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

"Panic. Here it comes again. Remember? That sudden sensation of fear. Overwhelming fear. Burrowing its way underneath my brain. Making itself at home. Nesting. Screaming in my mind."

The theme of the episode is certainly panic, and the way these characters handle themselves in various states of panic.

After the opening prologue/flashback, we return to where we last saw Elliot: On the phone with Tyrell Wellick, his missing co-conspirator in the Five-Nine attacks. We don't find out much beyond the fact that Tyrell is alive, he's not where he "needs to be" yet, and he is still a very creepy man. Unfortunately, Mr. Robot cuts the call short just as Elliot tries to get Tyrell to reveal what happened the night of the hack.

Following this, everyone is affected by the deaths of two significant characters, Gideon and Romero. Romero, like Gideon, was mysteriously murdered by gunshot. And no one knows who killed them or why. This throws several of the still-living characters into a sort of shared kernel panic.

Mobley is particularly frightened. The opening scene reveals that he convinced Romero to join fsociety in the first place, and then he finds him dead at his mom's place. Besides feeling guilty, he's totally paranoid now and tries to convince Trenton that Elliot and Darlene are working with the Dark Army to have them killed. While it seems pretty obvious that Darlene isn't the one behind this, I wouldn't exactly rule out Elliot or the Dark Army. For all we know, Romero's killer could be Brock, the same psycho who shot Gideon.

At Evil Corp, Price asks Angela out for dinner. She enters the restaurant confidently, backed up by her good looks and positive reinforcement exercises. However, Price misled her into thinking it was going to be dinner for two when he actually brought along a couple of other Evil Corp suits. After a nice dinner, he shoos them away and reveals to Angela that they were directly involved in the toxic waste scandal that killed her mother and more. He provides evidence on their ongoing insider trading, giving Angela the means to ruin their lives. She knows it is a test, but Price is pretty certain she's going to condemn the two scumbags regardless of how wrong it feels to her.

Price confuses me. With the unfathomable amount of trouble he's dealing with at the moment, it seems odd that he would take time out of his busy schedule to play mind games with Angela. I can't tell if he's just toying with her, or if he's trying to make her into some sort of apprentice. It seems like it would only hurt Evil Corp's reputation even more if it got out that two long-time employees were charged with such crimes. Maybe this is part of some greater scheme he has in mind for Angela. Or maybe this is just how a man like him gets his kicks.

As for Elliot, feeling guilty over Gideon's death, he opts to rid himself of his split personality by binging on adderall. While this has the desired effect of keeping Mr. Robot dormant and making Elliot a whole lot happier, it quickly backfires as he can't get any sleep, causing him to have more bizarre hallucinations. His stress and exhaustion interferes with his sense of control, leading him to cynically (and absent-mindedly) denounce god and religion during one of the church group meetings he attends.

This draws the attention of Ray once more, who gets a hold of Elliot's journal, finds out that he talks to someone who isn't there, and tells Elliot that they aren't so different. To cope with the loss of his wife, Ray sometimes talks to her even though he's alone. Elliot is somewhat relieved to meet someone who might be able to truly empathize with his situation, although, Mr. Robot is paranoid that Elliot will tell Ray too much.

It seems Elliot and Ray might have more in common than either man imagines, though, since Ray also seems to be at the head of some extremely shady criminal dealings; even though he sees himself as a "positive reinforcement kind of guy", he's not above hurting others to get what he wants, but also recognizes when violence will serve no purpose. Whatever he's up to, it involves the web site he's been trying to convince Elliot to work on for him. It'll be interesting to see how these two morally ambiguous figures relate to one another further.

I'm liking the development of our other new character, Agent Dom Dipierro. Though very professional and skilled at pursuing cyber-criminals, she comes across as someone quite human and vulnerable, capable of being warmly charming or brutally honest. She's in her own state of panic after discovering her name on a leaked list of FBI Agents found at the scene of Romero's murder. This prompts Dom to visit Romero's mom, plying the old woman with her joint-rolling skills, but also allowing her to happen upon one of Darlene's End of the World Party flyers. This discovery leads her to Coney Island, where she finds the fsociety arcade. I'm thinking this will be a big break in the FBI's investigation into the hacks.

Ones and Zeroes:

* Romero's long-winded story about the fsociety arcade in the intro was very good. It made me upset that he's dead now; guess that means we won't hear the story of how the "U" came off the "Fun Society" logo. That whole opening scene felt like something written by Quentin Tarantino.

* After over six days without sleep, Elliot ends up writing the code for a kernel panic into his journal. Freaky.

* Elliot's religion rant was very similar to his society rant in the first episode, or Mr. Robot's reality rant in the season one finale. Only this time, he does it out loud. He makes several accurate assessments of an aspect of the world, but his way of thinking is so utterly, pitch black cynical as to make one lose all hope in humanity.

* I honestly can't tell if Angela is trying to impress Price to improve her station, or if she's just doing all of this as part of a long game to bring Price and Evil Corp down from the inside. Hell, it might be both.

* "Highway Man" by Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson.


Tyrell: Don't tell me you're having second thoughts. You wouldn't want me to worry about you.
Elliot: I need to know what's going on.
Tyrell: It's not safe. I wish it were... oh how I wish, how I wish. I think about you a lot, Elliot. I think about that night, when we became gods.

Mr. Robot: I have burrowed into your brain. I am nested there. I am the scream in your mind. You will cooperate, my son. I will make you, because I own you!
Elliot: (frantically swallows the pills he just vomited up) ... I will not be owned.

Elliot: (high) Damn, these dishes look immaculate.

Angela: Whatever you're doing, I don't trust it.
Price: You're panicking right now. I understand. It's a big decision you're making, because these men... their lives will be destroyed. But the minute you remove emotion from this... you'll do just fine.

Ray: You know that bullshit people say about how when you fall you gotta get up? I reject that shit, man. You know why? The whole thing is a fall. It can't help but be. A perpetual state of grasping in the dark. It's not about getting up. It's about stumbling, stumbling in the right direction. It's the only true way to move forward.

Three out of four wheelbarrows of wet cement.


Heather said...

Great review, Logan. I'm sorta torn this season because the show, through and through, is so lusciously executed. The homages to film and great directors holds a big place in my heart for Mr. Robot! But I feel the lack of depth of some of the characters (actors??) is getting in the way of this show being truly awesome. (It could also be the writing since we don't truly know anyone's motivations and while that's clearly a choice of Esmail's, it prevents us from really getting into their psyches, which is something I long for.) (I realize Elliot's issues preclude us from really seeing him clearly.)

Logan Cox said...

Heather, I think I see what you're getting at. This show definitely has a thing for unreliable narrators, ambiguity and mystery. It complicates things more.

But I know this can be frustrating too, since we are never entirely sure of what drives some of these people. They aren't very good at expressing their feelings or sharing their thoughts. The not knowing for sure definitely makes things a lot more dramatic and intense.

Can I ask which characters (or actors) you are referring to?

Heather said...

Angela, and to some extent, Darlene. I love Dom, by the way. She's a wonderful addition to the season.

Logan Cox said...

Then I definitely understand. I'm not sure about those two either, every time I think I know what they're doing, they do something completely different. Especially Angela.

I also really like Dom; Grace Gummer's a pretty versatile actress, I think. She's a fun and interesting (and, so far, sane) character to add into the mix. Hopefully she's around awhile. I like seeing how the law is dealing with all this chaos.

Heather said...

Thanks, Logan. It's great to have this space here to discuss this stuff.