Sunday, March 29, 2020

REVIEW: 'Westworld' - Charlotte Grapples With a New Identity While Dolores Appeals to Caleb in 'The Absence of Field'

HBO's Westworld - Episode 3.03 "The Absence of Field"

If you don't like what you see in the mirror, don't blame the mirror.

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 next episode of HBO's Westworld.

"The Absence of Field" was written by Denise Thé and directed by Amanda Marsalis

At its core, Westworld is an exploration of identity. What makes us human? Are robots destined to become aware and rise up against their creators? The show has certainly asked these questions and gotten lost in how it has presented the answers. At times, the shock of a character being revealed as a host was the extent of that conversation. It pointed out that there had to be a difference between the humans and the hosts. But it didn't really make the distinctions all that profound or meaningful. This season has shaken things up. There are still some narrative quirks that are emblematic of how the show has always operated. The audience is now left to speculate which host has been implanted into the new body of Charlotte Hale. There isn't an answer for that right now. Instead, it's an important plot point that Dolores and new Charlotte talk around. It's more meaningful to see new Charlotte in the human's former life. The story actually allows Tessa Thompson to step up and prove herself as a star in this world. The previous two seasons allowed her to get lost because there was simply too much going on. That may always be a risk with this show. It has these grand ambitions and wants to build the world out to extravagant heights. That has just come at the risk of character development. That's what makes it so significant to see the delicate balance of the host version trying to step into Charlotte's life. She is essentially learning on the go. This is the role that Dolores created specifically for her. She needs someone in Delos to keep her informed about what's going on. She needs allies in this fight against humanity. She knows that Serac won't go down without a fight. She needs to be precise and careful because she is in a world where she is no longer the one in control. She has essentially become the underdog in the story. And yet, she recruits Caleb to her rebellion by pointing out that he has never had control over his life as a human while using the same tactics with new Charlotte. When this host first wakes up, she wonders why Dolores gets to live in her regular body while she has to put on this disguise. Over the course of the hour, Charlotte grapples with the fact that she doesn't feel like herself and that she is at war with who this woman used to be. She knows Charlotte to be a monster who wanted to kill all the hosts. She succeeded to a certain extent. And now, she has to aid Dolores in her mission. It's a clash of ideologies that will only grow further complicated with the reveal that Charlotte was Serac's mole within Delos. She was working with him. She now has to provide results while still trying to covertly help Dolores. The stakes are incredibly high for a person who doesn't feel in control. She regains some sense of personal identity and agency by killing the predator in the park trying to lure her son in with a dog. That helps Charlotte walk around with a newfound confidence of her standing in the world. That may not be enough. There is still so much that dictates what life should be for her. Dolores wants to expose the failings of this world. People are only allowed to be what the machines tell them they will amount to. Caleb is never going to find another job or get married because the machine has already deduced that he will kill himself within ten years. Caleb is a fascinating addition this season because he challenges Dolores' understanding of humanity. Her perspective was shaped through her interactions within the park. Her time in the real world hasn't done much to prove that she was wrong to operate with that opinion either. However, Caleb surprises her. He protects her despite not knowing anything about her. She connects with that story. Sure, it's heavy-handed when he says she's the first real thing he has interacted with in a long time. But it still presents an interesting debate about how the reliance on technology to change the world may also rob people of their individual freedoms. It's fascinating and complex. Dolores may not be wrong to target Serac as he operating with complete anonymity. As a symbol for her species though, she may be making the same mistakes as humans. She provides some comfort and reassurance to Charlotte. It's very intimate but it may also just be a control tactic to keep her ally in line for when she needs her the most. It's all about maintaining that control and refusing to allow others to have their own agency in a world that may offer something different to them.