Westworld is back, and I’m grateful for it. For a little more than an hour, I was transported out of our actual troubling times by a somehow escapist fantasy about the likely subjugation of humans by our “host” overlords. And Lords they believe themselves to be. Angry ones, as the title of this episode, “Parce Domine,” suggests with its reference to the Catholic antiphon “Parce, Domine, parce populo tuo: ne in aeternum irascaris nobis.” (Spare, Lord, spare your people: Be not angry with us forever.) I think “angry forever” is exactly what Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) might be…
It has been three months since the massacre of Delos board members and employees by rogue hosts. In that time, Dolores, Bernarnold (Jeffrey Wright) and Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) have all integrated seamlessly into the “real” world.
Bernarnold is on the lam, having been the scapegoat for the massacre. He’s using an alias and working on a beef cattle ranch, where he lives in a geodesic smart yurt and keeps to himself. Every night, he runs a self-diagnostic to see if anyone has tampered with his code in the past 24 hours or if he’s had unwitting contact with Dolores. He ends these sessions by asking himself if he would lie to himself, so even if the official record says “no,” there is some doubt.
Eventually, some opportunistic coworkers recognize Bernarold as a butcher with a bounty on him and try to extort the equivalent of the price on his head through force (and an electric cattle prod). He takes the first few blows, but then uses the clicker he keeps in his pocket to toggle to “angry robot” mode and kills them both with his bare hands.
When he returns to his more human state, he realizes he has to run again and makes his way to Southeast Asia, where he charters a boat to take him to “Westworld.”
Charlotte is working to privatize Delos. The current board is resistant to her doing so, believing their brand to be irreparably ruined. She is confident, though, that the brand will recover, that the massacre will legitimize the danger fantasy inherent in their parks’ appeal and that they would ultimately regret staging a “fire sale” of their proprietary assets in a time of panic. Because she has the algorithm-driven machine proxy of the only board member who matters voting with her, she’ll get to do what she wants. (But who is SHE? Is there a duplicate Dolores sphere in her head, or did Dolores replace herself with one of the host brains she smuggled out of the park in her purse?)
Speaking of Dolores… she is taking strategic steps towards her goal of world domination.
One of her first stops in the world of men is the private, clifftop smart home of a politician (J.P. Gillain) who “worked some things out” on her in the park before his first wedding. She hijacks the house’s A.I. in the middle of the night, binds the man’s wrists with a zip tie and coaxes him out to the pool deck where she zip ties some AR glasses to his face and forces him to relive some of his own memories, which she’s extracted from his Delos “book.”
Suddenly, he sees his late first wife moving through his home, reenacting moments in their marriage in which his cruelty and abuse were obvious. He paid fixers to ensure that her death was recorded as an accidental drowning after drinking too much, but he knows (and has to see) the truth.
Dolores tells him she took all of his money while he was sleeping, because she knows she needs it in his world. (It’s an investment in the origin of a new species, doncha know?) Then she tells him she wants him to decrypt and give her all the confidential files he failed to destroy when he left his former employer, Incite. He uses his thumbprint to do so on the tablet she offers, trading her the files for his life.
Once she has the files, Dolores turns to leave, and the duplicitous man grabs a golf club that’s handy and chases her, but he slips and hits his head as he falls into the pool. He was following an AR Dolores, and now he’s died as his first wife did. When his second wife emerges into the scene, tousled from sleep, real Dolores tells her that she’s freed her and leaves with what she came for.
Three months later, Dolores is in a relationship with Liam Dempsey (John Gallagher), the head of Incite. She “lets” him coax her to LA for a few days, where he takes her to Incite HQ and shows her his father’s masterwork, Rehoboam. Rehoboam is a massive sphere that houses an unthinkably advanced AI “brain.” It’s almost prophetic in its ability to forecast likely outcomes and develop strategies.
Rehoboam: From the Hebrew name רֵחַבְעָם (Rechav’am) meaning “he enlarges the people.” Ah. Dolores’s plan is coming into view.
