BY ALAN SEPINWALL
A review of tonight’s Mr. Robot coming up just as soon as I ship you some Ensure with same-day delivery…
“Runtime Error” and “Kill Process” are essentially one story split into two episodes, with the action all set on the same day and Elliot scrambling to stop Whiterose and Tyrell from blowing up the recovery building. But they nicely illustrate the stylistic breadth of the series: “Runtime Error” was presented in real time as one long take following either Elliot or Angela at all times. “Kill Process” features the entire cast isn’t restricted to either of last week’s gimmicks, and often generates its biggest suspense through the kind of fast cutting that wasn’t allowed in “Runtime Error,” particularly the climactic sequence shifting between Dom at the Rd Wheelbarrow (and then going into the dark basement, Clarice Starling-style), Angela on the subway, Elliot and Mr. Robot arguing in the recovery building, and Tyrell being crazy like only he can be.
The edits also allowed for one of the show’s most compelling depictions yet of the battle for control between Elliot and Mr. Robot, with the glitches leading to lost time for Elliot, and eventually with us seeing a version of those scenes where it looked like Robot was beating up Elliot, when in fact it’s just this one body bouncing itself against walls and throwing itself down stairs.
In the end, the whole thing reveals itself to be a massive red herring: because Elliot has been so effective at keeping the paper records out of the main recovery building, Whiterose just blows up all the other sites, racking up a far higher body count than if Elliot had just rolled over and let the original plan proceed. That we spent one-fifth of the season on Elliot, Dom, Angela, and others going all out to stop or help a plot that ultimately didn’t matter should feel frustrating, but the style of both episodes, what the fake-out says about just how far ahead of the game Whiterose is, and what we learned about Elliot’s relationships with Mr. Robot, with Darlene, and with Angela more than justified these hours’ existence. Well done. Eager to see what’s next.
Some other thoughts:
* If the opening flashback had just featured young Angela watching the Back to the Future children’s cartoon… dayenu. But her dying mother’s talk of “another world,” while specifically alluding to the afterlife, ties in neatly with the adult Angela’s ongoing insistence that Whiterose’s plan will somehow bring the dead back to life, and also with the nuclear power plant manager’s talk in the premiere about parallel realities. We are nearing put-up-or-shut-up with all the hints of a hard turn into sci-fi; I’ll be curious if the show goes through with it.
* The Trump-bashing continues with Whiterose and Price spending most of the episode at Mar-A-Lago. The more the show’s reality deviates from our own — here with the United States being hit by a series of horrifying, 71 coordinated terrorist attacks that would seem to put 9/11 to shame in scope — the harder it becomes to keep shoehorning in commentary about the political situation in our version of America.
* Tyrell’s complaints about the plan falling apart on him leads Irving to pay homage (intentionally or not) to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend when he insists that the situation is more nuanced than that.
What did everybody else think?