The following contains spoilers for Westworld season 3 episode 5.
Vincent Cassel is a fascinating actor. Born in Paris and blessed with angular features, he has an unmistakable allure of mystery and the exotic about him. He’s been sparingly seen in mainstream movies and TV shows in recent years, seemingly because if you’re going to bring Cassel aboard, you’d better find a suitably mysterious and exotic role for him.
Well Westworld season 3 has that in spades for Mr. Cassel! As teased in season 3’s first episode (and spoiled by IMDb and HBO’s website), Cassel is indeed the enigmatic Engerraund Serac at the center of this season’s mystery. But who exactly is Serac and what role will he play going forward?
After four episodes of hints here and there, Westworld season 3 just comes out and reveals everything we need to know about Serac in his origin story-centric fifth installment, “Genre.” In an extended monologue at episode’s beginning, Serac describes to his AI creation Rehoboam exactly why he created it.
“I suppose I should start by telling you about myself. You won’t find much about me. Every single person who knew anything about me was gone in an instant. Except for my brother. My brother was sui generis. Like no other. He kept us alive until we were found. I wanted to stay. But he said, ‘there is a time to leave things behind.’ I said that God had abandoned us. He said that God never existed in the first place. Humankind was hurtling towards extinction. We needed a god to save us. To save the world from self-destruction. To create order out of chaos. We came to the new world with one goal…to build a god. So we built…You. But there were problems. Things you couldn’t predict. Flies in the ointment.”
That’s about as stark and revealing as it gets. Serac, the enigmatic and reclusive trillionaire, doesn’t see himself as God but rather as God’s creator. Serac and his unnamed brother survived a cataclysmic (and seemingly nuclear) event that wiped their native Paris off the map as kids. Since that moment they both resolved to build a God-like machine (deus ex machina anyone?) that would pull the strings of reality and ensure that humanity would never suffer through such violent randomness and entropy ever again.
Serac previously described his dim view of humanity to Maeve in episode 2, saying “For the most part, humanity has been a miserable little den of thugs stumbling from one catastrophe to the next. Our history is like the ravings of lunatics. Chaos. But we’ve changed that. For the first time, history has an author.”
History has an author because the Serac brothers decided to build an all-seeing AI supercomputer. They needed massive amounts of data for this mission so they enlisted Liam Dempsey Sr. of tech company Incite. Incite had been in operation since before strict privacy laws were enacted in the U.S. and as such had an unprecedented trove of user data to build out this Godly machine. The first machine, David, failed however. Then so did the second machine, Solomon. The third machine Rehoboam finally got things right and it is the version that currently dominates world affairs and the version that Dolores is seeking to destroy. Naturally, all three versions are named after the Biblical line of Israeli kings, fitting for the Serac brothers’ grandiose notions.
Rehoboam is certainly the most powerful machine that’s ever been built. But nothing is perfect…not even the AI God. Rehoboam relies on every human being staying on their pre-prescribed paths. “Outliers” have the potential to ruin the carefully calibrated system. These outliers include Liam Dempsey Sr., who becomes uncomfortable with Serac and Rehoboam’s mission and as such is promptly murdered. It also includes Serac’s own brother, who appears to lose his sanity when he realizes the scope of what Rehoboam can do. Serac imprisons his own brother and many other “troubled” outliers in a modern asylum where they cannot interfere with the path of humankind. This is extreme, inhumane stuff and it certainly casts Serac as season 3’s main antagonist.
Of course, he does not see himself as that. In fact, Serac sees himself as humanity’s only hope. It’s why he’s taken some of the extreme measures that he has to ensure that the flies in the ointment are eradicated and that Rehoboam survives. As the sole person in control of Rehoboam (Liam Dempsey Jr. has “read only” capabilities), Serac has access to just about every bit of information in the universe. Not only that but as we found out in episode 3, he has bought up the majority of Delos’s shares via shell companies and has been using Charlotte Hale as a mole to access the inner-workings of the company. He even reminds “Charlotte” that he predicted the massacre at Westworld. But even controlling Rehoboam, Delos, and his own holdings isn’t enough for his mission.
For as he also tells Maeve, his job isn’t to predict the future like an oracle, but to create it rather. As of late, Rehoboam has begin to notice some additional “flies in the ointment” that are unrelated to the human outliers. At first Serac thought that Maeve was the fly in the ointment – that her sudden sentience was a variable that Rehoboam couldn’t account for. But then he realized that there was another host who gained sentience in Westworld: Dolores. Now Dolores is on a mission to destroy Rehoboam and the hold it has over the world.
Throughout Westworld’s first two seasons, someone was always pulling the strings of the events at the park, whether it was Robert Ford, the technological ghost of Robert Ford, or Bernard. Of course, that’s to be expected, given Delos’s park’s ultimately fictional and scripted nature. But here we are now in the “real” world and that sense of string-pulling persists.
It’s one thing to control a closed-world like Westworld, it’s another thing to control the real world and its billions of inhabitants. From what we’ve learned about Engerraund Serac, it would appear that he is the real man behind the curtain – the one person authoring all of this.