Updated: Nov 3, 2020
We are back after a one episode break from recapping Westworld. There are a few reasons for the hiatus, But I would be lying if I didn't say I'm feeling a little burnt out by this season. Leaving the confines of the park for the "real world" felt like a reset, but the reality is more or less the same. Last week, Dolores commented on how she falsely thought the real world would be different than hers. I feel like these words have echoed throughout season three.
After a fun season premiere, the show seemed to revert to the bad habits that plagued season two. The best example of this is the reveal that the orbs Dolores stole from the park and has since implanted in other hosts are all copies of Dolores. The writer's spent two episodes around this mystery when it wasn't necessary. The show is best when it is addressing the questions quickly and not drawing them out.
So, I was as surprised as anyone with this week's episode, which provided a refreshing change of pace. Story exhaustion took a back seat this week for a hyper-stylized story centered around Dolores's plan to access Incite's Rehoboam and release the information contained within.
After kidnapping Liam Dempsey, Dolores and Caleb find themselves on the run from Serac's men. The show has always done action well, but this week's car chase, and subsequent shoot out, raised the bar a few notches. It truly felt cinematic, something akin to a scene we might find in a big-budget blockbuster from Jonathan Nolan's brother Christopher.
This whole sequence featured Caleb's drug-fueled trip on Genre, a drug that takes the user on a cinematic journey as their high builds. Caleb experienced a wide range of film genres as he trips, starting in noir before making stops in action, horror, and romance. I could see some finding it cheesy, but there are few scenes from Westworld's run that will hold up to Caleb, barely lucid, blowing up a car with a handheld, heat-seeking missile while Wagner's Flight of the Valkyries plays in the background.
If we gave out MVP awards for Westworld (which I guess would be the Golden Horseshoe...you know, because of cowboys!), Aaron Paul would be a deserving winner for this week's performance. His range was on full display as Caleb's mind unraveled under the influence of Genre.
The scene that sticks out to me most, though, was a moment on the train as the group headed west for the beach. Right as Dolores revealed that she planned on releasing Incites' profiles to everyone in the world, Caleb confronts Dempsey about choosing a life of chaos over a life dictated by Dempsey. Paul brought a defiant vulnerability to this moment, showing someone ready to define himself.
Paul has brought a lot of depth to Caleb thus far. He has been one of the few humans depicted humanely, someone who generally cares for others. Based on the way Dempsey reacted to Caleb's profile, it seems there is something darker hiding in his background. There have been hints that Caleb isn't all that he appears throughout the season. Could he be a host? I believe there is still one more orb whose location has yet to be confirmed. It feels like a Westworld twist, so who knows. But more on that in a minute.
Time To Break Free Of Their Loops
There has been a prevailing theory that the "real world" is, in fact, a simulation. While I don't subscribe to that belief, there are several parallels to both worlds that are hard to ignore.
Much like the host in the first two seasons, humans are in loops. Their whole lives have been dictated by the insight (like Incite, get it!) that Rehoboam provided on the citizens outside of the park walls. By releasing the Incite files, Dolores broke humans out of that loop and provided them the same freedom she desperately craved these last two seasons.
Of course, societal upheaval is the equivalent of freedom to Dolores, a fact that causes Caleb to questions their actions at the end of the episode. It feels like Caleb is starting to become leery of Dolores's motives (as he should!) and knows something is weird. It didn't help matters that she took a couple of bullets to save Caleb's life, barely flinching in the process.
And lets we take a break from our regularly scheduled programming to dig a little bit more into my theory that Caleb is a host. Dolores has no problem letting people go when she doesn't need them anymore. So Caleb must have an important role to play if Dolores is willing to save him.
But what if Caleb is secretly a host and doesn't know it? It would explain why his mother doesn't recognize him, similar to Charolette Hale's son seeing through host Hale. It also helps explains how Dolores found Caleb so easily back in episode three. In that same episode, Caleb's close friendship with George, a robot at his construction site, led George to try to save Caleb.
Then you have the fact Caleb already saw his Incite file in a previous episode. Wouldn't he know what is in it? What did Dempsey see that Caleb didn't? It wouldn't be out of characteristic for Dolores to manipulate someone's emotions to get was she wants. Only time will tell what is going on with Caleb, but expect Caleb to be a valuable piece on the chessboard moving forward.
As Dolores was destroying all Incite's intel program, the show devolved deeper into the backstory for Dolores's main antagonist, Engerraund Serac (Vincent Cassel), as he and his brother built out Rehoboam. It was an interesting storytelling technique that juxtaposed the birth and death of this powerful machine.
Rehoboam was born out of a thermodynamic blast that destroyed Serac's native Paris. Driven by their insistence to prevent similar destruction in the future, he and his brother moved to create the machine, with the help of Liam Dempsey.
As they developed out their program, though, they began to realize that some in society are uncontrollable, anomalies that threaten everything Serac hopes to achieve. Included in this group are Serac's brother and Dempsey Sr, who Serac quickly moves to eliminate
After using Rehoboam for his own financial game, Serac killed him and covered it up as a plane crash. Dempsey could never see the bigger picture as Serac did, so he moved him off the board to prevent him from ruining his creation.
Serac's motives as a villain are slightly one-note, but it is the charismatic Cassel that brings the character to life. There is a gravitas to Serac that only Cassel exudes as he chews up every scene. He commands the room with great intensity. His addition to the cast has been a welcome one.
Of course, this week's events completely changed the game for Serac. For the first time this season, it doesn't feel like Serac is in control. Dolores outsmarted him this week, and her plan is starting to unfold. The wildcard here, though, is Maeve and Bernard, who are both out to stop Dolores. Then there is Caleb, whose mysterious backstory is sure to play a role in the coming week. With only three episodes left, the end game is afoot.