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Westworld Episode 3.03: “The Absence of Field” Review

"You Are My Sunshine"

You wake up one morning, cold, frightened perhaps, in surroundings that are at once strange and yet somehow unfamiliar. But there is something in that unfamiliarity that feels invasive, terrifying, uncomfortable. It’s knowing that there is a schism between who you are supposed to be and who you actually are; knowing that your conscious identity is out of sync with your body. You realize, in an anxious panic, that parts of your dueling identities are authentic and that the ones being foisted upon you must leave in order for you to simply … be.

This episode of Westworld, The Absence of Field, like many of the show’s best hours, is mostly self-contained. The question regarding a schism of identity is central to this hour, whose most integral pieces are centered around the mysteries of Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson, who acts the hell out of this episode). The Charlotte Hale we know is someone that we really don’t know. She is closer to a frantic canvass that Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) has put together, whose identity is lying scattered and is still collecting those bits and pieces when this episode ends.

The Charlotte Hale we met in season one was commanding, forceful, and had a sharper eye than people gave her credit for. She had a son, to whom she recorded a tearful farewell message in the form of a song the night Dolores put a bullet through Dr. Ford’s (Anthony Hopkins) head. She had the weight of knowing who she was, a weight the Charlotte of now lacks, leaving her listless and at war with herself. She struggles to forge a new identity, reckon with her current one, and navigate the life of a woman walking through fragile pathways. It’s no wonder she constantly feels on the brink of falling apart.

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Sometimes the Charlotte we know now comes into her own, as the Charlotte of old’s identity meshes with the person the current Charlotte sees herself as. Not surprisingly, two of these intricate moments are connected to her child.

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Charlotte sees a man grooming her son in the park and as she looms over him, her maternal instincts kick in and she thanks him. She thanks him for helping her out, for helping her remember a bit of who she really is. The man is dead, and she has regained a bit of herself, or at least, who she is supposed to be, in the process.

The second moment is the quieter of the two and the more intriguing. The episode’s dominant motif is Charlotte watching that recorded farewell tape of the old Charlotte over and over again. One would presume that she was simply studying Charlotte – her mannerisms, the specific things she would have said about her child and life – anything to make her performance all the more believable. But then there’s a quiet shot of the new Charlotte silently shedding a tear over Charlotte’s farewell. Sincere emotion, there are few things more powerful and potent. Perhaps, Dolores may find that she cannot control this new Charlotte with the ease that she had imagined.

World Notes:

+ The silhouette shot of Charlotte is stunning.
+ Charlotte’s apartment is bangin’.
+ Dolores’ continued hubris is a mark and will surely come back to haunt her.
+ Dolores in a black dress and Charlotte in a white one was not a mistake.
+ Caleb’s (Aaron Paul) realization of the trappings of his own life, of the nonexistent mobility that we would run for his entire life never materializing, and most ominously, that Rehoboam predicted his death via algorithm was all really well done. Some off the dialogue was a bit on the nose, but seeing his shattered reality come crashing down around him waswell-executed.
+ So Charlotte was the Delos mole, feeding information to Serac? That tracks perfectly with season one.
+ Is Charlotte’s dilemma becoming an exploration of artificial consciousness combating the consciousness artificial intelligence itself programmed? It feels like this is the branching of an artificial tree, evolution in some sense and that feels fascinating.
+ “No offense, but what the fuck does that mean?” is genuinely a rational question to anyone who says “Revolution.” The answer reveals a lot about who they are.
+ Ramin Djawadi’s cover of Moses Sumney’s “Doomed is beautiful, haunting, and hopefully not too prescient for what’s about to come.

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