With this week's "Genre" marking the fifth episode of HBO's Westworld, that puts of officially in the back half of the eight-episode third season. And oh man, what an explosive episode it was, both literally and metaphorically. We finally get an episode this season that showcases newcomers Aaron Paul and Tommy Flannigan, and it is everything I could have hoped it would be, and more. From the architecture porn of the cities to the car chase and explosions in the streets, this is one exciting, action-packed, story explosion of an hour of television that's not to be missed. Seriously, if you haven't seen it yet, I can't recommend it enough. Besides, there are spoilers in this article, and it really is worth it to watch it all unfold in the episode; it's crafted beautifully from every angle, especially story-wise, so go watch it if you haven't already.
So, now let's talk first about the twist; Incite, like Delos, is now in flames at the hands of Dolores. Show of hands, who saw that coming? Everyone? Brilliant. It may not have been much of a big unexpected Earth-shattering plot twist, but it was perfectly executed. The timing of it was a little unexpected, but it fits in and unfolded exactly how and when it needed to, which surprisingly wasn't at the tail end of the episode. They've been really good with the twists this season so far – none of them are huge bombshells that we didn't see coming, but they all feel fresh and surprising at the moment when you're sucked into the story, which is the hallmark of excellent writing. The story doesn't have to keep feeling like a total roller coaster all the time; so long as the characters feel it, we'll feel it.
Futureworld is a Terrifying, Futuristic Data Mine That's Based on Our Current Reality
I think we are for sure in the real world, even though in behind the scenes footage, everyone is referring to it as "Futureworld", which is the name of a Delos park in the sequel film to Michael Crichton's original 1973 film Westworld. I think that's a clever nod to Incite and the nature of freedom; the people are real, but they're all set on their loops with their lives practically written for them not by a head writer, but by the Rehoboam software program. The reality that you hold so sacred is no different than that of a manufactured one; the choices you make don't really matter when you don't actually have control.
Yes, I am fully on board with team Dolores, in case you were wondering. It's not that Serac is the clear cut bad guy because in his mind, he has the best of intentions – but that still doesn't mean his methods are anywhere near kosher. Her act of anarchy and basically imploding "the man" and society with a defiant middle finger raised was peak television catharsis, and I am here for it. Especially in a time when so much feels beyond our control, taking control back and giving that knowledge to every single person feels so liberating. Yes, knowing things have been hidden from you and orchestrated against you in some cases is terrifying, but I'd rather know than not because once we know, we can start to realize the weight of our choices and begin to change.
That – the power to change, adapt to survive – that is what makes us human, not the choices we make. Machines can make choices as well, but humanity (as Darwin proved) will always adapt to survive. Guess that makes Dolores and our hosts pretty human as well, huh? As for Serac, I'd rank him low on the adaptability (and thus survival) lists, putting him squarely on team machine. Fitting for the man who's basically the father of the modern matrix that enslaves humanity.
Honestly though, what Incite claims to deliver via Rehobaum (found on the "about" section of Incite's website) is helping people find their paths. I mean, how tempting is the idea of knowing what path in life you should be on? Having your future laid out for you – no heartbreak, no job frustrations feeling like you're in the wrong place but not knowing how to get to where you need to be? It's a dream, for sure; but it's the easy way out. FutureWorld is more like the Matrix than any previous depiction of the future, though it's like a lead-up to The Matrix. Bear with me, I know it's crazy, but humans want the easy way out, so we put our trust in the companies that will give it to us in the form of information: the data and tech companies. True, it's not a hostile takeover by machine, but we give them the control so we have less to worry about in our lives, and pretty soon we don't have any of the control, and yet we're still miserable creatures, no better off than we were before all this mess.
Sound familiar? It should. Westworld has extrapolated the future of data mining incredibly accurately, a little too accurate if we're not careful. There is a fine line between innovation and enslavement, and I, for one, do not welcome our robot overlords. No, not even if they can allow me to hijack my brain into feeling whatever I want to or become an instant brain surgeon. To me, that is not worth my freedom to adapt to the world around me and do the most human of all things: make mistakes. As cartoon teacher icon Miss Frizzle always says, to learn, we have to "take chances, make mistakes, get messy!" and for me, this is a quintessential part of living life; without that, we are simply lab mice running a maze, albeit with a more complicated social structure.
Getting back to the episode, it was a thrill ride with a little something for everyone: action, drama, art-film sequences, anarchy, murder, explosions, and lots of moral ethics to ponder. This is only the introduction to the final half of the third season – I cannot imagine where they go from here. Does another tech company rise from the ashes and pick up where Incite left off? Are there riots in the streets because humanity has no idea who they're supposed to be anymore? Only next week's episode can answer those questions, but before we move on, here's a behind the scenes look at what went into this week's episode of Westworld.