Liam has a security man named Martin Connells (Tommy Flanagan) who clearly doesn’t trust the new girlfriend. He’s always pulling Liam away for tense tête-à-têtes to discuss their “partners” needing to see Liam. That’s why they’re in LA, for a face-to-face with a mysterious partner.
Liam has to ditch Dolores at Rehoboam so he can get to his meeting, and as soon as the coast is clear she uses her robot telepathy to find and steal a futuristic electric motorcycle and tail him. She follows him to a rooftop patio where he meets with Martel (Pom Klementieff!). Martel speaks for the real boss behind Incite, someone who isn’t pleased with Liam and believes that someone is messing with Rehoboam– someone inside his organization. She even threatens to kill him if necessary to stop the leak.
That night, Liam gets drunk and Dolores gets him to tell her that he’s only a figurehead, and that he has read-only access to Rehoboam. Someone else is the real shot caller. He’s about to confide that person’s name when Martin Connells barges in and tases Dolores. He reports that a deeper dive into her background revealed that her identity was a sham, and that he’d decrypted a text she’d sent with a location marker and the message that she’d “lure him out tonight.” Liam approves Martin’s plan to “clean up” Dolores, only making the caveat that it not blow back on him.
Martin and some flunkies hover-helicopter an unconscious Dolores to LA’s MacArthur Park, where courier Caleb Nichols (Aaron Paul) is waiting with a Range Rover. There are also more flunkies there. Caleb walks away, and Martin and company move Dolores to the car and drive to the location indicated in her text. Their intention is to surprise whomever she sent that text to, and they shoot her full of drugs that should kill her while they wait.
When a car finally approaches, Martin gets a shock! It turns out Liam wasn’t the target: he was. There’s a Martin host in the car, and Dolores isn’t at all dead. She shoots all the flunkies she can and hits Martin at least once. He hops into a car and zooms away, but she pursues him in the Range Rover, chasing him back to MacArthur Park.
They take the chase out of the cars and onto the grass, where she incapacitates him with more shooting, leaving him alive long enough for his doppelgänger to introduce himself. She dispatches the new Martin to Liam and disposes of the old, dead one in a driverless car, then takes on more flunkies who were attracted by the shooting.
Once Dolores has killed all of her adversaries, she stumbles off into the park, attracting the attention of courier Caleb when she’s weakly leaning against the wall of a pedestrian tunnel. He approaches to see if she’s hurt (she is– very shot), and holds her when she collapses into his arms.
Her timing is perfect. Caleb is grieving the loss of his best friend from the military and sleepwalking through an unfulfilling life defined by the financial demands of making sure his mother-with-dementia can stay in an expensive private care facility. He’s always applying for good jobs, but since he can’t land one he moonlights as a whatever-you-need guy, taking gigs from an app that is like if Grand Theft Auto was real.
Sometimes he does a “smash and grab” type job, robbing an ATM for a fee with co-contractors like Ash (Lena Waithe) and Giggles (Marshawn Lynch). Sometimes he cleans up “messes” at parties, like when rich guys trip balls on illegal drugs. And sometimes he delivers Range Rovers to parks without asking questions.
He’s in therapy, but his overbooked therapist (Wayne Pére) keeps outsourcing his needs to a subscription phone service where his dead best friend’s voice calls for heart-to-heart chats. He’s searching for something “real” to believe in when Dolores literally falls into his lap.
Postscript: Maeve (Thandie Newton). After the credits, Maeve wakes up in a chair, holding a gun. She looks in a mirror and sees that she’s fashionably dressed for the early ’40s. She looks in the next room and finds one dead man and another bound to a chair. She removes the living mans’ gag, and he speaks to her in German.
In a daze, she walks to a window and looks out… at a square full of soldiers rounding up civilians under a Nazi banner!
Random observation: Everyone in this episode lives in a smart home. They ride in driverless cars. They take jobs from apps. And they use manual toothbrushes. Why is that? Is it some kind of comment about electric toothbrushes?
Bonus video: The whole scene where Dolores is shooting all the bad guys happens to Pulp’s “Common People,” which delighted me. What fun lyrics for our Dolores. Enjoy it yourself below!
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