Season two of Westworld was like a long strange dream; confusing, disorienting and easy to forget. The trailers leading up to season three made it clear that the writers were going to make a major change by bringing the hosts to the real world, what wasn’t clear was whether it would be enough to bring the show back to its season one glory. After the first episode, titled Parce Domine, they’re headed in the right direction.
Recap (WARNING: Spoilers ahead)
Episode one takes place 93 days after Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) escaped Westworld. While Bernard is just trying to lay low by working at a meat packing plant (for some reason he is being blamed worldwide for the massacre at the park), Dolores has already worked her way into the upper echelons of human society. Like season two, we don’t know much about Dolores’ plan, but we do get some hints of where it's going.
First, she has implanted one of the host minds she took off of Westworld into Charlotte’s (Tessa Thompson) body, who has resumed her executive role at Delos Corporation without anyone knowing she’s really an A.I. killer robot. So we can assume Delos is somehow involved in her quest for the domination (or maybe destruction?) of human kind.
Second, Dolores seems to have dedicated a lot of her time since leaving Westworld to seducing the C.E.O of Incite, the company that owns the world’s most powerful A.I. This means either one of two things. First, she could be planning to use this insanely powerful supercomputer named “Rehoboam” to help carry out her plan, or second, she knows it's the only thing that could stop her and wants to destroy it. Either way, her goal currently seems to be finding out who is in control of Rehoboam so that she can gain access to it, who at the end of the episode turns out to be a mysterious man named “Serac.”
In this episode, we’re also introduced to a few new characters, most importantly Caleb, a disillusioned veteran played by Aaron Paul. Caleb is like most humans. He’s unhappy, stuck working a dead-end job and his life is run by computers. Oh, yeah, he also picks up a job here and there from Rico, an app that lets people contract out crimes like you and me order food from Grub Hub. A harmless drug drop-off gone wrong is what leads him to stumble into a nearly dead Dolores at the end of the episode.
The closing shots of the episode were Bernard booking passage back to Westworld, then Maeve (Thandie Newton) seeming to wake up in a World War II section of the park. Seeing as we know Bernard will most likely be fighting against the hosts in the war for the world and that Maeve has the ability to control other hosts, it's not too far-fetched to guess that Bernard's reason for returning is to recruit Maeve to his side of the conflict. Hopefully, Maeve's absence from the majority of episode one means she will get some serious screen time in two.
Questions moving forward
Similar to season two, it feels like after the first episode we have a lot more questions than answers, like
-What is Dolores’ plan?
-Who is Serac and how does Rehoboam fit into to all of this?
-Why the hell is Bernard going back to Westworld?
-What host is walking around in Charlotte's body?
-Is Caleb going to show Dolores all humans aren’t bad, or help her destroy his species?
-And, of course, is Maeve in a World War II Westworld?! And also, has her memory been wiped? And does she still have her powers?
-Lastly, we can't forget about the man in black, what's he up to?
What already sets this episode apart from season two is that these questions make sense and are grounded in the reality of the world. Unlike season two’s plot which floated in and out of view like it was trapped in an aquarium, all these threads are clearly leading in one direction: the fight between humans and hosts.
Overall, Westworld season three is off to a great start. However, it's not just the brand new, exciting plot threads that have improved since season two. The shows move to the human world has led to new thematic opportunities, as well as the ability to give the show's look a complete makeover.
Westworld never lacked for an abundance of sharp, futuristic technology, but now every scene is like a perfectly designed model of what a techno-utopia could be. Starting with an opening scene of a Tony Stark-style mansion on the cliff of the ocean, to flying transports, self-driving motorcycles that look like they were designed by Elon Musk, color changing dresses and clear glass cars, each shot came together to create a mesmerizing, sleek take on what the future could look like.
The writers also took this shift to the real world as an opportunity to build more on the parallels between humans and hosts. If you can remember all the way back to S1E1, the structure revolved around Dolores waking up every day just to die again. Similarly, Parce Domine repeatedly shows Caleb waking up in bed to repeat the same menial job. His only friends are a robot at work and the artificial voice of his dead best friend, plus he's a veteran, a man who witnessed and enacted violence at the behest of strangers. So, it's easy to see how the show is paralleling him and Dolores as two of a kind, but whether this will make Dolores sympathetic to humanity remains to be seen.