Season 2, Episode 3- "eps2.1_k3rnel-pan1c.ksd"
Rami Malek, Christian Slater, Craig Robinson
Regular airtime: Wednesdays, 10pm
US: 20 Jul 2016
The first episode of Mr. Robot season two—or, more accurately, the two-part premiere, had plenty of set-up and world building. Episode three, “eps2.1_k3rnel-pan1c.ksd”, just has plenty of everything. In the nearly hour-long episode, we get, among other things, a truly bonkers Adderall overdose, a joint smoking grandma, dwarf sanctuaries, late-night message board masturbation, and the history behind the FSociety moniker.
But before we get into all that, I would like to have a moment for a character I didn’t know I was going to miss until the moment he was found dead on his back patio. The whole FSociety group, outside of Elliot (Rami Malek) and Darlene (Carly Chaikin), have always felt very ancillary, there when Sam Esmail needs them for narrative purposes. but not really worth exploring beyond that. Whether this will truly change remains to be seen, but opening “eps2.1_k3rnel-pan1c.ksd” with two of these lesser known characters, Romero (Ron Chephas Jones) and Mobley (Azhar Khan), seem to be moving the action in that direction.
In another excellent opener, which takes place seemingly months before season one, Romero gives us a detailed and enthralling history of the building in which the now infamous hack took place. Legend has it the arcade, once a dwarf sanctuary and freak show, is haunted, and Romero’s intricate tale of the grisly events that have taken place to its former tenants make this conclusion seem more than valid. Little did we know that this speech, and the proceeding scene that sets up the origin story for FSociety as a whole (the arcade use to be called Fun Society), would ultimately be Romero’s swan song, as Mobley finds Romero murdered in his mother’s home.
This is more than Esmail just axing a character who had no place in the future of the show, but a way to stir up trouble for the remaining, much more sane, members of FSociety, while also bringing into focus one of the show’s brand new characters. Dom DiPierro (played by television-vet Grace Gummer) was given only surface-lever introduction last week as the detective who is most likely going to catch up, one way or another, with the FSociety hackers.
This week, we see her struggling with insomnia, chugging down several cups of coffee during her morning routine, and having to deal with the incompetent law enforcement officials helping her with the case. We also get the idea that she has her own set of demons that promise, like everyone’s in this show, to rear their ugly head somewhere along the line. They don’t, however, stop her from eventually finding the arcade/former FSociety headquarters by episode’s end, meaning she may be closer to the truth than expected.
Dom’s an excellent example of Mr. Robot successfully building outward while maintaining the spine that keeps the show upright, but we all know that this means very little without Elliot, who continues his tailspin toward complete madness that we saw in the first two parts of season two. His new plan is to drug his dead father out of his system even, apparently, if that means he drugs himself right out along with him. Instead of morphine, Elliot turns to Adderall, popping a handful of them in hopes of creating an “Internal Fatal Error”. Rather than accomplish this terminal task, he actually finds a way to rid himself of Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) without, you know, ridding himself. The catch: he must be awake and on a copious amount of Adderall at all times.
Esmail doubles down on the trippy drug sequence as Elliot moves frantically about his usual routine; an unusual amount of pep and zeal for a man with little in the way of liveliness. Sure, he seems to be more frayed at the edges with each passing moment, but at least he isn’t haunted by a dangerous alter ego. Alas, you can’t keep a good dissociative personality down. Mr. Robot will come to the surface one way or another, and for the first time we get to seem Christian Slater burst through Elliot’s interior mind, and bubble to the surface wearing a pretty convincing Rami Malek mask.
Just as the Adderall runs out, Elliot heads to one of his church group meetings. Rather than sit idly by, however, he erupts into a distinctly Mr. Robot diatribe about the folly and hypocrisy of organized religion. This isn’t one of Elliot’s morose ruminations on the world that we see him make from his therapist’s couch, but an impassioned, frenzied speech that’s more angry than dejected. Last week, Elliot asked us what happens when the mask becomes part of you. This week we get a hint: the line between Elliot and Mr. Robot begins to blur to a point of complete fluidity. The days of Elliot trying to block Mr. Robot from the picture completely seem to be coming to an end, but how much Elliot allows him to take over remains to be seen.