Did you know Elliot is insane? He is very, very insane. Let us wallow in the insanity of the man who wears the masks of many. I swear to God by the end of this episode I was half convinced the finale will be an homage to St. Elsewhere’s fuckery. Just Elliot and his snow globe full of the voices in his mind.
The show draws a comparison between Elliot’s very human spiral and the kernel panic familiar to every Linux and Mac user under the sun. For you Windows users in the crowd, the kernel panic is analogous to the Blue Screen of Death. It’s the moment a cataclysmic event occurs within the computer ,and the software and hardware cannot reconcile it so they both shut down. Sometimes it’s resolved with a reboot, but other times it’s not so easy. The memory could be bad and need replacing, or the OS so profoundly corrupted it’s got to be wiped and reinstalled.
This week Elliot tried a reboot by popping Adderall like M&Ms and avoiding sleep for six days straight. It didn’t work. The cause of Elliot’s psychosis lurks far deeper in his system. Some point soon Elliot’s gonna have to take a look at the error code popped out by his person kernel panic (his diary) and sort out the exact root of his problem.
Preferably real soon. While watching a character struggle with madness makes for an engaging two-hour film, we are now on hour four or five or Elliot’s major meltdown, and have moved past engaging and gone fully into exhausting.
Elliot would be able to recover faster if he was on speaking terms with friends or family or had a therapist who wasn’t blackmailing him into therapy. For most of this third episode, Elliot is entirely alone, visited only by people who are very likely not there. We know for a fact Mr. Robot doesn’t exist, and this week there’s a minor case for Leon, his new Seinfeld-loving friend, not existing either. When Elliot is at peak Adderall-levels, Leon is nowhere to be found, only returning as Elliot comes down from his high.
Ray, played by Craig Robinson, may also be a Elliot mind-pal. Though my mom wants you all to know she thinks he’s real and she really likes how he’s reaching out to help Elliot come to terms with whatever the hell his psychosis is (let’s not armchair psych eval the guy), I will point out to you what I’ve pointed out to my mother—Ray, if not a murderous figment of Elliot’s imagination, is not a “nice guy.” He is a very violent murder man looking for a hacker to help him with a very specific problem and he’s focused on Elliot because once upon a time, somewhere back in season one, Elliot was a very good hacker.
It’s easy to forget that—and forget that he used to be an engaging lead rather than the sideshow oddity distracting from the fascinating plots of the ladies. Because while Elliot is off in his tiny room laughing maniacally, his sister Darlene and his best friend Angela are having hella engaging times. Darlene’s still trying to dismantle Evil Corp through pranks, hacks, and digital middle fingers in Evil Corps’s general direction. She’s also either in complete denial about a murder out to silence F Society, or she’s in on the murderer’s plan. We don’t see enough of her this week to know one way or the other where she stands.
Angela, meanwhile, is trying to take down Evil Corp from within. But when you’re getting that close to a devil to stab him in the back, it’s really easy for him to turn around and seduce you, and Evil Corp CEO Phillip Price (played by a consistently tremendous Michael Cristofer) is creepily seductive with his offer of power.
Poor Angela is trying to manipulate a man who has whole governments wrapped around his finger and she is woefully out of her depth. It’s particularly noticeable when she meets Price for dinner. He invited her earlier in the day, and judging by the uplifting mantra she chanted before showing up, Angela thought it was going to be a one-on-one thing. When she sees that they’re not alone, Portia Doubleday absolutely nails the mixture of horror, panic, and resignation.
Also out of her depth is FBI agent Dominique, played by Grace Gummer. I have never felt more in tune with a character on a USA show then I do with her. With her penchant for late night conversations with Alexa, furious frigging to sexy online chats, ritual application of morning make-up, and a passing resemblance to Meryl Streep, Dominique and I are basically the same person. Also we both yell at people who sneeze on us and roll a really mean joint.
But Dominique’s storyline is held together by a thin film of character quirks drawn from a bag and necessity of plot requiring someone investigate F Society. She’s not really a person yet, as engaging as I find her scowl, just a brutally efficient plot device. At the end of the episode, she follows the trail of crumbs left by the mysteriously murdered Jerome (at least he got a great monologue before he died) back to F Society’s hideout in season one.
Her look of irritated disbelief at the hideout’s obvious name (F Society) and her fast work in the last three episodes, ingratiate her more than her hodgepodge of quirks ever could. Here’s hoping she meets up with a main cast member next week. Maybe as a Tyrell-like foil?
- Man, remember that time a low-rent Heisenberg look-a-like kidnapped Elliot and made him choke on cement? I like to remember that because otherwise I have to think about Elliot eating his own vomit. You nasty son.
- RIP Jerome. Who needed some of the most likable characters of season one when, instead, you can get lots of bullets to the head.
- Maybe NOT RIP to Tyrell? He’s on the other end of the phone Elliot answers at the beginning of the episode. Either he’s alive, the most wanted man in the world and stupidly giving Elliot a ring, or he’s in Elliot’s head.
- I bet he’s in Elliot’s head.
- Other people that could be in Elliot’s head: Leon. Ray. Low-rent Heisenberg. YOU.
- I miss the comfort of the dissociative style of the first season. Angela’s return, the cool colors and the specific framing of her first scene, feel like a breath of fresh air after the intimate grime of the hackers’ lives.
- Here’s a screen shot of the error code from Elliot’s mental kernel panic. GET TO DEBUGGING: