Westworld is back with its third season and it’s bigger and strikingly more visually sublime than ever before.
Season three is majorly set in what is perceived as the real world (future) beyond the confines of Westworld. News of the Delos collapse of the park is ubiquitous and viewed as the end and termination of its hosts and those in control of the park alike. In the real world, there are robots everywhere as we saw in part in season two, and their primary function is to serve humans.
This show exponentially grows and is inclined to more ambitious storylines and settings. In the average show, the story of the first season of Westworld would be strung out over two or three seasons, along with the second on a similar trajectory. In actuality, the show moves so quickly in a so succinct yet cryptically engaging manner that its ambitions are achieved.
Detailed Overview of Events
The season premiere begins with a recap of the first two seasons which is helpful given the two year gap between each of them. This supercut immerses you into the Westworld universe and reminds us of the key moments which shape the show. This builds anticipation for the premiere as it ends with the gripping cliff-hangers from season two.
I was reminded about the massive, wide-scale human behavioural testing underbelly to the purpose of the Westworld parks; the expansive library holding information on every guest; and the murders of Bernard, Maeve and Dolores leading to the acquisition of their host “brain centres”.
The first part of the episode depicts the home a wealthy businessman, a former guest of Westworld. Soon, we see a shot from the exterior of the house as parts of the ground level begin to combust. Loud music then beckons and awakes the man. He gets up and see someone swimming naked in his outside pool. We figure out that this is Dolores. She leaves the pool and meets the man who she forces a special set of glasses to wear. These seem to alter visuals, like a virtual reality device but more advanced. They torture and confound him until Dolores exposes his past as a wife beater and abusive, vile actions. She blackmails him and forces him to give up all of his assets. He does so and as she leaves the man attempts to hit her over the head, but when he gets to her she is a mere projection. Dolores is in fact behind him and pushes him into the pool where he murdered his previous wife. His head hits the outer rim and he soon drowns to death. We are informed that this man abused Dolores as a guest in Westworld, so this serves as revenge and a start-up fund for her in the real world. Therefore, we can say that this is Dolores first encounter with the outside world since emancipation. Dolores tells his current wife she’s been set free.
The premiere then introduces us to Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) who is an established CEO of a Delos. Here, we really do get to see the spectacular visual effects and CGI as the outdoor shots from sets in Tokyo and other cities have been rendered into ultramodern projections. These crisp images are dumbfounding. I really enjoy the way in which Hale is such a superior individual by belief and by fact. We soon see her power during a boardroom meeting where someone is annoying her, and she literally ousts them from the conversation by muting and removing them with the push of a button.
At the end of the second season, Charlotte is the only fully fledged survivor of Westworld, albeit her host self is impersonating her now. Nevertheless, her character arc ended at her technical death and has been revived in the weirdest of ways through this cutthroat version of her.
We are soon introduced to a new character known as Caleb (Aaron Paul). He is a construction worker and has a co-worker who’s a host. He is also a member of a heist crew who communicate via a shady phone app. We see Caleb wake up a number of times in the same way and from the same camera angle – reminiscent of Dolores in season one. This hints at the run-in between the two by the end of the episode. He also has a mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s which we find out he visits, much to the detest of his cold mother. Another layer to his character is seen in flashbacks of a friend who was killed in the army, painting Caleb as a war veteran with PTSD. Moreover, he is constantly being called by someone known as ‘Francis’ who we discover come the episode’s end is a sort of therapist used by Caleb as a way of venting his thoughts. This is an inventive take on mental health PTSD in this futuristic world.
Arnold is introduced as a worker at a slaughterhouse/abattoir place in what seems to be a rural region of China. We see him finishing his shift and going home. Then, a gruesome flaying of his forearm leading to the host mainframe is hooked up to a computer as Arnold asks his host-self Bernard questions on whether Dolores has encountered him in the past 24 hours. To end the questioning, he asks whether Bernard is lying to him, which he replies “No”. We see the forgetfulness and apprehension Arnold feels given his host entity being able to take him over at any time. This core host has its own consciousness as defined in season one and is relied upon by Arnold as a reality check-up. In the final scenes of Arnold in episode one we see two workers approach him and expose his profile as Bernard. They think of it as a former identity unbeknownst to them. Arnold is beaten to the floor until he initiates a function whereby Bernard takes over as a “killer-robot” who violently attacks and disables them. Arnold leaves, bloody and in search of leave. He gathers himself and heads towards the quay where he disembarks for “Westworld” which he is reluctantly directed towards.
Dolores re-enters as a guest at a party. She is wearing an outfit which she tugs at the neckline and pulls down to reveal a sparkling gold dress in an illusive visual. We then see that she is in a relationship with a businessman, Liam, whose father built an immense and profound company, Incite, who control the Rehoboam – a machine that tracks the lives of every person to determine a peacefulness and order in the world. Similar in part perhaps to the machine in Westworld which acquired the guest data of all who entered the park.
A shady man who is a member of the organisation appears and pulls Liam aside. Dolores has a device whereby she can eavesdrop on the conversation. She is posing as his partner in order to gain intel and advance in her pursuit of eradicating the evil inventions and technologies from the company. When she asks Liam, he withholds information on these dealings and tells her that he’d be detained if they were leaked to anyone. In a swift sequence, we see someone approach Dolores from behind and electroshock her to Liam’s bemusement. She is taken into a flying vehicle and carried away to a city park.
