Monday, March 16, 2020

REVIEW: 'Westworld' - Dolores Explores a New World While Caleb Searches for Something Real in 'Parce Domine'

HBO's Westworld - Episode 3.01 "Parce Domine"

If you're stuck in a loop, try walking in a straight line.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the season premiere of HBO's Westworld.

"Parce Domine" was written by Lisa Joy & Jonathan Nolan and directed by Jonathan Nolan

Each season of Westworld has tried to level up. It's an expansion of its world, its characters and its ideas. The first season was contained to Westworld seemingly under the influence of The Man in Black or Ford. The second season saw the corporate control of Delos exploiting the data of the park's customers in every facet of the world-building experience. And now, the third season introduces an even more precarious company named Incite that houses an artificial intelligence that seemingly dictates the choices that every human makes in the real world. Dolores escaped the park. She fought to get to the human's world. And now, she sees that it may be nothing more than the simulation she has been forced to live in for decades. She pursued these goals because she wanted what humans deemed her not worthy of obtaining. They didn't think she deserved their precious world. And yet, the show has been fairly nihilistic when it comes to its depiction of humanity. It basically states that each human can be reduced down to a core idea and trauma that influences every decision they will ever make. There is no change or redemption. They will stick to their coding no matter what. There is a hopeful message for the future through the rise of the hosts. They just have to seize this opportunity despite the odds of their survival stacked against them. Death isn't necessarily an ending for them. Maeve was killed in the second season finale. She wakes up to a new world here. One ruled by Nazis, which shows that the series hasn't completely moved on from its central concept this season. And yet, the majority of this premiere depicts Dolores' attempt to infiltrate this new world. This prospect has been built up so much. And now, it's abundantly clear that the premise of the show is actually quite shallow. It's basically nothing more than Dolores making a bunch of rich assholes suffer for the heinous actions they have done with the clarity that they can never change their awful ways. That's apparent from the very first scene of this premiere. She tortures a guy who killed his first wife and covered it up. She gets his money and access. She kills him because he cannot change his ways no matter how dominant she presents herself in this interaction. She holds all the power and he still takes action to exert his perceived dominance and strength. That's fatal for him. The rest of Dolores' exploits are a bit more murky. It's unclear if she planned on being outed by Martin before Liam could tell her the secrets of his family company. She was clearly expecting something because she built a host body to replace Martin in his high-level security position within Incite. However, she walks away from that confrontation seriously injured. That highlights how all of this will be an uphill battle for her to succeed. She is fighting against an enemy she didn't even know about a few months ago in the show's timeline. She just sees this as the best opportunity to take over the world and shape it in her image. She sees herself as a god after all who can offer something better than this. And yet, the premiere also presents Aaron Paul's Caleb as a new perspective on humanity. Sure, he is just as dour and depressed as all the previous humans. However, he is a man struggling to make end's meet. He gets by working construction during the day and going on odd criminal jobs at night through an app. It's all very structured and showcases how even the attempts to commit crimes are designed to keep the working class oppressed by those at the top of the system. He wants something real. He meets Dolores. That may challenge his notions of what's real and what's a simulation. But that trickery could be quite costly as well. Bernard is already feeling the extent of that after being framed for the host uprising in the park and not being able to trust his own coding. He is returning to what's known to him though. He embarks on a return voyage to Westworld to meet an old friend. That may bring back some familiar faces. But again, it highlights how things haven't exactly changed that much. This is a fairly straightforward premiere. There is no messiness with multiple timelines being juggled. However, the themes are very simple and shallow. Humanity isn't as complex as people perceive it to be which makes it all the more easy for the robots to come along and wipe us all out. It's certainly fun to see Dolores fight her way out of every single situation. There just doesn't feel like any narrative complexity to that core journey.