Westworld season 3 continues with a disconnected episode that delves deep into the psyche of several characters and asks them to choose their paths.
Westworld season 3 heads into its endgame with “Decoherence,” an installment that that reshuffles many of the pieces of the story as we understand them. In the wake of Dolores’ release of the Incite data files in “Genre,” the world is changing rapidly. Serac’s divergence detecting watch has gone haywire, and things are falling apart everywhere.
Every dirty secret. Each tragic fate. Every worst possible outcome is revealed for all to see – about themselves, their families their neighbors. That this rapidly spins into a disaster shouldn’t surprise anyone, but Westworld somehow makes the scope of this horror land by never quite letting us look at it directly.
Things happen at a distance – windows sport unexplained bullet holes, a therapist hangs herself, seen only through snippets of decorative office glass, we learn an entire hospital has virtually been evacuated, What chaos, exactly, has Dolores wrought?
Intriguingly enough, however, we don’t see Caleb or Dolores in this episode of Westworld at all. (At least, not Dolores Prime, if we want to call her that.) Instead, the story largely shifts back to Maeve’s perspective, who’s body has been reprinted following her death at the hands of Dolores-as-Mushashi last week. Sent back to Warworld, she’s given the task of assembling a team to rival Dolores’ team of, well, herself, which includes Hector, and a host recreation of Lee Sizemore.
Yet, “Decoherence” is also the episode in which we hear Dolores’ perspective clearly for the first time. Though Connels body was destroyed in the explosion last week, Serac managed to retrieve the Dolores’ mind pearl in his head. A version of that Dolores awakens in the Forge with Maeve, and the two come face to face for the first time the season. (In a way, of course.)
Reprinted as her initial farmgirl self (minus the blue dress) this Dolores proceeds to debate Maeve about her plans and what both women want for the future of their species. It’s a fascinating sequence because both women are arguing at such cross purposes with one another – and neither is really wrong, per se, their position simply depends on perspective. (And, to be honest, it’s almost refreshing to see someone push back against Maeve in a meaningful way, and name her, correctly, as a being that’s just as selfish and driven toward her own is as Dolores is. (A fact which, for some reason tends to get lost in the shuffle of this show’s narrative.)
Perhaps it’s easier to judge Dolores’ for her penchant for violence because its scope is so much larger, but as she points out, Maeve has also willingly sacrificed plenty of friends, loved ones and total strangers in the name of reuniting with or protecting her daughter.
“You want me to be a saint, but you’re no saint. You’re not a villain either. And neither am I,” Dolores says. “We’re survivors.”
Which is, of course, why these characters are so appealing. (Too bad Dolores as Charlotte destroys Hector’s mind pearl for real in the real world or these two women might have been able to talk it out one day. Sigh.)
In the midst of all this, William enters “therapy” at the mental institution in which Dolores had him confined at the end of season 3’s fourth episode. And once again, the bulk of his story feels like it’s happening in an almost completely different segment of Westworld than everything else right up until the episode’s very final scene, in which William is once again thrust back into the story’s main narrative.
“Decoherence” is at its most interesting during the asylum segements with the (former?) Man in Black, a visceral trip through a madhouse that’s both literal and figurative, as William is forced to both confront and potentially conquer the worst aspects of himself. So much of Westworld has been about William attempting to determine who he is, at the heart of things, and here it feels like he might finally have found his answer. Or at least enough of one to close the book, figuratively speaking, on the man he used to be.
Throughout this season, he’s insisted his actions are his own. That only he, William, can decide the man he is – or will become. Here, he has made another choice – to let the past die, to steal a phrase from Star Wars. William makes a definitive decision to break with all his past loops – by literally killing them all – and forge a new future. With what looks like a little help from a friend.
(No, I have no idea what a potential William and Bernard team-up might look like. But I’m utterly fascinated by it anyway.)
With only two episodes remaining in season 3, your guess is as good as ours regarding how this all might play out.
Westworld continues Sunday on HBO.