“Westworld” Episode Review: “Passed Pawn” by Nate Blake

“Passed Pawn” finally revealed the truth about Caleb’s combat experience and delivered on the season long promise of a Maeve and Dolores showdown. The battle is far from over, of course, and there is much to unpack about an episode that, for me at least, delivered significantly more on a visual and thematic front that last week’s installment.

Charlotte/Dolores was mostly absent from this week’s episode, but her brief appearance in the teaser confirms a split between her and original Dolores. Angry that the original Dolores has abandoned the copes of herself, she tells Musashi that she has her own plans, just before Clementine and Hanaryo show up and kill him. I love that Clementine made a return and got to kick some ass. I hope we’ll see more of her next week.

The main storyline in “Passed Pawn” involved Dolores and Caleb infiltrating Serac’s facility in Mexico, where we learn that Caleb was one of a handful of individuals Serac successfully reprogrammed.  His partner Francis’ death did not occur during service in Crimea, but rather while rounding up outliers who didn’t fit Rehoboam’s plan for humankind. The majority of the subjects he rounded up could not be reprogrammed, and were instead placed in stasis. Caleb learns all of this through interactions with an AI built by Serac’s brother before Rehoboam was created.

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I didn’t find the reveals about Caleb’s past all that shocking, but I liked the similarities drawn between how hosts memories were reset in the park and how Serac’s technology places humans in simulations and wipes/reconditions their memories for the supposed greater good of mankind. The question becomes, whose well being is prioritized here? At the Delos park, it certainly wasn’t the well-being of the hosts, who were repeatedly beaten, shot, raped, blown up, etc. for the amusement of the wealthy. In the real world of 2058, things aren’t much different. People like Caleb are used by Rehoboam and Serac to keep the lives of the wealthy intact and maintain an order that certainly doesn’t benefit anyone in a lower economic status. Westworld spends a lot of time on philosophical questions about what makes us human, but its commentary on economics and capitalism are also an integral part of the thematic mixture.

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The episode concluded with Solomon sending Caleb instructions on how to kill Serac as Maeve and Dolores had an epic, and bloody, confrontation. I have to commend the writers for how much complexity they’ve added to Dolores this season. Just before season three began, if you had asked me whose side I would be on in a fight between Maeve and Dolores, I would have answered “Maeve” without any hesitation. Given what has unfolded over seven hours so far this season though, I felt like I was on both of their sides. I didn’t want either one to harm or kill the other. I’m still not sure if I support what Dolores is doing, or Maeve or Caleb or William for that matter. As I’ve noted before, the show has gone beyond heroes and villains and just given us a wide swath of characters with their own motives washed in deep grey shades. As for Maeve and Dolores specifically, I would like to see this week’s confrontation be the end of them squaring off and the beginning of a better arc for Maeve. She was the best thing about the first two seasons of the show, but now that season three is almost done, I am disappointed with how little she has been given to do. Hopefully the writers use the EMP blast that Dolores set off to do a little restructuring.

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Perhaps as the show continues to unfold, and HBO confirmed last week that it will be around for at least one more (possibly as many as three more) seasons, character arcs will begin sorting themselves out again in a way where it is easier for the viewer to take sides. For now though, I’m mostly content with how the show is exploring back stories, motives and strategies. At the moment, it seems like the one true villain is Serac, and no one yet has a great plan for how to undo what he has done to humanity. And that leaves the question of where the hosts, the few that remain, fit into the endgame. When considering those questions, it’s easy to see how HBO, Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy feel they have three more seasons worth of this story to tell.

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