, who is later killed by Agent Santiago of the FBI. (Santiago is a Dark Army agent! That’s why he’s such a dick!) In other words, Wellick is unstable, and he believes that the destruction of E Corp will provide his sacrifices and pain with meaning. He’s like an fsociety bandwagon follower desperate for a purpose, except he was just in the right place at the right time.

Since the episode is a long flashback, we also receive other unnecessary moments featuring some beloved past characters. In one scene, Darlene gives Cisco the femtocell for modification, and Cisco waxes poetic about the two of them leaving this hacker life to vacation in Budapest. In another more inexplicable scene, Leon, Elliot’s jail buddy who was revealed to be yet another Dark Army agent, returns to inform Irving that Elliot will soon be released, but at least that scene is kind of funny. Meanwhile, Whiterose conspires with Frank Cody to both rehabilitate Wellick’s image on his TV show and elevate Donald Trump to the nation’s highest office. Cody balks at this, but Whiterose, in a nice Bond villain impression, says that a puppet will dance however you like if you pull their strings right, or whatever. It all amounts to an unnecessary detour.

By the end of the episode, we’re nearly back to the present day. Wellick frets over shooting Elliot and wonders why he kept repeating he wasn’t real. Angela tells Wellick about Elliot’s split personality, bringing him fully up to date on his rebel crush. He stares at Elliot in his hospital bed with apprehension. Mr. Robot smiles in return. It’s almost as if that final scene was the only thing we needed to see.

Orphan Code

• There are some particularly obvious film homages this week. The opening scene when Mr. Robot’s gun jams and Wellick describes it as a miracle is ripped from Pulp Fiction, with Wellick playing Jules and Mr. Robot playing Vincent. Later, Wallace Shawn’s interrogation scene recalls the processing scene from The Master.

• We learn a little bit more about Irving, specifically how he lies about having a family in order to seem trustworthy. He also watches Big Brother and writes a novel called Beach Towel in his spare time.

• Music corner: Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind” over the montages of Wellick at the compound; Cypress Hill’s “I Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That” plays when Wellick tries to escape; and you can faintly hear Air Supply’s “All Out of Love” when the cop spots Wellick.

• Leon is an avid fan of murdering neo-Nazis and also believes Elliot needs to get laid because he’s “wound tighter than a chinchilla’s asshole.”

Mr. Robot Recap: An Unnecessary Detour