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Dolores is back, with vengeance, as Westworld returns

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Photograph: John P. Johnson (HBO)

TV ReviewsAll of our TV critiques in a single handy place.

Welcome to Westworld season 3, the place we’re not in Westworld. If the present’s first season was the start of the top, and final season was the top of the start, “Parce Domine” is one thing new: an try and drastically develop the present’s world as Dolores takes the robotic combat towards the human race onto a bigger enjoying area. As of proper now, meaning buying and selling within the cowboy hats and mournful covers of pop songs for shiny cities the place everybody works in line with the dictations of an algorithm; the place the wealthy are caught on their very own loops; and the place the decrease courses wrestle to make ends meet in any method they will. The “actual” world appears like a automotive business delivered to life, and whereas which will communicate to a considerably restricted creativeness on the a part of the present’s creators (who’ve all the time been higher at narrative mechanics than constructing compelling fantasies), it does provide one simple pleasure: the sight of Dolores insinuating herself into the lives of highly effective, boastful fools, and watching her destroy them one after the other.

What’s placing about “Parce Domine” is how comparatively easy that pleasure is. From the chilly open on, that is the Westworld model of a straight putt, reintroducing previous protagonists (Dolores, Bernard) and catching up on what they’ve been doing because the earlier season ended. We’ve additionally bought a brand new lead, Caleb (Aaron Paul, bringing his soulful damaged down crime man power to the combination), to carry into orbit, and a few seeds to begin planting for the weeks to come back. However by way of time hopping trickery and strangeness, there’s little or no in proof, a minimum of to this point. The episode has a handful of tales, and I can’t be fully certain if all of them happen across the similar time, however there’s no apparent try made at withholding info for future mysteries. The stakes and goals are surprisingly clear.

That works to good and ailing impact. On the dangerous aspect, the extra direct Westworld is, the clearer the present’s final lack of depth turns into, a minimum of by way of its tackle humanity and synthetic intelligence. The world we see right here is filled with the identical type of folks we’ve been coping with all alongside, the identical assortment of wealthy shallow assholes and wealthy assholes who’re a little bit nicer than the opposite guys however nonetheless fairly ineffective. The chilly open has Dolores breaking into the house of 1 such asshole, a shouty man who murdered his earlier spouse and coated up the crime, and who dies when he’s too silly to understand that the one who broke into his home, disabled his safety measures, and compelled him to put on magic glasses that present him the proof of his previous crimes, is possibly not going to be taken out by blunt drive trauma. There are only a few surprises on this opening hour (which is definitely barely longer than an hour), proper up to date the place Dolores and Caleb lastly meet. Even Bernard’s struggles as a fugitive really feel previous hat.

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However on the great aspect… so what? Whereas nothing in “Parce Domine” is as obliquely affecting as the unique pilot, and whereas the present’s thematic signaling has all of the subtlety of a cattle prod, that doesn’t imply it isn’t enjoyable to observe. The longer Westworld goes on, the extra evident it turns into that this was by no means as deep a collection because it initially appeared; all of the fractured storytelling and modifying principally simply results in disappointment after we lastly put the items collectively and see it’s nothing greater than the oldest science-fiction story ever advised. But it surely’s nonetheless cool to have a look at, and the appearing is usually good. When you make peace with a specific amount of vacancy, when you notice that that is by no means going to transcend its preliminary influence, there’s one thing refreshing about accepting it for what it’s: a high-gloss tackle Frankenstein’s monster, wrecking revenge on the fools who gave it life.

Whereas I’m certain the season will pull in new characters (and convey again extra previous ones) because it goes, the shortage of diffusion right here means there’s much less of the distracting “Wait, who is that this once more?” that plagued earlier seasons. All the things could be summed up merely sufficient: Dolores is increasing her affect and dealing to seek out out the title of the person who invented the machine that roughly dictates human life; Bernard is in hiding, as Delos (and Dolores) have managed to pin just about all of the dangerous shit on the parks on him; and Caleb, the brand new child on the town, is working onerous to make ends meet in a society that gives the phantasm of ahead momentum with none of the particular motion.

