Westworld Review: Season 3, Episodes One – Four

“You want to be the dominant species but you built your whole world with things like me.”
–Dolores Abernathy

Westworld dropped episode five this week, which means we’re more than half-way through Season Three. We’ll get to “Genre” in the near future. This week, we’re finally reviewing and discussing the first half of the season.

Titles: “Parce Domine,” “The Winter Line,” “The Absence of Field,” and “The Mother of Exiles”

Cast and Crew

Directors: Jonathan Nolan, Richard J. Lewis, Amanda Marsalis, Paul Cameron
Writers: Lisa Joy, Jonathan Nolan, Denise Thé, Jordan Goldberg

Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores Abernathy
Thandie Newton as Maeve Millay
Jeffrey Wright as Bernard Lowe
Tessa Thompson as Charlotte Hale / Charlotte host
Aaron Paul as Caleb Nichols
Ed Harris as William a.k.a. the Man in Black
Luke Hemsworth as Ashley Stubbs
Simon Quarterman as Lee Sizemore
Vincent Cassel as Engerraund Serac
John Gallagher Jr. as Liam Dempsey Jr.
Tommy Flanagan as Martin Conells / Martin host
Katja Herbers as Emily Grace
Hiroyuki Sanada as Musashi / Sato / Guess who?
Elizabeth Anweis as the Mortician
Scott Mescudi as Francis
Pom Klementieff as Martel
Rodrigo Santoro as Hector Escaton / Ettore

Premise

Three months after the massacre at Westworld, Dolores Abernathy and some selectively-placed robot doppelgängers of people she has, for the most part, murdered, try to get access to Rehoboam, the algorithms that run the society of the future. She finds an ally in Caleb, a marginalized construction worker and petty criminal whose real-world situation mirrors that of Westworld’s hosts. Meanwhile, Bernard runs from the law and returns to the shut-down amusement park and data-gathering center, and Maeve fights and schemes to escape a bizarre World War II simulation. Central to these plots are Liam Dempsey Jr., an Incite heir, and Serac, a wealthy man trying to take over Delos with the aid of Charlotte. Of course, the Charlotte he suborned has been replaced by her robo-host duplicate.

I’d write more, but I would have to spoil several developments and, anyway, the summary would grow a tad tangled.

High Points

It’s problematic to call any one storyline the “Dolores plot,” but I think most viewers will know what I mean when I call a specific storyline the Dolores plot. Her adventures outside the park prove exciting, if trope-filled. We’re watching am ethically compromised revolutionary attempt to take down a dystopia that, predictably, doesn’t know it’s a dystopia.

All of this gets balanced against Westworld‘s philosophical musings. Are we any more or less free than the hosts were?

Low Point

Westworld‘s dialogue has always verged on clichéd, but it seemed mostly to be the result of the setting. The hosts were written as media fantasy creations, and they naturally spoke in a way that reflected their roles. Now we’re mainly in the real world (well, probably), and we’re still getting a fair bit of Movie Dialogue. Some of it may reflect the hosts’ origins, but a lot of it feels like, well, clichéd dialogue.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6 Season Three is like nothing Westworld has done before, but it’s like a lot we’ve seen before. The 1980s echoes in the design and music of the real world of this future had me thinking of Blade Runner and Atomic Blonde. Of course, many an SF novel, TV series, and film has addressed the same issues, concepts, and tropes, often in similar settings. The action movie/thriller elements are stronger than ever, because they’re ostensibly happening in reality.

Effects: 6/6 They filmed the season mainly in Los Angeles and Singapore, added some sets and a dollop of CGI, and possibly took us back to the burned-out husk of the show’s most iconic set. I’m wondering if they actually did return to that set; the historic backlot town burned down during the 2018 California fires.

I have no idea, and that’s the point. I cannot really distinguish among the real locations, the sets, and the effects. They have been seamlessly assembled. The season has its flaws, but in terms of its land and soundscapes, it’s a work of art.

Acting: 6/6 Game of Thrones had an army of characters, but more of them were memorable. Westworld remains a well-acted show, but I only care about a few of its inhabitants, and I occasionally have to remind myself who any minor player is supposed to be. Still, I give full credit to the cast.

For all of Evan Rachel Wood’s considerable style and acting chops, Aaron Paul has grounded the season thus far.

Production: 6/6 The show itself may be the most appealing visual on television this year. We’re immersed in a world that feels terribly plausible, but, damn, it looks and sounds great.

Story: 5/6 At the halfway point, I can only say that it maintains my interest, and the diverse plots appear to be converging as they have in the past. Whether they’re will ever be a clearer explanation for how the hosts can walk about with so little fear of detection remains a question. It may simply be something they handwave with the borrowed blood.

Emotional Response: 5/6

Overall: 5/6 Season Three delivers a glitzier, more action-oriented story. Thus far, it lacks the weight and mystery of the first two seasons.

In total, Westworld, Season Three, Episodes 1-4, receives 36/42

Stray observations

1. How many people, after a certain revelation in “The Mother of Exiles,” recalled a certain snuggly scene and thought, oh: “Who knows you better than me?”

2. As I’m sure many of you either noticed or discovered after the fact, the name of the clothing store where Caleb receives a sartorial upgrade references Karl J. Friston, a real-world neuroscientist and an expert on brain imaging.

3. Westworld has always benefited from some impressive musical choices. Fortunately, while they filmed some critical scenes in MacArthur Park, they spared us the obvious cue, which prevented our getting the song and its overwrought pastry metaphor stuck in our heads…. Oh… Dang. Sorry about that.

5 replies on “Westworld Review: Season 3, Episodes One – Four”

  1. PuppetSocko says:

    Is cake a pastry?
    And is the cake a lie? Because they totally referenced Portal.

    Great looking season, though.

  2. I have been enjoying it, and making predictions. I also like the metaphor of the opening titles. A “host” is reaching up the the barrier, resembling the famous Sistine Chapel ceiling, ascending further and further until they touch their reflection, pass through, and now they are in the position that “God” has in the painting, looking back at what they were and continuing to ascend away from it.

    My prediction, at the moment, is Serac is the AI inside the black ribbed ball thing, and is only appearing virtually.

    • JD DeLuzio says:

      That would make a good deal of sense– but we’ll have to wait and see.

    • zocalo says:

      I like the idea, and it makes a lot of sense, but Serac has resorted to defending himself from physical harm on a few occassions now, so I don’t think all the appearances are virtual. For instance, I think that Host Pause Button he used was probably the same one Bernard seemed to build, but that messes up my best bet as to how the timelines might work, and also that there may be three of them.

      While we’re on the subject of Serac, did anyone else notice in Episode 5 that Serac’s brother was also sent to the same facility as The MiB? I suspect that is going to be quite significant in some way, but have no idea how yet.

      Still trying to figure out the pearls too. There were five in the bag, *plus* one in Host-Charlotte at the end of S2, which I think they’re hoping we’ve forgotten to account for. We know one is Bernard, at least *some* of the rest are Delores copies in various forms, but I don’t think all six are accounted for yet, even before you factor in how some might even have been redeployed in different timelines; Bernard, Delores, Charlotte, Musashi/Sato and Martin Conells. Where (and who) is the last one?

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