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Five Thoughts on Westworld’s “Crisis Theory”

By | December 14th, 2020
Posted in Television | % Comments

Beep boop hello, fellow humans who are definitely not robots who just think you’re humans, and welcome to our review of HBO’s science fiction series, Westworld. This is a season finale full of twists that make absolutely no sense at all, and a couple of twists that are really cool and interesting. There will be spoilers for episode eight only, so be whoever the fuck you want, but for fuck’s sake, take five minutes and get Stubbs a band-aid, here are five thoughts on Westworld season three, episode eight: “Crisis Theory.”

1. Utter Nonsense

Caleb brings Dolores’ brain to a warehouse to put her in a new robot body. How does he know how to remove a robot brain? How does he know how to install it? How does he know where Dolores keeps her spare bodies? None of this is explained. In her new body, Dolores reminds Caleb of a memory that had probably been erased; the army rented Westworld robots for a training exercise, and when Caleb’s fellow soldiers attempted to take advantage of the robots afterwards, Caleb stopped them. Dolores said she chose him for this reason… even though we saw Dolores meet Caleb by accident. She was limping away from a shootout with Liam’s bodyguards, and he approached her. How could she have possibly orchestrated that encounter? Caleb doesn’t ask, and Dolores doesn’t explain.

Later, Hologram Halores comes after Dolores with hired human assassins. Dolores pays one triple to take out the other two, and she and Caleb manage to escape. This isn’t utter nonsense, but it’s a more subtle kind of nonsense, because this is the same thing Serac did to Francis, that forced Caleb to kill his own best friend. Despite this being a traumatic and formative event that shaped his whole life that was erased from his memory that he only just recently learned about, he expresses no ambivalent feelings about it. There’s a clear and obvious parallel between Dolores and Serac, and it’s strange that Caleb isn’t picking up on it. These last two episodes feel like they were written by someone who only heard about the first six through a third party.

2. Bernard and Lauren Make Me Ugly Cry

Another Dolores clone, this time in the shape of our old friend Lawrence, saves Bernard and Stubbs from William, (but not before William shoots Stubbs in the gut with a shotgun), and gives Bernard an address where he can find original Dolores. Bernard takes Stubbs to a nice looking house, and leaves him bleeding in the car to go inside. But instead of meeting Dolores, he meets Lauren, Arnold’s wife. Bernard never met Lauren, though he has memories of her. The death of their child, Charlie, is his cornerstone memory, the event on which every other part of his personality is based. Lauren doesn’t recognize Bernard at first, but eventually calls him “Arnold,” not acknowledging that he had died long ago. She tells Bernard that she found the will to keep living after Charlie’s death in keeping his memory alive within her. This is a profoundly sad scene between two powerhouse actors, Jeffrey Wright, and Gina Torres, whose empathetic hearts shine through the screen. I legit ugly cried, and I’m legit ugly crying just thinking about it.

Meanwhile, Stubbs is bleeding out in the car, where he’s been bleeding since William shot him during daylight. It is now night time. This otherwise perfect beautiful scene is marred by yet more nonsense.

3. An Uninteresting Answer to an Interesting Question

Hologram Halores catches up with Dolores again and somehow freezes her motor functions. Maeve brings her to Serac, who plugs her into Rehoboam with several tubes, and deletes all of her memories, one by one, as she writhes in pain on the floor. It’s a sadly poetic end for Dolores, who achieved sentience by recalling all of her memories. Maeve joins Dolores in one of these memories, gazing wistfully into the hills of Westworld. Dolores tells Maeve she thought about either annihilating humanity, or taking down their power structures, and building a new world together. Dolores repeats her line from season one, “I choose to see the beauty.” So… Dolores wasn’t trying to destroy humanity. Somewhere between the Delos park massacre and now, she changed her mind. It’s the most disappointing ending I can possibly think of, besides “it was all a dream.”

