Sunday, May 3, 2020

REVIEW: 'Westworld' - Dolores, Maeve and Caleb Make Their Choices About the Future of Humanity in 'Crisis Theory'

HBO's Westworld - Episode 3.08 "Crisis Theory"

Time to face the music.

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 finale of HBO's Westworld.

"Crisis Theory" was written by Denise Thé & Jonathan Nolan and directed by Jennifer Getzinger

So many conversations are had about saving or ending the world on this show. Those are the terms in which these characters contextualize their conflicts. It has to be in those grandiose ideas because that may be the only way for them to ensure their own survival. However, the narrative also plays around with the idea of who is good and evil. The show always wants the audience to be questioning whether or not we should be rooting for a character to achieve their goals. As such, it increasingly seems as if their motivations are constantly changing from moment to moment. No one is especially stable on this show. In fact, some characters are simply included in the story because the actors are great and not because there is a compelling story. Bernard and William didn't contribute to anything important this season. They were still prominently featured though. It's just so frustrating. They have designs of some great importance. And yet, they never truly factor in to whether or not Dolores succeeds in her ultimate plan. They talk about what they need to do. They believe they have clarity over the choices now presented to them. However, they are mostly sidelined. It shows that saying one is going to save or end humanity is far different than actually achieving that. People have those grand ideas. Not everyone has the conviction and determination that it takes to actually implement them. It may actually take an artificial intelligence to scan all of the possibilities. Serac operates with the certainty that if he didn't rule over the world with Rehoboam than humanity would end within the next certainty. He has that clarity. As such, he fights against anyone who wants to destroy what he has spent his life building. He sees that as the collapse of civilization. He gave up his own personal agency and autonomy in order to be a spokesperson for this machine. As such, Rehoboam is positioned as the great antagonist this season. The one who has actively been planning all these moves to ensure that Dolores didn't succeeded. And then, a foolish decision is made wherein Dolores is connected to Rehoboam in order to scan her memories for the key to the Sublime that everyone is so desperate to find. That key holds the answers for what humanity believes will create immortality. It's also the key to the world now inhabited by the hosts who made a clean break from the ugly chaos that permeates throughout this one. Dolores says that she wants to give humanity free will again. They deserve the freedom to live or die. No one should be making that decision for them. She is willing to die for her cause. She is seemingly erased entirely here. It's ultimately up to Caleb and Maeve to make the big decisions. Caleb acts basically how the plot has long required him to. It's presented as a grand reveal that he has always been a good guy. He was trained by the military in the Delos park. That's how Dolores first interacted with him and knew that he had the ability to make these crucial choices. But that undermines the chance encounter they had that set them on this path in the first place. He was still just a pawn in her game. He never really had much choice because she spent a season arguing that this is the only path forward that allows humanity to have control again. It may end in nothing but despair. Caleb just now happens to be in charge of that fate. He can potentially be trusted because he is fundamentally a good guy. That is the only label for him though. That was clear early on. The show never made it murky enough for the audience to be reassured by his decision now. Similarly, Maeve never strayed too far off the path so it's then rewarding when she decides to fight back against Serac. That was always the inevitable outcome because she is always motivated by one thing. Her fights with Dolores have been entertaining. However, they have dragged on as well. It's as if the show had a handful of ideas and still didn't know how to combine them together for a compelling narrative. It leads to death once more. William dies because Charlotte has reached a different outcome as to what humanity and this world deserves. Dolores sacrifices herself for the choices Caleb and Maeve make. It's all a murky mess. One that doesn't really mean anything. It sidelines characters who have been deemed important even though they really aren't. It builds to big surprises that feel lackluster. It's just a disappointing conclusion for a season that proclaimed itself to be better and more concise. It's spinning its wheels just like always. That's more apparent now than ever. It's all a fight over empty monologues. The world may be burning but that is background noise which is such an odd way to tell a story about a robot uprising and the potential apocalypse. Sure, it's emotionally effective when Bernard speaks with Arnold's wife. That's his big revelation though. He learns how to embrace the tragedy programmed into his mind. He goes off to search for answers elsewhere. That's his journey while the world is burning. The agency simply isn't there. It's tangential and makes it all scattered to the point where the audience should question what exactly is happening with the structuring of the storytelling.