The most interesting part of Westworld is not its complicated timeline or shocking plot twists. Rather, it’s always been the show’s examination of identity, free will, and humanity. But when the show grew increasingly confusing in season two, that exploration was tossed aside in favor of more unanswered mysteries. The first two episodes of season three haven’t exactly dived into that as it was busy establishing the new narrative and reintroducing the characters. Thankfully, the third episode brings that thesis back online, prioritizing the most compelling part of the show while at the same time moving the plot forward.
Wrestling with identity
The episode opens and ends with Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson). But it’s not the same cunning lady that controls Delos in the first two previous seasons. We all know that the real Charlotte was murdered by Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) in the Mesa at the end of season two. And this Charlotte, or should we call her Robo-Hale, is just the host version of her. The real person inside her? We don’t know yet. At first, it seems like the episode is headed toward answering that burning question —whose consciousness is it that Dolores put inside Charlotte? But instead of going about it the relatively simple way, ‘The Absence of Field’ chooses to grapple with a much more interesting question regarding identity and the nature of humanity.
As we can see from season one and two, Charlotte is a cold-blooded businesswoman. She’s smart, savvy, and strategic. She knows what to do and what to say in order to achieve her goals. But we never really know who she is beyond that. All we know is that she’s someone who’s willing to do nearly anything to make sure her agenda is moving forward. So when the third season relocates from the park to the real world, Westworld, particularly this episode, finally gives us a chance to get to know her better. Turns out, Charlotte is not just a powerful authority figure. But also a divorced mother of one, a mother who really loves her son.
This new facade of her, however, stands against Dolores’ assumption of humanity. She thinks that all human beings are bad because that’s what she learns from the park. But through Charlotte, the show demonstrates that humans can’t be put into binary boxes. They are not black and white or good and evil. They are humans, complex beings. Dolores doesn’t know that because the only thing that’s occupying her mind right now is how to start the revolution. But the host that Dolores put inside Charlotte’s body begins to learn about humanity in ways that Dolores or the other hosts haven’t.
She wants to believe that Charlotte is just the person who abuses the hosts. But when she sees and experiences her life in the real world, she’s challenged to change her assumption of humanity. This, of course, messes up whoever it is inside the Robo-Hale. Because not only does this host have to adjust to a different identity, but she/he also has to grapple with who she’s becoming now. And it allows Thompson to finally bring a vulnerability to her character. Whether she will use this new discovery of humanity to challenge Dolores or not, it seems that’s what the rest of the season will focus on. For now, she’s just figuring it all out.
Big data & predictive algorithm
Dolores and Caleb’s (Aaron Paul) arc in this episode is equally compelling as Charlotte’s. The last time we saw them at the end of the first episode, Dolores is hurt after being shot by Incite’s hitman. Caleb tries to help her by calling an ambulance. On their way to the hospital, two policemen stop the ambulance to take Dolores. As Caleb tries to fight back, Dolores helps him and kills the two police officers. Turns out, she doesn’t need the ambulance in the first place.
Though the two of them part ways at first, they eventually reunite later in the second half of this episode. Now Dolores is the one who helps Caleb after he’s kidnapped by two random men who want to know where Dolores is. Knowing that Caleb refuses to reveal who she is to those two men, Dolores is even more impressed with Caleb’s kindness, but it doesn’t mean that she will change her perspective on humanity. In fact, due to his vulnerability, Dolores plans to lure him into one of her armies.
What Dolores reveals to Caleb, however, isn’t all lies and manipulation. She tells him the truth about Rehoboam and how it should be the one that’s the enemy, not her. As we can learn from episode one, Rehoboam is a software program in the form of a giant black orb meant to predict and chart the trajectory for all human beings. Not everyone knows about this truth. But Dolores, who may or may not have stolen this vital information from her “boyfriend” Liam (John Gallagher Jr.), is one of the few people who knows.
Dolores exposes this hard truth to Caleb, telling him that based on the software, he will commit suicide in 10-12 years. She obviously is not lying, because if she is, it won’t explain why Caleb, a war veteran whose body is fit to be hired for any kind of job, is rejected when he applied for a job on episode one. Of course, the people at the top of the totem pole know about Caleb’s trajectory, and thus refuse to hire him, someone who’s not gonna be around for long. “They won’t invest in someone who’s going to kill himself,” Dolores explains, “but by not investing, they ensure the outcome.”
The scene where Dolores lays all the cards to Caleb in a pier is the best scene of the show so far. It’s beautifully shot and scored, and the performances from Wood and Paul are subtle but phenomenal. But the strongest element of the scene lies in the conversation between the two. Through what Dolores tells Caleb, Westworld illustrates the world where big data has become the most dangerous thing in the whole world. It can widen the gap between social classes. Those who are at the bottom like Caleb will always stay at the bottom because that’s what the algorithm has predicted. And the higher-ups won’t do anything about it – because it serves them.
To see Caleb and Dolores teaming up for the revolution is certainly exciting. But by tackling an issue that the real world is facing right now, how dangerous it is to mine users’ data without their consent, Westworld season three becomes even more exciting and relevant. Let’s just see how it’ll play out.
What do you think of the third episode? Let us know in the comments!
All three episodes of Westworld season three are available to stream at HBO GO and HBO Now.
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