Westworld recap: 'Genre' takes us on a familiar trip
The fifth episode of season 3 is titled “Genre,” referencing the designer drug given to Caleb that causes him — and the viewer — to embark on a cinematic trip as Dolores outwits the dastardly Serac.
Westworld has long played with genre switching on a macro level. The show’s first season combined a Western with sci-fi, then season 2 delved into samurai movies, and earlier in season 3, we visited World War II. As a drug, “genre” is rather curious. It seems like a party drug only film students would love, and as insufferable as people are on certain substances nowadays I can only imagine what they’d be like on this stuff (“Hey everybody, I’ve gone from the Fritz Lang-inspired noir phase to the Apocalypse Now!-esque action phase into the vibrant Danny Boyle-like nightclub phase!”)
The episode follows two storylines that eventually collide. The first gives us Serac's backstory as a refugee with his brother Jean Mi after Paris is destroyed by a nuclear blast. If their story for creating Rehoboam for Incite seems familiar, it's because it's very much like the story of Dr. Robert Ford and Arnold Weber founding Westworld for Delos. In both cases, two close-knit brilliant partners create a world-changing new technology, one of them is driven mad by the technology's implications, the unstable one is removed from power, and the remaining partner has to battle the project's deep-pocketed corporate third party. In this case, the third party, Incite, is run by tech titan Dempsey (scuzzy Liam’s dad). The storytelling is so similar I'm tempted to think we're caught in a loop again.
“We brought order from chaos,” Serac declares as they set about manipulating world events.
Now the way megalomaniac Serac is going about controlling every person in the world is clearly bonkers. But it’s interesting to contemplate this idea: What if Rehoboam was only used to prevent outright disaster? I realize this isn't the plot of the show, but it's a tougher dilemma to think about whereas the one in the show is so easy to side with Dolores on. Like, what if everybody was spied on, all the time, in every way, but that information would only be acted upon if it meant stopping a war (or, say, a global pandemic)? Now that choice would be far more difficult to argue against and is basically what governments have suggested they're really doing in the wake of the War on Terror with the global surveillance programs that Edward Snowden revealed. But on this show, as in real life, the question is posed: Do you really trust anyone to only use your data for "good"?
While Serac gives us his evil backstory, Dolores pressures Liam to give her access to Rehoboam. How much of Dolores’ master plan involves forcing corporate types to give her access to things? Quite a bit, apparently.
Dolores decides to send every person in the whole world their top-secret Incite profile, revealing their past, present and future, along with the system’s rather judge-y assessments of each. She wants to “unlock the cages” of humanity. This is, perhaps, a surprising choice. Dolores is here not to destroy us, but free us from our algorithmic masters, break our loops, just as she broke her own. “There are some things people shouldn’t know about themselves,” Liam argues. Dolores is unfazed and sends the profiles. We see Westworld commuters opening up their profiles (did you pause the playback and read them? Yeah, me too).
So this is sort of like getting a 23 and Me profile, but instead of being told whether you’re predisposed to baldness and your degree of lactose tolerance, you're told if your colleagues think you’re a jerk and whether you’re going to die by suicide (side note: I did 23 and Me and the genetic results reported I am genetically predisposed to dislike cilantro. But I love cilantro. I have cilantro in my fridge right now. That just proves that our data is not our destiny, we can all break the bonds of our predetermined natures and the future is not set — there's no fate but the guacamole we make!).
The profiles should arguably have come with, say, a cover letter. Something explaining what this file is, exactly. People ought to have the choice of whether to open their file and find out the secrets of their existence rather than just being assailed with their destinies without a heads-up (sure there’s a tab marked “future," but who would think what it would reveal the literal future). If knowing your destiny is a right, then not knowing your destiny is also a right.
Anyway, Team Dolores goes to a beach where Liam just starts spouting things like, “We can’t fix you and we can’t get rid of you!” and “You’re just a drag on the system!” and “Do you know how much progress we would have made if not for you!” Basically, Liam is begging so very hard to be killed, and given that Caleb is now in The Shining phase of his genre trip, you can bet some redrum is about to happen.
But not before Liam drops more hints that Caleb’s backstory has a very bad dark secret. “You don’t even know who you are,” Liam says, and we recall how he backed away from Caleb when he read his Incite file earlier.
So let’s get this straight: Dolores sent everybody in the entire world their top-secret profile because she believes they all have a right to know themselves … except for the one guy who’s helping her?! How is Caleb the only person on the planet still clueless what his data says?
We’ll presumably get some Caleb clarity soon. For now, we’re left at a rather unexpected place with three more episodes left (yes, only eight episodes this season). Dolores has seemingly accomplished her mission, so what comes next? Maeve, surely, has a role to play. As does Bernard, who we learned tonight was the only host Dolores cannot replace. Dolores apparently has more moves left to make. But what?