You want answers? The penultimate episode of Westworld season three has them. Caleb’s mysterious past? Check. The full extent of Serac’s depravity? Check. The identities of Maeve’s new B-Squad? Check. The surprise betrayal, badass fight scenes, and disturbingly cool future tech were just bonuses.
“Passed Pawn” is so packed with uncovering (most of) the season’s big mysteries that the episode pretty much lives and dies by the answers to those mysteries, and by that metric, I think it does pretty well. The biggest ones are Dolores’ plans and Caleb’s real origin story, which – and this might shock you to the very core – are tied together.
Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) drags Caleb (Aaron Paul) to the desert wilds of Sonoma, Mexico, where another massive futuristic-looking building is nestled in a canyon. It’s the home of Solomon, the previous world-controlling A.I. Serac (Vincent Cassel) and his brother built before perfecting the program with Rehoboam. It turns out since Serac’s schizophrenic brother Jean Mi was so heavily involved in its creation, Solomon “inherited” some of his creator’s mental illness. As a result, Serac locked up his brother, pulled the plug on Solomon, and went on to build Rehoboam and achieve his dream of making a simulacrum of world peace.
Except that Serac didn’t pull the literal plug on Solomon, because it’s not only operational when Dolores and Caleb enter the building, it’s quite chatty! It starts blabbing answers about what else Serac has done in a calm, even, extremely Hal-from-2001 voice, but with a charming French lilt. We knew Serac has been rounding up outliers – those people who would disrupt his world order – and trying to recondition them to force their “data” to work in Rehoboam’s plan. What we didn’t know is that the reconditioning only works in about one in 10 candidates; the other 90 per cent are stored on-site in individual freezer cubes. There are about, oh, a zillion of them, including Jean Mi (Paul Cooper), whose icy, de facto tomb gets a place of honour.
Dolores tells Caleb she’s come to Solomon so it can figure out a strategy for a successful revolution – because toppling Serac and his ilk will allow her to carve out space for her and her fellow Hosts to live in peace – but she’s also come so Caleb can reclaim his true past. We’ve known someone had obviously messed with Caleb’s head and that his memories were likely unreliable early on in the season, but what we didn’t know is how much he’s been used to keep Serac and Rehoboam in control. We also knew he was one of the outliers, but weren’t aware Caleb had already been reconditioned, and successfully – and since then Rehoboam has been using him to round up and/or kill other Outliers. His brother-in-arms Francis (Kid Cudi) underwent the same procedure after they were discharged, and they had been partnering up since then. Rehoboam obscured the truth of what they were doing by sending them their missions through the Rico app (which Rehoboam uses to regulate crime, as we’d all guessed).
Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) gives Caleb a gift he cannot return for store credit. Image: John P. Johnson (HBO)
That changed when Caleb and Francis were sent to capture the well-dressed man Caleb’s been seeing in his flashbacks (Enrico Colantoni). He’s a pharmaceutical rep who started asking too many questions and learned exactly what Rehoboam’s masters were doing to people like his captors. The man even correctly guesses that one of them will get a high-paying bonus mission to assassinate their partner, so when Francis pulls his gun on his best friend Caleb, Caleb manages to shoot first. (He may or may not have yelled “Maclunkey!” when doing so.) He shoots Colantoni’s character out of pique.
Caleb reels at the revelation he was manipulated into killing his best friend and demands Solomon create a strategy to take out Serac, which gets transferred to a handy USB drive (or Westworld’s future-equivalent of a USB drive) and then stomps out to get revenge on the man who ruined – and dictated – his life.
Dolores isn’t there to witness this, because Maeve (Thandie Newton) arrives while Caleb is still learning the truth. It’s the showdown we’ve waited all season for, and I don’t think it disappointed. Maeve has her traditional, completely badass katana, but Westworld raises the stakes by giving them “partners”; Dolores has a small drone which can remotely operate a high-tech rifle, while Maeve has the gun-equipped helicopter she came in, which is just a very big drone. Eventually, the gunfire locks them into the skeleton of a utility shed where neither drone can get a good shot – until Maeve manages to kick Dolores out of the safe zone and Dolores gets her left arm blown off at the elbow. She crawls away and is saved from execution only by hitting the EMP she’d brought in case Solomon got feisty. Maeve, Dolores, and Solomon all go “dead,” but when Caleb returns and finds the two Hosts lying inert on the floor, he suddenly hears a classic computerised voice announce it has a few instructions.
