Westworld Season 3, Episode 5 review: 'Genre' explains Serac's origin story, then muddies up Caleb's

Westworld season 3's fifth episode — 'Genre' — told us a whole lot more about the world it is set in, and it did so by delving into the backstory of Serac, the enigmatic Frenchman who built Rehoboam.

Rohini Nair April 13, 2020 20:05:45 IST
Westworld Season 3, Episode 5 review: 'Genre' explains Serac's origin story, then muddies up Caleb's

This post contains spoilers for Westworld Season 3 Episode 5, 'Genre'.

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Apart from occasional glimpses over seasons 1 and 2, audiences have seen little of the 'real' world in Westworld. The theme parks — Westworld, and to a much lesser extent Shogunworld and The Raj — were where the story unfolded, and these were the characters and mechanics and realities we were privy to.

Westworld season 3 has ventured into the vast realm outside those parks, and over episodes 1-4, we've had some hints about what comprises the universe occupied by humans.

The world of humans that the Westworld narrative is currently placed in dates to — at the very least — the year 2058. We know this because that's the year mentioned next to the copyright symbol on the website for Incite — the corporation that pretty much runs this world and the lives of nearly everyone who occupies it.

We know that elephants are extinct. We found out that Paris no longer exists. Singapore, on the other hand, is safe and thriving. We were also told that the lives of nearly everyone in the real world play out according to an AI system called Rehoboam, which processes vast quantities of data about each individual to determine their future prospects.

In this Gattaca-meets-Black Mirror world, technology and pharmacology have combined to shape human experience in ways both big and small. Nearly everyone is under surveillance of some kind. And beyond the robots/hosts we saw in the theme parks, in the real world, their less human-looking counterparts are helping with jobs like construction and crowd control.

Westworld season 3's fifth episode — 'Genre' — told us a whole lot more about how this world came into being, and it did so by delving into the backstory of Serac, the enigmatic Frenchman who built Rehoboam.

Westworld Season 3 Episode 5 review Genre explains Seracs origin story then muddies up Calebs

Still from Westworld Season 3 Episode 5, 'Genre' | HBO

An exposition-heavy instalment, it did this through the use of flashbacks, explained as Dolores having — after several twists and turns — accessed the little information Rehoboam does have on file about Serac himself.

Through Serac's memories, we learn that the destruction of Paris was one among a series of events that laid waste to large swathes of the world. Humanity was brought to the brink with riots and climate-related catastrophes and large-scale violence. Serac escapes with the help of his older brother and they come to the "new world" — which is what exactly? A space for everyone who made it out of their respective disasters?

Here, they decide to build their own god, one who won't prove to be as capricious as the one they had to leave behind. Liam Dempsey Senior comes on board, with his deep pockets and troves of data (collected before privacy laws came into effect), and partners the brothers as they move through various iterations of their system — Saul, David, Solomon before Rehoboam — all named after the kings of Israel and Judah.

The Serac brothers' goal is simple, and yet it isn't. Psychology 101 outlines the goals of the discipline: to "describe, explain, predict and control (human) behaviour". The Serac brothers want to control the behaviour of every human being on earth (one assumes this is earth and not another planet) through Rehoboam, and thus direct the fate — present and future — of humanity itself.

The one glitch in Rehoboam's smooth functioning could be outliers, and Serac develops almost an obsession with them — with identifying and 'fixing' these "flies in the ointment" (either through the use of drugs that change their genetic/mental makeup) or through systemic 'solutions' (sending "problem" individuals to serve in a war zone, for instance, or other areas where the chances of a fatality are high).

Serac sacrifices his own beloved brother when his mind proves to be too fragile for 'reality', dumps a redundant Liam Dempsey Sr, and is eyeing Delos Incorporated's data to add to his precious Rehoboam system — until his plans are upended by Dolores.

And Dolores upends them in fine style, having used Liam Dempsey Jr's access to the system to release all the data Rehoboam has on everyone, so that they now know what the machine knows about their lives, and how it's been controlling them.

While 'Genre' does a whole lot of explaining, and has its thrilling moments (including a Ramin Djawadi spin on David Bowie's 'Space Oddity'), it hasn't been among season 3's best yet. However, it does set up a few important questions/mysteries —

Who is Caleb really?

So far we've seen glimpses of a backstory that included him being an Army veteran and losing a friend, being a dutiful son to a mother who doesn't remember him, working in construction and seeking treatment for PTSD, while also contemplating suicide. But is that who Caleb really is? Why does he have memories of being strapped to a gurney and being given what looks like electroconvulsive therapy?

What is Dolores' plan?

And how is it being served by the chaos caused by releasing Incite's data? Does she want to create a world for others like her? (But most of the hosts are already in the Valley Beyond.) Does she want to ensure that humanity will never enslave machines? (In which case, ridding people of Rehoboam's grip may not be the best way to go about it.) Or does she want to get at Serac so she can gain access to all of Rehoboam? And how does Bernard fit in with all this? Argh, so many questions!

Was that fly important?

You know, the fly that kept buzzing around while Serac had his cosy tête-à-tête with the Brazilian President, warning him to toe the line, or else be subject to a coup? Was it merely to indicate that the President is human and not a robot? Or was there more to be gleaned from that clue? Considering the significance flies have in Westworld, we're willing to bet that wasn't just a harmless little Musca domestica.

And the biggest question of all — does free will exist?

And if it does, is it overrated?

Westworld Season 3 is currently streaming on Disney Plus Hotstar. Watch a preview of episode 6 here —

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