TV Recap: Mr. Robot: Season 3, Episode 5
Now this is what I watch this show for. After three episodes of rising frustration due to treading water, Mr. Robot has once again delivered a visually inventive, positively thrilling episode that provides a brilliant showcase of technical skill and a masterful sense of pacing, coupled with moving music and wound performances to build the tension. Through one long, uninterrupted shot (it’s not quite seamless, but damn impressive considering this is basic cable TV and not a hundred-million-dollar action movie), we follow Elliot through his last attempt to stop Stage 2, and Angela as she ensures it happens.
Elliot snaps to in the elevator on his way to work. Darlene calls and tells him to meet her outside, but Elliot continues on his way. At his desk, Elliot finally stands up (albeit unintentionally, as he says he is on autopilot) to his coworker’s constant graphic sex bragging. Elliot tunes out his coworker, unexpectedly comes clean and opens up more, to sign into his computer, but he finds he is locked out. He puts the pieces together when he sees a security guard heading his way and he darts to the stairwell. He needs to find an open computer quick to log on and officially delete the Dark Army’s inside access.
A few floors up, Elliot finds just the mark he needs and poses as an IT guy in order to get on somebody else’ computer. He learns he needs to get even higher up the building to access the physical Hardware Security Module (HSM) to delete the Dark Army’s backdoor. Elliot ditches the security guards for a while but ultimately gets caught and ducks into an elevator that takes him down to street level.
The streets are littered with protesters. Elliot calls the building storing the recovery data and warns them of the bomb; it’s unclear if that warning was headed. Darlene catches up with Elliot and immediately confesses her work with the FBI. Elliot is understandably crushed, saying, “You’ve been trying to play me this whole fucking time.” The camera swings out and around the protesters. From the back of the crowd, we follow a smaller group armed with spray paint and bottles as they move forward. They throw a bottle at the police and incite a riot. In the confusion, the masked group pushes through and rides the elevators up and promptly begin to ransack the place. They smash windows, flip tables, scatter documents, and spray walls.
Angela peers through the windows of her office watching chaos unfold while on the phone with Irving, who tells her that she needs to do one more thing before Stage 2 can begin. This madness is his doing, a diversion for her to do the real dirty work. She takes an elevator with a security guard who gets suspicious of the package she’s been given, which includes a higher-level security badge than she should have. He attempts to place her under arrest but is taken out and beaten dead by rioters who then set their sights on her. She narrowly escapes them by locking herself in the room containing the HSM. As she gets to work, we are treated to the show’s visual zenith, a jaw-dropping overhead shot that peers over the walls to juxtapose a calculated Angela with the hectic city below.
Angela’s missing a key to finish her installation and heads to another room to find it. She finds it just as a woman uses her keycard to escape the rioters. She notices Angela’s lower-level badge. She doesn’t buy Angela’s excuse, but before she can do anything about it, a man wearing a fsociety mask smashes through the door. The woman pepper sprays him and runs off as Angela goes back into the HSM room to finish her work. After she’s done, she takes the man’s mask and hoodie and uses it to blend into the madness. In the elevator, a newscast informs us that the UN vote to annex the Congo to China, another of Whiterose’s conquests, was successful. Irving informs her that she doesn’t need to worry about the woman that saw her. A few floors down, she hands off the package to a delivery man who hands her a bag and as she walks away she runs into Elliot. He asks, “Angela... is there something you wanna tell me?”
So ends this claustrophobic rollercoaster ride of an episode, one that I would rank highly among the show’s very best. To be honest, if I were recapping this show’s first two seasons, I don’t think I would have had much negative to say at all, and that’s why it’s pained me to write up the last few episodes. I wasn’t exactly losing hope, but I was more than a little put off by the lack of substance and dip in pacing. Thankfully, we are through that lull and I can finally get to praising what this show does right. It’s the unbridled creativity and unabashed, pissed off, rage-at-the-machine tone that keeps me coming back, and that’s never been better exemplified than it was in this episode.