Westworld just has the most evocative, meaningful titles. I fancy myself an educated, erudite fanboy/total geek. But when I googled the title of this week’s episode to ensure I knew what I was talking about, I went down a ninety-five minute rabbit hole because all the connections became so interesting. It’s not the first time that’s happened. (Mind you, it happens a lot anyway with us writer types – I go to look up if a certain kind of wagon was made in the 1880s and two hours later, I’m pouring over early twentieth century Italian crop yields, because research, right?)
Decoherence is a term from physics. It can refer to the loss of information from a system into the environment (which is precisely what Dolores did last episode, having Rehoboam texting everyone their likely fate). It can refer to the process in which a system’s behavior changes from that which can be explained by quantum mechanics to that which can be explained by classical mechanics (yet another Westworld thing – the shift from hosts being quantum computers to behaving like classic humans, among other analogies). And it just keeps going. As one article put it, it is not so much a new theory as a theory that allows you to sweep quantum measurements under the carpet and pretend they function in the same way that regular physics does. Just wow.
We begin with Maeve and her daughter in a wheat field. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but anytime a character is walking through a wheat field, brushing the stalks with their fingers and their full body is not visible, and the soundtrack is hitting that mood music hard, it doesn’t work out for the folks in the field at the end. (See: Gladiator.)
Maeve pronounces, “This is not real,” to which Serac responds, “But it could be.” He tells her memory is imperfect in humans and non-existent in hosts because, “You have no past, because it is always present.” An intriguing concept, except he is wrong. Maeve clearly remembers. She has a past. He pushes her to find and kill Dolores. She tells him she wants what Dolores has: help. After all, Dolores has a gang of Dolori (plural of Dolores), and Maeve has imaginary Hector and Lee. Need to even those odds.
Post credits we get to see William in group therapy. He is not very supportive. He asks someone who states a belief in God if he believes in Santa Claus, too. He then goes on a nihilist rant about the pointlessness and meaninglessness of humanity in the cosmos. Somewhere out there, Lovecraft smiles (as much as he can) and whispers, “Good for you!” William makes some of the others in group cry, but he seems to feel pretty good about who and where he is.
In private therapy, he complains to Dr. Natasha Lang that he neither belongs there nor needs therapy to confront the truth, because he knows what he did, and he accepts it. Sadly, for William, during their session Dr. Lang gets her Rehoboam “What the stars have aligned for you” text, including that she will lose her medical license in 1-2 years and then her husband and children in a divorce in about 2.5 years on account of her opioid addiction and multiple affairs with patients. Her husband then texts that the previous text was wrong – she doesn’t have to wait 2.5 years as he is leaving her now and taking the kids. So by both of them receiving Rehoboam’s message, that fate is sped up. Unanswered is the question of whether or not she has actually started having affairs or using opioids yet (although it seems likely), but faster than you can say “Minority Report,” William’s session is over. As he is being dragged out, we can see Dr. Lang hang herself in the background. Guess Rehoboam was wrong about her – she had 0.0 years left.
Contrast Dr. Lang’s familial difficulties with Charlotte’s. Charlotte gets home and asks her husband if he has read the text. He decided not to. “It’s not up to a machine to decide,” he tells her, “It’s our choice, Charlie.” The pet name is nice; so, too, the idea of free will and other outcomes than that predicted by Rehoboam is possible. Dr. Lang has shown a bit of a Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle to the profiles (and we’re back to physics. I wish I had paid more attention in Mr. Marty’s class!) – when you measure, you change the results and you can know the position or the velocity, but not both. The second we start observing, we change the outcome. As soon as we know we are observed, it changes the outcome. Just ask Dr. Lang. Never mind (too soon?).
Serac has Delos board member Brompton assassinated to thwart the board’s preventing of his hostile takeover. If you had any doubt Serac was not a good guy in this narrative, that should have been a bit of a red flag. Dolores reaches out to Charlotte and tells her to get all the host data before Serac shows up.
Meanwhile, William is strapped in a chair, given a nasty dental implant, and told that he is going to undergo treatment that projects him back into childhood memories. Cool.
And back in Maeveworld, Maeve is in Warworld for some reason, killing Nazis and hanging out with Lee.
Things start to speed up as we rapidly shift between the different groups this time around.
The signs in Delos Corporate Headquarters all shift from “Delos” to “Incite,” in a literalization of a metaphor. Charlotte copies host data and simply kills Serac’s henchman when he finds her and discovers what she is doing. She wants to go home to her family, but there is a board meeting still. In said meeting, Serac reveals that Charlotte is a host and the saboteur. He also has his folks take a flamethrower to all the hosts in storage. Told you the wheat field was a bad sign.
