By JASON MARTIN (@JMartZone – March 15, 2020)
I know it’s been well over a year since Season 2, but I hope I’m not the only one that finished up a tension-filled, but cumbersome and confusing premiere wondering exactly what show I just watched. I wasn’t un-entertained, I was just left baffled.
The series I wrote about in detail for two years seemed such a far cry from this futuristic, new world story, except that the names and locations were still the same. We still have Dolores Abernathy and Bernard Lowe, and we’ve still got Charlotte Hale, but generally, this felt like a series premiere of something entirely different from Westworld. I’m more just lost as to what we’re doing right now, and although I’m certainly going to continue watching and writing, I’m concerned we’re off the reservation, even for THIS show.
I’ve got three more episodes from the network that I may well speed through and write on quickly, because I want to know whether one month from now, we have a clue what’s going on and where we’re headed. This felt as much like Mass Effect or some kind of video game universe than it does Westworld, which was a created “game” park of its own, but here we have, for example, New York, which looks like it’s straight out of a Sony or Microsoft next gen console.
Dolores is planning for the infiltration of her “gods,” of which she’s the alpha, and has no emotions that can get in the way of her objectives. It’s the reverse of the first two seasons, where patrons of the park could treat her and those like her like utter garbage, raping her, killing her family, or anything else, because it wasn’t “real” and she was just a robot host.
Now, the humans are the ones that are dispensable, and the sheer chaos and disfunction surrounding Delos and also Incite show the real people are in an incredibly vulnerable, frightened position, perfect for the barrage aimed their way. The most human of all right now is Caleb (Aaron Paul), who lost his best friend, Francis, in combat, and who now walks around in some version of pure malaise, almost sleepwalking through a depressed life. He moves from therapy session to therapy session, waking up in the same misery, and to make a living, he helps assist underground criminals on an app known as “RICO,” that enables more money and more stature if the stats are high enough.
Seriously, this feels NOTHING like Westworld, but in many respects, that series ended with the exit of Robert Ford and Dolores entering modern society. I’m intrigued, especially by whether or not Caleb’s humanity can actually forge a legitimate relationship and potentially lead to some kind of an alliance or understanding between the citizens and the hosts, between those created by God… and those created by Ford or through his algorithms or the work of Liam’s father.
I sense Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan will tie all this together, but I wonder how many viewers might simply find the barrier to entry here to be too great, and I’m referring to the fans of the show. I felt like I’d never seen the series before, and the delay between seasons has made that sense a little more palpable.
Caleb’s story is interesting, but it feels like the primary arc of a separate sci-fi drama, and only because of the last sequence, where he found himself observing pieces of the firefight going on around him, then discovering and showing concern for Dolores. He has no knowledge of who she is, even less so than Liam Dempsey did before getting the intel. She’s dangerous, maybe more so than ever, because she has control of every automated system, or whatever she doesn’t, she will soon enough. The open, including the death of Jerry and the way she made her presence felt, was riveting stuff, and here we stop and again talk about the best part of this series…
…Ramin Djawadi. From the outset, his score and his musical arrangements have been nothing short of flawless. This is just stupid good, always, setting a tone and moving our minds and hearts in the direction the scene requires. He was on fire during the premiere, and it won’t change, because this isn’t new. That’s one thing that still very much feels like Westworld, even though the series is now giving us Marshawn Lynch in a light-up shirt, Lena Waithe, and Scott Mescudi, all seemingly out of the blue.
Another concept that’s the same is the condition of the world, explained beautifully and tragically by Caleb to Francis’ voice, when he says, “Sometimes the world looks alright, like they put a coat of paint on it. But inside, it’s rotted to pieces.” This is the view of the series, shown through human nature arising in the theme park. It’s always been about being who you really wish you could be, because there are no consequences, yet what it does to your mind, heart, and soul is hard to shake. Just ask the Man in Black, who wasn’t even mentioned in the 77 minute premiere.
The park is now real life and the patrons are Dolores and her kind. Bernard, well, he’s still trying to do good things under an alias, which, once discovered, leads to flipping the switch, turning into a killing machine, then pushing the button again. He’s on his way to Westworld, or that’s his goal as he gets on the boat, and then we get to Maeve Millay, who awakens in either a Nazi portion of the theme park, or somehow went back in time to the 1930s and finds herself in Germany.
Again, there’s a LOT happening here, especially surrounding the monolithic data power of Incite, but it’s a jumble of barely relative parts right now. That’s simultaneously interesting, because we want to see how Nolan and Joy weave all of it together to get to their endgame, and infuriating, because we have to rely so much on faith and hope that it is indeed going to make sense and not be an endless mind swerve where that’s the point, rather than a logical or rational conclusion.
I certainly wasn’t bored with the start of the season, but admittedly, I’m concerned with just how bonkers everything appears to be. I trust Jonathan Nolan so much, because of the brilliance of Person of Interest, that I think we’ll be pleasantly surprised. But I would imagine some viewers might have jumped off the ship tonight, or are thinking about it. We aren’t “unsubscribing,” as Caleb had to do with Francis in order to take steps to recover what’s left of his life, but we’re wondering where we are, and hoping not to wake up where Maeve did.
This was just confusing as an episode, and definitely didn’t gradually take us to this place. This was Mach V straight into whatever universe we find ourselves in as the third season begins. Let’s give it some time and see what we discover here.