This Westworld review contains spoilers.
Westworld Season 3 Episode 7
How someone feels about the third season of Westworld can be determined by a number of factors, but one of the most important ones is shaping up to be how a viewer feels about Caleb Nichols (Aaron Paul) and his place in the Dolores Abernathy Expanded Universe. An actor like Aaron Paul doesn’t tend to be brought on board to be a part-time player, and as the third season has progressed, Caleb and his mysterious past have become more and more important to the narrative, like how bit players would be pulled into the schemes of the guests in the park. Once upon a time, William led Dolores across the park in search of adventure. Now, Dolores is leading Caleb across North America in pursuit of her own grand adventure, except this change in the narrative isn’t reset at the end of the month.
Throughout the episode, it’s clear that Dolores’s plan for destabilizing humanity from the preset path of Rehoboam is working. Sato and his gangsters in the cold opening might not be bothered by the rabble in their expensive restaurant, but on the streets, it’s a different story. That’s clear from the moment William, Bernard, and Ash step out of the asylum into the wider world and are greeted with the remains of rioting, rubble and dead bodies and wandering escapees in white jumpsuits. Chaos doesn’t break out immediately, but like any cascading failure, it spreads as those with the least to lose turn on those with the most to lose, and as those who are least fit to survive in this new world are removed, or remove themselves, from it.
Strangely, as enthralling it is to watch chaos topple the technocracy that is Westworld, it’s almost as effective to watch the black corona of divergence spread across the white face of Serac’s wristwatch monitoring the system. Dolores, Maeve, Bernard and Ash, for their part, they were nothing more than slightly higher spikes tracked by the system, but now? The darkness grows and spreads, pushing outward from the circle to eat the white space and pushing inward to deform the ring that represented Rehoboam’s control of society. Serac’s dream is dying in front of his eyes, and his every effort to save it seems only to be making things worse. The only thing more unpredictable than a host on the loose is several hosts on the loose, all working at cross purposes from one another.
Maeve asked for help, and Maeve is getting help in the form of a couple of extra host companions recovered from the servers at Delos and inserted into new bodies. Hector might not have been able to survive Charlotte’s wrath last week, but a couple of familiar faces from the past make their Westworld return and provide the show with a spark of interest in the cold opening. Clementine (Angela Sarafyan) and Hanaryo (Tao Okamoto) show up to do Charlotte’s dirty work and take out Musashi/Sato (Hiroyuki Sanada) in a brilliant fight that established that Dolores’s plan is only as strong as her hold on her other selves. Charlotte, influenced by Hale’s own life and mannerisms and the death of Hale’s family, has decided to stray from Dolores Prime’s plans and launch some plans on her own, plans that Sato has no place in.
The bi-level fight, with Clementine fighting off Sato’s human goons while trading gunfire with the samurai turned Yakuza, ends in the surprise reveal of the presence of Hanaryo (the Shogunworld version of Armistice), who strikes brutally with her sword and does a very nifty little twist of her body under Sato’s arm to cut him neatly through the middle before taking his head as a trophy (or as part of a plan by Charlotte). That’s one of a couple of good fight scenes. The carefully hidden reveal of Hanaryo’s presence at the bar, and the reappearance of Clementine, is appropriately shocking and comes seemingly out of nowhere (though there were multiple hosts aside from Hector being revived last week).
The show’s final fight sequences, in which Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and Maeve (Thandie Newton) have an impressively long brawl through the abandoned rehabilitation chamber Serac used for his reeducation camp, don’t have any real shocks, but there’s a sustained sense of tension building up to them as Dolores and Maeve have a cat-and-mouse chase through the abandoned facility that results in several novel brawls, with sword versus gun, sword versus knife, knife versus bare hands, and just bare hands, aided by Maeve’s flying gunship and Dolores’s smart sniper rifle. Both of which serve to force the fight into a relatively condensed area for maximum impact, akin to a cage match (or more accurately, a lumberjack match where the lumberjacks could blow off limbs with even an indirect hit).
Helen Shaver does a solid job with the action scenes, with Evan Rachel Wood and Thandie Newton serving as standout performers with their tense, clever fight sequence and Angela Sarafyan having a shockingly brutal, quick sequence. Hosts are so much more adept at fighting than humans thanks to their impressive strength and durability—that puts to the point that the only thing that might slow down Dolores is another host like Maeve (or possibly Charlotte, who seems to be pretty angry about having her family killed and being burned into cinders). Of course, that’s assuming that Dolores is even involved in her own plans anymore after the final moments of the episode.
Shaver’s main focus isn’t in the action sequences, but on Caleb slowly recovering his memories. That well is hit repeatedly, with lots of flashbacks of Caleb in the chair, suffering through the same VR therapy that William went through, being prompted for his story again and again until the conditioning takes hold. However, in that place, he begins to shake off the back story he was given—his unit was indeed wiped out, but that’s not what he’s been doing in the years since the war—and recover his post-war period working alongside Francis (Kid Cudi) as a bag man for Serac and Rehoboam, trimming off loose ends and plucking undesirables out of the gene pool for reeducation or removal.
It’s repeated over and over, to good effect, with Gina Atwater’s script providing a little more detail each time as Caleb slowly recovers more and more, and while Solomon fills in more back story about his creation, his role in Serac’s plan, and the nefarious means in which Serac and Rehoboam control outliers and use them to further the greater good through things like the crime app (though a crime app would have to be approved by someone with real power to exist, even in a technocracy) and by using the outliers against other outliers once they’ve outlived their usefulness or failed to adapt to Serac’s vision of a new, more orderly world. It’s insidious, to use problems to take care of other problems, and it ends up in a pretty tense sequence in which Caleb remembers via flashback just who is responsible for killing his partner, and for what reason.
Dolores, as a host, was never going to be the face of a human revolution. She might foment the revolution, but she’s in it for the hosts, not for the people. Turning humanity loose by ripping down the veil of civility is the means to an end; the end being the end of the human race. Caleb, like Teddy, Angela, and Clementine, was only a tool, and not everyone is fit to make it to the Valley Beyond in Dolores’s new world. Even she may not have survived to see the end of the human world and the dawn of the age of hosts, though she’s proven herself to be able to defeat even death in the past. Military grade EMP or not, Dolores hasn’t finished playing her role in these violent delights quite yet.