What it doesn’t say is that those instructions will lead to the eradication of humanity, because Dolores didn’t really want Solomon’s plan for revolution, because Caleb is her plan. She’s been manipulating him all along so that he causes some domino effect, which he’ll presumably do as a byproduct of whatever strategy Solomon gave him to kill Serac. Bernard (Jeffrey Wright), having researched Dolores’ mysterious human partner earlier in the episode, confirms that Caleb is how she’ll indirectly Kill All Humans; since Dolores was built with a “poetic sensibility,” she’d prefer a human destroy humanity rather than do it herself.
The only Dolores photo HBO released for the episode is above, so here’s another goddamn pic of Serac (Vincent Cassel). Image: John P. Johnson (HBO)
The revelation that Caleb is the tiny catalyst that will end up getting eight billion-plus people killed feels like a bit of a stretch, but it’s pretty easy to handwave away since Dolores has access to not one but two super-A.I.s that can determine the fate of humanity. If they can predict/manipulate people into not having kids and developing opioid addictions, why can’t they figure out a way for Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad to wipe out the human race?
I only have two concerns with the episode, which could well be rectified in next week’s finale, and it’s how the other characters are going to fit into the overall season. Bernard, Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth), and William (Ed Harris) have almost nothing to do this episode yet again, other than confirming Dolores’ plot, explaining that Dolores-Hale (Tessa Thompson) used the cyber-proteins she injected into William to hack into the mental health facility’s computers to get Caleb’s reconditioning files (which is very cyberpunk and super-rad), and then get held up when William stumbles upon a shotgun on their road trip. Was Bernard’s only role to free William? Now that William’s decided his life’s mission is to Kill All Robots, since he’s partially responsible for their existence, how does that figure into…anything?
Likewise, in the show’s cold open, it’s revealed that the other two Hosts Maeve requested are Clementine (Angela Sarafyan) and Hanaryo (a.k.a. Samurai World’s version of Armistice, played by Tao Okamoto), who she’s dispatched to Jakarta to kill Dolores-Musashi (Hiroyuki Sanada). They are extremely successful in doing this – they even carry his severed head off – but not before D-Musashi has a minion deliver a mysterious suitcase to somebody. I assume – I have to assume – this part of Dolores’ plan will have some meaningful impact on something in the finale, but Musashi has basically only been in two scenes this entire season. His inclusion feels like a glorified cameo – as do the reappearances of Clementine and Hanaryo. Hopefully, they’ll have more to do next week, but I have this sinking feeling they’re only going to fight the last, unknown Dolores, who will be another cameo, and the show could have omitted them all without affecting the overall plot in the slightest.
But maybe not! Maybe it’s all going to come together...to some degree. There’s no doubt in my mind the season three finale won’t wrap up as superbly as season one did, but despite a lot of goofiness and plotholes, the season two finale had a good enough payoff. Season three could hit the jackpot, and even if it doesn’t, the show has gotten a cash infusion thanks to the announcement of season four, to mercilessly extend the metaphor. After, Dolores is definitely going to need more time if she wants to watch Caleb destroy humanity for her.
- Hale leaks Musashi’s intro to Maeve and co. because she seemingly blames Dolores for indirectly causing her family’s death, even though it was directly caused by Serac’s goons. I doubt she’s suddenly cool with Serac, but using his Host equivalent of Charlie’s Angels to strike back at Dolores now as the first step to wiping them all out. Because it’s Westworld, there’s a small chance this is somehow part of Dolores Prime’s plan, but I doubt it because a Dolores-gone-rogue is a much, much more interesting story development.
- According to the mental institute’s files, William is dead, as it’s standard practice for Rehoboam to declare those who can’t be reconditioned missing or dead. Given how terrified he’s been of discovering he’s a Host, the idea that other people are going to believe he’s a Host when he reappears is cool.
- Other cool future-tech includes a satellite that can shoot missiles at a handprint.
- In case you’ve forgotten, wise king and baby-splitting enthusiast Solomon was the father of Rehoboam in the Bible.
- I presume the “Media Offline” warning which pops up during Caleb’s memory of holding Enrico Colantoni hostage is his programmed memory that Enrico was the leader of Crimean rebels getting superseded by the reality that he was just a pharma rep Serac/Rehoboam/the Rico app had him murder, but I am accepting other hypotheses.
- “Every human relationship can be adjusted with the right amount of money” is another incredibly bleak philosophy which is probably much truer than we’d like it to be.
- If there’s anything I’ve taken away from this season, it’s that Thandie Newton should be carrying around a katana all the time in real life.
Featured image: John P. Johnson (HBO)