What an incredible, visually stunning episode of television.
Mr. Robot Season 3 Episode 5 was easily one of the best out of all TV this year, in my book. It was also by far the best of the show's third season (so far, anyway).
First, I need to address the technical aspects.
While this installment did a phenomenal job of forwarding the plot, making big reveals, and ratcheting up the tension, the visual appeal and uniqueness of "Runtime Error" can't be ignored.
The action of the entire 45-minute long, commercial-free (in the United States) installment appeared to take place in "real time."
It was also presented as a "oner" – what the industry terms a single, solitary, continuous long take. In a way, it was also a bit of a bottle episode, where the entirety of the action took place in and just outside of Evil Corp's headquarters.
Showrunner Sam Esmail confirmed in an interview with Uproxx that the installment wasn't actually a single take – a take of that length, bridging interior and exterior locations, is virtually impossible.
Instead, Esmail and his cinematographer crafted a way of incorporating subtle edits where two very long takes could be joined together, all seeming to merge into one mega-long take.
Visually, I loved everything about the way "Runtime Error" was done.
Sure, it was a bit gimmicky. Long takes always seem, on some level, like the director "showing off" his or her skillset a bit. But here, the way the story was presented was integral to the plot.
It was a high-stakes, increasingly tense 45 minutes. By closely following first Elliot's, then Angela's, fraught POV, the audience got a real sense of just how terrifying and game-changing all of this was.
My heart was in my throat just about the entire time.
In Elliot's beginning section of the narrative, he was still in a haze following Angela's drugging of him when he "awakened" while Mr. Robot was colluding with Angela and Tyrell. Of course, he didn't recall (at first) what had happened, so he pondered what the cause of his "runtime error" might be.
Unfortunately, Elliot needed to snap out of it very quickly, as things went downhill fast.
Help me figure this out. Do not leave me. Stay focused.Elliot
We already knew that Elliot's firing was coming, based on Angela's conversation with Philip Price on Mr. Robot Season 3 Episode 4.
But his impending termination put an immediate, stressful ticking countdown clock on his mission to prevent Stage 2 – the Dark Army blowing up Evil Corp's records facility.
Rami Malek was sensational as a twitchier-than-usual Elliot dashed around the building, attempting to evade security and access a computer to derail Stage 2 before getting kicked out and having his access revoked.
I particularly loved the extended sequence where Elliot ducked into a meeting and just wasted their time, all in an effort to prevent the security guards right outside the door from finding him.
His "pep talk" to the aggravated employee in the room was too funny.
The jig was up, though, and Elliot was eventually caught and kicked out before being able to stop the Dark Army. That led to two significant reveals in the thick of an Evil Corp protest right outside the building.
Darlene confessed to Elliot that she was working with the FBI, though she insisted that she'd made a deal with them: she and Elliot would go free in exchange for Tyrell Wellick.
Darlene also revealed that she'd seen Angela with Mr. Robot the last time Elliot's alter took control and that Angela clearly knew it was him and was working against Elliot.
Elliot didn't take either of those reveals too well, and though we didn't get much of the Darlene/Elliot interactions, it's clear that this will take a major toll on their already-fraught relationship.
Darlene: Angela's been betraying you.
Elliot: So have you.
The riot itself served as a plot point and a nifty, continuous visual transition from Elliot's POV to Angela's for the latter half.
As protesters and Dark Army agents stormed Evil Corp, Angela was hiding out in her office – until Irving revealed that it was all just a distraction and she had work to do.
I preferred Angela's section of this installment to Elliot's. Portia Doubleday was flawless as Angela struggled to maintain her composure and do what needed to be done amidst the chaos inside Evil Corp.
So much of her acting is done through her expressive eyes and subtle facial expressions. I would say that her performance in "Runtime Error" was a series' best, right up there with the Mr. Robot Season 2 hour in which she finally met Whiterose.
Angela narrowly managed to evade capture two separate times and do what needed to be done, but it seems pretty clear that something went awry during that incredibly tense scene where she does her bit of cyberhacking to ensure Stage 2 goes off.
Irving didn't seem too pleased with the fact that Angela, not Elliot, was the one to complete the hack. He also pushed her on the fact that the directions needed to be followed precisely to guarantee success.
Why would he have said that if something isn't about to go terribly wrong?
I was also mystified as Angela was about why Irving thought Elliot (and not Mr. Robot) would help them with this piece of the Stage 2 plan. I suppose that will be explained in due time.
But it was cool and exciting to see Angela doing what the Dark Army needed and donning an fsociety mask and hoodie to escape unharmed.
In the end, Elliot somehow made it back inside (unbeknownst to the audience, who were with Angela during the time he must've pulled that off). He and Angela finally came face to face, with both fully aware that she's betrayed him.
Is there something you want to tell me?Elliot [to Angela]
The look on Angela's face was pure distress and panic. Why, now, has she lost her composure and assuredness about following along with Whiterose's orders?
Is it because the Evil Corp recovery building is finally close to being blown? Or is it maybe because she didn't fully believe Irving when he quickly assured her that building was evacuated ahead of the blast?
Because I sure as heck didn't.
- There were so many incredible shots throughout this installment, but I particularly enjoyed the overhead shots of Angela locking herself in the safe room.
- Elliot accidentally monologue-ing aloud to his annoying co-worker was hilarious – a much-needed moment of levity in an otherwise very heavy installment. It was equally funny that Elliot's rudeness actually got through to the guy and forced him to admit that all of his weekend "conquest" stories were simply bullshit.
- The music choices and score were impeccable as always. A noteworthy selection was the tune when the "protestors" (or Dark Army operatives) first broke into the building and began tearing shit up.
- China successfully annexed the Congo after the UN vote took place, meaning Whiterose's larger plan (whatever that may be) is going off without any apparent hitch.
- Angela telling Irving about the woman who saw her while she was hacking pretty much makes her complicit in murder. There's no way the Dark Army will let the loose end go unchecked.
What did you think of "Runtime Error"? Share your thoughts by commenting below, and remember that you can watch Mr. Robot online here at TV Fanatic anytime!
Caralynn Lippo is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.