“Decoherence” represents the first notable stumble Westworld has made in its third season. Though it continued to build towards what I assume will be an epic showdown between Maeve and Dolores, much of the impact of the Rehoboam information leak was brushed aside in favor of a weak subplot concerning William/The Man in Black.
I did enjoy the return of Jimmi Simpson as Young William for the group therapy session featuring all the different phases of William we’ve been introduced to over three seasons. The ends achieved by this arc, however, didn’t leave much impact. Did we really have to sit through current William disavowing his earlier selves and proclaiming he wants to be the hero now to know that he would eventually try to reverse to chaos he helped release from Delos? It seemed heavy handed, and what little backstory it provided just hit us over the head again with what we already knew about the character rather than adding further dimension. That said, I enjoy Ed Harris’ portrayal of this character so much that these scenes were still enjoyable, despite being objectively unnecessary.
The temporary presence of Young William, the brief return of Maeve to Warworld and her simulated visit with Dolores, and the burning of the host bodies at Delos suggest that as much as the season has moved away from the theme park, we’re not done with it yet. I have a feeling that the original park is going to play a role in whatever finale/cliffhanger the writers have planned out. Maybe I’m wrong, but even though this was easily the weakest episode of the season, it also felt the closest to the first two seasons than any other installment this year.
“Decoherence” also seemed to confirm concerns I had after last week’s episode that the show would lose its direction for a bit thanks to the Rehoboam leak happening too soon. The middle of the season seemed like an odd place for that to happen, and it certainly did negatively affect the pacing and impact of last night’s events. Aside from the one quick scene where William’s therapist receives a text message about her future, and commits suicide shortly after, the episode largely ignored the impact of the leak. The philosophical questions raised earlier in the season also now feel as if they are being dropped in order to create a revenge showdown between Dolores and Maeve. It’s dramatic. It makes for good action sequences. It’s kind of fun. But I’ll be disappointed if the last two episodes place the philosophical and ethical questions raised by technology like Rehoboam in the background in favor of a simplistic, action movie style face-off (albeit a great looking one).
Despite my many complaints about “Decoherence,” it was still a well-acted and impeccably directed hour of TV. Tessa Thompson in particular delivered a thrilling performance. The writing just felt off this time. A deeper and clearer endgame for this season needs to emerge quickly in order to deliver on the promise of the first couple episodes.