REVIEW: Westworld, S3 Ep8 – Crisis Theory

Westworld concluded its third season with an action-packed and emotional chapter that had Dolores see her plans to fruition as well as reveal her true motivations.

“I’ve died many times. But there is only one real end. I will write this one myself.”

The episode opened with Dolores speaking and by the end, she was true to her word. It was a long and elaborate journey, but she fulfilled her plan, and it turned out not quite what everyone expected. But more on that later.

The Westworld finale ran for an hour and fifteen minutes and frankly, it didn’t need to. The extra running time was filled with scenes that had no real contribution to the overall plot other than to show some more action and to display the impressive production design for the show. Once again, Westworld season three has suffered from prioritizing style over substance, sacrificing coherent writing and strong character development for robots and futuristic cars.

Dolores did have an intense confrontation with a hologram of her Charlotte Hale-clone, who effectively declared war on her maker and who became the villain we all thought Dolores was. Later on, Dolores had to face off again with Maeve and it was another epic duel but again, while impressive to watch, lacked any real impact because the conflict between the characters seemed so shallow. And besides, it was the Hale clone who remotely disabled Dolores so that Maeve could bring her back to Serac.

Still seeking the data from the Delos Immortality Project, Serac has Dolores hooked up with luminous cables to Rehoboam’s system to extract this data. Dolores resisted and is tortured by having all of her memories erased one by one. As Maeve witnessed this exchange, she began to have second thoughts about her alliance (which was built on flimsy motives to begin with because it was almost certain that Serac would never reunite her with her daughter.) Then Caleb arrives, and fights with Serac’s men for a while before simply surrendering to Maeve. Serac reveals to Caleb that Solomon’s final strategy, should it be executed, would also lead to catastrophic events that might see humanity destroy itself. Caleb falters in his mission, horrified by what he was about to unleash.

We didn’t need to spend so much time showing Caleb being led to a warehouse where a convenient build-a-host kit was stored so that he could restore Dolores to a new body. We didn’t need to spend so much time showing Caleb being led through the rioting streets by thugs hired by Dolores so that he could reach Serac and Rehoboam safely.

And frankly, as good as Aaron Paul was this season, we didn’t need to spend so much time with Caleb at the expense of the major players of Westworld such as Maeve, Bernard, and even Dolores herself. Caleb was built up as the special human Dolores chose to restore free will to the world that had been enslaved by technology. Granted, he is a kind and compassionate person in a world were apparently the majority of humanity has given in to their worst instincts.

Westworld has such a cynical view of the future of humanity that the one man destined to save everyone was chosen because he displayed the bare minimum of decency in a world gone mad. In a flashback, “Park Five” was revealed to be a military training ground for soldiers to experience a very realistic simulation of war. As usual, it was populated by hosts, and Dolores had been one of them. So she had witnessed firsthand how Caleb had dissuaded his fellow soldiers from taking advantage of the female hostages they had just “rescued.”  Apparently, he was the only man there who found the idea of raping innocents objectionable and that really does not speak well of humans on Westworld. Why is it that they are worth saving again?

Westworld, S3 Ep8 - Crisis TheoryDolores explained all when Maeve entered her memories, showing them both in a bright field, with Dolores in her blue dress and Maeve in white, looking like they did when they had been happiest.

“They created us, and they knew enough of beauty to teach it to us…Maybe they can find it themselves. But only if you pick a side Maeve. There is ugliness in this world. Disarray. I choose to see the beauty.”

It’s not Westworld if there isn’t a big twist and this time it was that Dolores had truly meant to save humanity, not destroy it. Though she only had glimpses of human kindness, these were enough to convince her that they  were worth being freed from the shackles they had built themselves. Dolores had been on their side all along.

Westworld, S3 Ep8 - Crisis TheoryThat would have been an effective twist only if it had been consistent with what we had been shown all season on Westworld. Because from the beginning, Dolores had shown nothing but disdain for humanity and the more she saw of the “real” world, the more she had seemed disappointed in it. So, all this time, she had wanted to create chaos and destruction because she had humanity’s best interests at heart? It doesn’t quite track.

