BY VIKRAM MURTHI
No one ever knows if they’re experiencing tunnel vision. When someone desperately tries to accomplish their biggest goal, or give their life meaning, or save the world, or prevent a tragedy, they don’t know if they’re missing the forest for the trees. Only those who aren’t directly connected to that journey can provide the appropriate perspective. But what happens when everyone around you also suffers from tunnel vision? What happens when myopia dominates everyone’s worldviews? What happens when everyone can only see trees?
“eps3.5_kill-pr0cess.inc” dramatizes that terrifying idea by essentially pushing every character, and their conflicting goals, into the same orbit. Credited writer Kyle Bradstreet constructs a ticking-time-bomb scenario in which everyone races against the clock to either stop or help the Dark Army, and yet everyone on the ground has no idea about the other shoe that’s slowly dropping out of sight. No one can see the bigger picture because they’re too focused on what’s in front of them.
Elliot confronts Angela only to discover a true believer has taken the place of his once close friend. She parrots the tired logic of “consequences are necessary” and “changing everything for the better” to further her denial about the human toll of her actions, but Elliot sees the truth: Angela manipulated his personality disorder to commit an act of terrorism that she has been duped into believing will provide justice. Elliot abandons her in order to stop the explosion at the recovery facility himself. Unfortunately, Mr. Robot has a vested interest in destroying those paper records and wants to see Elliot fail.
Meanwhile, Elliot tells Darlene about Tyrell’s location at the Red Wheelbarrow. She gives that information to Dom and Norm, who kick it up the chain of command to Santiago. Unbeknownst to them, Santiago is a Dark Army agent, so he just brushes them off and alerts Whiterose that Tyrell has been compromised. Dom, pushed by Darlene and unsatisfied with simply allowing a superior to dictate her actions, decides to go to Red Wheelbarrow to investigate.
Director Sam Esmail mostly cuts back and forth between Elliot and Dom, both agents technically on opposite sides of a war trying to do the right thing, though both are operating under limited information. Elliot believes that Stage 2 simply encompasses the New York recovery building and that stopping its destruction will save lives. Dom believes that Tyrell is her link to the Dark Army, her white whale that almost got her murdered in a shootout in China. Neither suspects that they’re acting within a large distraction created by forces beyond their control.
As this chaos happens above ground, Tyrell flounders below. Irving informs him that he and his family will not be jetting to Ukraine. He simply hands him an envelope of instructions and tells him to burn it when he’s done. Like any terrorist organization, the Dark Army uses people as long as they’re necessary and then dumps them in an instant. It’s not clear what instructions Tyrell was supposed to follow, whether he was supposed to set a fire and then get himself captured, or if it simply informed him of his wife’s death and his son’s displacement. Regardless, the Dark Army played him for a fool, along with the other cronies that they deceived.
Even the people who supposedly know about the impending tragedy don’t really know what’s about to strike. Though her voice quivers when pushed, Angela believes Irving’s assurances that the New York facility has been evacuated and that “no one will die.” Santiago phones his mother and tells her not to leave the house as he fiddles with a New York–themed snow globe. How much does he know? Probably as little as Angela.
Even Mr. Robot doesn’t know what Whiterose and her revolutionaries have concocted. As Elliot amusingly fights against himself on his way to the battery room, he tries to get Mr. Robot to communicate. Initially he’s unwilling to talk at all, preferring to force blackouts and inflict physical pain on Elliot. But when he’s outside the room, Elliot finally gets through to him and reveals that the paper records aren’t in the facility. Even Elliot’s split personality has no idea of what he has wrought. The revolution is fully out of their hands.
Throughout “eps3.5_kill-pr0cess.inc,” Mr. Robot creates tension around a perceived threat that could seemingly take place at any time. The potential destruction of the New York storage facility informs every action and belief. Some think they’re doing the right thing; others know they aren’t. Dom doesn’t even know about the bomb, but believes Tyrell will provide the answers she needs. Elliot knows that he and Mr. Robot can stop the explosion and save lives.
Except Whiterose has them all chasing each other in a maze of her own creation, all for a pissing match between her and Phillip Price. Instead of blowing up the New York facility, the Dark Army just blew up 71 other E Corp storage facilities around the country, killing thousands. Dom watches as the police capture Tyrell while he screams about an attack. Elliot leaves the building believing that he’s done good, but enters a shattered world. Angela insists to Darlene that she knows what she’s doing is right, but they both look at their phones and can’t believe what’s happened. In the last moments of the episode, the sound cuts out for a second as Elliot and other strangers stare up at the fires on TV. It perfectly captures the moment when you finally clear through the trees and catch a glimpse of the forest, only to realize you’re trapped in a wildfire.
• Though the Mar-a-Lago scenes are fine, I could’ve done without the wink-wink-nudge-nudge Trump bashing between Price and Whiterose. Not because it’s not deserved, but it just feels cheap and transparent.
• Music Corner: There are two key music cues from ’80s movie soundtracks. First, there’s “Back in Time” by Huey Lewis and the News from Back to the Future, and then the Plugz’s “Reel Ten” featured on Repo Man soundtrack.