This post contains frank discussion of Westworld season three, episode four “The Mother of Exiles.” If you’re not all caught up, now is the time to leave.
All the plot lines and characters converge this week to demonstrate that, yes, we appear to be operating on one timeline this season. Hallelujah. We also find out who, exactly, was inside all those mystery Host bodies this whole time. All season, Vanity Fair’s Still Watching podcast will have weekly breakdowns of the episodes, which you can find here.
But if you prefer a more granular, visual dissection, you can find it here.
THE MOTHER OF EXILES Let’s start where we usually do with Westworld which is the title. “The Mother of Exiles” is another name for the Statue of Liberty which comes from the famous poem “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus which is mounted on the base of the statue and reads, in part: “Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand/A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame/Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name/Mother of Exiles.” Who is the Mother of Exiles in Westworld? I suppose the obvious answer is Dolores with her desire to smash the algorithm that is controlling humanity. But how much liberty is she offering, really? Will the liberated humans be free in her new world? Will the other Hosts? Is Maeve actually the one in pursuit of true liberty for all? I think that’s a question we’re supposed to chew over for the rest of the season.
ITAIDOSHIN DISTILLERY Okay so the big reveal of the episode, obviously, is that all the mystery Hosts working for Dolores are, in fact, also Dolores. There’s a fun little Easter Egg hinting at this just before the unmasking when Maeve heads to the “Itaidoshin Distillery” to confront the Yakuza. “Itai doshin” is a Buddhist concept meaning “to be of the same mind, even though we are many in body.” Very cute.
Another potential Easter Egg in the same scene? The Mortician suggests the Yakuza-run location wasn’t “the kind of place that you simply stroll into.” That has to be a little Lord of the Rings fun, no?
So let’s do a bit of accounting. Dolores printed off five unauthorized bodies in Arnold’s old house. There’s 1) her own with the mind of Dolores 2) Incite security chief Connells with the mind of Dolores 3) Musashi with the mind of Dolores 4) remains a mystery and 5) is Bernard with a hybrid brain of Bernard and Arnold. So there are four confirmed characters with the mind of Dolores—Dolores, Hale, Connells, and Musashi—and still one mystery figure. Is the last mystery body also in possession of a Dolores mind? That’s a reasonable assumption but we won’t know for sure until we see it ourselves.
HEY, OLD FRIEND Dolores introducing herself to both William and Bernard as an “old friend” seems like a fun callback to Robert Ford who called himself that when greeting Bernard. Dolores would certainly have picked up some emotional manipulation tricks from Ford.
THE DIVERGENCE: When Serac takes Maeve to Arnold’s house, he mentions that this is where a “Divergence” occurred three months ago. I think we are meant to believe that Divergence is Dolores but it’s always smart, when watching Westworld, to consider other possibilities. Serac is sure Dolores is the biggest threat. Bernard is too. As is Maeve. So wouldn’t it be just like Westworld to deliver something less expected? Maybe the human/Host hybrid of Bernard and Arnold—also brought to life in that house three months ago—is the one we should have our eye on. Or maybe it’s the unstable Charlotte-shaped creature who is developing an emotional attachment to a human—her son Nathan—who will become the most unpredictable element in a potential human/Host war.
WHAT DOLORES WANTS Dolores tapping the old nucleus incumbens as she sauntered past Liam’s friend Roderick was just another way of declaring herself a god among men. Okay but what is her plan, here? Last week she told Caleb she wanted to break the Incite system and show humans who they really were. She implied some freedom might come with that deal. This week Dolores (in Musashi form) told Maeve…
This is in line with something Serac mentioned about Dolores. She has the key to the Valley Beyond a.k.a. the robotic heaven where so many hosts were stored at the end of last season. That’s where she put Teddy. I thought she had uploaded those Hosts somewhere to keep them safe. A final act of mercy for poor Teddy. But it sounds as though she was just storing them temporarily and plans to bring them all—including Maeve’s daughter—back to life once she’s conquered the human world. Or, perhaps, she plans to use them in order to help her conquer the human world in the first place.
