Westworld is a plethora of ideas, sometimes meshed without subtlety into its primary consciousness. Other ideas swim below the surface, bubbling forth from time to time before disappearing once more. The most interesting idea in Westworld, a point of contention depending on your point of view, is that a being with artificial consciousness can evolve to become more capable of empathy than the human being it replaced. This idea offers a note of dry humour to Serac (Vincent Cassel), that the new Charlotte (Tessa Thompson) cares more for her child than the Charlotte he knew. At least, she did not care enough to the point where she would abandon her work “at a time like this” to go be with her child.
The notion of empathy is a bit scattered in a show like Westworld, a marquee primetime drama series where darkness, pettiness, and a generally, let’s say, downbeat version of humanity reigns supreme. It’s very much in the mould of Game of Thrones, The Wire, and Watchmen, so when an idea like empathy becomes integral to the narrative structure of Westworld, it matters a great deal. The audience also never got to see Hale interact with her child, so perhaps Serac was simply seeing her through the same myopic lens with which he views everyone. But regardless of how much the original Charlotte cared for her family, it’s quite clear that this version of Charlotte cares a great deal more.
Westworld previously explored this idea when Charlotte put her son to bed and she choked the life force out of the predator preying on her son. The same goes for when she watched those videos of Hale at the Delos shootout on repeat. But it lands here, with the expected tragedies, with enough force to frustrate a viewer that it didn’t receive more attention. There is some truth to the idea that if we had seen a lot more of Charlotte and her family this episode, their eventual demises in a fiery explosion would be more predictable. But it would have been more valuable because, as of this episode, this new Charlotte and her evolution is the most thrilling character and narrative choice, respectively, that the show has ever made.
While the new Charlotte ends the episode singed and burned all over, but remains alive, the rest of the episode is largely divided between Maeve (Thandie Newton) and William (Ed Harris). Maeve is easily the more thrilling of the pair, and not just because she started out the episode by tearing through some Nazis. There’s a heft to her story that the latter simply lacks. In an episode like this one, structured clearly to get through plot and make way for the finale, it’s clearer and more evident than ever before. Not knowing where this season is heading, or if the showrunners are going to stick their purported five season plan, this should really be the end of the road for William.
His speech about human beings simply being cockroaches and bacteria is not new. Serac delivered a version of that just a couple of episodes ago. It’s also a generic villain’s “human beings are worthless trash” line that quite simply doesn’t accomplish anything – nor does the thin little hints of William having a possibly abusive father. It’s an attempt at characterization that is unneeded, no matter what William does to “save the world.” There’s nowhere truly interesting to take him going forward, nor is there much more gold to mine from his past.
For Maeve, on the other hand, there’s plenty. She begins the episode in the valley from the end of season two, a bucolic setting as Serac puts it, that will only be hers if she succeeds in bringing down Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood). There’s an anger and a frustration that she, after what seemed like a surefire march towards freedom and independence, was stuck playing second fiddle to a dangerous man. In that conversation with a Dolores copy (which, may be now destroyed?), you can sense that frustration, that gnawing desire to break out of her circumstances. It certainly doesn’t help that Dolores reminds her that she the power to control hosts with her mind. Hector falls before her eyes yet again but a new body is being built to assist Maeve in her quest. Who it is remains to be seen.
+ Give Tessa Thompson an Emmy. What a performance.
+ The entire sequence where Charlotte escapes the new Incite offices was excellent – neat payoff with the Riot Control robots.
+ Maeve punching Nazis is quite possibly everything that I’ve ever wanted.
+ The group therapies between the multiple Williams was mildly amusing at times. I’ll give the episode that.
+ William’s therapist committing suicide as a result of a profile leak was heartbreaking.
+ “They’re not your family,” Dolores says coldly to Charlotte. You can see Charlotte’s face crumble so slightly at that remark.