Mr. Robot, what has gotten into you?
It’s not that Mr. Robot season 3 has been bad thus far. This is still a show about a paranoid, reclusive hacker taking down the world economy with his imaginary friend/ghostdad after all. But season 3 has been, let’s say, deliberately paced. Hell, one could argue that Mr. Robot, itself, has been deliberately paced since Elliot Alderson was dressed down in a villain monologue from Mr. Robot in a frenetic Times Square post-hack in the season 1 finale. Season 2 had its moments but was more a disquieting and intensely intimate view of our lead character’s deteriorating mental health. Now, however, the show has followed up last week’s wonderful 45 minutes of chaotic action in “Runtime Error” with….45 more minutes of wonderful, chaotic action.
“Kill Process” doesn’t reach the same creative heights of “Runtime Error.” Deploying the single take format is like setting off an EMP: you only get to do it once if it’s big enough. So “Kill Process” doesn’t bother with any outside-the-box visual techniques. Instead it settles for merely pulling off the thrilling and upsetting conclusion to stage 2. If nothing else, Mr. Robot guarantees that we’ll have a second calendar date to memorize. Within the show’s mythology, Elliot’s successful hack has come to be known as the 5/9 hack. Now we get the 9/29 attacks. I’ll be honest. I really thought Elliot had pulled it off. “Kill Process” is so well-acted and sharply-edited that it’s not hard to get invested in Elliot’s success in stopping stage 2. Poor Elliot Alderson goes through hell to do so.
Having said that, Elliot should not by any means be a sympathetic character. Nearly every episode we are reminded why. Sam Esmail’s camera has a habit of lingering over little tableaus of misery throughout the city: people lining up for food, ongoing riots, power outages, etc. All because Elliot Alderson couldn’t make friends and wanted to f society. “Kill Process” features one of the most striking examples yet. After Elliot has sufficiently screamed at Angela for her role in kicking off stage 2, she pulls rank and orders Elliot out of the office. Then she heads out into the streets like a sleepwalker and ends up on the subway. She’s seated across from two elderly women discussing their living situation.
One woman is going to be moving in with her daughter and she’s embarrassed by it. Though she knows it’s the smart thing to do these days what with money having no inherent value and all. It’s another subtle reminder from Esmail as to the devastation Elliot hath wrought. It then turns decidedly unsubtle when a nervous goon in an fsociety mask robs the woman. He tries to rob Angela too but she’s somehow entered a hypnotic zone where she’s just flat-out too rattled and weird to be mugged.