Westworld: 3 01 Parce Domine
It's been almost two years since Westworld season two aired. With Charlotte replaced by a host and Bernard and Dolores resurrected in the real world, the stage was set for a very different story outside the confines of the Delos Corporation's titular theme park. Season three opener Parce Domine certainly plays up to this new premise. A number of key characters are absent from the episode and the globe-trotting adventures take place solely in the real world. From the start, it is clear that the season three opener is serving as a soft reboot for the show.
Parce Domine is something of a mixed bag, albeit a very high standard of bag. It is an episode that does a lot of new world building. We only saw glimpse of the world outside the park in previous seasons and now the season opener takes us to a futuristic LA and London, plus a number of rural eastern locations as Bernard lives a life in hiding, blamed it seems, for the uprising in Westworld. His dual personalities, bringing Bernard out when things get bad, is a fascinating concept, but one that deserves more exploration than it did here. The truth is, not a lot happens over the course of the hour and five minutes. But while there were no big twists, no parallel time periods and little in the way if cool action sequences, everything witnessed on screen hinted at bigger things to come.
There were brief moments with host Charlotte, now guiding Delos Corporation in a new direction following the crisis and Bernard life in hiding. But the primary focus is on Delores and her mission to gain power and influence, while getting revenge on those former park visitors that abused her. Evan Rachel Wood carries the episode on her shoulders, her Delores filled with a quiet fury as she hunts down and destroys one of her abusers, a particularly vile man whose violence towards Delores on his stag do spilled out into killing his own wife. From the start, there is a measure of sympathy towards Delores, one that wasn't always apparent in her bloody mission last season. Taking down violent abusers is something the audience can certainly get behind.
Delores' journey this episode sees her posing as the socialite who attracts the attention of John Gallagher Jr's Liam Dempsey, a man inheriting a powerful company that had led the way in AI - notice the black globe in the LA office featured prominently in the new title sequence? Delores's quest, spying on Liam and his dodgy associates, didn't offer much in the way of answers. But it did came to a head in spectacular fashion in her full on Terminator-style take on of Tommy Flanagan's Martin Connells and his henchmen in the big action set piece in downtown LA. It was a thrilling sequence of events, capped by Martin's murder at his own host doppelganger' hands, hinting at a greater artificial infiltration of humanity as the season progresses.
The reboot-nature of the episode also focused on the introduction of another new character, Aaron Paul's Caleb Nichols. Caleb has featured prominently in the trailers for season three and Parce Domine devoted a lot of screen time to exploring the life of the former soldier struggling to find his place in the world and resorting to crime to survive. Through Caleb's eyes we got our best glimpse of the future Earth yet. Delores's path focused on the rich and wealthy - all amazing dress changes and champagne lifestyles. Caleb however, lives in a world where man and machine work together and humanity's darkest desires seeped into the real world. The criminal for hire narrative added some real momentum, before his path finally intersected with Delores's at the episode's end.
Could some of Caleb and Delores's stories have been handled in a more efficient manner? Absolutely. While not dull, their narratives sat firmly in intriguing rather riveting, but I appreciate the massive amount of world building taken by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy in the writing and direction. I'm fascinated to see what happens next. I'm also still waiting on my two favourite elements of Westworld - Thandie Newton's Maeve and Ramin Diajwadi's iconic score and ability to transform classic songs into soaring musical numbers. But I suspect there's plenty more to come from what is arguably one of the best shows on TV.