Meanwhile, we see Caleb indulge in some criminal activities the last of which is a major one. He is sent to deliver a package which happens to be to the person who is in the park with Dolores. On arrival, he gives the package to the bodyguard guy and leaves. An intense scene proceeds as we see Dolores being moved into a car while still unconscious. Two men try to inject her with a serum as the shady company member described earlier helps. Suddenly, Dolores wakes up and kills those in the car as the member escapes. The goons surrounding the area are alerted and Dolores grabs a gun and manages to shoot them down at the cost of a body wound.
She tracks down this escapee who is gunshot wounded and reminds him of his time on Westworld which he does not acknowledge. A vehicle pulls up behind Dolores with a host-version of the man. The host kills the man and sides with Dolores against nearby enemies. Dolores escapes and is badly injured. Toward the end of the episode Caleb’s curiosity on the drop at the park irks him after he terminates his connection with his co-worker, and he heads over there. We see Dolores under a tunnel as Caleb approaches her, she is badly injured and starts to fall as Caleb catches her and holds her in his arms. The episode ends on this note. This final moment is similar to the way Dolores was held by Billy in earlier episodes. It signifies the beginning of an interesting relationship between the two characters.
Why ‘Parce Domine’?
The episode title is very intriguing. ‘Parce Domine’ refers to a Roman Catholic antiphon as well as a painting by Adolphe Willette (1884). These two literal interpretations of the title are symbolic of a wealth of meaning. The painting is a depiction of richness and fine art which is a form of material beauty whereas the antiphon deals with the fear of God and is something used in Lent. This jarring of materialism and humility sets up a framework for the season. After all, Dolores does say with iconic resonance:
‘The real gods are coming – and they’re very angry’– Dolores
She is stating that the hosts are now the gods rather than them being at the utility of humans. Therefore, the overarching host uprising storyline is just beginning.
‘If you’re stuck in a loop try walking in a straight line’
The first of many season three synopses to decode. In a way, loops are a comfort zone for people as they entail the same repetitive motions you are used to. Of course, this is unnatural and unhealthy, and freedom is a virtue of human nature. I believe the idea of “walking in a straight line” symbolises the following of one’s natural instincts and beliefs.
We see the loops Caleb lives through in his daily routine which is relatable to our own world in our monotonous work lives. Caleb decided to turn around to revisit the park and found Dolores which is a season defining shift for both of their character arcs.
Arnold is in a routine whereby he was paranoid and afraid of his past and used his inorganic, host-self Bernard to reassure him. He was forced to leave and decided to head for Westworld. He “walked in a straight line” towards what he thinks of home.
Charlotte seems to be following her ambitious, dominating nature as a vengeful host. She is not in a loop from what we see in this episode as she looks like a prudent and confident character who knows what she is doing. I do wonder what the season has in store for her.
Here, I refer to nature as the programmed ideology of a sentient being which we figure out Bernard, Dolores, Maeve and Charlotte possess in their trait of free will.
To summarise, every character was in a loop and broke this system to follow their nature during this season premiere. All that will come of this is rapid character expansions and explosive ideas that will enthral us. I am very excited for what is in store.
New Title Sequence
The opening credits are largely the same bar the end visual of the classic Westworld human sinking into the background. Here, the background is red. This may represent blood which is reflective of humanity and the human/host image seeps through this liquidised backdrop. It is as if the humans are being drowned in blood and blood is a human necessity separate to the hosts. Maybe it is telling us that humans are finally being punished (drowned) by their own sins, vices and volition and the hosts are simply enabling this process.
End Credits Scene
‘Parce Domine’ clocks in at around 75 minutes and the credits rolled with around 5 left. I figured there might be an end-credit scene and luckily enough there was. We see Maeve as she wakes up with no apparent recollection of her arrival on a chair in a room where people are heard screaming muffled. Maeve follows the sound in the room and discovers two people tied-up and injured with one of them sustaining a knife wound. She is perplexed when realising that there is a knife in her hand and approaches a nearby curtain to see where she is. Once opened, we see a large Nazi flag draped on the side of an opposite building with supposed Nazi military ransacking the neighbourhood. The end-credit scene ends here and adds another spanner in the works. If it could not get any more confusing then it has. This epitomises the show’s complexity and layers.
This is a rather Dolores-centric episode as the story revolves around her numerous liaisons and plans. We realise that Dolores had planned out everything to the tee this episode. She was somewhat omniscient and is at a higher level of intelligence than her human inferiors. The only thing she did not plan for was her encounter with Caleb.
We know of biblical themes in the show; this season we see this in the naming of the Rehoboam.
The notion of God making humans in His own image is given an added dimension as hosts have been made in the image of humans; and by effect, humans will have a level divinity. This Godly mimicry backfires drastically and the show is predicated on this breakdown.
In this instalment, we are reintroduced to the characters of Hale and Arnold and see the introduction of Caleb. It is a great premiere and pulls no punches in enriching us into a new world. The show has altered dramatically since its beginning. From focusing on humans controlling and observing hosts diligently in a “fake” world, to now, where a handful of first generation hosts are setting their sights on taking over the human world. We see four storylines play out in this episode with two of them tying together. With Arnold heading to Westworld and Maeve in the Nazi occupied theme park who knows what episode two holds.