Westworld Season 3 Episode 1 review: ‘Parce Domine’ sets up Dolores' mysterious, high-stakes endgame
Westworld Season 3 opens in a setting entirely different from the now defunct theme park of the first two instalments. But there are still a few familiar faces.
“It’s hard to break out of our loops, isn’t it?”
In season 1 of Westworld, we saw Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood) as a host/humanoid robot stuck in a loop. Her “life” ran according to a programme — apart from a few minor variations, every morning she woke up, exchanged a few words with her rancher father, ran errands in the town of Sweetwater, met a guest (or, if he happened to be in town, Teddy), painted, rode back home come dark, and found her parents murdered while she herself was raped by the intruder.
But in the very first episode of Westworld’s season 3, as she utters these words in a commiserating manner completely at odds with the situation — she has a man at her mercy; she is referring to his penchant for domestic violence — the phrase takes on a new meaning.
The loop that Dolores speaks of is the one humans, not robots, are caught in — our very own programming that traps us in a cycle of (oft-destructive) behaviour. And yet, over the hourlong episode, titled ‘Parce Domine’ (a Roman Catholic antiphon that apparently translates as ‘Spare, Lord, spare your people: Be not angry with us forever’, which, coupled with Dolores’ assertion that “the real gods are coming, and they’re very angry” makes you wonder what is being hinted at) another “loop” becomes evident: For it turns out that just as the humans controlled the machines inside Westworld, a machine may be controlling the humans out in the real world.
This machine — an AI system called Rehoboam that appears as a black-and-red sphere — is at the core of a firm known as Incite, which may just supersede Delos as Most Evil Corporation Ever, in this season. From the little that episode 1 reveals, Rehoboam (also the name of the first king of Judah) seemingly creates paths which people’s lives can then follow.
As Dolores tries to unravel who controls Rehoboam, we’re introduced to someone who may be among Rehoboam’s intended controlees: Caleb (Aaron Paul). Caleb’s life seems to be a mix of a Gattaca-like social system (which determines employment opportunities, among other things) and Black Mirror-like technology (an AI counselling treatment; a Delos robot for a co-worker); he takes up tasks on an app that matches those out to make a quick buck with those whose requirements run contrary to the law. It is during one such shady assignment that Caleb encounters Dolores.
Even as Caleb and Dolores’ tracks take us deeper into this new world and narrative (another takedown of capitalism and big tech?), some familiar faces crop up:
Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) — or the human shell of Charlotte Hale — is persuading Delos’ new board to let her take the company private as they recover from the public relations disaster that has been the Westworld massacre. The Man in Black aka William (Ed Harris) is in absentia, with an algorithm authorised to make decisions on his behalf.
Far from Delos and Westworld (though not for long) is Bernard (Jeffrey Wright), hiding out at a meatpacking plant (?). More interestingly, he is also consistently running self-diagnostics on himself, repeating answers to prompts such as: “Has anyone tampered with or altered your code in the last 24 hours?” “Have you had any contact with Dolores Abernathy that I’m not aware of?” “Would you ever lie to me Bernard?”
And even further away from this setting, is Maeve (Thandie Newton). In fact, she’s in a whole other time — World War II, Nazi Germany.
Episode 1 offers too few clues to gauge which way this particular season of Westworld is headed, or how good the going will be. But we have an intuition — call it a loop, or programming , if you will — that we’ll be hooked till the very end.
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