Class points have all the time been essential to the collection, however they turn into extra express right here with Caleb’s entrance. A former soldier with some form of legal previous, he’s now residing on the margins, spending his days doing development work and job looking, and his nights increase factors on a low-level crime app that gives jobs to freelancers. That app is a nifty, goofy-but-plausible thought, and I like the nightmare imaginative and prescient of the longer term the place the poor and downtrodden can’t even resort to breaking the legislation to rise above the curve; all the things is organized, all the things strikes in increments. Paul’s power, his heart-on-sleeve miserabilism (used to nice impact on Breaking Dangerous) feels instantly at dwelling in a present that roughly all the time appears to be working by way of type of despair, be it easy exhaustion on the cruelty of man, or nihilism in its depiction of aware life as nothing greater than an limitless collection of programmed habits. Caleb doesn’t rise above that, however he does a minimum of counsel there might be somebody this season who isn’t a bunch that we are able to care about, and a few risk of an ethical wrestle with precise weight down the road.

All through the episode, you hear the voiceover of a dialog between Caleb and somebody named “Francis;” progressively it turns into clear that this isn’t a chat between pals, however a program that replicates the voice of a lifeless man to assist Caleb come to phrases along with his previous. Caleb lastly ends this system saying he wants to seek out one thing “actual.” And when he meets an injured Dolores a couple of minutes later, the supposed irony and fact of the second is obvious. It’s heavy-handed, however that doesn’t make the anomaly much less potent, and it doesn’t cease me from desirous to see what occurs subsequent.

This isn’t superb tv, precisely, however it’s entertaining. Seeing how Bernard has discovered methods to make use of his synthetic self to his benefit is neat, and whereas I don’t know why he needs to get again to the park, I hope he finds one thing that can make him a bit extra lively this time round. Dolores continues to be nice (I do know that is all nominally about discovering some strategy to cease her from destroying humanity, however is anybody really rooting towards her?), and I cackled when “Widespread Folks” popped up throughout one in every of her motion scenes. That bit particularly gave me extra hope for the present than many of the remainder of the episode. It’s blunt and audience-friendly, an apparent selection that comes with simply sufficient irony to make it intelligent. And it’s cool as hell. Proper now, that’s sufficient for me.

Stray Observations

  • It’s unclear if Dolores deliberate to get caught by Liam’s safety man Martin (performed by Tommy Flanagan, who I principally know from Sons of Anarchy). I’m guessing no, as a result of it means the top of her relationship with Liam simply as she gave the impression to be near getting the information she needed. However, she does have a bunch model of Martin available when all the things goes south. That is good thriller writing; Dolores could be one step forward of the folks she’s attempting to destroy, however making it potential for her to journey means extra stress forward.
  • No Ed Harris in sight, though he’s briefly referenced at a Delos board assembly. That assembly additionally has Charlotte (aka Dolores in disguise), so I’m unsure the way it gels with the remainder of the timeline—does Dolores a number of variations of herself operating round, or is that this earlier than or after the Dolores we see in the remainder of the episode? The scene takes place three months after the parks collapsed, so for proper now, I’m going to imagine that it occurred roughly in the identical interval as all the things else we seen this week, until I’m given to assume in any other case.
  • “I’ve harm so many individuals, I don’t need to harm anybody else. Until they try to harm me.” I ponder how a lot we’re imagined to be rooting towards Dolores? As a result of the present hasn’t ever completed a very good job at convincing me she’s flawed about something. (I’m curious what her relationship with Caleb might be like, and if that can change something.)
  • Liked the scenes of Caleb choosing up gigs from the crime app.
  • A fast google says “Parce domine” means “Spare your folks, lord.”
  • “Hey, no offense, however are you human?” “I’m Sean.”
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