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Westworld: Season 3, Episode 3 (The Absence of Field) - Review

Westworld Season 3, Episode 3

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

WHO is the real Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson)? That was the central question posed by the intriguing third episode of Westworld: Season 3.

There were others, of course. Westworld wouldn’t be the show it is if it didn’t leave you questioning just about everything that you witness. But while others stretched to the nature of life itself (and how in control we really are) to the possibility of hosts being able to love more purely than humans, the main mystery surrounding The Absence of Field concerned Hale’s true identity: particularly given that she, herself, was struggling with the answer herself.

The assumption, to this point, had been that Charlotte’s body was now inhabited by an alternate version of Dolores. She had departed Westworld, after all, with control units containing the data of four hosts (including Bernard).

But where the ‘new’ Charlotte had seemed to be a confident mirror of the former, now deceased Delos employee during season three’s first episode, she now seems a shadow of her former self. An early scene between her and Dolores found her afraid and vulnerable, questioning the nature of her existence.

Not only was she struggling to understand how to be Charlotte, but also to remember who she was prior to becoming Charlotte: the host whose identity we’re now dying to know!

As the episode unfolded, Charlotte went on a journey. She learned how to become a mother to an estranged son, even turning protector once it was revealed that he was being groomed by a predator. A scene in which she dealt with the paedophile was very potent. But it also asked subtle questions about the host’s ability to be more than just hosts: but rather capable of flesh and blood feelings and emotions.

This was further underlined in the way that Charlotte gradually came to empathise with a video recording of the late Charlotte recording a poignant farewell message to her son as the massacre at Westworld took place behind her. She understood the nature of loss. And, in doing so, she uncovered a more human side to the ‘human’ Charlotte – something past episodes had not shown.

There is clearly a conflict being developed about the scope of a host’s experience and what they are capable of achieving and/or becoming.

Of similar worth was a second scene between Charlotte and Dolores in a hotel room, during which Dolores sought to reassure the former. There was an unspoken romanticism between them, as well as the hint of something sexual that not only begged questions over the eventual ‘reveal’ of Charlotte’s true identity, but also the relationships that can exist between hosts. There was a gentle beauty to the moment Dolores and Charlotte cuddled each other on the bed: it was sexy without being exploitative and, maybe even maternal.

By episode’s end, however, Charlotte was facing a different kind of dilemma, having been revealed as the mole in Delos that had enabled Serac (Vincent Cassel) to take over most of the company. She was his spy, which inadvertently places her on a collision course with Dolores, whom Serac has only recently despatched Maeve (Thandie Newton) to kill.

And so we have another question: just what version of Charlotte will emerge from the confusion within; the Dolores approved version or the Serac-manipulated version? Or will she, perhaps, develop a mind of her own and choose her own destiny?

Elsewhere, the nature of destiny was further explored in the relationship between Dolores and Caleb (Aaron Paul), who finally got to spend some time with her.

Early on, Caleb was abandoned by Dolores. But after being captured and tortured by rogue cops, Dolores rescued Caleb and then primed him to become another ally.

It is here that Dolores gets to explain the true ‘evil’ of the corporation she is seeking to tear down… a corporation that can tell whether you are likely to enter your older years in debt and with a sceptical view of technology. If so, they can deny access to such things as money and work, posing an algorithm that has a certain way of playing out.

In Caleb’s case, he would eventually commit suicide on the very peer that Dolores had brought him to in order to discuss his fate.

And therein lay another question: how much control do we have? Is everything about choice or pre-determined by the choices we make? How much are we in control of technology at this point? Or is technology now beginning to control us?

Dolores knows the answer and wants to change it. And by episode’s end, so does Caleb. He figures he’s dead either way, but at least by siding with Dolores he can decide.

It’s a feature of the third season, so far, that big questions are continually posed while the nature of reality, and whether we can really believe what we’re seeing, is constantly under scrutiny.

And yet, there’s that seductive appeal too. The series looks stunning, never more so than during the futuristic sequences. The new world we’re being invited to explore is rife with possibility as well as deception. There’s a beauty that continually feels false, given the violence that always seems moments away.

We still don’t know whether the answers, if and when they arrive, will be truly satisfying. But so long as the show continues to seduce us visually and psychologically in the way that it has been, we’re more than happy to go along for the ride. There’s nothing on TV quite like Westworld right now.

Read our review of episode 2