We see the every-day aspects of the real world through Caleb's weary eyes: amid ultra-modern office buildings and self-driving cars, people are still struggling to get by on the streets. He turns to an on-demand app for crime, "Rico" (something that feels like a very real inevitability) to make a buck. Have a few moments and feel like blowing up an ATM? Rico will help you round up a crew and pay you securely. Eat your heart out, Grand Theft Auto.
Dolores and Caleb's common enemy is Incite, a giant tech company that powers the systems running just about everything in the global economy. It's like a nightmare version of Google -- a company so obsessed with collecting personal data that it can effectively predict every aspect of your life, from your career to the day and cause of your death. Its key technology is Rehoboam, an enormous supercomputer that brings a new meaning to predictive AI. Dolores aims to infiltrate Incite and bring it down, crashing the global economy in the process, while Caleb believes it's the cause of many of his hardships.
Similar to Alex Garland's fantastic series Devs, which is airing now on Hulu, Westworld is gearing up to tackle the question of free will in season three. We've already learned that hosts can break free of their programming, but is it possible for humans to break the chains of technological bondage holding them down? I wouldn't bet on Westworld matching Devs sublime introspective philosophical bent. But it's fun to see a series tap into some deeper questions, while leaving room for motorcycle chases and shootouts.
"My dad thought the biggest problem was unrealized potential," says Liam Dempsey Jr. (John Gallagher Jr.), the head of Incite, tells Dolores. "If you could chart a course for every single person, you could make the world a better place."
As an aside, I got a taste of Incite's faux-utopian idealism at a CES dinner. I knew it was a Westworld marketing stunt from the get-go, but it was still a bit creepy to encounter servers who knew private details of my life, culled from social media. I could see how over-sharing your information with a company like Incite could make awkward dinners more interesting, by pairing you up with people you'd likely want to chat with. But the thought of a system like that controlling every aspect of our lives is downright terrifying.
While Dolores is playing spy games, she's also being assisted by a host-controlled Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson). She's aiming to use her position as the head of Delos' executive board to sabotage the company, while also fending off a suspicious takeover attempt. When last we saw Charlotte, she was being controlled by Dolores, but at the moment it's unclear who's steering the ship at this point. All we know is that she's loyal, but facing some difficulty adjusting to playing the role of a human with a real-life son.
Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) is still kicking around too -- except now he's a fugitive on the run after being blamed for the Westworld uprising. Dolores rebuilt his body and set him loose on the real world at the very end of the last season, despite being enemies. Now he's taking odd jobs while questioning the nature of his existence. (But really what else is new for a host?) After returning to the Westworld island to seek out answers -- a tip of the hat to Lost.
While I wouldn't be surprised if creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy have a few surprises up their sleeves for this season, it's clear from the first episode that Westworld is switching into a new mode. The stage is set with characters and clear motivations, and it's more action-heavy and straightforward instead of an obtuse puzzle-box. That may turn off fans who loved reading as much as they could into every frame of the series. But there are still plenty of mysteries to explore, and the sheer scope of the show's world building is something to behold. As someone who was simply frustrated by Westworld's video game-esque storytelling -- yes, I know that's partially the point -- the new focus is an upgrade in every way.