I’ve been mulling over the latest series of Mr Robot, in particular the complicated relationship between Elliot and Tyrell, and I have some theories.
First of all, while there’s no way Elliot could have completely made up Tyrell (there are far too many holes in that theory), I definitely believe he’s ‘glamorized’ him somewhat, and let his imagination fill in some gaps.
Tyrell has too much power
Elliot has made E-Corp the enemy in his mind (case in point, the fact he refers to it as ‘Evil Corp’), so it makes sense that Tyrell would be an embodiment of this idea. He takes on the role of the ‘classic corporate bad guy’ right from the start, when he ‘kidnaps’ Elliot and has him brought to his boardroom full of lawyers.
Even as interim CTO, it’s hard to believe that he would have that kind of influence, to the point that even the police turn a blind eye. He has a table full of lawyers for a meeting with Elliot, which seems as unnecessary to me as it does unlikely. I suspect that this whole encounter has been warped in Elliot’s head. He even questions it in his mind – ‘Please tell me you’re seeing this too?’
In contrast, when Elliot as Mr Robot meets with Tyrell, it’s very much on his own turf. Tyrell goes out to Coney Island, where Mr Robot leads the meeting and even manages to intimidate him. The balance of power has shifted, and the way the scene is shot is darker, gloomier, and missing the gloss of the earlier boardroom scene.
Tyrell represents what Elliot wants
I believe that on some level, Elliot wants what Tyrell has. Not the money or power, but the family. Elliot on numerous occasions references his own loneliness and desire for ‘normality’, and as far as I can tell, Tyrell is the first person to enter his life who has that, or at least a version of it.
His therapist has had a string of failed relationships, Angela is dating a douchebag who cheats on her, his sister has commitment issues, and he grew up in an unhappy household. Tyrell on the other hand has an outwardly perfect life, with a beautiful wife, nice home and a baby on the way.
Elliot romanticizes this life. When he meets Joanna for the first time the sky noticeably brightens behind her and the focus softens. In contrast to her threatening words, the scene has an eerie serenity about it, a visual representation of the rose-coloured glasses Elliot sees the Wellicks through.
Tyrell’s life is exaggerated
While it’s clear that Sam Esmail enjoys throwing in homages to classic movies, I think there’s more to it than that.
The American Psycho references turn Tyrell into an extreme version of the typical ‘corporate villain’, and while Tyrell has obviously done some very questionable things, I think there’s an element of exaggeration on Elliot’s part here.
The salute to Fight Club towards the end of season one (‘Where Is My Mind’ playing softly as Elliot and Tyrell stand together in the arcade) led many to believe that Tyrell was Elliot’s Tyler Durden. As I’ve mentioned already, I don’t think this is the case, but I think it could be a subtle suggestion that there are elements of Tyrell’s life that Elliot has made up or embellished.
Another thing I noticed was that we only ever see Joanna eating pickles. It’s the ultimate pregnancy cliché, and perhaps the sort of thing a person like Elliot, whose limited understanding of pregnant women probably comes from movies, would come up with. This one’s a bit of a stretch, as Elliot never actually sees Joanna eating, but I think it’s another subtle suggestion that there’s an element of fiction to Tyrell and Joanna’s life together.
Tyrell’s Facebook profile, where he lists Swedish Hard House as his favourite music and lingonberry jam as one of his likes, could either be interpreted as Tyrell messing with Elliot, knowing he was going to try to hack him, or it could be Elliot’s mind filling in the gaps with Swedish stereotypes. What if he never actually found Tyrell’s profile?
During the sitcom episode in season two, Tyrell continues to be somewhat of a caricature, caring more about his designer shoes than his own well-being. Obviously this whole episode is meant to be darkly funny, but the humour relating to the other characters stems from much deeper things (the abuse Elliot and his sister suffered as children, for example), while Tyrell’s never scrapes below a superficial level. He remains comically shallow, suggesting a lack of deeper understanding of his character on Elliot’s part.
We know that Elliot is an unreliable narrator and we also know that Tyrell is a very complex character. I think in general there’s so much about most of the characters we’re yet to learn, but I predict that the biggest surprises in store will be to do with the Wellicks, and the dynamic between Elliot and Tyrell.