Westworld’s Season 3 Premiere Trades Western for Future Noir

So, uh, a lot has happened in the nearly two years since Westworld season 2 ended, eh? I mean, considering the last two weeks already felt like a year long, you could maybe be forgiven for forgetting why you ever cared about The Maze or The Door or that the other Hemsworth brother (no, not Liam, the other other one) was a robot the whole time.

So, in a way, it’s smart that Westworld’s third season feels more like a system reboot than a continuation of the story thus far. We’ve really said goodbye to Red Dead Robot Redemption and hello to future noir. Are you ready to trade in your horse for a flying car?

I’ll be honest and say I really loved the first season of Westworld and was a bit less into season 2, except for the standalone episodes that really focused on one character, particularly the poignant Orpheus retelling, “Kiksuya” and a too-brief jaunt in ShogunWorld. I’m actually a big Western fan and I loved the genre mash-up. But, I’m also a big fan of William Gibson’s brand of sentient A.I. gone rogue, hard-boiled corporate espionage, and global conspiracy.

After the hosts went haywire and destroyed the amusement park in a bloody revolution on their way to a robot heaven, of sorts, lead rebel, Dolores Abernathy, fled into the world beyond the park and took with her seeds of further destruction; she’s got the proprietary algorithms of every Delos park guest at her fingertips, the means to replicate these humans in host bodies, and a few smuggled host consciousnesses. All of this is to further her main directive: destroy all humans and usher in a new age of artificial life domination.

Watching Dolores now, three months after the robot uprising and so far from the deceptively innocent rancher’s daughter she once was, her chilly precision and sharp angles are made for this near-future nightmare world, where Klout scores (R.I.P.) dictate employment opportunities, the rich hole up in bug-out mansions while poor people eke out a living on the fringes of a surveillance state, and a major corporation weaponizes your own private data.

Photo courtesy HBO

Welcome to 2058. It’s basically 2020, but the clothes are way cooler.

Incite, the real data-mapping project behind Delos, has its own objectives. HBO has been doing some creepy immersive stunts for Incite at tech shows earlier in the year and I’m bummed I probably won’t get to experience being confronted with my own digital footprint. Between reality and the conspiracy theories already brewing on Reddit, Westworld is poised to become a welcome distraction this season.

The most exciting change to Westworld is the addition of Aaron Paul. If you want an actor to portray a sympathetic low-rent criminal struggling with some heavy shit, you can’t make a stronger choice than the man who played Jesse Pinkman on Breaking Bad. Caleb is our guide to the future and he hits all those cyberpunk notes—a veteran with PTSD, a working class Joe, momma’s boy, and a reluctant petty thief and courier. He’s almost too good. Maybe that’s why Dolores ultimately falls into his arm. She’s got a history with white knights that she can exploit.

Photo courtesy HBO

Final reveries:

  • There was no Maeve in the episode proper, but if you watched the end credits, you were gifted with a wonderfully WTF coda. Maeve punching Nazis? Sign me up! Next week’s episode is all Thandie Newton.
  • Elsewhere in this brave new world, Bernard Low (Jeffrey Wright) is a fugitive from the law, being blamed for the Delos park massacre. It’s still unclear why Dolores let him live or leave last season, though. And why he needs to go back to the island. (Shades of Lost there and it’s not a great omen.)
  • Westworld gives great fights. Dolores’ gun-fu to the tune of Pulp’s “Common People” was inspired.
  • My second fave moment of the night was Dolores doing the best runway outfit reveal since Violet Chachki’s turn on Drag Race.
  • Caleb and his mecha construction worker partner eating lunch on a beam gave me fierce Chappie vibes. Love it.
  • Charlotte Hale may be no more, but some host is wearing her face and making sweeping changes to the Delos board. It’s got to be Teddy, right?
  • Coming soon to Westword: Maeve and Hector punch Nazis in WarWorld, a hint of MedievalWorld, complete with lute, and French indie actor extraordinaire Vincent Cassel makes his debut as someone appropriately smarmy and probably evil.

Westworld airs Sundays at 9 E/PT on HBO.

Theresa DeLucci is a regular contributor to Tor.com. She’s also gotten enthusiastic about television for Wired.com’s Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast and Den of Geek. Her fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons. Reach her via pony express or on Twitter.

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