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Westworld season 3 premiere recap: Dolores, Jesse Pinkman and algorithms

The first episode shows Westworld hasn't lost any of its Westworld-liness.

On the right is Caleb, played by Aaron Paul, and his Delos robot co-worker George.

On Sunday, amid the coronavirus pandemic that has gripped the globe, Westworld returned to HBO for its third season to entertain, philosophize and distract us with badass robot fight scenes. Season 2 was about reckoning, rebelling and resurrection, which left the Delos theme park dripping in blood, bodies and data.

The third season brings back Ford's band of motley robot hosts -- Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood), Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) and Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) -- and adds new characters played by actors Aaron Paul, Marshawn Lynch, Lena Waithe and Vincent Cassel.

Season 3, episode 1, titled Parce Domine. was written by the show's creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, with Nolan directing. But before we jump into the first episode, take a look at our interview with Jeffrey Wright, who explains what happiness might look like for Bernard. He also talks about filming the new Batman movie with Robert Pattinson. And if you need a refresher on the first two seasons, read our Westworld season 1 and 2 recap.

Before we bring you back online, know that spoilers lie ahead.


Dolores, played by Evan Rachel Wood, has a big plan.


Episode 1 recap

Dolores becomes James Bond

We first glimpse Dolores as she's swimming in her birthday suit in a pool at a Brutalist-style mansion, decked with polished concrete walls and located in Beihai, China.

"I hope you don't mind. I've never been in one before," she says. "The water is so warm."

It's the aftermath of the insane bloodfest at Westworld and Delos stock has plummeted. No surprise there. This news comes via Jerry, a retired Incite employee. He's looking at a tablet showing a story with the headline, "Bloodbath in Delos Park: 75 people dead, 200 dead in multi day massacre." He unloads his anger on his AR hologram financial advisor as he tries to recoup the losses of his Delos stock.


Ex-Incite employee Jerry's tablet showing the bad news out of Westworld.


After he digests a Communion-like wafer with what looks like circuitry on it to fall asleep, he warns his wife not to go into town anymore because it's not safe. Cue the foreshadowing. Next we have a scene that should be titled, "When smart homes attack."

Jerry's smart home is taken control of: the oxygen levels are decreased and a dangerous amount of carbon dioxide is detected. The exits are locked, firepits on and Jerry awakens wearing an air mask attached to an oxygen bottle.

He orders, "System get me an ambulance." The system (which seems to be like Alexa or Siri) responds with a very HAL 9000 answer: "I'm afraid I can't do that."

Dolores, fresh from a swim, reveals herself. Turns out Jerry was a guest at Westworld for a bachelor party and sowed some oats with Dolores there. Referencing the books we saw at the end of season 2, Dolores leverages the knowledge she learned from the algorithm Delos assembled for Jerry.

"You want to be the dominant species but you built your whole world with things more like me," she says.

Dolores takes most of Jerry's money and threatens him with his life if he doesn't give her the confidential files he kept from his work at Incite. He transfers the files via his tablet with double fingerprint authentication -- no FaceID here. Jerry asks her what she's going to do with the files.

She responds, "I am the last of my kind for now. I need a competitive advantage."

While chasing Dolores' AR hologram, Jerry swings a golf club to hit her, missing because she's a hologram. Thus he falls into his swimming pool, hits his head and dies. No more than 10 minutes into season 3 and we have our first death. 

Jerry's wife Eunice sees and asks, "Who are you?"

Dolores replies, "The person who set you free."

An Aaron Paul anomaly is detected in Los Angeles

Nope, that's not Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad, that's Caleb. He holds several jobs to make ends meet, including running fiber with a Delos robot named George. Caleb says of him, "We work well together. He doesn't ask to borrow money."

We learn through conversations with his former Army buddy Francis that Caleb is having a tough time. His mom is in the hospital and doesn't recognize him. Later in the episode it is revealed that Francis died and what we are hearing Caleb talk to is an AI version of Francis meant for therapy. There's a Deckard from Blade Runner quality to the angst and anguish Caleb suffers.

Francis asks Caleb if he'd consider getting his implant turned back on. The implant helps people smooth over the "rough edges". Caleb says, "Some people need it. But for me, I guess the rough edges are the only thing I'm hanging onto."


The Ri¢o app is like Uber for committing crimes.


In one of the more fascinating pieces of future technology featured in the episode, we see Caleb use an Uber-for-crime app called Ri¢o. "Make Money Motherfuckers" is its slogan and it's a gig economy app for crowdsourcing crimes. Like other gig apps, there's a rating system. 

I found the Ri¢o side of the episode completely fascinating. The app provides turn-by-turn heist directions for Caleb and two random accomplices, played by Marshawn Lynch (with the coolest light-up mood shirt) and Lena Waithe. The app, which becomes a cool cinematic device for showing a heist, even has a bit of a western vibe. The backpack Caleb is asked to pick up on the subway has a giant X on it marking the spot. He robs an ATM with two other gig accomplices. By the way, like all good apps, Ri¢o lets Caleb rate his accomplices after they finish stealing from the ATM.

In a later scene, Caleb (trying to earn money legitimately) gets rejected for a job he applied for via an artificial personality named Sean. God, I hope this isn't our future. How incredibly dehumanizing. And with that, it's back to Caleb making motherfucking money via Ri¢o.

