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Westworld: Season 3, Episode 8 (Crisis Theory) - Final episode review

Westworld: Season 3, Episode 8

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

THERE was a sublime, even moving moment towards the end of this final episode of Westworld‘s third season when I thought the series as a whole could have concluded in supremely satisfying fashion.

Alas, a post credits sting undid all of that, setting up a new direction and a new genre for the recently confirmed fourth season. But it also begged a big question: can Westworld sustain the quality and momentum it built during this third run? Or would it have been a good call to quit while on top?

Certainly, if anyone is capable of delivering, then it’s showrunners Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan, who now probably have at least two years in which to perfect a new storyline. But there’s just that nagging doubt that season three achieved a pinnacle for the series that they may struggle to surpass.

So, what worked so well?

[Spoilers ahead]

The Dolores storyline. Where her motivations had seemed murky for most of the season (did she intend to wipe out humanity?), the resolution of her story proved to be something far different… and far more beautiful and poignant.

Westworld has long been a series that seems to highlight the worst in humanity. The mere premise of having robot hosts rebel against their creators for the way in which they are horrifically treated, said as much.

But this third season went one step further. Where the hosts, led by Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), were out from the park and seeking some kind of reckoning, the bulk of humanity was reduced to being unknowingly subservient to a giant computer (Rohohohoboam) and its God-complex creator, Serac (Vincent Cassel).

In other words, lives were pre-determined and those that dared questioned it were labelled outliers and enslaved in different ways (step forward Aaron Paul’s ex-soldier Caleb).

The twist at the end of season three was that Dolores saw this and took pity on humanity. Rather than seeking to destroy it, her mission had been to save it. Her reasoning was eloquently put…

“So many of my memories were ugly. But the things I held on to until the end weren’t the ugly ones. I remember the moments where I saw what they were really capable of. Moments of kindness, here and there. They created us. And they knew enough of beauty to teach it to us. Maybe they can find it themselves. But only if you pick a side, Maeve. There is ugliness in this world. Disarray. I choose to see the beauty.”

It’s a rare moment of hope and optimism in a show that’s not really known for dealing in it.

Dolores’ decision ‘freed’ humanity to make its own choice, in the same way that Caleb had earlier been freed to make his. But it came at deep personal cost to Dolores. She died. And that version of the Dolores character will never be seen again on Westworld. She will be greatly missed.

Had the show taken its leave and ended there, few could have denied that this would have been a beautiful ending.

But there was more. Humanity, now free, began its new phase by ‘blowing shit up’. Hence, in a scene that echoed the end of Fight Club, Meave (Thandie Newton) and Caleb watched as apartment blocks exploded around them, prompting Meave to declare: “This is the new world… and in this world you can be whoever the fuck you want.”

The final credits then began to roll… yet there was still more. And this is where things got messy.

William (Ed Harris), who had spent the episode trying to break free from Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) and Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth), continued to believe he was now the real hero of the show and set about ridding the world of hosts.

He sought to do this by tracking down Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) and killing her (knowing her to be another Dolores). Instead, what he found was a new Dolores… an anti Dolores who had a different plan for humanity: its destruction.

Hale, you see, is still bearing the scars of having lost her family (killed a couple of episodes back in a car explosion). And she wants revenge.

In order to do so, she is creating her own host army, led by The Man in Black (Harris again). Hence, this newer, more lethal Man in Black was finally unveiled and unleashed. And his first act was to kill the real William. It was a chilling end to the episode. But it paves the way for the fourth season, while also tipping its cowboy hat to the original Westworld movie and the Yul Brynner gunslinger character. Harris will now have the chance to emulate that killing machine going forward.

So, all complete? Not quite. One further scene showed Bernard awakening from something called ‘the Sublime’ – a digital world he had been given a key to. Bernard was covered in dust and looked startled. But what had he seen? And how long had he been ‘away’?

These answers will also form an integral part of the fourth season. But, in grand Westworld fashion, they also look set to represent the mind-bending element of the storytelling. And therein lies another potential problem.

A lot of the success of season three lay in the relatively (and we use that word advisedly) straight-forward nature of the storytelling. It seemed to have a clear beginning, middle and end, give or take the odd mind-fuck moment.

And, as mentioned, that end (or the Dolores resolution) had something disarmingly moving and intellectually brilliant about it: not least the notion that mankind could ultimately have been saved by those it had previously sought to abuse and enslave for its own wickedly perverse and violent delights.

It was surprisingly hopeful. But kind of perfect. And it was delivered with typical visual panache, mixing extreme violence with surreal beauty.

In opting to pull the rug out from under us with those next few scenes, however, Westworld now enters dangerous new territory. And while there’s something bold and fearless about that decision, as well as compelling (to find out just where it goes next), it’s also difficult to see how the Dolores resolution can now be bettered.

Thus, the two year wait for the fourth season will be somewhat trepidatious.

Read our review of the previous episode