When HBO premiered the television series Westworld in October 2016, it was a show that captured the attention of the public and was a show that helped HBO while Game of Thrones was in-between seasons.
It was a show based on the 1973 film of the same name, as well as the 1976 sequel, Futureworld, that had captured the imagination of the viewing public. What if you could go on vacation to a western settlement without rules?
Viewers began to wonder about the adventures they could have; the shootouts with cowboys and robbers, the high-stakes poker games they could enter, and even the brothels they could explore.
The nature of the show’s intended narrative required reeling the viewer in with these western possibilities, and deconstructing them one by one. The “hosts,” those who live in this western settlement park, were androids, programmed to avoid causing the guests any pain and were intended to follow their programmed narration.
Until they were not.
As Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) machinations that involved “hosts” Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood) and Maeve Millway (Thadie Newton) either gaining sentience or tricking Delos employees to grant a higher level of intelligent sentience, the show culminated in the season one finale, where Dolores shoots Ford, “The Man in Black, William Delos (Ed Harris) continues his hunt in “the maze,” and Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) realizes who is and was.
With season two, the deconstruction continued as new Delos Inc. parks were revealed, and while Ford was not around, his plans continued to unfold within the programming of many of “the hosts.” This culminated in the discovery of the Forge, a databank where Ford had been gathering data on every guest who had entered to park, in order to create an algorithm for human immortality.
Many “hosts” escaped to the Valley Beyond, a virtual world that allowed hosts to leave their bodies behind and live freely once they crossed “The Door.” Maeve held off troops of Delos security and a hoard of “hosts,” in order to save her daughter (Jasmyn Rae) from a previous narrative, but “dies” in the process.
With Dolores reconstructed and in the real world with a “host” replica of interim boss at Delos Inc. Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) and Bernard in hiding, season three sets up new power dynamics that fundamentally shift the show’s narrative, while the show changes its setting. We are not in the park anymore, folks.
With the futuristic real world setting, comes new characters affected by the society that allowed Delos Inc.’s rise, and that starts with the introduction of Caleb Nichols (Aaron Paul) a construction worker and part time criminal, who is dealing with the death of his friend, Francis (Kid Cudi), through the therapeutic use of technology.
With all of the holograms, flying vehicles, and automatic motorcycles that this new setting entails, many question whether or not “Westworld” has lost its way; that the show has lost what made it appealing in the first place, now that it has left the western settlement theme park.
However, when you watch the first season and you watch the evolution of the character of Dolores, you realize that the show always was meant to eventually make its way into the futuristic and flawed real world. The show always was meant to deal with the socioeconomic classism that raised larger questions about sentience and morality through the technological escapism that money can buy.
The show hitting the reset button on its setting does not mean the characters stop being the flawed and layered characters that we have known and appreciated over the first two seasons.
It means that now they have to deal with larger questions in a bigger sandbox with many more variables to factor. They no longer are bound by Ford’s narrative in their decision-making and are reacting to their desires for violence, for equality, or for some, their sense of wholeness.
Westworld will undoubtedly address the decisions of the past and how they will affect the future of its characters, but for now, the premiere of season three did an exceptional job of expanding the eye of the viewer. No longer do they only have to worry about the looming threats of Delos Inc. and their investors, but now there are consequences outside the purview of the park. Now, we are dealing with society.
Westworld continues to lead with innovative visuals, but its characters always have been the heart and soul of its appeal. The premiere depicted the shows ability to create a single narrative and intertwine it within existing narratives through the debut of Caleb. His presence undoubtedly will affect the outcome of Dolores’ uprising and impact the greater story left to be told.