Sunday, April 5, 2020

REVIEW: 'Westworld' - William Remains Haunted by the Past While Maeve and Bernard Hunt Dolores in 'The Mother of Exiles'

HBO's Westworld - Episode 3.04 "The Mother of Exiles"

The truth doesn't always set you free.

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 Mother of Exiles" was written by Jordan Goldberg & Lisa Joy and directed by Paul Cameron

This season has presented itself as having fixed the narrative difficulties that plagued the first two seasons. The storytelling has long had a tendency of talking itself around in circles without ever managing to find much depth in the conversation about consciousness. It is intrigued by the ideas of the growing threats from artificial intelligence and the way society shapes life for each individual. However, it can still be difficult to get a solid read on how the viewer should be reacting to everything that is currently happening. William presents as the embodiment of the old version of the show. He is someone who is essentially plagued by the uncertainty of whether or not he is real. He anguishes over that thought. He is home and away from the park now but he is also haunted by his daughter. He killed her believing she was replaced by a host. She wasn't. He has the same fears about himself. The show mostly just infers things about him without ever really coming out and saying so clearly. This season has been an improvement so far because it has cut down on its narrative load while consolidating the various characters who actually hold some interest for the audience. William has had a complicated journey on the show so far. However, he isn't really necessary. He was part of a cool twist back in the first season. Since then though, he has mostly just been wandering around as one example of humanity. He is no longer the chief concern anyone should be focused on. He is simply a problem that Charlotte has to deal with in order to gain further control of Delos while taking on Serac's takeover. She does so effectively here. That's really the only true purpose to these scenes. Ed Harris continues his best to sell this material. None of it is working though. There is always the sneaking suspicion that something more is going on. He has to be part of Dolores' elaborate plan somehow. Instead, he may just be confined to the fate that he deserves at this moment. He is locked away because of his apparent insanity. He has lost his mind and Dolores still can't provide him with any easy answers to the profound questions he is asking. Again, that is frustrating. It's because the show still wants to be withholding in some ways. It has absolutely put some things more upfront this season. And yet, Maeve still has the most straightforward character story of the season. Her driving motivation has always been to reunite with her daughter. Serac needs her for his task of eliminating Dolores as a threat. He essentially controls her. However, she may go along with this mission knowing that it can lead to the reunion she has always wanted. It at least allows her to have agency over her own fate. The same luxury cannot be supplied to Bernard though. He too has questioned the nature of his reality. He has doubts about what Dolores wants from him. He and Stubbs essentially fail to stop her here. They don't immediately present as worthy adversaries. No one does really. Serac has had some time to prepare. Maeve makes quick progress in investigating how Dolores has formed her attack on the world of humanity. The various characters also realize that Dolores had cloned herself instead of trusting anyone else to pursue her own interests in this fight. That is smart of her. But again, the audience needs to have some understanding of what Dolores' end goal is and whether or not we should be rooting for that to occur. She could toss Caleb aside just as easily as Serac could betray Maeve in the end. There has to be something more. That glimpse of humanity has to alter her perspective in some way. She sees a world that is basically the same as the park she has long known. She is fighting to change it. But that mostly amounts to her making life difficult for Liam over and over again. Progress appears slow going without it also feeling like Dolores is making an effort. Things happen easily for her. She is well prepared for this battle. That means things should be happening quickly. They aren't because the show wants to maintain some mystique. That's frustrating. The show can replace the need for answers by supplying some fun action. It's entertaining to watch Dolores and Stubbs fight while Maeve takes on the Yakuza by herself. The character arcs just have to be more pronounced than that so that the audience can understand the stakes of this journey. Right now, it's just a bunch of characters clashing together at random intervals as the show figures it all out as it goes along.