westworld

Westworld Episode 3.05: “Genre” Review

“Do you want to know your future?”

Knowing one’s future is a tricky thing, a duplicitous one at that. I like the idea of certainty in things, like a job, apartment, or the arrival of another pack of underwear I ordered because I’m a gay man who is constantly stressed. But the idea of knowing where my life ends, how it ends, or how an algorithm perceives my capacity to contribute to society is terrifying. Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) argues that people have the right to know what Rehoboam has decided for them and in that respect, she has a point. Liam (John Gallagher, Jr.) counters that people shouldn’t know what their futures hold, for it would unleash chaos. Considering what plays out in this episode, Liam has a valid argument. The difference between the two in this particular narrative, however, comes down to understanding how differently the privilege of choice factors into their lives.

Liam is a wealthy trust fund child whose privileges have grown with the idea that people are locked into their pathways. He feels superior to those who lack his privileges. “You will always be petty criminals,” he screams in thinly disguised desperation. However, in that moment, on the beach, he has sufficiently been taken out of his own loop and he is incapable of understanding his privilege. But is being shot on a beach a fate that Rehoboam predicted for him? In his final moments, is that what his privilege ultimately bought him? After bemoaning an entire life where he was simply a figurehead without any power or will of his own, how could he be so obtuse in recognizing the sanctity of choice? Perhaps his privilege had simply blinded him to the idea of structural upheaval, so he was content in his discontentment until his final breaths.

The structural flaw in Serac’s (Vincent Cassel) vision is that people don’t stick to their loops in predictable ways. He says that there are little blind white spots where people intersect with randomness and true free will is born. He finds them, perhaps, to be small blips on the horizon that a future version of Rehoboam simply could fix. Troublingly, he also believes in outliers, people who don’t mould themselves into the system of Rehoboam. At first, one would think that he saw Dolores as an outlier because she’s a host and not a human. In this episode, one realises that Serac is a full-blown eugenicist who decides to experiment on his own brother, the “troubled genius” as he calls him, because he was an outlier who couldn’t be predicted. Serac believes that humans who are outliers can simply be edited, moulded into Rehoboam.

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Serac is hardly the first fictional or real-life character who believes that humanity’s penchant for making mistakes can be “fixed.” It’s the idea that drives the foundation of eugenics, the creation of a perfect human race or at least one that can be near perfect. Eugenics goes hand in hand with fascism, the consolidation of power in the hands of a centralized sociopolitical oligarchy, and as an inherently racist concept, has historically been deployed with catastrophic consequences against people of colour. The  rapid evolution of data and how it informs this resurgence of eugenics is troubling to say the least and perhaps the most devastating question Westworld has posed yet.

Dolores decides that Serac’s ownership of humanity’s fate is no longer acceptable and she, in one fell swoop, releases Rehoboam’s analysis of everyone across the globe in minutes. People suddenly discover their fates, like if Rehoboam had decided that they were going to be killed violently in ten years, if they were going to commit suicide in six, and whether the system found them to be worthy candidates for reproduction.

Notes:

+ Composer Ramin Djawadi outdid himself here.
+ Loved the line of “flies in the ointment,” which reminded me of Dolores’s iconic moment at the end of the series’ premiere.
+ Data has already made borders obsolete and this cold open feels like the most realistic thing Westworld has done with the future yet.
+ “You can’t be in two places at once.” Lol

+ What a clean subway system!
+ So it seems that Caleb [Aaron Paul] was experimented on in Serac’s lab? The natural follow-up question is: who is he?

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– The genre thing led to some neat visuals and gave the characters moments to shine, but without a deeper impact on the plot, it felt more gimmicky than necessary.

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