Mr. Robot S02E03 Review: eps2.1_k3rnel-pan1c.ksd

This week on Mr. Robot, I’m still on the exorcism beat as that’s exactly what Elliot tries to do to his own personal demon. It works about as well as you’d think. This week’s theme is “kernel panic” (known better to Windows users as the BSoD) and the show leans hard into that theme, as Elliot’s system starts to fail in ways he’s not even aware of yet.

But first, that exorcism. Elliot decides that the path to a Mr. Robot-free existence is herculean amounts of Adderall and…that’s about it. At first, he tells us, everything is great. He’s hyper-focused, he’s talking to people (a lot), and Mr. Robot is gone. But if you’re not buying this, he doesn’t blame you. He is, after all, the very model of a modern unreliable character. So when the goons show up to kidnap him and start trying to force cement down his throat, which turns out to be just an imagined ruse by Mr. Robot to get Elliot to throw up the pills, you know it’s not real. Isn’t it? (Elliot scooping the pills from his vomit and swallowing them again also may or may not be real, but it sure was uncomfortable to watch.)

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There is a lot of discomfort going on this week. The episode begins with Romero (Ron Cephas Jones) introducing the fsociety headquarters to Mobley (Azhar Khan), with a story that details a history of the space that some suspicious souls would call cursed. It seems that everyone that’s owned the space has had rotten luck, with most of them exiting the planet early. Romero has the arcade now because he met the last owner in prison and that guy wants nothing to do with it anymore. The next time we see the pair, in the present, is when Mobley drops by Romero’s place to find the latter man dead. Within a short time, the house is crawling with FBI, including Dominique DiPierro (Grace Gummer), whom we met briefly last week. Perhaps in a different world, she’d be a great member of fsociety, because she’s smart and driven and an ace problem-solver. Also, she has a really sad home life, where her best friend seems to be her Alexa.

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But we get only the one world and over in Angela’s, it’s still depressing and cold. She’s being taken under the wing of E Corp CEO Phillip Price (Michael Cristofer), who is what happens when Gordon Gekko’s “Greed is good” speech becomes a real boy. They dine with two strangers, whom Price later indicates were two of the ones whose decisions led to her mother’s death. Price gives her a disc with the goods on them, with which she can destroy them. It’s easy, he tells her, if you remove emotion from it. We don’t know her inner monologue like we know Elliot’s, so it’s hard to predict what she will do, but her continued reliance on recorded affirmations hints at chinks in her spiny exoskeleton. Her fascination with Price’s office artwork, a depiction of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, also seems important. [By the way, since some find this important: The restaurant where they meet is called Fidelio’s, which yes, is an Eyes Wide Shut reference as well as being a Beethoven opera. It’s also the name of Oracle’s hospitality software.]

Meanwhile, Elliot’s crutch, on Adderall and not sleeping has come to a screeching halt. Leon’s talking backward, for one. Then at his church group, Elliot delivers a bombastic rant against religion that ends with him telling us, “Please tell me I didn’t say all of that out loud.” That rant is the kind of faux-Fight Club philosophizing that has been an irresistible topic for critics and it’s also super rich. Elliot doesn’t need a god, but of course, he’s already in thrall to a central figure in his life. Or what was all that Adderall about? Anyway, commence kernel panic. [Yes, this is what I’m thinking of, too.]

Someone whose motives are less clear is Ray. I’m less convinced of the Elliot-is-in-prison theory this week, the more we see of Ray. Not that what we see is all that illuminating. We learn that he’s on home dialysis, during which he eats breakfast and has a conversation with his late wife. The first part is unlikely–who eats and drinks while getting dialysis?–and the second part is just this show. We also learn that he’s in the business of something ominous. We see him threaten a bruised man while the man’s wife and child look on in tears. It has something to do with keeping a website running, but that’s about all we learn.

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He meets up with Elliot again, this time using the excuse of returning Elliot’s notebook, which he’d ditched after church group. Ray sees a kindred soul in Elliot and not just in the computer stuff. They both have someone haunting them. Ray tells him that the only way out is through, to stop fighting Mr. Robot. He can’t control Mr. Robot–somebody told me control is an illusion–but he can learn to live with him. It’s a lot healthier than his current plan and a lot better than how Darlene is currently doing, as she seems to refuse to feel anything about Romero’s death. She does reach out to Trenton (Sunita Mani), who’s not interested in returning to fsociety while they’re doing stunts like last week’s balls sawing and money burning.

Someone who does return to fsociety is Dominique. After visiting Romero’s mother (and getting in the door by offering to roll her medicinal joints), she finds a flyer for fsociety’s end of the world party from last season. Maybe shouldn’t put the address for your super-secret corporation-toppling group on a house party flyer? Anyway, she heads out to Coney Island, where of course she finds a store front that reads, “F SOCIETY,” and marvels at how easy it was. Alexa, when is the end of the world?

8/10 – The disconnect of the characters is starting to wear on me, but I’m interested to see if Elliot will take Ray’s advice and how it will work out for him.

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  • Evil Gringo

    FYI – my mother has renal failure and she eats and drinks during dialysis. It is actually a common thing in the UK to do in the hospital as an outpatient and the nursing staff will come round with a cup of tea or coffee, a sandwich and maybe a little slice of cake.

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