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Westworld season 3 episode 1: ‘Parce Domine’ review – 5 massive talking points, theories and burning questions
The mind-bending sci-fi series returns to NOW TV with a sleek new look, new characters and even bigger mysteries to solve.
Warning: Spoilers ahead for Westworld season 3, episode 1 Parce Domine
It would be fair to say that Westworld season two got a little bit complicated.
Even if you could just about piece together the different timelines, characters hidden within other characters and explosion of twists in the finale, understanding what it all meant was tricky.
Season 3 has taken that on board, stripping everything back to a single timeline – at least for now – and zooming in on just a couple of key mysteries and characters.
Taking us from the Westworld park into a futuristic ‘real world’, the new season picked up exactly as season two ended with Hosts Dolores, Bernard and 'Charlotte' beginning their journeys in The New World.
The new setting is beautifully created on screen. Ultra-modern and sleek, a lot of time has been spent designing this futuristic universe.
One of the big fan theories ahead of season three was that Bernard, Dolores and Charlotte would be heading into a new park rather than the real world. Although that theory wasn’t totally debunked, on the surface we have to take the show for its word as it took us to Los Angeles, London and China and introduced a new human character in Aaron Paul’s endearing construction worker Caleb.
Here are the five major talking points from episode 1, Parce Domine…
1. New Dolores is easy to love
If the opening sequence of season three was designed to get us fully on board with the new ass-kicking, anti-hero Dolores, it achieved this with flying colours.
Dolores took down the detestable Jerry, an investor in Westworld, a man who screams at his staff and abuses his wife, and, we discover later, who also killed his ex-wife.
During Dolores’ take down of Jerry, we learn that there is a personal element to this story, as he once had a Bachelor Party in Sweetwater where he attacked the rancher’s daughter.
But the personal element of the attack is secondary. Dolores reveals that from now on she’s only going to attack the people who she knows will use violence upon her. And she knows who those people are because she has read their ‘books’ and as we learned in season two, humans are predictable.
Season three transformed Dolores into a much more sympathetic character in a single scene, by making this less about a Host attacking a dodgy businessman who wronged her in the past and focusing on Jerry’s repetitive abusive behaviour with his wives.
Rather than a wave of violence against humans, Dolores actually helped “set free” Jerry’s wife.
2. What is Incite and the Rehoboam?
HBO’s marketing and promotion of the series included a number of clever hidden references to a new company called Incite.
Ousting Delos as the big bad face of corporate business, there were a number of references to Incite in this episode.
Jerry had kept hold of confidential information on Incite, which Dolores took from him before before he died.
She also began a relationship with Liam Dempsey, the son of Incite’s co-founder.
At the heart of Incite’s business is the ‘Rehoboam’, a mystery system that Dolores wants to get her hands on.
The concept behind the Rehoboam is a dystopian idea floated in the Westworld season two finale The Passenger – that humans are just vessels who ultimately can’t change who they are.
Rather than a timeline, we’re all on a time loop and a course has been charted that we can’t break away from. Free will is just a myth. It’s pretty bleak stuff.
3. Which Host pearls is Dolores using?
The biggest question left hanging after season two was which pearls did Charlotte have in her bag when she escaped from Westworld?
Dolores used one to bring back Bernard. She’s also used one inside the body of Charlotte – who is back heading up Delos and trying to pin the whole Wild West massacre on Bernard.
And this week we also saw her use one in the body of Insight’s head of security Martin Conells (Tommy Flanagan).
But which Hosts have been uploaded into Charlotte and Conells? Could one of them be Teddy? The Host inside Martin showed a level of concern for Dolores injuries that would suggest it’s someone who cares about her deeply.
4. Aaron Paul’s Caleb wants something real
The big new arrival for season 3 is played brilliantly by Paul, who captures a sympathetic everyman quality for Caleb, even within extreme circumstances.
We discover by the end of the episode that Caleb’s conversations with a friend called Francis are all just AI, which is designed to help him deal with his grief.
We also see the new world through Caleb’s eyes as he struggles to support his sick mother and motivate himself to keep going in a system where nothing quite feels real and where our destiny has already been written by computer coding.
At the end of the episode, his story collides with Dolores. Will she provide him with the 'real' connection that he's been searching for?
5. Bernard is heading back to Westworld
Away from the lights and action of the city, Bernard is living a very different life to Charlotte and Dolores. Rather than the boardroom or taking on Incite, he’s living a rural experience and working in butchery – a nice nod of symbolism to his previous work in Westworld.
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Charlotte and Delos have pinned the Westworld massacre on Bernard and he’s a wanted man. He’s also desperately trying to check and make sure that he’s not being controlled and altered by Dolores. Do we believe him when he speaks to his internal system and ‘Bernard’ tells him that he wouldn’t lie about Dolores?
At the end of the episode, we watch Bernard heading off on a boat back to Westworld to meet a friend. How his mission will overlap with Dolores’ story isn’t yet clear, but we’re hoping that there will eventually be a union between Bernard, Stubbs and Maeve, who can take on Charlotte and Dolores.
- Did you hang around until the end of the credits? If not, go back now. Maeve is back, but she’s not in Sweetwater anymore. Are you ready for Nazi Hosts? We're heading to the World War II park.
- We saw a couple of instances of hologram technology used in this episode – most notably when Dolores used it on Jerry. It could be a handy tool for tricking viewers into thinking someone is in a scene when they’re not really there. Will that be used to fool us?
- The episode title translates as ‘Spare, Lord, spare your people’. It’s a nod to Dolores’ claim that the Hosts are Gods and they are “angry”.
- Bernard’s new alter ego Armand Delgado is an anagram for ‘Damaged Arnold’
- Westworld continues to have the best music on TV thanks to the masterful Ramin Djawadi. Interestingly, in the showdown between Dolores and Conells, the show used Pulp’s Britpop classic Common People – but it didn’t use the show’s usual piano instrumental style. Will all the songs we hear outside of Westworld’s parks be done differently?
- The Dolores costume change from short-skirt to cocktail dress, her arrival in a swimming pool and that motorbike chase scene – Evan Rachel Wood owned this episode.
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