Mr. Robot Review: Episode 3

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SEASON 2, EPISODE 3: eps2.1 k3rnel-pan1c.ksd

Mr. Robot has become my god, and like all gods, their madness takes you prisoner. — Elliot Alderson

As fascinating as last night’s episode of Mr. Robot was, I’m willing to admit to you it was almost too obtuse for my taste.


There was a point behind all the madness, but it was wrapped around many things that could be accused of being overly pretentious or stylistic. Sam Esmail is all about symbolism and inspiration, or if he’s not, we’re all reading way too much into his art. What I saw as the show progressed was the same thing I saw last week, a bunch of people searching for anything that might make them feel alive.

It was the futility of those pursuits that led Elliot to try heavy dosages of Adderall, which eventually eclipsed 200 mg; leaving him so high he was almost unresponsive. Once he did start talking in the support group, what spewed from his gullet was even more repulsive and cliché than the chunks that his “burrowed” father attempted to push out of him with the cement vision. The dissociative personality disorder he suffers from will always make his scenes uneasy experiences, but Malek is just too good, in every scene, to avoid.

Nothing is more tired than attacking organized religion or going after a supreme being as a way to cleanse responsibility for personal and societal mistakes. It would have been annoying, except that I think Esmail wanted it to grate at our nerves. It was the cry of the self-displaced millennial, the Noam Chomsky disciple, the nihilist, and the vapid anarchist. Elliot as a character engulfs everything on screen, and Rami Malek’s presence is both arresting and striking. But, he’s not a hero. He’s a lost soul, with a hole somewhere inside him unable to be filled by anything in his life.

What I didn’t expect was the rationale for the outburst being the murder of Gideon Goddard. I never got the sense Elliot was all that affected by it, maybe because so many emotions were competing for attention within him at that moment. He was dealing with Mr. Robot, as well as the Adderall, and the usual brawl with full-blown psychosis. His guilt over Gideon’s death, where he feels completely responsible, but only because of Mr. Robot’s influence, put something real back into the Elliot vs. Edward mental battle. It was the first time since the Five Nine attack that substance was overt, rather than beneath the surface.

Those he surrounds himself with reinforce the lack of optimism. Take Ray, and boy is Craig Robinson ever doing some fine work this season, who finally gets Alderson to open up, after telling the story of his deceased wife. The bleakness of his conclusion, where he talks about the fallacy in the old adage of getting back up after one falls, is the epitome of Mr. Robot. Everything’s a struggle, just to find a reason to wake up in the morning, and rather that standing tall, the world is merely a tilt-a-whirl that never balances itself. Earth’s inhabitants stumble around, just trying to continue forward.

Darlene was again the only character that moved with actual purpose, at least on the fsociety side. Elliot is still fighting an internal war, and everyone else is in various stages of distrust and panic. But Lady Alderson spoke of attempting to break the spirit of E Corp with the park cash-burning stunt, done to ensure the citizenry loses any faith in the company. She appears to have a goal, but I’m not sure even she understands or knows what success looks like, or what she would do once it’s staring her in the face. She’s thinking about the next move, however, which is more than we can say for anyone else.

We also heard the words “Dark Army” for the first time this season. Considering the post-credits scene that ended Season 1, any mention of Whiterose keeps that thread alive. I’m waiting to see how they use that part of the story, as I’m certain Esmail has a plan for the Dark Army-fsociety marriage, as well as the love-hate relationship between the two groups, or at least the skepticism that exists on both sides.

This week in the world of Angela Moss, PR Director, more scenes of Portia Doubleday talking to herself, using repetitive phrases to build confidence that can then be applied in the professional setting. Before the dinner meeting with Phillip Price, was she planning to make herself available for sex? That was an odd, “you’re beautiful, you’re attractive,” thing she was working in the mirror, and she looked extremely disappointed when she found two other E Corp executives at the table with the CEO.

Like I said last week, Michael Cristofer is incredible at playing a manipulative, evil executive. The way Price pushed the data disk to his blonde underling, after reminding her of the past she’s emotionally attempting to escape, nearly broke her in half. It was a reminder of how little power, how little control she actually had without him.

Dominique DiPierro, when not gratifying herself or speaking to the technology in her home, is all business. The only real hint of humanity we see is when she uses her ability to roll a “bomb” joint for Romero’s mother to get into the house, get answers, and eventually find the flyer that leads her to fsociety headquarters. Speaking of which, the opening scene was tremendous stuff, as we learn the reason for the Eldorado Arcade and from where “fsociety” actually came. I’m already looking forward to the story of when the “U” and the “N” disappeared from the sign.

It’s nice to have Grace Gummer around this cast as well. It will be interesting to see where her investigation ends and at what point she intersects with Elliot or Darlene.

The process of watching Mr. Robot is still the best on TV. Every camera shot, the angles, the positioning of the characters on screen, provides disorientation that helps create the aura of the show. Last night, when Elliot argued with Mr. Robot in the street, we didn’t see much more than heads and necks, and at the E Corp dinner, Phillip was placed in a manner that was so wrong, just like the character. I may talk about the technical side every week with Mr. Robot, because it’s never going to be a negative. It’s a visual treat on every level, and at times I feel like I’m in a gallery without a ticket. It’s relentlessly off-kilter, in the best possible way.

Back to the story, it will be intriguing to find out where ANYTHING is headed, because at this point, I still feel like I’m in the introduction of the second chapter of a story. Nothing has really happened, outside of Gideon’s death, and it does leave me excited, because I know once we finally leave the terminal, it’s going to be Mach 5. Mr. Robot doesn’t generally move quickly, but we’ve been revving this engine now for three episodes, and I’m ready to get somewhere. I feel as manipulated by Esmail as Elliot by Mr. Robot, but Sam has my best interests in mind. He’s just setting us up for the ride.

Tension is on the rise, and I feel like the actions and happenings are within view. This was a wild episode, and again, it was definitely on the weirder side of the Mr. Robot spectrum, which is quite an achievement with this show. Despite the unapproachability that reared its head at times, it enticed with every passing second. Sam doesn’t know how to do boring, apparently.

One final note this week, as the REAL “f” word was censored over five times. Because of the story of “Fun Society,” it may have been a clever trick, but it was egregious. It was as if Esmail and his team were telling us just how badly they wish they were on a premium channel or a streaming service. This wasn’t the FX method of using “shit” as often as possible. This was making it clear how often Mr. Robot wanted its characters to say the “f” word. It happened enough times that it became a little irritating, and the DVD release will be a much smoother viewing experience.

I’m @GuyNamedJason on Twitter. I will not be owned.

Written by Jason Martin