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Westworld: Season 3, Episode 6 (Decoherence) - Review

Westworld: Season 3, Episode 6

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

AS Westworld enters the final straight of its so-far excellent third season, the stakes were raised considerably in Decoherence – another of those episodes that baffled and exhilarated in equal measure.

The battle between Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and Serac (Vincent Cassel) claimed new victims, while the likes of William (Ed Harris) and Maeve (Thandie Newton) continued to struggle with identifying the exact nature of their realities.

[Spoilers ahead]

Of all those characters, though, Decoherence was a particularly trying for Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson), the former Delos head now occupied by one of the Dolores hosts, yet struggling with an emotional attachment to the life of her former occupant.

For several episodes, Hale has grappled with issues of identity, motherhood, empathy and deception, torn between doing as Dolores instructs and keeping off the radar of Serac, the man she had previously been supplying information to.

Here, matters came to a head. Serac, aware that his own grip on world control is facing its biggest threat, determined to take back power by, first, blocking Dolores’ power moves within Delos and then finding the host who has been implanted within the company.

This left Hale with a dilemma: whether to play along and risk getting caught, while carrying out Dolores’ mission, or to try and extend her remit by protecting the two lives of the people she – or Charlotte – loved: her son and ex-husband.

By the end of the episode, Hale had been identified as the mole by Serac but had managed to turn the tables on her accuser by gassing a room full of boardroom executives. She almost had Serac in her gun sights, only for his presence to be revealed as virtual (in what is fast becoming a Serac character trait).

Thereafter, Hale went on the run, or as Thompson likes to describe it in post-episode interviews, all Terminator. She laid waste to several of Serac’s henchmen, even employing the help of a Transformers-style robot to make good her escape. And she started to block plans for Serac to empower Maeve by providing her with her own team capable of fighting the multiple Dolores.

But just when it seemed Hale may have made it out alive and actually fulfilled her promise of protecting her son and husband, fate dealt a cruel blow: or at least Serac. The car she was driving exploded, killing her husband and son, and leaving her severely burned and scarred. As the episode faded to black, Hale’s look of disbelief and empathetic sorrow eventually turned to anger.

Elsewhere, William was having his own terrible day. Firstly, he was experimented upon, then placed into a counselling session with various incarnations of himself: from a boy to the younger version of himself who first entered the Westworld theme park, to the Man in Black. There was even a tuxedo wearing version of himself. The session was presided over by Delos (Peter Mullan), to make matters worse.

This, in turn, invited questions about the nature of William’s existence and choices. The irony of having created the vengeful hosts now seeking to wipe out humanity was put to him, as were issues concerning his own inherent evil. Was his darkness the product of an abusive, alcoholic dad, or did William actually turn his dad to alcohol.

No matter, for William anyway. By the end of the session, William had taken it upon himself to beat all other versions of himself to death, before then declaring himself to be a hero. And when he finally ‘woke’ himself up, Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) and Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) were there to greet him. But why? What does this episode mean for William?

Meave, meanwhile, had her own reckoning. First, she was warned by Serac that any further failures on her mission to kill Dolores would be met with extreme punishment… her end, so to speak. Then, she was placed back in her WWII simulation where, Kill Bill-style, she single-handedly fought and conquered a troop of German soldiers.

Thereafter, she was able to recruit former lover Hector (Rodrigo Santoro) and writer turned ally Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman), in her bid to gain an upper hand over Dolores, even going so far as to help Hector remember his own past.

But no sooner had this been achieved, then Hale killed Hector in her own attempt to prevent Serac from gaining the upper hand. Serac’s henchmen prevented Hale from doing any further damage and, by episode’s end, Maeve was seen to have created another ally (possibly Clementine), which makes for an interesting battlefield.

As ever with Westworld, there were long periods when the mind scrambled to process everything that was going on. Attempting to decipher William’s reality and his predicament within it was mind-bending, to say the least… and it comes as little surprise to hear that Ed Harris, himself, hasn’t always been happy with the direction this season has taken his character.

But at this episode’s heart lay great tragedy, as well as the issue of humanity. By opting to explore her own version of humanity, the Hale version of Dolores paid a heavy price. Her attempts to save her family not only gave her away as the mole within Delos, but also cost her family their lives. And therein lay a great tragedy.

Where Hale goes from this point promises to be very interesting, for she now has her own agenda to fulfil.

Thompson, for her part, played the tragedy brilliantly – switching emotions throughout, from vulnerable and afraid, to icy cool and determined, to kick-ass all-action heroine. It all served to heighten the emotional impact of the final moments.

Cassel, for his part, continued to infuse his Serac with a malevolent evil that is both compelling and alarming (his disdain for free will knowing no boundaries), while Harris’ William even toyed with the notion of being sympathetic at times, a shadow of his former self until those final, bloody moments.

And there was even a timely monologue delivered to his counsellor about his own world view, which felt particularly like a commentary from Westworld‘s creators on the corrosive effect so much of humanity has had on our planet, even pre-coronavirus (“we’re maggots”).

Westworld, for all its complex plotting and challenging realities, has proven itself to be so darn brilliant because it still manages to invest proceedings with a great deal of humanity. Sure, it would appear to have a dim world view, overall. But it has continually proven itself adept at setting up tragedy… and Decoherence was an excellent example of that.

What’s more, it heightens excitement about the prospect of what lies in store for the remaining two episodes even more…

Read our verdict on the previous episode