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‘Mr. Robot’ 2×03 Recap: Haunted arcades and self-destructive kernals

This recap contains spoilers for Mr. Robot‘s latest episode, “eps2.1k3rnel-pan1c.ksd”. The episode originally aired Wednesday, July 20, 2016. 

Things grew curiouser and curiouser in the this week’s episode, “Kernal Panic” as Elliot continued on his path of self-preservation. The hacker takes drastic measures in his continued attempts to evict Mr. Robot from his mind. This week, instead of relying on routine and journaling, Elliot engages in a chemical romance with Adderall. Clearly, his plan is at the height of self-destructive and cannot possibly work. It’s equal parts fun and horrifying watching it all go down. At least, we get confirmation that Leon (Joey Bada$$) is real since Elliot gets the pills from him. That’s proof enough, right??? I swear watching this show is its own form of InceptionThanks for that, Sam Esmail.

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Internal Fatal Error

Kids…this is Elliot. This is Elliot chowing down Adderall in hopes of thwarting Ghost dad aka Mr. Robot who refuses to have several seats. “I own you” this product of Elliot’s fractured mind insists to him. It only makes sense that he would fight against it. So he self-medicates by popping those pills despite Leon warning him to be careful of sticking to the correct dosage. Maybe Elliot should’ve told his friend about the ghost that likes hijacking his mind. Leon seems to care for his friend/client.

“I ain’t your keeper, and I damn sure ain’t gonna be your reaper neither, you dig?”

Real sweet, Leon. Mr. Robot voices his own concern, and attempts to derail Elliot’s plan. How? Well, he sends the men in black to kidnap the hacker. For a few moments you wonder, if Elliot has really been kidnapped and if so by who. You worry seeing him tied to that chair in the room. You’re sitting shaken by it all as the grating sound of cement being stirred in that bucket fills the room. Couldn’t be the FBI? No way. Tyrell? Maybe not. He seems more likely to flirt with Elliot rather than tie him to a chair. What about Elliot’s old friend and Shayla’s rapist from season one, Fernando Vera? He just disappeared after the prison break and Shayla’s murder. Elliot has much unfinished business with that man.

We find out exactly who is behind Elliot’s kidnapping when that cement is poured down Elliot’s throat. Not real. Another figment of Elliot’s mind. Thanks for that Mr. Robot and thanks doubly for the gross-out visual of Elliot puking up the cement and Adderall he’s swallowed down. That’s right. Elliot hasn’t been kidnapped. Mr. Robot took over and it’s Elliot with his fingers down his own throat as Mr. Robot looks on, writing furiously in…Elliot’s journal?

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Mr. Robot should’ve kept his mouth shut on that note, because Elliot will not be own and to prove it he does the grosses things I’ve seen and I’ve clocked a lot of television hours in three decades. Next we see a defiant Elliot digging in his own vomit and imagined cement and eating the pills that he just vomited up all over the floor. Oh, Elliot. Sweet, poor, effed up Elliot Alderson.

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Weird or not, it works. Elliot manages to get rid of the ghost in his machine. At least he does for most of the hour. He also drugs himself up so much that he enters a manic state and leaves himself without sleep for nearly an entire week.  He’s free! He goes to breakfast with Leon and actually engages with the man. You’d think the dealer would be freaking out a little when Elliot uncharacteristically and enthusiastically starts waxing philosophical about Seinfeld and cheering courtside at the local pick-up games,“WOOO SLAM DUNK”!

Things take the inevitable turn when a drugged up, sleep deprived Elliot attends his church group meeting. We get that amazing moment with the hacker lost in his own head and speaking truth bombs that he would’ve never uttered if he were truly in control. “If I don’t listen to my imaginary friend, why the fuck should I listen to yours?”  He goes on a tirade about wars and racism. God as just another scapegoat and coping mechanism. Elliot wants no part of that “distorted reality”. Then he wakes up just enough to realize that he didn’t say that in his head or to us the audience in his usual way of breaking that fourth wall. Oops.