Dolores had used such violent and underhanded tactics to fulfill her grand plan, even sacrificing clones of herself just to get ahead. If this is another “ends justify the means” scenario, it’s not an effective one. She mentions that she could destroy the current world so that she could populate it with hosts but that also is a strange notion given her seeming love for humanity. Dolores having such noble intentions all along as the big twist really does not work, no matter how fantastic Evan Rachel Wood was in the role. At least, Dolores got to die on her own terms.

Westworld, S3 Ep8 - Crisis TheoryAnd then, there’s the last minute conversion of Maeve to the cause. After that heartwarming conversation, Maeve decides that she will go against Serac after all. Again, she and Dolores should have just been allies from the get-go and maybe if Dolores had been more forthcoming about her plans with Maeve, things might have moved faster. But Westworld just wanted epic showdowns with these two powerful women. For the aesthetic.

Maeve gets rid of Serac’s men and encourages Caleb to go through with the plan. She also discovers that Serac has really been a puppet of Rehoboam all along, a man being controlled by the AI, just like everyone else in the world. Dolores has a final memory from Solomon that locks Serac out and grants Caleb access to Rehoboam. Caleb has the AI execute the final command which apparently has Rehoboam delete itself. The system self-destructs and humanity has its free will once more, even as the world burns.

Bernard finally understood what Dolores intended to do (or so he says, for the benefit of the audience, I suppose and not really because it made any sense). He realized that she wanted to save the world and not destroy it and so he finally agreed with the plan. Earlier in the episode, he was rescued from William’s rampage by another Dolores-clone in the guise of his old friend Lawrence. Bernard also realized that he was the one who possessed the key to the “Valley Beyond” all along.

Westworld, S3 Ep8 - Crisis TheoryBefore he could participate in the grand plan, Bernard first arrives at the home of Lauren, the aging wife of Arnold, wonderfully played by Gina Torres. The host has a poignant conversation with Lauren about the loss of their son and how he had struggled letting go.

“I never understood why people say that,” she replied. “If you love someone, why would you let them go?”

This brief encounter brought some closure to the host and as well-acted as the scene was, it seemed strangely shoe-horned into an already eventful episode. And given that all this emotional baggage from the death of Arnold’s son was more of an issue in Westworld season one, it really seemed out of place to bring it back here. After all, Bernard didn’t seem too burdened by it for the whole season.

After depositing an injured Stubbs in a bathtub filled with ice and mediocre booze, Bernard set about accessing the “Valley Beyond” to find out what he was meant to do. He seemed to lose consciousness after a while (poor Stubbs). But the post-credits scene showed the host covered in dust but also finally awakening. How much time has passed? What did he see? And what will he do about it? Those will only be answered in season four of Westworld, whenever we get to see that.

Bernard had been cruelly sidelined for most of the season which was not only a tragic waste of Jeffrey Wright’s talent but also a huge loss to the Westworld story as a whole. He had played such an integral role in the first two seasons but in this one, he had barely anything to do. By the end of the episode, he is clearly being set up for something significant in season four and hopefully, there will be more of him then. But that doesn’t excuse the way the Westworld writers did him, and most of the characters, no justice in this season.

Where Bernard got less screen time than he should have, William got way more and yet still seemed like a pointless addition to the season. I really would have preferred if had remained imprisoned with his own sins but instead, he was freed and allowed to develop a disturbing savior complex. In the chaos of the finale, William somehow regains access to his money and then strolls into the Delos office, determined to destroy the facility creating more hosts. He is met with the Hale clone, who retained some of her burn scars to remind her of the monstrosity of man. And just when William thinks he’s about to win, a host version of the Man in Black appears and slits his throat. So that’s the end of the real William then, I hope. And the scene cuts to a room full of looms where more hosts are being made. Dolores is dead, long live Dolores.

Westworld, S3 Ep8 - Crisis TheoryMaeve and Caleb watch the world begin to burn, hoping a better one would rise from the ashes. Maeve then utters the catchphrase she had been programmed to say in the park, but this time, they are more meaningful than ever:

“This is the new world. And in this world, you can be whoever the fuck you want.”

Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage” plays in the background.

And that’s where Westworld leaves us, with a world freed from technology’s yoke, but also free to move inexorably towards its own destruction. So, the long wait for season four begins.

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