If you’ve found the first three episodes of season three to be a slow burn, good news – Dolores just tossed on some gas. Her plan kicked into high gear tonight, but we also got the long-awaited return of the Man in Black, some of the season’s big secrets were revealed, and there were even a few violent delights along the way. This is the Westworld you’ve been waiting for.
In “The Mother of Exiles,” all roads lead to Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) – in more ways than one. Primarily, Serac (Vincent Cassel) finally talks Maeve (Thandie Newton) into joining forces after explaining that while the encryption key to the data he wants is in Dolores’ head, said head also has the key to the Valley Beyond, where Maeve’s daughter and all the other hosts she saved last season are hanging out. While that’s reason enough for Maeve to hunt down Dolores, she’s still not interested in also helping Serac until he reminds her he’s got a remote control that shuts off her brain.
After showing her the house Dolores made her first batch of Host bodies in, Maeve follows various leads around Singapore and discovers along the way her powers to control hosts also allows her to control pretty much anything with a computer inside, which is pretty much everything. This comes in pretty handy when she ends up fighting a bunch of thugs wielding high-tech guns with aim assistance, so Maeve simply aims them at each other. Eventually, she’s sent to a Yakuza base where she’s able to grab a katana, stab a goon, and inadvertently pierce a barrel that a thick, white goo pours out of. Then, the Yakuza leader emerges: It’s Musashi (Hiroyuki Sanada), star samurai of Shōgun World, who has some harsh words for his former comrade.
Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) and Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) are also hot on Dolores’ trail; they only know she has designs on Liam Dempsey Jr. (John Gallagher Jr.), although they don’t know what they are. Bernard assumes she’s replaced him with a Host; instead, Dolores and Caleb stole all the money in his bank account. Poor Liam finds this out when he tries to buy one of the sex workers on show (it’s for charity!) at an Eyes Wide Shut-but-more-tasteful party for the absurdly rich, and his card is declined. But before he can see what’s up, Bernard and Stubbs crash the party, are stunned to discover Liam is not a Host, and try to rush him away before Dolores finds them. They don’t get far at all.
Seeing Maeve wield a samurai sword again was definitely a violent delight, but watching Dolores fight Stubbs might be an even bigger one. After Bernard and Liam run on, with Caleb in pursuit, Dolores mostly trounces poor Stubbs. Although he gets a few licks in, he gets tossed off a balcony and does not return.
Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) has practically nothing under control. Image: John P. Johnson (HBO)
When Caleb catches up with Bernard and Liam, there’s a different sort of delight in having the two storylines intersect, but also just seeing Caleb meet another of the show’s classic characters. Host Conells arrives, to Liam’s relief, until Conells shoots the rest of the security team he’s leading, trains his gun on Bernard, tells Liam to run, and also tells Caleb to go chase Liam anyway.
Meanwhile, Hale’s job is to get Delos’ president William (Ed Harris) back in the office so he can inspire the other shareholders to take the company private, as per Dolores’ desires. While he’s not a Host living in the abandoned Westworld of the far future (as per that bizarre after-credits scene in the season two finale), he’s still having a tough time of it: He’s still extremely worried he’s a Host without knowing it, but he’s also very upset that he murdered his daughter Emily (Katja Herbers) because he thought she was a Host. In fact, William has been hallucinating Emily on the regs, and having actual conversations with her.
Hale can hear and has heard these conversations – well, William’s side of them, of course. She sneeringly informs him she’s been spying on him during his self-imposed exile, although she didn’t need to because she knows William “down to his bones” – she’s William’s “closest friend.” And William suddenly realizes he’s talking to Dolores.
So is Bernard.
So is Maeve.
William (Ed Harris) has literally nothing under control, including his own mind. Image: John P. Johnson (HBO)
Dolores did take out five Host Pearls out of Westworld but only one seems to have contained a Host, i.e. Bernard. Dolores made three copies of herself as part of her plan to Kill All Humans. There’s still one Pearl left unaccounted for, but the safe bet here is that it’s a fifth Dolores – but in whose body?
Original Recipe Dolores grabs Liam with Caleb’s help. Dolores-Conells kidnaps Bernard, also for unknown reasons. Dolores-Musashi stabs Maeve in the gut, and leaves her for dead on the floor, leaving her blood to mix artistically with the already spreading white goo. And Dolores-Hale smirks as William starts screaming that the woman in front of him is a Host – unfortunately, he’s screaming it to two people who work at a private mental health clinic, who restrain the older man as she calmly explains now that William is being committed, the board will judge him incompetent, and his voting shares go to acting Delos president Charlotte “Dolores” Hale. Dolores has – well, the Doloreses have eliminated Serac’s pawn, captured Bernard and Liam, and are about to take Delos private, just like they wanted. Not a bad day’s work!
I’m not sure how I feel about the twist. On one hand, it feels like it would have been more fun if the show threw us an assortment of curveballs like the reappearance of Musashi. But getting to see Tessa Thompson perfectly replicate Evan Rachel Wood’s performance as Dolores was sublime, and there’s something extremely formidable about the threat of four (or five!) Doloreses running around, working for the same goal, and using the same plan in total alignment and agreement. But what is that plan? Although Maeve accuses Dolores of trying to make a world for herself, Dolores-Musashi asserts it’s for all Hosts, including the ones chilling in the Valley Beyond. How she’s going to pull that off is a mystery, but considering that white goo at the Yazuka HQ is almost certainly the same junk used to create Host bodies, and there are a lot of barrels of it, many things we haven’t’ even thought of yet are quite possible.
While the mystery of “Who’s in Hale and Conells” has been solved, we’ve now gotten a tantalizing look at Dolores’ mysterious master plan, and there’s still one more Pearl out there. Westworld is always at its most satisfying when it’s giving us answers while also providing us with new mysteries to ponder, and “The Mother of Exiles” nails this. It’s easily the best episode of the season, which is now at its half-way point. Hopefully, now that the show is on fire, nothing comes along to douse the flames.
Caleb (Aaron Paul) has a couple things under control but damn, does he look sharp! Image: John P. Johnson (HBO)
- I know practically nothing about technology, but given that there are currently apps that let you try clothes on virtually now I fully accept in the future there will be mirrors that perfectly show your reflection wearing alternate outfits for you to peruse. Also, those aim-assisting guns looked insane, but they seem…plausible to me?
- Boy, the fancy-shmancy sex party where rich people literally buy other people to fuck them – for charity, lest we forget! – had all the subtlety of a ball-peen hammer. “I thought your world would be so different from mine,” says Dolores. “There isn’t any difference at all.” We get it, guys.
- So Paris was straight-up nuked? When? Why? I don’t need a Ken Burns documentary or anything, but I wouldn’t mind a little more detail on what the hell happened there. Still, Serac’s “My loyalty to my kind is hard-won” is a pretty killer line.
- As is Hallucination Dolores’ parting words to William: “This is the end of the game.” This would be the perfect end for the Man in Black, to be imprisoned with nothing but his guilt and agony, which is how his daughter wanted him to go. But it would also be extremely weird to say goodbye to this major character in episode four of season three, so I guess Westworld isn’t quite done with him yet. Maybe.