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Westworld: Season 3, Episode 1 (Parce Domine) - Review


Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4.5 out of 5

IT’S the job of Westworld to dazzle and baffle in equal measure. And season three opener Parce Domine did so in magnificent fashion.

A bold departure from what has come before, this first episode sometimes felt like we were being invited to discover the series all over again. It had at least one major new central character, in Aaron Paul’s former soldier, Caleb, and had finally escaped the confines of the ‘park’ to operate in the real world.

But co-existing with this beautiful, bold new vision were the ghosts of the past, as epitomised by the striking Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), a former subject turned near-Terminator in her relentless pursuit for answers and revenge.

The episode began with Dolores paying a visit to a Delos mega-investor (Thomas Kretschmann), who had spent a lifetime taking a perverse delight in abusing his wives, while also paying a visit to Westworld for some stag-do based wrong-doing to Dolores herself. Her revenge wasn’t kind.

She followed that up by latching herself onto a new boyfriend: Liam Dempsey (John Gallahger), the son of the former head of Incite, a tech firm that would appear to have a major stake in both the current world and its real-life occupants and Westworld itself (and AI in particular).

But infiltrating and killing various tech bigwigs didn’t come without complications. By the episode’s end, Liam’s bodyguard had attempted to kill Dolores, only to be slain himself and replaced by a clone. Dolores, meanwhile, had been injured in the ensuing gunfight.

And this is where things really got exciting. A wounded Dolores ended the episode in the arms of Caleb (Paul), setting up some mouth-watering possibilities.

Running simultaneously with Dolores’ ongoing journey outside of the park was the story of former soldier Caleb, who appears to offer a rare flesh and blood human character. Forced into rehab because of his experiences in war, Caleb was frequently seen being given counselling to deal with his trauma, as well as trying to find jobs based on the credit he was building for submitting to said counselling.

But most applications were met with near misses. And Caleb was struggling. In order to make ends meet, he engaged in random criminal activity, via an app that offered him jobs. It was one such job that put him on the pathway to finding Dolores.

Paul’s introduction to the show comes as a massive bonus. The Breaking Bad luminary has quickly established himself as an engaging, heartfelt presence – someone real, or presumed to be real, who displays regret and compassion in equal measure. There are doubts, of course… a throwaway comment about having a gun pointed toward his head, and fired, suggests there is more to him than, perhaps, meets the eye.

But thus far, Caleb is something of a hero figure.

And the world in which he and Dolores now co-exist is sexy, highly futuristic and dangerous. It’s also downright compelling, which brings us to another strength of the season three opener.

Now free from the constraints posed by the park (and its mostly Western setting), Westworld has unfolded into something broadly wonderful. The glimpses into the future it affords could easily be a taster of what lies in store for us all: self-driven cars and motorbikes, swish nightclubs and bars, and super-stylish, often downright sexy clothing etc. There was an endlessly visually seductive feel to the show, not least when Dolores summoned a motorbike to follow her boyfriend’s sports car through a neon-lit city landscape. It was Michael Mann-esque in style.

Elsewhere, there was still more for audiences to consider. Jeffrey Wright’s returning character Bernard is initially found ending to calves, before then going to work at a lab full of meat. His life seems calm until he is recognised by two colleagues as the man responsible for the massacre of 113 people at Westworld.

It’s then Bernard switches to a more murderous side… a side he had previously been seen questioning over his mental state. By the episode’s end, he is boarding a Chinese fishing boat, requesting a return to Westworld, in order to look for a friend.

And therein lies another of the questions planed by this first episode: which friend? And for what reason?

Likewise, what will become of the relationship between Caleb and Doloroes? Will Caleb unwittingly become another of those men to sympathise with her, only to meet a violent end?

And what of Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson), another of Westworld‘s recurring characters? We know, from memory or the previously introduction, that she was slain and replaced – initially – by Dolores to facilitate her escape. But she was also witnessed liaising with Incite executives, extolling the virtues of the Delos massacre and how it lends the park some integrity. Who is occupying her body now?

The answers are far from clear; the ultimate direction of the series impossible to predict. But that’s what we love about this endlessly inventive, mind-blowing puzzle of a show. It remains a violent, downright essential delight.

Westworld airs on Sky Atlantic on Monday nights from 9pm.

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