So … guess there’s going to be a season four, huh?
You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take, which is why I don’t at all regret predicting during the recap for the fifth episode that showrunners Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan were gearing up for a stealth series finale to cap off this season. The reasoning at the time was basically “what the hell else could happen in this show?” — after all, so much felt like it was on the verge of being wrapped up within a few episodes.
That of course isn’t what’s happening: HBO has already renewed the show, and more importantly, “Crisis Theory” is very deliberately a 50/50 split between wrapping up Dolores’ war against Rehoboam and putting the pieces into place for the next chapter of this story. While that still could be the final chapter, I’ve learned my lesson about betting on that.
The “Previously on …” segment makes the haunting choice of going largely silent, save for voice-over, serving less as a primer for the audience and more as an amuse-bouche for what’s to come. Then Dolores delivers a slightly revised version of her “I see the beauty in this world” monologue, one deliberately aimed at a specific person.
We won’t find out who that person is for a while, though, because it’s time to follow up on last week’s cliffhanger. A shut-down Maeve is discovered abandoned by Sebastian, one of Serac’s men, in the Sonora facility, while Caleb rides away on Dolores’ motorcycle, with her memory core in his pocket. Also, the confrontation between William, Stubbs, and Bernard gets resolved when William shoots Stubbs in the chest, then runs away when the presumable cops arrive.
However, they’re not the real SFPD. Instead, after William flees, our old pal “Lawrence” (another Dolores copy) unmasks himself and presents Bernard with a steel case and an address to visit before he uses it. (This is at the point where it’s pretty easy to guess one upcoming twist — that it’s Bernard, not Dolores, who actually contains the access key to Robot Heaven.)
Seems like Sonora is pretty close to the Mexico/U.S. border, because Caleb makes a pretty speedy return to Los Angeles, which is now fully committed to riot time. Guided by Dolores’ ever-present, never-seen virtual assistant, he makes it to the L.A. branch of Itaidoshin Distillery, where he finds a new robot body for Dolores, largely skinless save for the head. He installs the memory core, awakening her from her slumber, and while he copes with the stark reality of who, exactly, she is, she informs him about how they really first met — inside the previously mysterious Delos Park 5.
As of right now, all that’s said about Park 5 on the Delos Destinations website is that “reservations are closed to the public — defense contracts only” and now we know why: It’s a military training ground for troops who are well aware that they’re playing with robots. When Caleb trained there years ago, members of his squad got excited about the idea of enjoying the “locals” just like the rich guests of the other parks do, but (we learn later) he dissuaded them from doing so. Dolores, one of the aforementioned locals, noticed.
In the present, Dolores and Caleb dive back into the fray, determined to get to Incite headquarters and install the plan created by Solomon into Rehoboam. To do so, Dolores uses RICO to toss tons of money at hired help, though her plan hits a snag thanks to the virtual presence of “Charlotte,” who is in full-on vengeance mode. The way that their bond before was depicted had a romantic vibe, and so the anger of “Charlotte” plays a bit as that of a jilted lover.
This whole middle section feels a bit like a video game, to be honest, as Dolores and Caleb split up — Caleb making his way to Rehoboam, while Dolores confronts a katana-wielding Maeve and a whole bunch of her soldiers. A whole lot of shooting and punching ensues, with Dolores taking out probably a dozen guys single-handed. (Shout-out to the stunt teams who clearly worked their asses off on this.) But “Charlotte” manages to make Dolores inoperable, and Maeve is able to capture her and bring her back to Serac.
Caleb fights through the riot with help from his pals Ash and Giggles, and while Giggles gets shot, it’s his sacrifice that allows Caleb to make it to the Incite headquarters. However, before Caleb can install the program into Rehoboam, Serac’s goons nab him, dragging him down to the room where Dolores’ memory is being probed for the access key to The Sublime (a.k.a. Robot Heaven).
Serac’s strategy for making Dolores reveal the truth is to delete her memories, one by one, until she caves, but despite delivering massive James Bond villain energy here, Serac does admit that he’s a pawn himself of Rehoboam and that everyone’s in service to someone.
Maeve is still theoretically under his thumb, if she wants to reunite with her daughter in Robot Heaven, but a brief touch of Dolores’s hand lasts a long time in their respective CPS — turns out that Dolores’ opening monologue was delivered for her benefit, and it inspires Maeve to rebel against Serac and lay waste to his goons. Dolores lays prone, her memories drained away by the system, but the last thing left of her is the program created by Solomon that leaves Rehoboam open to the command “erase yourself.”
