Season 3 Episode 1
Westworld is back after an extended hiatus. To me, this is a make or break year for the show. I felt like season 2, while good, was a veritable ‘hot mess’ and one that alienated a lot of casual fans with just how complex it became. If the show continued down this path of trying to confuse/outsmart the fans then it would eventually lose them.
So, I was delighted to see that Westworld eschewed any overt complex trickery and opted for a more straightforward season premiere. It basically played out like a recap of everyone’s lives since the end of season 2 while at the same time planting the seeds for future episodes. There was also very little evidence of any time jumps, which was most welcome. There were many stories going on but I was pretty sure they all took place in the same time period.
The episode can be summed up as follows: Dolores is expanding her influence and working to find out the name of the man who invented the machine that more or less dictates human life; Bernard is in hiding, as Delos (and Dolores) have managed to pin the massacre at the parks on him; and Caleb, the new character (Aaron Paul), a retired soldier with PTSD, is working hard to make ends meet in a society that offers the illusion of forward momentum with none of the actual movement.
The Dolores scenes were particularly fun to watch as it played like a heist movie. The opening has her infiltrate a rich executive who has shares in Delos but also worked at another company Incite (responsible for the aforementioned machine, which has a name but I have no way of spelling it). She then moves on to become the love interest of one of the partners of Incite. She nearly gets the info she needs before his security, Connells, steps in to disable her. He tries to kill her at a nearby park but the plan goes awry and Dolores lays waste to all the goons. She gets the name of one of the founders of the machine but not before revealing that she’s recreated a host of Connells who takes out the human version.
Which brings us to the newest addition Cal. Barely able to make ends meet he takes up low level crime via an app. He’s also dealing with PTSD via a mandatory therapy program and Paul plays the character perfectly. He’s someone going through the motions in a world where modernity has not been kind to everyone. He’s down on his luck and needs to make a change. The odd jobs via the app lead him to Dolores. Just as he rejects his therapy (a voice AI of his deceased army comrade) for something real, he finds Dolores, injured from her fight with Connells. The irony is very blatant and on the nose but I am curious how their relationship will turn out. She’ll definitely rope him in to her plan and my guess is that he’ll take on the moral struggle, something that was lacking in season 2. Paul is a good fit for this so that gives me something to look forward to.
Bernard is in hiding on a rural meat farm somewhere in east Asia. Somehow he’s made a device to test if his system has been manipulated. Given everything that’s happened this is a wise move. He’s also found a way to turn on/off his killer instinct which he uses to great effect once he’s been spotted by some thugs wanting to cash in the bounty on his head. Bernard leaves the farm in search of Westworld. I’m not sure why he would ever want to go near there but he must feel a need to stop Dolores and possibly clear his name.
The episode ends but there’s a post credit scene (already?) where we see Maeve wake up in a World War II setting/park. How she got there is anyone’s guess and I’m curious if she’s retained any of her abilities from last season.
A solid return for a franchise that was in dire need of a reboot. The show has retained its sleek design and menacing score but the feel of the show is somewhat different. Gone is the confusion of the ‘maze’ and the ‘door’ and in its place we have a more coherent story that appears more character driven than before.