WESTWORLD (S3E5) “Genre”: A Mediocre Genre-Bending Trip

For four consecutive weeks, the third season of Westworld has done a solid job at rebooting the series. It brilliantly explores a compelling subject of free will and predictive algorithm while offering gorgeous worldbuilding and engaging performances from the cast at the same time. But Westworld is, of course, still Westworld, a show that likes to prop itself as mind-bending science fiction with plenty of twists and turns up its sleeve.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that in its fifth episode, the show finally falls back into its old habit of overcomplicating the storyline, which would’ve worked better had it been told straightforwardly.

Serac and the problem with humanity

“Genre” is an episode that almost entirely centers on the enigmatic Engerraund Serac (Vincent Cassel). As the episode begins, we’re transported to a time when Paris is destroyed in a nuclear attack, a catastrophe that gives Serac and his brother Sebastian (Iddo Goldberg) the idea of Rehoboam as a predictive A.I. that can save humanity from extinction. Both of them believe that the real problem of humanity is humanity itself. That’s why they assume that if they can predict and even decide the future of all humankind, a disaster like what happened in Paris won’t repeat itself.

WESTWORLD (S3E5) "Genre": A Mediocre Genre-Bending Trip
source: HBO

Years pass by, and the two brothers realize that they need more data to perfect this machine. That’s where Liam Dempsey, Sr. (Jefferson Mays) and his company Incite enter the picture. To get him to agree on financing this project, Serac promises Dempsey, Sr. that he will provide him all stock market information in the future, thus preventing him from going broke. But of course, things are not as easy as they seem. Turns out, not every human being can be predicted by Rehoboam. There’s a certain group of people whose existence can disrupt the system if they’re allowed to live in the real world, and one of those is Serac’s brother. In an attempt to fix this issue, Serac decides to build a facility where people like Sebastian, now called the outliers, can have their brains edited so that in the end Rehoboam can still predict them.

When Dempsey, Sr. finds out about this, he disagrees and tells Serac that he will pull out his finance from the project. But Serac already predicted this outcome, thus giving him room to stage a plane crash and murder him in cold blood so that he can continue. Throughout the episode, Serac’s backstory will overlap the main plot in the present day. The show clearly wants us to know who Serac actually is and understand where he’s coming from. But in doing so, the overlapping narrative between these two timeframes rob the show from emotional attachment. And as a result, what could’ve been a compelling character is reduced to another one-dimensional villain.

WESTWORLD (S3E5) "Genre": A Mediocre Genre-Bending Trip
source: HBO

Perhaps Westworld wants us to see him as a formidable counterpart to Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), who’s equally as cold as Serac. But with Dolores, we got to know her and her tragic story over two and a half seasons. That’s why we easily understand why she is the way she is now. Meanwhile, in Serac’s case, he looks just like a carbon-copy of Adrian Veidt from Watchmen, but without any quirky personalities. It is very unfortunate because Cassel is an incredibly talented actor who can make even the most non-significant moment memorable. With only three episodes left, and all the cards about Serac are already laid out on the table, it’s nearly impossible to make this character more interesting. Well, at least it’s always a treat to see Cassel on our screen despite how little he does each episode.

Dolores’ act of anarchy

Dolores and Caleb’s (Aaron Paul) arc this episode is no more interesting than Serac’s. The last time we saw them, they crashed a masquerade party and kidnapped Liam. Now with Liam (John Gallagher Jr.) in her control, Dolores can get access to Rehoboam and put her masterplan in action. But Liam is not going down without a fight. In an attempt to escape from Dolores, Liam injects Caleb with Genre, a drug that will mess with the brain chemistry of the user and send them to experience a series of different film genres.

This is where the episode gets its title and where things get slightly more interesting. As Dolores and Caleb try to escape Serac’s hitmen, Caleb, who’s now extremely high from the drug, is experiencing the constant shift from one genre to another. A black and white visual represents the noir genre. Then, “Ride of the Valkyries” by Richard Wagner blasts out in one of the most thrilling car chase scenes I’ve ever seen in TV history as a nod to Apocalypse Now. The writers also manage to squeeze in a rare comedic moment when Henry Mancini’s “Theme from Love Story” plays out while Caleb is lovestruck by Dolores for a brief time.

WESTWORLD (S3E5) "Genre": A Mediocre Genre-Bending Trip
source: HBO

This inventive storytelling is a testament to how fun Westworld can be if they’re not too busy with its head-scratching twists. But exciting as Caleb’s trippy journey is, it doesn’t change the fact that not much is actually happening or progressing during the episode. Yes, Dolores’ plan on revealing what Rehoboam can do to all humans is done with flying colors. But the chaos that follows feels very modest. At one point during the episode, Dolores says, “the right information at the right time is deadlier than any weapon.” Yet somehow it doesn’t look very deadly at all. In fact, it seems like not much is changing.

Final Thoughs

Right from the very first episode, the show keeps hinting that Dolores’ plan to release all the data stored in Rehoboam is a dramatic goal, or at least one of the goals, in the season. But watching from how disappointing it plays out this week, it doesn’t feel fair to call it a goal. Perhaps it’s indeed not a goal, and instead just a setup for the big war between Dolores and Serac which inevitably will happen in the next episode or two. And if that’s the case, then we can expect that the end war between two sides of humanity will be explosive.

Because of Caleb’s drug-inducing adventure and the overlapping narrative between Dolores and Serac’s backstory, it feels like a lot is happening in this episode. But aside from Aaron Paul’s versatile performance and the inventive visuals, this episode actually feels like nothing more than just a filler. Not much can be done now, but let’s just hope that the last three episodes of the season can deliver what we were promised.

What do you think of episode five? Let us know in the comments!

All five episodes of Westworld season three can be streamed on HBO GO and HBO Now.

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