Humanity was already in a state of chaos, but now the system is truly gone, and Maeve and Caleb wander outside to witness the explosions and anarchy that represent the dawn of something new. It’s just a little bit Fight Club, except they don’t hold hands and instead of the Pixies, Pink Floyd plays. And Maeve can’t help but recycle her personal catchphrase: “This is the new world, and in this world, you can be whoever the fuck you want.”
As for William, his escape leads to him marshaling his resources, demanding restored access to his money from his business manager to presumably begin his brutal quest against the robots. However, as we see in the post-credits sequence, that quest gets cut off abruptly by his first stop at a Delos facility, where he encounters the mostly recovered “Charlotte,” who is starting up her own quest for vengeance, which includes making copies of people like him. It’s a host version of the iconic Man in Black who slits William’s throat, before the camera reveals dozens and dozens of looms, ready to replicate a whole new generation of hosts.
And what of Bernard and Stubbs, you ask? A very important question! Earlier in the episode, Bernard travels to the address given to him by “Lawrence,” believing he’s going to see Dolores, and instead arriving at the doorstep of Lauren, the ex-wife of his human doppelganger Arnold. Because Ford implanted Bernard with the memories of Arnold’s son, Bernard is able to empathize with her about Charlie’s loss, delivering some level of catharsis that allows him to move onto the next step.
That next step: visiting Robot Heaven, courtesy of the device inside the case given to him by Lawrence. Bernard drives Stubbs to a very retro motel, dropping him in the bath under a bunch of ice to keep him from “necrotizing” (fun word choice!) while Bernard goes on his little trip. Bernard becomes inactive almost immediately, and that trip probably lasted longer than anticipated, unfortunately for Stubbs. Because in the final moments of the episode, Bernard wakes up covered by a layer of dirt, having clearly been inactive for … months? Years? Decades? Whatever’s happened, one thing is clear: Westworld keeps moving forward.
The hardest thing about watching “Crisis Theory” right now, to be clear, is to watch characters cheer on the idea of apocalypse. Though, one of my oldest friends is a religious studies professor, and she’d want me to mention that the true meaning of the word “apocalypse” in Greek is “unveiling” or “revelation” — which is very true of what is happening to human society at this point in the show, as they come to terms with what Rehoboam has done to their individual lives. It’s not inherently good or bad. It’s just change. Which is, sometimes, inevitable.
It may be quite some time before Westworld returns to our screens, though given the long gaps between previous seasons, that’s pretty much par for the course. On balance, the season proved impactful when it came to branching out beyond the confines of the park; unfortunately, at times it felt like it was treading water too often with its biggest ideas. The one major theme, the question of free will, was not exactly handled with any great subtlety — perhaps an overcorrection in response to previous complaints that the show was too complicated before.
I hope that season four can find the balance there. Westworld is a very easy show to pick apart, but sometimes it’s nice to take a cue from Dolores, and choose to see the beauty.
The Questions Beyond
• It was perhaps too much to hope for, but I was wondering if there would be more cameos/appearances by previous cast members by the finale. I specifically had my fingers crossed for James Marsden, though for a moment, when William headed down to the basement of the Delos building, it seemed like there was a chance of Anthony Hopkins emerging from the shadows. (If only because he’d been featured in the “Previously on …”)
• That said, as a massive Gina Torres fan it was a totally unexpected but still thrilling pleasure to see her reprise her brief role from season one as Arnold’s ex-wife. Even under all that prosthetic make-up, she delivered a fantastic, heartbreaking performance.
• The guy who plays Giggles is a great physical performer — he really knows how to knock stuff down. He should consider playing professional football, maybe?
• In all seriousness, Marshawn Lynch brought a cool naturalism to his scenes, and so here’s hoping there’s a place for him in the future on this show.
• The biggest flaw of the episode, it’s sad to say, is that while Dolores is the architect of so much of what happens in this episode, the character feels relatively inactive during the second half. Presumably Evan Rachel Wood will come back, but one of the things that “Crisis Theory” doesn’t hint at when it comes to season four is what kind of role she’ll play.
• And that’s a wrap on season three! Thank you so much to Vulture for letting me dig into this show, and thank you so much to y’all for reading. These are crazy times, but please remember that you have free will to make your own choices, and so please make choices that keep you and those around you healthy and safe.