Many miles away, William, escorted by a host orderly, is brough to an all-William group therapy session. Twelve-year-old William, young William, the Man in Black, chairman of the board William, and mental patient William all sit in a circle with James Delos. This should go well. Delos informs William that, “The host you’ve been tormenting for the last thirty years now wants to destroy our world,” which William seems to think is nitpicking. But it turns out that tween William broke a kid’s arm and knocked out three teeth when the kid made fun of him. William’s father seems less like an abusive drunk and more like a father whose child is violent and uncontrollable and who has no idea what to do or how to parent. But this therapy session brings us back to the heart of Westworld: “Was this the inevitable end? Were you just a passenger? Did life just happen to you or did you choose it?” This is the quandary at the heart of Rehoboam: does life happen inevitably, or do you have free will? William’s answer: “If you can’t tell, then it doesn’t matter.” Perhaps that is a bit of a glib answer, but it raises a valuable point: if you didn’t have free will could you know that you didn’t? And how can you prove the existence of free will, anyway? Was it predetermined I would write that sentence? Have all my supposed choices in life been preordained to lead to my writing this review? Was it inescapable that I would drink too much Diet Sunkist reworking this section and thus need to use the facilities now? Is what I thought were choices simply linear, unavoidable events with no actual freedom?
Many miles away, Maeve brings Hector back online. She, Lee and Hector go to parlay with a clothing-optional Dolores model back at Delos. Dolores tells Maeve that she has allied herself with the man who wants to destroy every last host ever. Maeve insists that Dolores stop her own mad attempt to end the world. “You want me to be a saint,” Dolores says, “but you’re no saint…we’re survivors.” And that, ladies and gentlemen, in a nutshell, is the other half of the equation. Dolores is fighting to save her entire species. So is Serac. Both believe the other will be the end of them, and so they must fight and see who survives. Dolores is a tricky one. She is playing three-dimensional chess, if I may mix my franchises here. She tells Maeve that in her position she would be looking for allies (the aforementioned “help” Maeve wanted from Serac), and thus Dolores should work to ensure Maeve does not get any. Charlotte then gets Hector’s pearl and crushes it, ending Hector forever, which is very emotionally painful for Maeve. It’s war, and the casualty list before the end of the season might get rather high.
Speaking of high casualty lists, many miles away, the all-William therapy session has devolved into current William killing every single other William, even the kid. Young William (the one from season one) asks why he is doing this and asks him not to kill his past selves (how’s that for a literalization of a psychological metaphor?), William responds, “It doesn’t matter what I’ve been – good or bad – everything we’ve done has led to this, and I finally understand my purpose. I’m the good guy.” Were I his therapist I would rate him lower on self-awareness and self-care than he might. We’ll see where this goes, but it looks like William has come down on the inevitability/passenger/no free will side of the debate. But it’s okay – he’s the good guy! (Nervous laugh, backing away from William.) And who shows up to help William but Bernard. Did not see that coming. Let’s see where this partnership goes.
Hale and Serac play a fun game of Cat-and-Mouse. After he outs her as a host, she kills the entire board and Serac’s henchmen with a poison gas dispenser in the boardroom (being a host, ain’t nothing to her). He’s a hologram, so no harm to him either. She works her way through Delos, killing with guns, deploying the Delos knockoff version of ED-209 (proudly made by Omni Consumer Products – I’d buy that for a dollar!) to further stomp and hurt Serac’s goons. Charlotte gets home, which clearly demonstrates that she is a host. The human Charlotte Hale would never have demonstrated any concern for her family. The host is more humane than the human, more loving and concerned. “I can keep you safe,” she tells her husband and child, right before Serac’s thugs blow the car sky high, incinerating said husband and child, with only host Charlotte, burned and scorched crawling from the wreckage and staring at the remains of the folks she could not keep safe.
Many miles away, there’s a shadow on the door of a cottage on the shore of a dark Scottish lake. Wait, no. That’s not it. The storylines begin to evince a kind of synchronicity. William’s newfound faith is positively cylon – everything led to this moment, and now we just do it (whatever “it” is). But the 5.5 final major players are left on the board: Maeve (who now really, really wants to kill Dolores), Dolores (who still just wants to end Serac and maybe humanity), Charlotte (who is also Dolores, but now is separating from her parent identity and really, really wants to kill Serac), Bernard (who may be a pawn or a king, we don’t know), Serac (who wants to end all hosts, even the ones he is using), and William, who is now the self-proclaimed good guy. There are no teams here, no alliances, just temporary partnering to advance mutual agendas until we get back to trying to kill each other.
Two episodes left in the season. I haven’t checked to see if Rehoboam says how it’s going to end. Now is that actually my choice, or was I preordained not to? Tune in next week (or set your DVR) and let’s see whose apocalyptic genocide advances towards the final round, many miles away. (Many miles away).1
1 – Sorry if I got this stuck in your head, but it is an awesome song and much better to have stuck in your head than say, “Baby Shark.”