Mr. Robot “eps2.1k3rnel-pan1c.ksd” Review (Season 2 Episode 3)

Much as it did in its freshman year the second season of Mr. Robot is taking the slow-burn approach, individually building up the disparate story threads before it even thinks about bringing everything together. On a lesser show, that would make for a boring stretch of episodes. However, Mr. Robot is no lesser show, and “eps2.1k3rnel-pan1c.ksd” makes keeping all of this set-up look effortless.

Starting with Elliot, for example, it would be understandable to want him to just give in to Mr. Robot. The premiere showed us his life without his other half, and the larger plot of the show is focused around what Elliot’s alter ego is best at. But we feel for Elliot and understand that he’s just desperate to be mentally well, even if he realizes it’s likely an impossibility. Either he’s sober and easy for Mr. Robot to manipulate, or he’s drugged out of his mind and veering into wildly unhealthy territory.

That’s the struggle Elliot goes through in this episode, and it gives us some of the show’s best sequences yet, an impressive feat for a single hour-and-change of television to accomplish. The first is the trippy kidnapping hallucination that Mr. Robot inflicts on Elliot after he takes his first dose of pills, and the image of a bunch of silent men in suits pouring wet cement down Elliot’s throat is horrific. Not much better is watching Elliot dig through his own vomit afterwards, showing just how far he’s willing to go to keep Mr. Robot out.

What follows is another great sequence as we see Elliot’s new, drug-fueled routine, one that does a great job of using the visuals, effects, and editing to give the audience a very palpable idea of the effect the drugs are having on him. Things start in a seemingly great place, at least in terms of being rid of Mr. Robot, but after a week of no sleep, Elliot realizes that he’s burning himself out, and that the solution is only a temporary one. Eventually, the drugs run out, and by episode’s end, Elliot is back to his old self, accidentally letting loose on his support group with a speech condemning organized religion.

More so than the premiere, this episode really focused on Elliot, and while he might not be immediately headed back to fsociety, it’s clear he’s back on that path. The question, of course, is who or what will even be left of the group by the time he gets there. Things are falling apart from within, with Romero found dead and Ollie ready to go into hiding, but there are greater threats coming at them from without. fsociety may have abandoned their Coney Island hideout, but Grace Gummer’s Agent DiPierro locating the place shows that she may have an actual shot of tracking down the hacker collective.

Meanwhile, Price continued to play his twisted mind games with Angela, taking her to a friendly dinner with some of her E Corp colleagues before revealing that they were two of the men that were involved in the decision that killed her mother. The dynamic between these two remains fascinating because it’s hard to discern what either character’s plan or endgame might be. Angela seems fairly resigned to liking her new job at E Corp, but Price clearly wants her to be as devoted as possible. Part of that involves further humanizing her fellow employees, even in the face of the horrible things they’ve done in the past. The irony, of course, is that Price is playing on emotions Angela has that he doesn’t. He doesn’t really seem to be connected to anyone, and even his interest in Angela is more as a subject for study than as a person.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments!