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It’s a Whole New Westworld

The real world is not fun right now, which is why we’re so excited that we have Westworld to obsess over instead. Season three kicked off last night with a premiere that was surprisingly straightforward for the show. Then again, we can never be sure what’s “real” in Westworld.

Three months have passed since the massacre at the Delos parks, and Dolores is in the thick of her mission to either destroy humanity or free it. We’re not sure of which, but finally seeing the future world where everything is controlled by technology … and that’s sort of terrifying.

Outside the parks is a world where people use tech to fall asleep, to wake up, to protect themselves, to grow meat on robot cows (what?), and to commit crime! Oh and there’s also a massive super-computer thing called “Rehoboam” that’s kinda controlling the world. Yikes.

Rehoboam, named after the son of King Solomon (you know, that guy famous for his judgment) is a pretty evil looking giant black ball that monitors and makes the best plans for pretty much every human. Rehoboam is run by a company called Incite which Dolores seems keen on infiltrating and destroying.

Dolores has always been about giving her species freedom and free will, and now she’s in a world where it’s clear that those in power, or technology, or a combination of both, have removed free will from the humans as well. Much like she discovered on her journey into the Forge at the end of season 2, humans seem pretty simple and will follow their own loops and paths, just like hosts in Westworld. So should they be freed or destroyed?

I think Caleb, the new character we meet this episode played by Aaron Paul, will be instrumental in this. He meets Dolores after she’s been seriously injured in a part of her plan to infiltrate incite (she dated the founder’s son then was “found out” only to replace his bodyguard with a host copy).

Dolores falls into Caleb’s arms just as she fell into young William’s arms all those years ago during his first trip to the park, and he’s driven towards her, much like young William, by a lingering sense of humanity and compassion, after he spotted her doing what he thought was non-personal crime via that crime app we mentioned.

Caleb questions the system, and therefore he’s very clearly going to be an ally to Dolores if she wants to dismantle it. But they will, of course, have people, or at least hosts in their way. Bernard is on his way back to the Westworld island to seemingly find the one person who might stop Dolores, Maeve. And the big reveal (one sadly spoiled by the SDCC trailer for the season) is that Maeve has been reassigned to “War World” so getting her might be hard.

The big villain it seems will be Serac, the only person who has any real control over the Rehoboam system, but will Rehoboam itself become a character? Is it a system with sentience like the version of the Forge consciousness we saw as Logan Delos last season. And how will Delos, now under the control of the unknown host pretending to be Charlotte Hale, figure into all this? She seems to have won control of the company thanks to a machine voting in her favor in Willaim’s absence.

And where is William? Last we saw the Man in Black, he was being evacuated from the park after the massacre, so we know he’s alive. There’s also that after-credits scene of him in a host loop of some kind in the future, but that’s not the human William we know. How is he going to react to Dolores going after Incite, if he finds out? Seems like giving humanity back their free will might be something he’s into.

The new season is a huge departure for the show, but still is so lavish and beautiful. They’ve moved from natural beauty to showcasing remarkable architecture and technology that seems like it’s very possible we’ll see one day in reality, and the results on screen are breathtaking.

As a whole, I liked this first hour even if it was a slightly scary look at where we might be heading as a society if we continue to let algorithms dictate our life. It certainly made me happier to turn my phone off and at least maintain the illusion that I have some free will left.

(image: HBO)

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.