Everything is Starting to Come Together in an Outstanding Hour of Television.
Mild Spoilers Ahead
After the underwhelming response to Season 2, Westworld’s third season has been a somewhat soft reboot. The hosts now venture outside the theme park and interact in the real world. Westworld has abandoned its jumping timelines from previous seasons in favour of a more linear one. Events now happen concurrently and so far there have been no unnecessary complications. With that said, the writers could still be deceiving us based on their track record. Westworld is, after all, a mystery box show.
In its third season, Westworld finds its characters in a technologically advanced 2058 which bears some resemblance to our world and feels like a natural evolution. The futuristic technology on display in the show includes autonomous vehicles, implants, holographic projectors, and even a light-up mood shirt. This world feels so far removed from the western theme park that the transition between seasons is immediately noticeable in each episode. However, first appearances should fool no one. Westworld’s core messages still remain the same. The futuristic setting only heightens the show’s ambition. The third season of Westworld looks set to deliver on the same philosophy, ultraviolence, and emotions from previous seasons. These new episodes of Westworld will surely not disappoint longtime fans.
Dolores, once the victim, has become the aggressor in this season fighting an uphill battle to free her kind. Bernard, Maeve, and other familiar faces are back as this season’s main focus is on the struggle for the hosts’ freedom and how to fight the good fight: Dolores’s way or Bernard’s? The mysterious character, Serac, and Rehoboam, the advanced AI, look set to continue Westworld’s focus on big data.
The Revealing Title
“The Mother of Exiles”, is notably a reference to the Lady Liberty from the poem “The New Colossus”. This title characterises Dolores as a saviour leading her kind to freedom. Fittingly, the episode revolves around Dolores and the extents to which she will go to in order to carry out her plans.
Dolores’s Plans and Caleb
Throughout the season, Dolores has been building up to a reckoning with humanity by installing hosts under her control in key positions. These hosts have replaced real humans and have taken up their positions e.g. Charlotte Hale. Dolores’s power and influence have been growing yet the question remained who these hosts really are and how she plans to “take over” the world. This episode provides a simple answer to the question of the identities of the hosts that fits neatly with Dolores’s plans and everything that has happened so far. Simple answers to potentially complex questions once again mark a departure from previous seasons as Westworld has so far taken a more streamlined approach in its new season instead of trying to dupe viewers.
With Caleb at her side, Dolores is gaining more funds and power to carry out her plans. In the episode, Caleb becomes more involved with Dolores and takes increasingly illegal steps to help her. Caleb’s presence is intriguing as he seems to be a lower-class worker, with PTSD from his time as a soldier, who does crime on the side. His willingness to help Dolores, just because of her knowledge about his past and future, and to not question her commands is even stranger. This inevitably raises the question of whether Caleb was always part of Dolores’s plan or whether he is an unaccounted factor that Dolores has used to her advantage. The episode plunges Caleb even deeper into her operation, a point from which there is assuredly no return. With half the episodes left, it will be fascinating to see how their dynamic progresses.
Bernard and Stubbs
In regard to the other main characters, they each have their own storylines playing out concurrently. Bernard and Stubbs, after careful planning, have now travelled to Los Angeles as they try to stop Dolores. This storyline so far is the most obvious because Bernard seems to have a defined goal – to prevent Dolores from killing more people – and the means to do it.
For Maeve, her loyalties and desires are questioned in this episode as she finds herself forced to work with Serac. This partnership is mutually beneficial yet Serac is evidently using Maeve as a pawn in a larger game. These four episodes of Westworld have so far established Serac as the big bad and the most villainous character of the show with his backstory and aims so far unknown. Serac is ruthless and uses people for his own gain regardless of whether they are human or host. The first piece of information about his backstory is provided by Serac himself in a conversation to Maeve with a useful flashback sequence yet even this brings us no closer to Serac’s true nature.
Nevertheless, Serac is a dangerous player in this chess game and appears to be the only one who can stop Dolores. Is Maeve the only player that Serac has in place or are there others? Will Maeve obey Serac or outwit him and betray him? This episode leaves all these questions hanging allowing future episodes to dig deeper into Serac and his war with Dolores. A highlight of the episode is Maeve’s automatic gun and samurai sequence calling back to Shogun World. The episode simply excels on its cinematography which captures the diversity of locations and their futuristic feel, and Westworld continues to use its locations to explore the class divide.
The Man in Black
His Fate in Season 2
The last time we saw the Man in Black, otherwise known as William, it was in the Season 2 finale post-credits scene where he had finally reached the Door and, having entered what looked like the Forge, he was met by a version of his daughter after he had previously killed the real one mistakenly believing that she was a host. The Man in Black then underwent fidelity testing by his ‘daughter’ implying that he was a host in a similar manner to James Delos. However, Lisa Joy, one of the writers of the show, said in a 2018 interview that this scene takes place very far in the future (beyond Season 3) where the world is “quite destroyed”. If the plan for Season 3 has remained the same, how William gets to that place should either be explored in Season 3 or subsequent seasons if renewed.
His Return in Season 3
Episode 4 of Westworld marks the return of the Man in Black. Confused and traumatised by his past actions, William is haunted by visions of his dead daughter and his wife’s suicide. Ed Harris’s superb acting humanises the Man in Black as he clearly feels responsible for his wife’s death and even considers suicide.
William’s existential crisis calls back to Season 2 where a young Ford told him “The game begins where you end. It ends where you began”. William was once sure of himself and his place in the world. Now he seems to be lost and unsure whether his choices are his own. William is having the same existential crisis that the hosts had with The Maze although in a reversed manner to some extent as he no longer hears his own voice but sees visions of others. The hosts at the start of Westworld did not know that the voice inside their head was their own and now William has begun to doubt whether the voice is truly his own.
William, when not haunted by visions, interacts with fake Hale. She is evidently taking advantage of him in this mental state because she is in league with Dolores. In a role reversal to Season 1, William has become the caged physically and mentally, and the hosts his abusers. Furthermore, William has started to doubt himself and his own autonomy. The question remaining for future episodes is his nature and his role in the coming conflict. Is he a host or a human or both in a similar manner to James Delos. Will the Man in Black get his revenge against Dolores and her kind? Whatever the answers are, this is a fantastic return for a character once thought impenetrable now brought to new lows.
The Mystery Starts to Unravel and Brings Characters Together
Everything in the episode revolves around Dolores and her fight for her kind bringing each storyline together. While the characters may not be interacting yet with each other, their paths are crossing as each person has a connection to Dolores. These storylines allow the writers to bring the episode to a crescendo with the big twist. The twist happens across each storyline concurrently and looks set to have huge ramifications in future episodes. Dolores now looks more powerful than ever and the fates of other characters seem direr than ever. The mystery surely has only begun to unfold. Later episodes will likely reveal more secrets as the others face insurmountable odds in their fight to stop Dolores.
Westworld once again delivers on a fantastic episode that primarily digs deeper into Dolores’s plan and her relationship with Caleb. What makes the episode stand out is how it handles its supporting characters with a standout appearance from the Man in Black. Westworld manages to balance these concurrent storylines in an elegant manner which brings them together for a big final twist. The only small criticism with the episode is the pacing. Sometimes the scene to scene transitions feel too quick and disjointed. This is probably due to just how much the episode covers.
Nevertheless, “The Mother of Exiles” is an outstanding hour of television. The episode excels on its promise to develop Dolores’s storyline and makes excellent use of Westworld’s other characters. The concluding twist is just the cherry on top which surely indicates more thought-provoking episodes to come.