Meanwhile back at Delos

Charlotte Hale, now the interim CEO of Delos, lands in a giant commuter drone at Delos sporting a stylish futuristic carnation-colored suit. She smokes a cigarette (no vape pens here). Of course the real Hale is dead and has been replaced by a host version made and operated by Dolores. It's not entirely clear if Dolores is still Hale or not. 

It's now three months after the massacre. One of the board members says that their brand has been massacred literally along with 113 people. It seems more people died than the 75 originally reported on the tablet at the beginning of the episode. Perhaps some of the 200 who are wounded ended up dying? Or maybe Delos is trying to hide the true number of deaths from the public?


Charlotte Hale (or a host version of her) arriving at Delos HQ.


I found it amusing that a machine is able to be a proxy vote on the Delos board. It's not that hard to imagine something like it happening one day at an actual company. Hale and the machine algorithm agree to take Delos off the stock market and make it a privately traded company so they don't have to answer to anyone moving forward. This means Delos can resume making hosts.

Obviously, the elephant in the room here is Hale or Dolores. She made some serious chess piece moves in this scene and we'll have to see where they go in season 3.

Bernard Lowe is a wanted man

Working under the name Armand Delgado, as a butcher in an abattoir where synthetic cow meat is grown, Bernard is trying to lay low. In one of the more interesting scenes in the episode, he runs a self-analysis to see if anyone has tampered with his code. It's a Westworldian take on Smeagol and Gollum in the Lord Of The Rings. But Bernard has an actual button he presses to switch in and out of Bernard. While it's never stated, it could be a carryover of Ford that invaded Bernard's being at the end of season 2.

At one point he asks, "Would you ever lie to me Bernard? No. Of course not."

Bernard is discovered by two other employees whom he kills before going on the run. Later in the episode, he bribes a boat captain to take him back to Westworld.

"I'm looking for a friend."

Dolores is Laura Essman

Midway through the episode, Dolores pulls up in a self-driving Audi with suicide doors (nod to the Matrix?). As she walks, she tugs on the top of her little black dress which flops down and becomes a gold evening gown. I'm seriously loving the fashion this season. And I like Dolores and her secret agent disguises. She's attending an event for Incite in London meeting Liam Dempsey -- who's really just a figurehead for his father's legacy. Like previous seasons of Westworld, the theme of paternal legacy rings loud. Dempsey lives in his father's shadow as "the son of the guy who saved the world."

Dolores, going by Laura Essman (no relation to Suzie Essman on Curb Your Enthusiasm, also on HBO) is dating Dempsey. We see the couple leave London for Los Angeles. There Dempsey shows the machine his father made that uses data to predict people's behaviors and their future. It's called Reholberion. 

Dempsey says that it charts a course for every single person to make the world a better place. Without missing a beat, Dolores replies, "A path for everyone."


Dolores in peak secret agent mode.


One of the cooler sequences involves Dolores in full-on spy mode on a motorcycle, tailing Dempsey in a Porsche. She ends up in a building and uses a computer assistant to lease her an apartment ASAP so that she has access to the building's rooftop to spy on Dempsey -- and a woman who represents the person who is in actual control of Incite.

Later, Dolores is captured trying to get Dempsey in his apartment. This sequence brings together both Caleb's and Dolores' storylines. Dolores is flown to a pad where Caleb delivered a car and package via a job on Ri¢o.

Incite security tries to kill Dolores, who goes full-on Terminator on them, taking out the team one by one. I absolutely love the shot in this sequence of the car's backup camera display on the dash showing what's happening behind the car and at the same time being able to see through the windshield in front of the car. 

In a scene similar to the one with Jerry at the beginning, Dolores hunts down the Incite security man and tells him "we met once before." There's an enjoyable Kill Bill-esque quality to all this, but Dolores doesn't kill the man. Instead she has a host version of the man kill him. Imagine being killed by a robot version of yourself.

Let's not forget Maeve

In a Marvel-like post-credits scene, we see Maeve decked out in a 1940's red suit. And just like in the season trailer, we see a glimpse of a WWII park complete with a Nazi banner hanging on a building.

Westworld season 3 title credit sequence

A new season means a new title sequence. It's the same music but starts out with an eagle robot being printed. There are two hairless hosts swimming toward each other, each with an arm extended and a finger like Michaelangelo's depiction of the Creation of Adam from the Sistine Chapel. The printed eagle flies toward the path of what looks like the exhaust of a jet engine. The two hosts' fingers go to touch but reveal that one is a reflection in water. The hand playing the piano is back!

Out of the water comes what looks like a human hand followed by a dandelion with its seed heads being blown away then morphing into arrows. A Death Star-ish sphere is shown which we will learn later in the episode is the "brain" behind Incite's predictive AI.

The printed host falls back underneath the water after which the face opens up like a Stranger Things' demogorgon, revealing its skull. The skin of the host and the feathers of the eagle start to dissolve away in the water. The sequence cuts to a faceless, white host body in the Leonard Da Vinci Vitruvian Man pose being submerged into a red liquid.

How I've missed Westworld's title credits.