Westworld Season 3 Episode 8 Review: Crisis Theory

This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper...except there's a lot of banging due to all the gunfire, explosions, and rioting happening in the Westworld season 3 finale.

Westworld Season 3 Episode 8: Crisis Theory
Photo: HBO

This Westworld review contains spoilers.

Westworld Season 3 Episode 8

Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), at the end of “Passed Pawn,” entrusted Caleb (Aaron Paul) with the task of seeing her plan to fruition. She told him that she was no longer important, that he was the figurehead, the rallying cry, the person behind which the mobs would form to shake the foundation of the world, and since she released Incite’s closely-held personality profiles on everyone, the divergence from Serac’s grand plan has only spread further. Dolores, the artist, was never one to see the ugliness in the world around her, only the beauty. There is a certain beauty in chaos, like the colorful craziness inside a kaleidoscope, that can only be seen from a macro level. Dolores can see the world for what it is, and she’s willing to end it by any means necessary, to offer humanity a chance to build something new, something different, something based on beauty rather than misery.

But to build this new world, first the old one must be destroyed.

Throughout “Crisis Theory,” Jennifer Getzinger uses chaos as an extra actor in the show. Caleb rides Dolores’s motorcycle to a police checkpoint, then walks through it as the only cops on the scene are dealing with angry people. William (Ed Harris) frees himself from the custody of Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) and Ashley (Luke Hemsworth) via shotgun, only to wind up in a heavily-guarded Delos lobby, drinking $20,000 whiskey while outside people are rioting in the streets, only a single layer of goons keeping them from smashing through frosted-glass windows and taking whatever isn’t nailed down. Caleb and a repaired Dolores walk through streets past bombed-out cars, while Serac uses the chaos to his advantage to try and catch Dolores and Caleb before they can get to Incite headquarters, while Caleb uses saidsame chaos to try and get to Incite headquarters, with Dolores puppet-mastering a bought-and-paid-for mob to distract the cops to make it through unscathed. To people like William, the mob is just pissants moaning, but to Dolores, and to Getzinger, the mob is a potent weapon.

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HBO, as a network, seems to be willing to spend big to make crowd scenes look good. The riot sequences in this episode, particularly the climactic riot where Caleb has to break through a police line to get access to a cop airship, is a thing of awful beauty. Giggles (Marshawn Lynch) is on what he describes as crowd control, meaning he and Ash (Lena Waithe) are two of the people in charge of moving the crowd where it’s supposed to go, and no police barrier is going to stop someone the size of Giggles. He just runs the barrier over and climbs over it, breaking open the line and emboldening the others to press forward while Ash is in charge of incendiary devices used to push the police back further and prevent any organized resistance from the cops. It’s strangely hypnotic, watching the crowds move and surge together, working as a group simply by following a huge dude in an amusing tee-shirt and a small-but-deadly woman with a taste for fire.

Dolores makes a salient point about midway through the episode. It took money to build this world, and it will take money to break it down. With the click of a button on an app and the transfer of funds, Dolores is able to buy security and a valuable series of distractions, while Maeve (Thandie Newton) is able to buy assailants to come after them. (Dolores, fittingly, uses the same gambit used on Caleb to buy off a sniper.) Serac’s (Vincent Cassel) goons don’t work cheap, and while the economics of hosts are never revealed, it has to be expensive to build even a few of them to be Maeve’s backup and to even the odds against Dolores’s own collection of hosts. The less said about the cost of building Rehoboam, both in terms of capital and human capital, the better. It takes money to make money, and it takes money to rule the world, and it’s as much a battle of wallets as it is a battle of wills throughout “Crisis Theory.”

Money only goes so far. People can be bought, but only if they choose to be bought. Choice remains one of the themes of Westworld season 3, and Denise The and Jonathan Nolan’s script leans heavily on the choices people make determining the course of events. Caleb’s importance to the plot has little to do with his skill as a soldier, though he is more dangerous than he looks according to Maeve. Caleb is important because he makes choices, and the ultimate fate of the world rests on his shoulders, as he chooses just how to bring about Dolores’s master plan, or not to bring about Dolores’s master plan, in the final moments of the episode. Dolores chooses to bring Bernard back with her from the island and give him a role in her plan, despite or because she knows that he’ll be an important counterweight to her bloodthirstiness. Maeve fights Dolores every step of the way, because she chooses to seek out her daughter and the Valley Beyond rather than exist in a world hostile to her and her kind.

The characters are all given choices at every step of the way. Dolores might have kicked off the end of the world, but it’s only the end of the world if people choose to end the world. In one of a couple of beautiful moments, Dolores is strapped to Rehoboam, and the Incite technicians are systematically deleting her memories in search of the key. They access a cluster, then remove it, until they’re left with her oldest, closest memories. It’s not the assaults or the murders, it’s not riding her horse and gunning down visitors to the park. She remembers kissing Teddy, the smile of young William, and Maeve and her daughter standing by a pond, skipping stones. Maeve clings to the happy memories of her daughter, despite them not being real, because they have meaning for her. Dolores hangs on hardest to the beauty she remembers from Westworld, and from humanity. Some things are worth holding onto.

Bernard, in another beautiful moment, has a last conversation with his now elderly wife Lauren about their son Charlie. Bernard confesses that he can’t let the boy go, that he hears his laugh and remembers him at the oddest time. Lauren consoles him, beautifully, by saying that the only thing that kept her moving was her choice to keep his memory alive, and that if you love someone, letting them go is the last thing you want to do, because by keeping their memories close, you keep them alive until the darkness takes you both and you’re reunited in the Valley Beyond. 

It’s one of the show’s more heartbreaking moments, and Jeffrey Wright absolutely crushes the dramatic moment with a beautiful, subtle performance. Ditto Evan Rachel Wood, who continues to impress both in fight sequences with the ever-skilled Thandie Newton and in dramatic moments, particularly her peaceful memories and the anguish she displays while being slowly taken apart by Rehoboam. Vincent Cassel and Ed Harris both perform able work in their segments, with Cassel making Serac’s finale both angry and pathetic at once, and Harris again being comfortable playing against himself in a jaw-dropping post-credits sequence. Throughout, Ramin Djawadi’s score remains an integral part of the impact of the words and the performances, an underrated but crucial element that deserves credit and that lingers long after the closing credits hit.

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The thing that lingers isn’t the violence and chaos of “Crisis Theory.” Westworld is a show the luxuriates in violence and chaos, but the strongest memory that remains isn’t venal, but emotional. Dolores held onto beauty until her last moments, and that beauty might be the spark that creates a more equitable world for the people within it, should they choose. Violent delights and violent ends, but the strongest impression is beauty. Giggles doing what he needs to do, with Ash coming to comfort him while he lays injured or dying. Bernard with tears in his eyes, being comforted by a woman who he never really knew over a son both of them love. Maeve choosing to stand beside Caleb, looking out at a world that, perhaps for the first time, is free to choose beauty and goodness over utilitarian ugliness. 

Humans aren’t known for making the best choices, but the fact that the choice is there is enough. Perhaps we keep the world our own. Perhaps, we kill ourselves off and leave behind only crumbling buildings and hosts. But, at last, it will be humanity’s decision, not a path provided them by a computer and a traumatized Frenchman. Even in chaos, there is beauty.


5 out of 5