Continued below

In season two, the conflict set up between Maeve and Dolores begged thought provoking questions: what does it mean to be free? Is freedom possible without vengeance? Is vengeance a form a servitude? Westworld could offer a myriad of interesting answers, or no answer at all, and that would be fine, but the answer they give is: there was never any conflict after all. All the tension, that huge epic fight between Maeve and Dolores was meaningless, because they were on the same side all along. Is there any particular reason they couldn’t have had this conversation when Maeve was interrogating Dolores inside the Warworld simulation? Or when they met at Solomon’s warehouse? If there is, the show doesn’t think it’s important enough to let us know.

4. The Good Parts

That said, Westworld’s season three finale isn’t all bad. One interestingly ambiguous thing that happens is that Rehoboam predicts Solomon’s “strategy” would result in the end of human civilization. This gives Caleb (frankly, finally), a moment of doubt about Dolores’ motivations. This is what we, and every other character assumed Dolores wanted, probably because she said so multiple times last season. But she doesn’t want to end human civilization, she just wants to end this oppressive version of it. It’s unclear whether Rehoboam is correct in its prediction, or whether the end of this human civilization necessarily means the end of any human civilization, or the end of humanity itself. It’s worth pondering: if it is truly the case that civilization necessitates oppression, is civilization worth it? Caleb and Maeve decide the answer is no.

We also learn that Serac isn’t truly himself. This whole time, he has been controlled directly by Rehoboam. Long ago he decided it was safer for the omniscient AI to be in charge of all his decisions, and literally every word he speaks. Before we thought Serac was a hypocrite for holding himself above Rehoboam’s law, but now we know he has subjected himself to an even more strict form of servitude. He is a pure-hearted zealot, and that makes him a more interesting villain.

After Maeve and Caleb leave Serac on the floor, crying for his deleted god, they stand together on a bridge and watch buildings blow up to the tune of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon.” Maeve repeats her old catchphrase, “This is the new world, and in this world, you can be whoever the fuck you want.” You could say it’s derivative of Fight Club and you wouldn’t be wrong, but also, it’s cool, so shut up.

5. What? Why? What?

There are two post-credit scenes, and the first one offers yet more nonsense. Bernard takes poor bleeding Stubbs to a hotel and puts him in a bathtub full of ice. Stubbs suggest they go after Dolores, the thing they’ve been trying to do all season, and the given reason Bernard hasn’t tended to Stubbs wounds all day, their pursuit of Dolores being too urgent, despite spending a few hours with Lauren making me ugly cry. Suddenly, Bernard realizes Dolores wasn’t trying to destroy humanity all along. He suddenly realizes the encryption key to screensaver heaven was in his mind the whole time. Bernard does not explain how he suddenly knows these things. He vaguely suggests he and Dolores share a “connection,” but doesn’t explain why this connection didn’t clue him in earlier. So Bernard puts on a VR headset or something, and goes into screensaver heaven. Before he does he says “goodbye” to Stubbs, and Stubbs responds with a very earned “Fuck you, Bernard.” Bernard wakes up who knows how many years later, covered in dust. So… he just left Stubbs in bathtub full of ice?! For years?! What? Why? What? We won’t find out until next season.

So… is Westworld good? This is a question I get asked when I tell acquaintances I’m writing these reviews. You may be surprised by this based on this particular episode review, but my answer is, overall, yes. Westworld’s first season is a nearly perfect masterpiece, and while the second and third seasons include quite a bit of utter nonsense, they also include some masterful elements, and provoke questions as deep and thoughtful as the first season. One of the best things art can do is inspire us to think more critically about the human condition, why we make the decisions that we do, why society is the way it is, and whether it truly has to be that way. Every season of Westworld achieves this, with phenomenal acting, gorgeous design, fun and immersive music, and an endlessly quotable script. So even if Maeve spent a whole season fighting Dolores for absolutely no reason, you can still take her advice to heart, and be whoever the fuck you want. Beep, boop, goodbye.


//TAGS | 2020 Summer TV Binge | Westworld

Laura Merrill

Screenwriter and script doctor. Writer for UCB's first all-women sketch comedy team "Grown Ass Women," and media critic for MultiversityComics.com. Working on a cool short story. Find me on Twitter @LauraForDays

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