Mr. Robot: Season 3, Episodes 5-6 Review

MR. ROBOT – SEASON 3, EPISODE 5: eps3.4_runtime-err0r.r00

Help me figure this out. Do not leave me. Stay focused. – Elliot Alderson

What an awesome 42 minutes this was, from a technical standpoint just as much as a story standpoint. First thing’s first, because it needs to be discussed and applauded. This was NOT one long take or a single tracking shot, although that was the illusion that Sam Esmail and the crew wanted to create. To do it, they went to painstaking lengths, spent serious money, and actually filmed portions of the episode before anything else this season. I urge you to take a few minutes to read this breakdown of the methods and the strategies from IndieWire, who lay things out in detail.

The short truth is USA Network has confirmed there were 31 hidden cuts during the episode, but none were detectable because of the precision involved. It’s a masterpiece in that respect, and the only thing that makes it better is watching without any commercial breaks, because it’s impossible not to feel like you’re in these rooms with Elliot and Angela, or amidst the protest outside the E Corp building with Darlene.

This installment takes place on the day of the United Nations vote that has been one of the main subjects of the series, dating back to last season. E Corp CEO Phillip Price and Chinese Minister of State Security, Zhang (Whiterose) have worked out deals, then backstabbed each other, and continue to battle over who can be more threatening and passively aggressive during tense one-on-one conversations.

Neither man is seen during this hour, because we know from the previous episode that “Stage Two” will occur on the day of the vote. Zhang demanded as such after a meeting with Price, and decided he needed to teach America and E Corp a major lesson.

As complex as the technical aspects of eps3.4_runtime-err0r.r00 are, the story isn’t tough to follow. Elliot discovers he’s about to be fired once his computer access is cut off, and for the next several minutes, he darts in and out of conference rooms and hallways, trying to blend in and avoid detection by security. He knows he has work to do to stop the explosion, and if he’s found, he’ll be booted out of the building. After some crafty moves and one hilarious stalling sequence with “Shawn, Head of Sales” and his group, he finally is spotted and does get tossed.

He’s already seen Mr. Robot in his imagination, recognizing it as such, and the figment has told him the building is done for and he can’t stop it. He determines he has to make sure the people are safe before worrying about the HSM computers or stopping other concerns. He feels he can do it, finding his way back into the building, slipping past security, and making it to the 41st floor BEFORE the Dark Army does, thereby thwarting the terrorist plot.

Meanwhile, Angela has seen him in the elevator and heard him react to a phone call we know came from Darlene, who later tells him outside that she’s been working with the FBI. Also, Angela is working for Whiterose and the Dark Army, and thus is also in cahoots with Tyrell. But, as all this is revealed and Elliot remembers Angela and Tyrell in the same room, he stops on a dime and spins to confront his sister when he hears she’s been assisting Dom and the FBI. Here, he tells us what we’ve known from the outset. He misses Mr. Robot, or some part of him does. He fears he lost four days of himself, with his alter-ego in command, and it’s set the stage for the catastrophe to come.

As usual, Mr. Robot has made us distrust both versions of Elliot, but assuredly believe the nefarious antagonist is the one pulling all the strings. The guy talking to us for the last two and a half years is merely a pawn, perhaps the conscience of Elliot Alderson, but one that only serves as a nuisance from the cyber terrorist that wants revenge and believes in full redistribution of wealth and power in the Occupy mode, but turned up several thousand percent.

As good as the Elliot half of the episode was, Angela Moss’ journey to copy a complete backup of an HSM mainframe onto a USB drive, then deliver that and other hard drives to a Dark Army associate on that same infamous 41st floor is even better. Here is where the camera work is impressive on a level we’ve never seen before. Everything she does, and we’re right there with Portia Doubleday as she navigates the building, she’s doing after the protesters have broken into E Corp and chaos is everywhere. Vandalism, robbery, pillaging, and violence are all occurring on camera, and also off it as we hear the same sounds she does as she tries to complete her mission.

Irving tells her, as he’s giving her instructions, that the large scale, wild protest that ends up becoming a riot is all distraction and was orchestrated by the Dark Army, and him specifically, to help Elliot deliver what needs to be delivered. Angela doesn’t know where he is, also doesn’t fully understand what’s happening, but as she gets through several ridiculous situations, gets made by an unfortunate woman who then may have saved her life with pepper spray, and ascends to the 41st, she realizes Stage Two is a go. Victor tells her on another phone call, “She can make everything better. Remember the cause.” He’s referring to Whiterose, and Angela then steps off the elevator and hands off the envelope, receives a white bag from the associate, and he’s gone.

Then, we see tears welling up in her eyes as Angela has just gone through an insanely trying 20 minutes or so, and also knows she just played an instrumental role in a large scale terrorist attack. It’s a lot to take in, even for someone smart enough to use the white gloves to cover her fingerprints and her tracks. Finally, she runs into Elliot, who is also on the 41st. “Is it done? Is there something you want to tell me?”

End of episode. Wow. That was incredible television. It was riveting, it was pulse-pounding, it was smart, and it was a technological marvel. I would be highly surprised if Director of Photography, Tod Campbell, isn’t nominated for another Emmy for this one. Sometimes tricks backfire or feel like gimmicks. This one didn’t. This was awesome. It was mind blowing stuff, and the actual tale itself was just as entertaining. Although I still question the necessity of the Tyrell Wellick-centric episode last month, I do NOT question this season. It’s been spectacular.

