Much like one of its body-jumping robot hosts, Westworld feels like the same mind but in a different shell this season.
Season three takes place almost entirely outside of the Westworld park, involves a ton of new characters and is concerned with very different threats. It was these threats, which jeopardise not only the hosts but the entire human race, that we got a better understanding of in episode five, which filled in the backstory of new villain Serac, played compellingly by Vincent Cassel.
Westworld is always an assault of plot information that’s rarely parcelled out in a linear fashion, so here we break down the key moments from Westworld season 3 episode 5, ‘Genre’.
What happened to Paris?
Last week, Serac hinted to Maeve that Paris no longer exists, and this week we got confirmation of this. A flashback divulged that Serac and his brother happened to be playing in a field a few miles outside of Paris’ city limits when what looks to have been a nuclear bomb hit the French capital. Aerial shots showed the city pretty much wiped out, sending the world into chaos and leaving “humankind hurtling towards extinction” (sounds familiar).
No context was given, leaving us to wonder – was there a World War III in Westworld’s universe? Back in season one, we assumed that the Westworld theme park existed in a version of the Earth similar to our own (if a little further into its future), but we’re slowly learning just how messed up things are on this version of the planet. Perhaps the show will explore these alternate historical events in more detail, but for now we’re simply to know that such a devastating event left Serac and his brother feeling that the world was godless, and deciding to make a god of their own.
What’s with that recurring Earth map graphic?
Originally, it seemed Westworld’s new black-on-white ring visual was simply an aesthetically-pleasing new way of explaining where the action is taking place in each episode. But in episode five it played a much bigger role, turning out to be a simplified representation of the data coming from Serac’s Rehoboam AI. We see him consult the circle regularly (it’s even the face of his wristwatch), which is in fact a kind of eclipse that shows the balance of humanity, or rather his control over it. To put it simply, when only a glimmer of the dark circle being eclipsed is visible, his scheme is working as planned, when dark elements are shooting out everywhere, he’s losing control.
Is Serac predicting the future, or writing it?
Bad news, it’s the latter. Serac is not simply Mark Zuckerberg after a wardrobe redesign and about 11,000 Ayahuasca ceremonies, but a full-on megalomaniac. The flashbacks showing him develop the various iterations of Rehoboam were the best part of this week’s episode, detailing the god-like power that such a perfect and thorough harvest of the world’s data gave him. The brothers’ investor, Liam Dempsey Sr, saw an opportunity to make money on the stock market, but they saw an opportunity to control every human on Earth. Serac – a trillionaire and the richest man on Earth – would argue that he is merely looking into people’s futures and strategising how best they can be utilised or helped in the present, but anyone with a shred of compassion (include, apparently, psycho killer Dolores) would see this predetermination of people and of free will as gross manipulation. It’s a clever little plot arc for the season (if cribbing from Minority Report a bit).
What the hell kind of drug was Caleb on this week?
That would be ‘genre’, which was part of a weirdly superfluous and pretty poorly-executed sequence in the episode. The idea was fun – a new designer drug that causes you to experience the world as though in different movie genres. But unfortunately it A, made no sense for Liam to inject Caleb (Aaron Paul) with it during a scuffle, B, served no real purpose other than to pad out the episode’s chase narrative a little, and C, didn’t convey the different genres very successfully. There was an opportunity to reimagine Westworld in different styles hear – film noir, adventure, romance, slacker comedy etc – but pretty much all of the direction, editing, lighting and set design were kept the same, so that the only thing really letting you know which genre Caleb was in was the score.
Are Dolores and Caleb going to hook up?
It’s looking very likely, Caleb being as impressed with Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) as she is humbled by his honour and humanity. But the close of this week’s episode suggested this latent romance could end in tragedy. Caleb seemed pretty disturbed by Dolores’ decision to let everyone on Earth know the futures that Rehoboam had determined for them, just as Teddy was appalled by Dolores’ ruthless instincts in season 2. Her decision to go full Wikileaks seemed motivated by wanting to liberate people from their “loops”, but Dolores didn’t seem to care about the collateral damage to people’s mental health. She’s set up as our Daenerys Taragaryen at this point, the only person with the power to stop the obvious villain (Serac), but going about it in a way that could prove even more deadly.