Episode Recap: WESTWORLD S3 E1
Episode Recap: WESTWORLD S3 E1
Courtesy of HBO

(This does contain SPOILERS as the show itself makes it difficult to not give anything away. As such, please do not read unless you’ve watched the episode.)

It has been two long years since Season 2 of WESTWORLD concluded on HBO. Unlike the first season, the second season brought with it much criticism concerning the plot dynamics, the multiple sci-fi elements, and more. It seemed I was the odd one out in terms of liking everything the creators brought to the second season. The storyline made sense once all the elements came together. And, in a rare occurrence, I couldn’t entirely predict where the plot was going to go, which excited me. Now we are back with the third and final season of WESTWORLD and, while it’s clear it’s setting things up for the audience, I do think there’s a bit of a learning curve for many who aim to watch the show without a refresher.

The first episode of season 3, titled “Parce Domine,” opens with audiences being re-introduced to Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) breaking into some random man’s household. We quickly learn he is one of many men who came to use her to sate dark urges while she was in the park. She makes him relive the memories of everything he’s done throughout his life before aiding in his demise. Her storyline this episode primarily has her in futuristic Los Angeles three months after the events that took place at the end of Season 2. She is in the process of trying to extract information from a rich tech CEO (John Gallagher Jr.), but there are people around that are picking up on her activity slowly. And, as the episode reaches its climax, she is left to deal with the consequences of taking on things mostly by herself. Let people help you, Dolores! They aren’t all bad!

Aaron Paul as Caleb Nichols in WESTWORLD

While Dolores is doing her thing, audiences are introduced to one of the brand new characters this season. Caleb Nichols (Aaron Paul). He’s a down-on-his-luck former soldier who can’t seem to catch a break. He is struggling with PTSD while also trying to pin down a better job that will enable him to pay for his mother’s treatment. Because his current job pays so abysmally, he takes on little crime jobs that are available via an arguably kinky, strange app. A good bulk of the jobs seem transport-related, but there are more personal jobs like helping subdue someone OD-ing or dropping off chemicals to kill someone. By the time, we reach the episode’s end, it becomes pretty clear that Caleb is an immensely depressed, struggling man who needs something to give him the motivation to keep living. Needless to say, through events that I won’t get into (because I’d like to keep some surprises), Dolores provides that motivation for him.

While the audience got to focus on Dolores’ path post-destruction of WESTWORLD and got to learn about Caleb, they also got the chance to catch up on what happened with Bernard (Jeffrey Wright). Last we saw Bernard, he had been dragged to the outside world by Dolores once she made her exit from the park. With everyone involved at Delos blaming him for what happened at the park, Bernard is now on the run and working on a farm under a new alias. This doesn’t last too long, however, and he eventually finds himself having to move on again. His destination? WESTWORLD.

Thandie Newton as Maeve in WESTWORLD

While the episode itself was great for hardcore fans of WESTWORLD, it is hard to ignore the awkward pacing that took hold of the episode. Starting off on a major high with the first ten minutes of the show before launching into the credits, that energy didn’t feel like it carried. In fact, it slowed down sometimes to a halt it seemed while the creators allowed the audience to meet the new character Caleb and re-acclimate to the old characters. However, will this type of pacing be a constant moving forward in the series? Because, if this is the case, this will be a hard sell for audiences as pacing was an issue last season as well.

Overall, the first episode was just okay. I’m very much a fangirl of the series, so my bias will show. However, I do think it is a little bit of a hard sell if the audience isn’t already invested in the series up to this point. It’s definitely not a season that newbies can really hop into easily because so much has happened in Season 1 and Season 2. So, I definitely encourage all viewers to either watch the refresher HBO has provided or to just binge-watch both seasons before diving deep into this first episode. However, I like that we get about equal bouts of time between the would-be major characters of the season while also getting glimpses of the world outside of the parks.

Some Final Nonsensical Thoughts

  • I greatly appreciate that there’s a connection between Dolores’ mindset and the episode title Parce Domine. Spare, Lord? It seems like a little nod to humans begging to be spared in times of great crisis. I don’t know. Maybe I’m overthinking it.
  • Evan Rachel Wood’s Dolores is giving me some secret agent realness and I live.
  • I’m not super invested yet in Caleb, but that may change. We’ll have to see in the next episode.
  • Seeing Tessa Thompson back as Charlotte/Dolores is great. I can live with her being a CEO forever because she has that BDE.
  • Please for the love of Satan send some kindness to Bernard this season. Pretty pretty please.
  • Ya’ll need to stay and watch all the way through the credits. If you were craving some Maeve (Thandie Newton) action, she makes a brief appearance that immediately lets us know where she’s been all this time.
  • And, finally, I greatly appreciate the futuristic world the creators have come up with. Part of the fun in taking the story outside of the parks is that we can see the world that would even greenlight such a park. And I’m here for it.

You can catch the next episode of Season 3 of WESTWORLD on March 22 at 9 PM EST/PST on HBO.

Sarah Musnicky
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