Sunday, April 19, 2020

REVIEW: 'Westworld' - Charlotte Fights for Her Survival While William Explores His Psyche in 'Decoherence'

HBO's Westworld - Episode 3.06 "Decoherence"

Do a lot of people tell you that you need therapy?

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.

"Decoherence" was written by Suzanne Wrubel & Lisa Joy and directed by Jennifer Getzinger

How perfect are the clones that Dolores made of herself? She understood that she needed allies in this fight against humanity. She could only trust herself at the end of the day. But the new hosts have required a lot of handling as well. It's been fascinating because it becomes more and more clear that the personalities are diverging. Original Dolores is the mastermind who remains steadfast in her belief that she must conquer this world for her entire species. The clones have had to make peace with the idea that they may be expendable in the end. Conells was destined to die because that was the role he had to play. Of course, his pearl is recovered. That allows Maeve to interrogate Dolores in the hopes of gaining some new insight about the current state of the world. However, that conversation is mostly empty. That sucks because it seems as if all sense of agency has been stripped away from Maeve. That isn't inherently a bad storytelling decision. Her decisions and power over technology should be questioned and challenged. However, it feels like the show is mostly just in a holding pattern with her. It's dramatic that Hector's pearl is destroyed by Charlotte. And yet, that moment rings hollow. It's not as emotionally devastating for the audience as it is for Maeve. It just presents an argument for why she should want to stop Dolores. Up to this point, she was simply doing what Serac wanted her to do because he could control her. That was the only option she had. She could create a different version of events through this conversation with one copy of Dolores. But again, it's an empty conversation that builds to that moment where Maeve truly isn't in control as much as she thinks she is. Again, these are good storytelling impulses. But it also feels as if big things are happening and the road getting there wasn't established in a meaningful way. So yes, Maeve is resurrected once more. She is potentially going to get some help in defeating Dolores. And yet, Serac already presents himself as a formidable opponent. He is much more captivating in that position of standing in the way of Dolores' grand goals. Maeve and Bernard have been asked to occupy the same space. That created the fascinating debate about what this species should want and if they have to collectively stick to Dolores' vision of what the world should be. But Maeve and Bernard increasingly come across as pawns to move around on the chess board instead of major players in this conflict. That's startlingly and distracting. It means they serve basic plot functions while being painfully in the dark about what is actually happening. Instead, the storytelling burden is placed on Charlotte as she fights to escape Delos with the host data. Serac has succeeded in taking over the company and outing Charlotte as a Dolores clone. Charlotte fights her way out in a fantastic set piece. However, she is seemingly doing all of this in service of her family. That showcases how there was more complexity to Charlotte than the audience knew when she was the company woman on the ground in the park. But the new version's love and attachment to these people is an idea with no true substance behind it. The audience wasn't conditioned to accept this as a powerful bond that could disrupt everything Dolores is planning. As such, it's nothing more than a manipulative moment meant to create some sense of emotionally earned drama. It falls flat. Meanwhile, William's time in a psych ward mostly just voices the audience's realization that none of these big psychological questions about free will actually matter. He comes to the understanding that he has to be the good guy now. That just comes after he kills all the past versions of himself during his group therapy session. That has the potential to be interesting. However, William remains cliché-ridden as a character. No complexity is added to him here with this venture into his psyche. It's just the show once again going around in circles when it should be taking the time to invest in the characters who matter and the various decisions they make that may actually make their goals much harder to obtain. Instead, it offers vague conversations about big ideas without really knowing what to do with any of it. The simplicity of the Dolores vs. Serac fight suffers as a result of that narrative burden elsewhere.