It is 2020, a year much prophesied in genre fiction and media. In this golden age we once dreamt of flying cars (or at least driverless ones) and robot companions. What we have instead is a pandemic sweeping the globe, and the only way we can see this alternate reality is through the screens that we are all currently glued to. And in the midst of our dystopian real life nightmare comes a season premiere of a show that speaks to our troubled times. Tonight we saw the dawn of a new Westworld in the season 3 premiere. And it gives us a world so close to what the dream of the future could have been. And part of that dream, is always the nightmare. A nightmare of being tracked and commoditized, never knowing what is real and what is false. We are all stuck in a loop right now, and the new version of Westworld tries to break free from its own loop.
Image via HBO
The Westworld Loop Reboots Again In The Season 3 Premiere
The season 3 premiere of Westworld acts largely as a soft reboot of the entire show. And this fits with the cycle of reboots and eternal recurrence that the show has always dealt in. But no longer are we confined to the park where Dolores and company died and were reborn over and over again. Instead we find ourselves in the “real world” that feels just as much like a park as any other we’ve seen. No longer in the ‘west’ world or the east world we saw last season.
This is the world that allegedly belongs to humans, but is already so heavily controlled by machines. Many of these machines bear the stamp of Delos, the company that created the parks and the hosts. Charlotte is now in charge of Delos, but another mysterious AI company called Insight is also in play. This is the same company that put out the secret Westworld teasers a few weeks back, hidden in seemingly real TED talks and commercials.
The episode begins with a drawn out sequence establishing this new world, and takes its time to giving us Dolores at her most powerful and terrifying. She is an avenging angel, and a ruthless mastermind all in one and Evan Rachel Wood has never been better. The episode focuses in on her character, tracking her progress as we begin to understand what her goals are in this new world. Though, one of the humans she encounters on her journey asks the question we always ask of Westworld: Is it really “real?” We are supposed to question realities, including if this “real” world could possibly be just another kind of simulation.
New Players Join The Game
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Meanwhile, Bernard is hiding out on a farm and working in a meat factory trying to lay low. Dolores has framed him for the disaster at Westworld and the murder of Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins). He tests himself over and over, unable to trust his own memory. Inevitably he ends up in conflict with some other workers who want to turn him in for a reward. Bernard manually shuts off his own programming to kick some ass. It is a slow evolution for Bernard, but it is interesting to see him finally able to exhibit a level of control over his own algorithms.
In this new world there is one major new player on the scene, a one Jesse Pinkman… sorry Caleb? All I can see whenever Aaron Paul shows up onscreen is Jesse living a new life with implanted memories in some kind of high tech witness protection program. But I digress. Caleb is living in a loop. Waking up to work a construction job with his droid friend (whom I definitely want to see more of). Then utilizing an app to commit petty crime for more cash. This is the future of freelancing, the gamification of crime as part of the gig economy.
It takes awhile for Caleb’s storyline to intersect with the others, but it does so eventually when he somehow saves Dolores after a shoot-out. I am curious to see how his relationship with Dolores develops, and to see how he plays into the new dynamic of the series.
The Layers Of Worlds And Identities Will Matter Eventually
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The season 3 premiere of Westworld took its time to establish a new world for the series to operate in. But it seems as though a return to the parks is inevitable. The episode waited until midway through the credits to give us a shot of Maeve (Thandie Newton). Unfortunately it was a shot of her looking lost and confused in some kind of Nazi-world. I can only hope she won’t dwell there too long. This definitely doesn’t feel like a world we need to linger in. And because I want to see Maeve out in the real world. As one of the power players of the series, leaving her behind is something the show must remedy quickly.
Another mystery that looks as though it will be addressed next week is who exactly is Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) now? She left Westworld with Dolores’s consciousness in a newly built host body. But Dolores also took the consciousnesses of several other characters. Is she Teddy, manipulated into a new role? How will this character alter the future of the world that Dolores is trying to take over?
Straightforward narratives have never been the Nolans strong suit, but mystery and world-building is the strength of the Westworld premiere. Will we be left with more questions than answers in the end? Possibly, but the journey into another world is exactly what I need right now. Let it burn, and rebuild from the ashes.
Image via HBO
(Featured image via HBO)
Emily O'Donnell is a writer and photographer with roots in some of the earliest online fandoms. She cut her genre teeth on the Wizard of Oz books at the tender age of 6 years old, and was reading epic adult fantasy novels by the age of 10. Decades later, she still consumes genre fiction like there is no tomorrow. She is delighted to be living through the golden age of sci-fi and fantasy popularity. She is unashamed of the amount of fanfiction that still lingers online under her name.