Needless to say that Elliot probably won’t be welcome back there for a while. He abandons his notebook and somehow that ends up with Ray (Craig Robinson). Remember him? Elliot’s new friend from last week. The one who had a potential gig in mind for him and Elliot wanted no parts of it. Yea, that guy. The same guy who spent most of the episode talking to thin air. His dead wife. So he and Elliot have that in common.

He encourages Elliot to embrace his inner demon instead of simply self-destructing. Life is one huge fall into one oblivion after another. Life is “a perpetual state of grasping in the dark. It’s not about getting up, it’s about stumbling, stumbling in the right direction.”

This Ray isn’t such a bad guy. Well, except his exact motives aren’t clear and he did beat that one hacker up earlier in the episode after the guy didn’t come through with what Ray needed. Elliot will come through this just fine though because for better or worse he’s got Mr. Robot working behind the scenes.

Fun Society

The episode’s cold open brings in two familiar faces that were absent in the premiere. According to Darlene, Romero and Mobley went AWOL along with the rest of the original F-Society crew after the FIVE/NINE hack. The episode opens with this duo and things get American Horror Story-level creepy when Romero starts explaining about the “cursed” arcade he promised to burn down. Everyone who owns the place eventually ends up dead. This didn’t bode well for our group of hackers who used the place as their HQ all last season. Especially once Mobley finds a very dead Romero in present time. The hacker’s death puts immediate fear into Darlene in crew as they wonder if someone besides the Feds might be after them. The Dark Army maybe? Mobley worries that it might be Elliot and Darlene wiping out their old crew to cover their tracks.

Someone definitely after them makes a lot of headway. FBI agent Dominique de Piero (Grace Gummer). She, too, seems to be dealing with her own personal demons at night, but she appears to be an ace detective. It only took her one episode to link Romero to F-Society and track down their old stomping grounds in Coney Island.

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Which Side Is the Dark One?

Angela continues to edge further and further over that very thin line between the light and dark. Somehow she decided that it would be a good idea to go out on a “date” with Phillip Price. No worries though, she gave herself a little pep talk in the mirror at home first. “You is smart. You is imp…” Wait, wrong quote.

“You are likeable. You are attractive. You are beautiful.”

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It wasn’t a date, though. Sorry, Ang? Price invited her along to dinner with two of his associates. Two men that he later instructs her to destroy. Why in the world would she do that? Because he asked her to do it…oh and they were in the room when the decision was made to cover-up the poisonous leak that killed her mother. The same mother that she vowed to avenge last season. Should she trust her scummy boss? Probably not. At least not without doing some checking on her own first. What’s in it for him anyway?

How much darker can things get for Elliot or has he finally hit rock bottom with his Adderall vacation from Mr. Robot? What exactly happened between Elliott and Tyrell to get us from “Bonsoir, Elliot” to ultra-flirty “we were gods”? Real or an imagined call? Perhaps Tyrell is still riding the high after a successful hack. We’ll find out more I’m sure and get just as twisted up with more questions when the show returns with an all new episode next week. Until then, hit the comments with your thoughts on the episode.

Mr. Robot airs Wednesdays 10/9c on USA Network. For more Mr. Robot news be sure to check out PureFandom.com.

(Photo by: Peter Kramer/USA Network)

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Cort Robinson

A lover of words and moving pictures, I'm a fangirl from way back. Seriously—I grew up watching Daytime TV from my granny's knee. It was Knots Landing over Dynasty, and BtVS over pretty much everything else. I watch entirely too much television and am quite happy sitting in an empty movie theater on a rainy day. And if we’re talking bromances, there's no bromance quite like the Winchesters. Cort has been writing since she can remember and podcasting for nearly 10 years with @bradzb. Be sure to check us out our "Brad and Cort Talk" interviews and recaps. Also, join in the conversation over at our "Brad and Cort Talk" FB group.

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