Given its frustrating multiple time frames, never-ending mysteries, and shocking plot twists, sometimes it’s easy to forget that Westworld can be fun too. Take, for instance, the fifth episode of season two, ‘Akane no Mai’. The episode was stripped almost entirely from the core mystery of the show, and instead just featured an action-packed storyline revolving around Maeve (Thandie Newton) and Shōgunworld. Yet somehow, ‘Akane no Mai’ remains one of the greatest and most fun episodes from the whole show. Not because it successfully drilled Westworld’s main subject of free will on a much deeper level. But rather because it was told in a more straightforward fashion and enjoyable pace.
Indeed, when Westworld isn’t busy trying to outsmart Reddit users, the show can be really fun and exciting. Such is the case with season three so far. Don’t get me wrong, the show is still prioritizing its examination of humanity and the impact of technological advancement on top of everything else. But in doing so, the writers manage to approach the subject in a less complicated way.
The Return of Man in Black
‘The Mother of Exiles’ opens with the return of fan favorite villain Man in Black aka the old version of William (Ed Harris). The last time we saw him in season two finale, William shot his daughter Emily (Katja Herbers) to death, assuming that she was a host. When he learned that the young woman he just shot was a real person, William decided to go to the Forge to fix what he’s done. But of course, he’s already too late. Emily died, and it wrecked William both emotionally and psychologically.
Eaten by guilt and trauma, William chooses to isolate himself in his old house where his wife attempted suicide. He’s got no one else except the ghost of Emily who each day pushes him a little closer to the edge. It’s a rare sight for a character who mostly for the past two seasons are only portrayed as a self-destructive villain whose worldview is too narrow to realize what’s really going on around him. But of course, it’s a welcome return. Not only because it lets us access William from a different and more sympathetic perspective, but also because it allows Harris to offer vulnerability that we haven’t seen before from him.
This episode, however, is not just about welcoming William back and see where and how he is at the moment. His reintroduction is also integral to the progress of Dolores’ (Evan Rachel Wood) masterplan which until now remains unclear. After Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) tells him that Serac (Vincent Cassel) is determined to take over Delos, William decides to get back to reality despite the heavy trauma that’s still haunting him. The reason is not that he genuinely wants to help Charlotte, but rather because he’s afraid that Serac will snatch away the experiment he was conducting to James Delos at Sector 16.
Of course, Robo-Hale has another agenda. She’s actually not there to help William get back to reality either. Instead, she wants to commit him to a mental hospital so that his vote at Delos can go to her, and thus making her the most powerful person at Delos board. It’s during this moment that the show finally answers the burning question regarding whose five pearls that Dolores brings to the real world at the end of season two. Turns out, Robo-Hale and the other hosts that Dolores has recreated including Connells (Tommy Flanagan) and Musashi (Hiroyuki Sanada), have never been Teddy or Clementine or Peter Abernathy. They’re all Dolores.
The show reveals this big twist at the end of the episode. And they build the anticipation pretty efficiently using a number of suspenseful moments throughout the episode. There are two fighting scenes. First is between Dolores and Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth), which choreographed beautifully and perfected even more by Ramin Djawadi’s rendition of The Weeknd’s “Wicked Games”. And the second is a samurai fight between Maeve and Musashi. But what really makes this revelation all the more remarkable is because unlike any reveals on season one or two, this twist is powered by direct storytelling and breakneck pace, making the episode to be even more propulsive.
Mastering Chess with Dolores
Judging from Dolores’ decision to clone her consciousness instead of using resources from her old host pals, it’s easy to label her as an ego-maniac who doesn’t want to share the world with other people who have different values than her. But Dolores is a complex character, with a complicated mind. So of course, there are multitudes to her logic. First, there’s always a possibility that she’s indeed an ego-maniac because anytime someone doesn’t share the same philosophy as her, she will crush them immediately. If that’s the case, then what’s about to happen to the real world won’t be any different. She’s just another power-hungry, selfish dictator who will punish those willing to go against her.
But there’s another possibility that the reason why Dolores does this alone is that the other hosts are unreliable. We see it happened in season two when Teddy’s struggling to make sense of himself after Dolores ordered him to shoot a group of people. We can also see it from Clementine, who despite gaining free-will, isn’t as strong as Dolores. If I were Dolores, I would definitely do the same thing without thinking twice. She’s the only person she could trust and rely on at the moment. Especially when the mission is to eradicate the whole world, even a little flaw can be catastrophic. And perhaps, if or when she succeeds conquering the world, and after everything is safe, she can always bring her old friends back —though it’s highly unlikely that Dolores will do this.
Until now, all of those are still up for debates. We can only speculate. But one thing that we can always count from Dolores is her strategic brilliance. She’s able to use plenty of resources to both turn people against each other and work for her, just like what he’s done to Caleb (Aaron Paul). Whether Caleb’s allegiance will change after he witnesses what Dolores is capable of and how scary she might get, that will be an interesting point to explore soon. Dolores’s plan seems to work in her favor, at least for now. Not just because she’s three steps ahead of Serac or Bernard (Jeffrey Wright), or because she’s mighty powerful even compared to Maeve, but also because she’s mastering chess while the others are busy playing checkers. Either Serac or Bernard can never predict Dolores because her trajectory is not written on Rehoboam. And Dolores uses this advantage to a great level. She makes every move valuable and unpredictable. But most of all, she plans every detail carefully.
It’s really fun to see Dolores and Caleb maneuver themselves in this episode. Wood and Paul’s chemistry is magnetic. And because the episode moves straightforwardly, even when it reveals the biggest twist of the season so far, everything seems to be more exciting and thrilling. So far, all four episodes of season three have been a lot more enjoyable than the majority episodes of season two. And with the latest episode ‘The Mother of Exiles’, it’s safe to say that if season three continues to be this great, Westworld could once again be one of the best shows on TV right now.
What do you think Dolores will do to William and Bernard? Let us know in the comments!
All four episodes of Westworld season three are available to stream on HBO GO and HBO Now.
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