“Westworld” Episode Review: “Parce Domine” by Nate Blake

First off, I would like to apologize for how long it has taken me to post this review. The first season of Westworld aired more than a year and a half before High Contrast began, and season two happened to air right around our wedding, so Alex and I didn’t have time to commit to writing about a weekly HBO series. As Sunday’s third season premiere approached, and with theaters shuttered, I decided it was probably time to start writing about this show. However, things have been hectic this week with my day job switching to remote work due to the coronavirus pandemic. I’m pretty settled into that new routine now though and things have gone smoothly so far, so it is my hope that I will have the reviews for the remaining seven episodes up a lot sooner, and I also hope that they will provide much more in-depth analysis than this one. That said, I may discuss spoilers in this review, so you’ve been warned.

“Parce Domine” picks up after the events of season two, which saw Dolores (disguised as Charlotte) escape park with several host cores and take up residence in Arnold’s house, where she was able to print off new versions of herself and Bernard (Jeffrey Wright). The premiere finds Bernard struggling to keep to himself at a meat packing plant and fending off occasional run ins with those hunting him down because they think he is to blame for the deaths at the Delos park.

Dolores is up to grander things at this point. The episode opens chillingly with her sneaking into a Delos shareholder’s house, convincing him to sign over files from a company called Incite and murdering him when he makes the very unwise choice to attack her. For all of season two’s focus on vengeful Dolores, I found that arc to be rather weak. I enjoyed most of the other storylines from that season more than what the writers gave her, but “Parce Domine” finally delivered a showcase hour for Evan Rachel Wood.

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I also like the path the season is taking in regard to a strategic planning AI referred to as Rehoboam. We don’t know too much about the program yet, but the inclusion of the black, somewhat Death Star shaped machine in the credits suggests the mystery surrounding it is this season’s maze.

The show may have, at least temporarily, left the carnage at the Delos park, but it seems like AI has been making life difficult for some humans in the real world this whole time. That’s the case for Caleb (Aaron Paul), a former soldier struggling with PTSD who keeps getting turned down for better jobs because technology plays an increased role in matching workers with employers. Westworld has always been timely in its themes, including season two’s subplot about guests’ data being harvested by Delos, but season three feels even more urgent. At a time when technology is forcing discussions of Universal Basic Income, Caleb’s career woes are an important element to explore, particularly since season three is set nearly 40 years in the future. Most of Caleb’s story in “Parce Domine” is exposition, but I’m very intrigued by what the writers have set up, and of course I love that Aaron Paul is now a member of the cast.

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No William/Man in Black this week, and only a snippet of Maeve (though that post credits teaser for Warwold was epic). Based on the trailer that followed the post-credits scene, both will be back shortly.

Technically, this episode was a significant departure from the first two seasons. Not only was the setting different, but immersing the audience in futuristic cityscapes of the year 2058 allowed the visual effects team to run wild with concepts and technology only hinted at in the Delos park, because nearly all of the worlds within it were fantasies about the past.

Season three, episode two of Westworld airs Sunday at 8:00 central on HBO.

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