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Westworld - Season 3B - Review - A Web and Charlotte

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Westworld has consistently been a show where some of its twists work better than others. Some don’t add up at all when you rewatch earlier episodes, while others not only add up but also enrich one’s repeat viewing experience. By the conclusion of its third season, Westworld leaves us with some stellar performances, a few poignant musings, and a handful of twists so contrived one can only be amused. The part I appreciated the most is the second-to-last paragraph, in case you want to skim to the pros of the season.

Let us begin with Maeve. The season finale confirmed, to my complete disappointment, that Maeve was planning to help Serac access the Host World. We were expected to believe that she was doing this first of all to reunite with her daughter, which cheapens her entire season two journey. Furthermore, this angle is also completely out of character for Maeve. Giving Serac access to the Host World would be more likely to endanger her daughter and everyone Maeve sacrificed herself for in season two. Worse still, the show expected us to believe that Maeve was also doing this because she had no choice, since Serac had a kill switch. However, in the season finale, Maeve destroys this switch with barely an eyebrow raise. We do get two glorious Maeve vs. Dolores fight scenes along the way, but it’s hard to see season three as doing anything else but wasting our and Maeve’s time with this storyline. (Wasting Thandie Newton should be a crime). In the end, Maeve does indirectly kill Dolores by bringing her to Serac and subsequently takes back her freedom. It’s just not particularly interesting.

If Maeve’s arc is basically just a loop to give her something to do this season, Dolores’s is a tangled ball of yarn. Her decision to release humanity from the oversight of the AI Rehoboam is not properly explored, nor does it quite make sense with her character in past seasons. While Dolores did start off as a more gentle soul, per her programming, it just feels too abrupt for her to decide to save the world for humans and robots alike. This is a story direction that could have worked, but the straightforward way it plays out made at least this viewer feel that we had missed an entire season. There were technically multiple Dolores figures this season, but even that wasn’t something the show really cared about. Bodyguard Dolores and Shogun Dolores and that other Dolores that showed up to give Bernard directions at the end didn’t even begin to feel like characters. They were mere blips in the story. And the more the show tried to add clever twists to Dolores’s mission, the more whatever story was being told was diminished.

Westworld tends to bring out a big twist for the end of its seasons. For season three, they cracked some eggs and flipped them sunny side up. Dolores and Caleb didn’t meet randomly (or maybe they did but who can keep track), because she remembered him from an earlier life that wasn’t really true to established park timeline. (I cannot even begin to express how little this made sense). At one point she and Hanaryo (Tao Okamoto) were saved by Caleb in the park from being sexually assaulted. Because of this, Dolores chose Caleb (either from the beginning or after being rescued by’s unclear) to be the one to take charge of humanity’s fate. To do this, she first had to free him from his own programming, because it turned out Serac had been putting any humans who could disrupt the algorithm into cryosleep. Caleb had been one of the people who pursued and caught the targets for the program. Aaron Paul is one of season three’s greatest gifts, and he makes this story come as close to sticking the landing as it possibly could. (But allow me to say “Oh really, Dolores” when she asks Caleb if he would be helping her if she didn’t have her gorgeous face. She asks him this after he just retrieved her pearl from her mutilated body and carried it presumably hundreds of miles to insert it into her new metal skeleton and watch her put her skin back on. Girl, her pal here has literally seen your insides and isn’t flinching). Watching Dolores die is almost a difficult scene but a very late-in-the-game flashback scene with her and Maeve somewhat takes away from the moment. (Also, there’s at least two Dolores pearls still out there). Nonetheless, Dolores and Maeve's last conversation packs a punch, reminding us these two formidable actresses haven't shared enough screen time. Let's hope that changes in season four.

Like Maeve, Bernard spends the entire season wandering here and there and yon. This is all to conceal a twist that actually does work very well: Dolores put the details and coordinates for the Host World inside Bernard’s head. Is it a good enough twist to have used Jeffrey Wright the entire season as a receptor for exposition? No, it is not. That is all we will say about that. The temporary pairing of Bernard and William doesn’t amount to much either, except Stubbs’s likely demise. (I do have a theory that the dusty Bernard we see at the end is actually a clue that Bernard transferred bodies into some other host during all those years though). Ed Harris made it clear that this wasn’t his favorite season of Westworld, although his reasons are surely different than mine. William was also wasted, though the episode where he killed all his earlier selves in therapy was a fun little detour, and his presumable demise at the end felt anticlimactic.

The jewel of season three was Tessa Thompson’s performance as Charlotte. In the end, she acted the most like the true Dolores, the one we spent two seasons raging with and rooting for. The Dolores with the face of Dolores had developed her own god complex, becoming very much like Serac in that she was willing to accept collateral damage if it led to a greater good. In one of the season’s two best episodes, Decoherence, Charlotte realized that Dolores viewed her as such collateral, and she was left fighting the clock to escape with her life and preserve what she could of the park data on hosts. (Serac basically bought out Delos and decided to wipe all data and all existing hosts memories; maybe only the Westworld park hosts. This part was also unclear). This is a truly thrilling episode, as Charlotte is met with numerous obstacles to her mission and ruthlessly dispatches almost all of them (RIP Hector). She attempts to flee with her husband and son whom she has grown to genuinely love, only for their flight to be horrifically cut short. In makeup that makes her look charred nearly to the bone, Thompson delivers an emotional moment so viscerally devastating that it raises the entire season a full letter grade. Charlotte goes on to betray Dolores-faced Dolores and relocate to a new Delos facility where she embarks on what will surely be a hostile takeover of the planet. More importantly, Thompson gives us someone to root for in all this.

Season three was akin to a shiny new toy with its fashion upgrades, sleek cars, dysfunctional AI overlords, and stylishly futuristic cities. It left us unsure if we were supposed to care about the humans or robots, but it opened up opportunities for season four.

Will we ever return to the parks?

How exactly will Caleb and Maeve pick up the pieces of the world Dolores tore down?

Was the multiple Dolores angle actually just a big cheat?

Will a human’s consciousness ever be transcribed onto a host?

Is Caleb going to wake up all those people in cryosleep?

Does Hanaryo remember Caleb too?

What happened to Charlotte’s family’s dog?

If you’ve watched Star Trek: Picard and Upload this year, does Westworld feel more shallow now?

In what world does Tessa Thompson not win any Emmy this year?

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