And we ain’t done.

MR. ROBOT – SEASON 3, EPISODE 6: eps3.5_kill-process.inc

We need to let today happen. – Angela Moss

My word. This season has been stupendous entertainment. As great as Episode 5 was, this was a complete ride from start to finish. Not a second was wasted, and as confusing as much of it was, it doesn’t matter when the people in charge have the audience in the palms of their hands. And that’s the case here, or it is with me.

Folks, Season 3 of Mr. Robot is one of the most addictive, well-crafted pieces of fiction I’ve seen in a long time, and this was the crowning achievement thus far. From the Back to the Future references to the news report in the hour’s final seconds, eps3.5_kill-process.inc was PERFECT for this show. We’re already aware our minds are going to be toyed with, so we’ve let our guards completely down. Maybe that’s unnatural, but at this point, I just let this show occur and then think about it after the fact. Attempting to predict this or that ends in futility, at least now that many of the Eureka twists aren’t as obvious or manipulative.

The entire episode surrounds Elliot desperately engaged in psychological, moral, and in some ways physical warfare with Mr. Robot, while at the same time Dom is zeroing in on Tyrell Wellick’s location at the Red Wheelbarrow restaurant. Interspersed within these two key components are a humorous meeting between Zhang and Price, a needed confrontation between Darlene and Angela, and the final reveal.

Consider “Kill Process” in its totality through the episode, as Elliot and Mr. Robot literally battle over who can break the other’s will and end the struggle. Simultaneously, Dom and her partner are working to get to the heart of the Dark Army and stop Tyrell, but are being hamperered and slowed down by a secret Dark Army informant in the form of their supervisor, Ernesto Santiago. Finally, Angela is doing what she feels necessary as she’s completely under Whiterose’s spell of time travel and resurrecting her mother and others from the grave. She’s being delayed and challenged by Darlene, her occasional friend and the sister of her favorite person, who is working with the FBI.

And, for Tyrell Wellick himself, after his location is compromised, his own Kill Process emerges. He has to give himself up, after destroying his instructions, and all that he thought he was fighting for, including safe passage to the Ukraine along with his wife and child, are now gone. Irving tells him, “I’m sorry,” and I truly think he means it, because Wellick held up his end of the bargain, not to mention he knows what we know that Tyrell doesn’t about his family. He wasn’t murdered, but in a sense, he was. His spirit was destroyed. His life went from truth to lie, but he had nothing to do with either reality.

The “glitch” mechanic Esmail employed during the episode was simple, but effective. It led to the closest we’ll ever get to Ed Norton battling Brad Pitt in Fight Club, and required some intricate stunt work and camera placement to pull off. It’s almost comical to watch, but the stakes are such that while we’re enjoying it, our hearts are beating out of our chests. Somehow, Mr. Robot has found a line between hilarity, jocularity, and a mix of suspense and almost horror.

Recall the tension of Episode 5, but we still got that Blues Traveler sequence and the Bernie Sanders sticker. This time around, Zhang and Price meet after the UN vote goes as we knew it would, and where are they meeting but the freaking MAR-A-LAGO club, as Esmail takes a few more swipes at the current occupant of the White House.

The other thing amazing about the way this episode progressed is that when we got to the moment at the end, it wasn’t at all surprising but it still clicked. We find out at the same second he does that Elliot’s eye was on one facility in New York, when in fact it wasn’t the single point of failure. “I was,” he recognizes, as he watches news reports of 71 E Corp buildings across the country exploding, and a death toll well into the thousands. Mr. Robot had just given in, we thought, and stopped the attack. In fact, that was true, after the typing exchange between the two, but the question is this:

Did Mr. Robot know of the entire Stage Two plan? I would have to think the answer is yes, because he orchestrated much of it. Perhaps he didn’t know all he should have, because we assume Whiterose is the master puppeteer, but was his “fight” and “delay” and the final “save” all just to keep Elliot occupied to get the job done? Whose “Kill Process” took precedence here? Also, did Angela know what was about to happen? She’s so sure of the time travel, she might, and it might not have changed her opinion. For, if you believe you can fix the past, you can go back afterwards and save people’s lives.

Or can you?

We saw in the young Angela opening, during the flashback, her mother suggest that she had faith in the idea of a future. “You want to know what I believe? That this isn’t the end.” She talks of a time when they’ll be together again, singing and dancing, and also healthy. She asks her daughter, “What do you think? Will you believe with me?” That’s the crux of why the Angela of today is so ready to buy into Whiterose, as it would fulfill that concept. Maybe her mother was thinking of Heaven, or maybe that’s just what I’m thinking of (it usually is), because this show is very much teasing time travel.

Who the heck knows. All I can say is this was a humdinger of a 47 minutes of drama, filled with action and mythology, and it was a pure joy. These two episodes, taken back to back, with the exception of The Leftovers (nobody’s topping that), may well be the most fun, breakneck stretch of 2017 on television. This was genius-level stuff, and I adored virtually all of it.

I’m @JMartOutkick. I’m not even allowed to be in this building.

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