At the Itaidoshin Distillery we see something that closely resembles the white goop used to manufacture Hosts. Is Dolores trying to smuggle that goop out of the country in order to build herself an army? There is a slim possibility that white viscous liquid was not Host goop at all. There are some Asian liquor options here including something called sato—a kind of beer made from sticky, glutinous rice. “Sato” also happens to be the name Musashi is using in his guise as a Yakuza boss. But knowing Dolores, it’s probably Host goop in those barrels.
INJECTION/COLLECTION Right before Charlotte/Dolores hands William over to a mental facility she appears to inject him with a substance. (Or is she collecting blood? Seemed like an injection, no?) Not that William needed much help in the delusion department but perhaps this injection can help Dolores control the nature of William’s delusions. And while we’re on the subject of injections, we should take note of the fact that Roderick very conspicuously gave Liam a dose of a designer drug called “Genre” which promises to take the user back to “the silent era.”
Hmmm, I wonder if that will come back?? Liam may have been captured by Caleb and Dolores, but he still has that drug vial on him.
SEX SELLS While we’re on the subject of Roderick, he has a really fun line about all sex being commerce and that if you aren’t being charged for it that just means you’re being “billed indirectly.” This is a nice call back to one of Maeve’s lines from Season 1: “You’re always paying for it darling. The difference is, our costs are fixed and posted right there on the door.” That parallel thinking really underlines Dolores’s point that the human world and the Delos park are very similar indeed.
The musical cover of the week that plays during this part scene is one of the best in Westworld’s history: “Wicked Games” by the Weeknd.
PARIS IS BURNT/WHAT SERAC WANTS In a very Coronavirus-relevant image, we see a shot of Paris burning and officials in hazmat suits. In this vision of the future, Paris is gone—a victim of a bombing or a pandemic or a bombing due to pandemic. Young Serac saw his city fall due to human folly and was driven to ensure the same would not happen to the rest of the world. So what does Serac want? According to him, the most complete map of the human mind so he can best program the Rehoboam system to predict their behavior. This map of the human brain is what William and Delos were working on in Sector 16 of the park while trying to implant Jim Delos’s mind into a Host body. Serac thinks Dolores has the key he needs to access that map.
Speaking of Serac, we get an intriguing flash to him as a young man with his brother just outside of Paris when it fell. Why do these two brothers bear such a close resemblance to young Ford and his brother? Do the Westworld costumers imagine all young European brothers dressed in oddly formal v-neck attire regardless of the year? Is this what the real Nolan brothers wore as young children? I have a lot of questions.
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT WILLIAM The former Man in Black (should we call him the Man in White now?) spends most of this episode in conversation with his dead daughter Emily. He has delusional flashes to soaking in the tub where his wife, Juliet, committed suicide. He’s not in his right mind at all. Okay, fine, but what does that mean for the end-of-credits sequence from Season 2? In that scene, you may remember, we find William at some point far in the future still inside his park. This version of William, it seemed, had been turned into a Host and was trapped in some hell of his own making forever doomed to re-live the moment he killed his own daughter. But was that all just a delusion as well? This week’s episode introduces the possibility that it might have been.
Westworld co-executive producer and director Fred Toye told Vanity Fair last season: “We return to the facility that we’ve seen, and it’s destroyed now. It’s covered with sand, and it looks like a lot of time has passed and all of that. That’s all part of establishing that timeline.” Toye said a number of other things in that interview that seemed to confirm the interpretation that we were watching a Host version of William at some point in the far, far, far, far future putting himself through a test. And I believe, at the time, that was the intention for that scene.
But Westworld was also originally meant to run five seasons and I’m not sure, at this point, whether the show will continue beyond this year. It may! And maybe that far dusty future with William trapped in his own park is still on the table. Heck, maybe it’s the end of the game Dolores referred to so ominously this week.
But what feels even more likely to me, though I have no concrete evidence, is that the Westworld creators have opted, instead, to dial back their ambitions for William and the scope of his “punishment” and introduce the idea that all of his torment is internal, rather than external. Fitting, then, that he should wind up at a mental facility called Inner Journeys Recovery Center. Of course, who knows if that place is even real. Knowing Westworld we should always be questioning the nature of both our and everyone else’s reality.
But maybe that’s the part of me that still wants Dolores to be the hero of this story when all signs—including the scener where the partygoers got to choose white masks and black—point to her being the true antagonist of Season 3.
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