Westworld delivers one of its most imaginative episodes yet.
Genre is a masterstroke in storytelling. It is an episode that covers a lot – Serac’s past and the creation of Insight and Delores’s mission to take down the machine controlling humanity – while retaining the focused nature of Westworld’s third season. Charlotte, Maeve and William all take a back seat this week as the episode flits between the two narratives in a fun, imaginative way.
In a brawl with the captured Liam, Caleb is infected with a drug – Genre – that allows him to experience the world in five different narratives; the silent film noir, the action-adventure, romance, musical and horror, a form of psychedelic drug trip and horror, each accompanied by it’s own musical style. Ramin Djawadi’s score has always been one of the stars of Westworld and this this week, the composer shines more than ever…and that’s without a superb string quartet version of David Bowie’s Space Oddity in Genre’s big narrative moment.
The film noir sequence plays like a heightened version of the events taking place – Delores, Caleb and their prisoner Liam – trying to find a way across the city. The familiar musical scorings are more dramatic, the switch between black and white and colour offering a fascinating contrast between Caleb’s perception of what is happening and Delores’. But the real fun is had with the majestic use of Ride of the Valkyries in the thrilling car chase through the city. Aaron Paul is brilliant as the out of it Caleb, trying to fire a rocket launcher from a speeding car under fire and the music lifts what would already be a cool action sequence into a stand-out moment of the season so far. The icing on the cake is Caleb’s rose-tinted gaze at Delores as the theme to 1970’s Love Story kicks in, revealing the all so obvious crush he has on her as his narrative switches to romance.
But all these action moments – interlaced with Serac’s monologue – is all build-up to Delores’s big plan as Delores Mark II (AKA Martin Connells) uses Liam’s access to release all of the files Insight has on humanity. The scene in the train car, switching out of Caleb’s psychedelic paranoia, is certainly one of the most harrowing moments of the season so far, as everyone learns just what Insight has on them and what it has predicted for the future. From the businessman learning he is a failure to returning ally Ash (Lena Waithe) learning that her crime-ridden efforts to help her brother achieve greatness will result in him taking an even darker path, it’s clear that humanity’s free-will has been stolen. Peace it seems, comes with a price, as the mother with the small girl learns, reading of her daughter’s eventual suicide in the years to come. What does that do to a person? What would you do if you knew your child was destined to kill themselves? How could you stop it? It’s questions like this that are at the heart of the mystery underpinning season three.
Diajawadi’s version of Space Oddity as they leave the station and watch humanity unravel around them, really ups the emotional ante of what has happened. Is Delores the villain, laying bare the fate of everyone? Or is she the hero, freeing them from their predestined narrative? Once again, Westworld continues to blend the line between good and evil; if Delores is bad, looking to ruin the utopia Serac has built for the world, then at least her intentions carry some measure of good will.
The final genre – horror – is signified with the forbidding score to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, as Liam meets his maker, bleeding out in Caleb’s arms even as Caleb finds himself haunted by memories of another war. The presence of two new unseen characters, played by Bahia Haifi and Enrico Colantoni, hint at an ever darker past for Caleb, one that looks set to turn everything he knows on its head- again. Paul has been a terrific addition to the show this season, and his story continues to remain as compelling as that of the original cast.
Overlapping this narrative, is the story of Engerraund Serac (Vincent Cassel – and in flashbacks, Alexandre Bar). We caught a glimpse of his tragic past last week – a child watching his childhood home of Paris destroyed by a nuclear bomb – and his journey is equally compelling, filling in the gaps between the world as we know it now and the near future Earth that we have seen explored this season. The creation of Insight with his genius brother, financially backed by Liam’s father, is a fascinating exploration of how they aimed to reshape humanity out of the chaos it was in; while Serac arguably is a villain in his own right – the power he wields before the corrupt president and the murder of Liam’s father are clear examples of just how ruthless he is – there is yet again, the suggestion that his actions aren’t completely evil. His method of peace might have stolen humanity’s free-will, but it might also avoid another incident like Paris.
Genre is a superb episode that continues to explore the concepts of good and evil, right and wrong, without ever painting its characters as heroes or villains. The five genres offer a fun and exciting spin on Caleb’s narrative, with Ramin Djawadi and director Anna Foerster delivering an exciting and imaginative use of alternative scores and classic soundtracks. Genre mixes humour, action and compelling character arcs to deliver one of Westworld‘s most imaginative episodes yet.
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