Sunday, April 12, 2020

REVIEW: 'Westworld' - Dolores Makes Her Grand Move Against Serac to Free Humanity From Their Loops in 'Genre'

HBO's Westworld - Episode 3.05 "Genre"

Just say no.

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.

"Genre" was written by Karrie Crouse & Jonathan Nolan and directed by Anna Foerster

Dolores fought to escape the confined world of the park. She achieved that goal to explore a world of possibilities and wonder currently inhabited by humans. And now, this season presents the argument that the real world is exactly the same as the park. Humans are trapped within their specific narrative loops while a mysterious presence lords over society truly pulling the strings of human civilization. Dolores had to destroy the system in order to escape the park. As such, she believes the same action has to occur now. She may just want chaos so that it's easier to conquer this world. She has a dismissive attitude towards humanity. She doesn't want to coexist alongside them. She wants to dominate. That is her great ambition. And yes, everything continues to go well for her. This is seemingly going exactly as she had planned. If she is all-knowing all of the time though, it diminishes the power of her mind and the way she conducts herself. It just comes across as inevitable then. There is no amount of action sequences and car chases through the streets of Los Angeles to cover that up. She had this all planned and everyone else is just catching up to the game she has been playing. She presents it all as a noble journey. She is exposing the truth of the world to humans so that they can have free will over their existence once more. She is providing that blessing. In the park, she was determined to bend every host to her will. They had to serve her ultimate goals or at least refuse to stand in her way. She hated when they chose other pursuits but she eventually came around to that way of thinking. People deserved to make that choice. Making this information available to humans is presented as the same kind of choice. Liam argues that it just unburdens people to the point where their basic instincts kick in which leads to murders, suicides and looting. It's a chaotic and barbaric world. It has the potential to be incredibly insightful about analyzing who gets to wield power. Liam is a powerful white man who believes he can dismiss any responsibility because he has others do the dirty work for him. Meanwhile, working class people of color are prevented from ever being able to ascend in life. Sure, the argument falls apart because the show just hasn't made the scale of the season all that impressive. Los Angeles is surprisingly empty throughout this entire episode. Part of that comes from it being set at night. However, it evokes intimacy in a way that only makes the issues more blatantly obvious. It's the show doing the exact same thing it has always done. It suggests that there is always more to the story that has been buried and repressed underneath. Caleb doesn't know who he truly is. When Liam opens his profile, he is terrified of what he uncovers. Caleb has to reckon with that alongside a woman he knows is not exactly human after seeing her get shot like it's nothing. That existential crisis is amplified through a drug trip. And yet, it's perhaps the laziest version of what mind altering chemicals can do to this already dramatic and chaotic situation. The action goes through a black-and-white filter. The music cues change to infer a different tone. The camera zooms in on Aaron Paul's face. That's all there ultimately is to this conceit. Parts of it do play into the idea that romance could be brewing between Dolores and Caleb. He looks to her in that way. She is his guardian angel here to free him from his shackles. She may also be the latest person to use the chains that confine his life for her own personal benefit. Serac argues that he and his brilliant brother created the machine that could predict humanity in order to avoid mass destruction. That was their response to Paris being wiped out completely. This story has all the hallmarks of a tragic backstory that swells in emotion and wins the audience over to his side in this conflict. It accomplishes zero of that. It depicts a story that is just as robotic and artificial as everything Dolores and her fellow hosts have endured for a long time. It's a backstory narrated to the audience by Serac instead of the action playing out naturally. That places the viewer at a distance so it no longer feels like something we can experience alongside the players involved. That remains the chief complaint of the series. It wants to be entertaining and provocative. In the end though, it may be too shallow with its ideas. The grandiosity of the scope can be impressive. Other times, it can just seem like an expensive venture into the unknown with nothing truly under the surface of it all. That remains so depressing and disappointing. Dolores makes her move here. One version of herself dies for the greater good. Bernard realizes he must have a role to play in all of this somehow. Serac fears the end of humanity is upon him and there may be nothing he can do. That rigid structure is just too damn familiar to this audience. It remains as stories without the grounded emotions to make it feel like the overall narrative is actually trying to offer a warning before the future rids humanity of our individuality and free will.