Mr. Robot: “eps2.1_k3rnel-pan1c.ksd” Season 2 Episode 3 Review

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Mr. Robot hasn’t quite decided what show it wants to be yet this season. Is it the story of Elliot’s battle with his other personality? Is it the story of fsociety’s revolution, led by Darlene? Is it the story of Angela’s corruption by the system? The third episode of the season executes these dangling plot threads impressively throughout its extended runtime, but it doesn’t do a good job connecting them. That’s fine, it’s still early in the season and there’s no denying the show is still entertaining, sometimes excruciatingly so.

Take for example Elliot’s misguided attempts to rid himself of Mr. Robot. There’s an extended sequence that has the show switching gears from Fight Club and briefly but fully embracing Requiem for a Dream. With Elliot forcing down Adderall and suddenly unable to sleep, we’re treated to his uncomfortably positive inner monologue as he slowly deteriorates into downright madness. The sudden cuts and bleeding into the horror genre were as immersive as anything in Aronofsky’s haunting drug exposé. After six days without sleep, he can’t do it anymore, going to Ray for help, who tells him fighting his other psyche is the very thing that’s keeping him around. If Elliot consciously works with Mr. Robot, things might just change. But what path will that lead him down?

Meanwhile, we’ve got a more formal introduction to Dom, the FBI agent investigating the hack at Evil Corp. This more generic, though perfectly necessary, piece of storytelling had little connection to anything going on with Elliot, even in regards to tone and the flow of the episode. But she’s still an exciting new character who may have, just by sheer luck, stumbled upon fsociety’s base of operations. This moment tied nicely to Elliot’s final voiceover and I am excited to see how Darlene responds. She seems a little too confident in her safety, while her cohorts are a little more spooked.

We also finally fully caught up with Angela in this episode, as she maneuvered her way into a very important dinner with the CEO and a few business partners. It’s only after that she finds out the other two men had something to do with the disaster that hit her hometown. Her boss hands her a CD that contains all the evidence as if he’s the snake in the Garden of Eden nudging the apple closer to Eve. Temptation may just grasp her in this case, but is that the wisest choice for the career she’s building? As a company quite literally called Evil Corp, they’re not all that subtle about being outright evil. Mr. Robot doesn’t need to be a subtle show in the case of its villainous company, it’s probably more fun this way.

But again, right now, Angela’s corporate movements hardly feel connected to the rest of what’s going on right now. This sort of divided storytelling is fine for the moment, but it would be great to see Mr. Robot build a more cohesive whole out of them all. It has to be coming. Elliot can’t just sit listening to his friends ramble about Seinfeld all season. Dom finding their base in Coney Island is a good start to this. I’m more excited to see how it carries over into the other storylines. But for a character building episode, you could do a lot worse. Grade: B+

Some Other Notes:

  • This show is so cinematic, even when it’s being sarcastic about doing so. The opening credits laid over sprawling shots of the Manhattan skyline was like a spoof of a crappy ’90s rom-com.
  • Speaking of some tongue in cheek humor, Remi Malek’s performance this week was the stuff of legend. Extremely physical to the point where he had us laughing and cowering in fear, the rising star just likely secured another Emmy nomination in 2017.
  • For the time being, I’m having a little trouble taking Craig Robinson seriously. It’s partially because the show hasn’t fully indicated what role his character is going to play in the episodes to come. But the performance itself is lukewarm at best thus far.

By Matt Dougherty

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