Westworld S3E6: “Decoherence”

William stands smiling smugly whilst wearing his white mental institution clothes

Last week, we got an insight into the motivators and drives behind our favourite new supervillain, Serac, and we also got to see the beginning of all hell breaking loose as Dolores released everyone’s Incite profile to their smart technology, giving them a true glimpse into what sort of controls are lain upon their lives. We saw the consequences of both play out to varying degrees in Westworld S3E6, with some horrific consequences to boot. But we also saw an old friend again, and boy is he in a mess…

Charming at Group Therapy

When everybody’s favourite Man in Black, William, was removed to a mental health institution at Charlotte Hale/Dolores’ instruction, I assumed that he was being taken away to a legitimate health institute, one Hale had found and that therefore would genuinely look after him (after all, he’s not exactly without his issues), as well as being a location Hale would know.

It turns out I was wrong on both fronts. This week, we see that William is actually being held in Serac’s institution in Mexico, one of the same ones where we saw him experimenting on his brother in the last episode. Assuming Hale put in a call to Serac to help her out (although why would he? Hale was after the removal of William so as to take control of the board and block Serac’s buyout bid, after all), Serac would have had the perfect opportunity to remove one more of life’s outliers. But it does also mean that Serac didn’t feel the need to notify Hale of William’s location, which is why late in the episode Hale has to track William down using an implant that she previously put in his blood.

To be honest, all of the above is pretty unclear and not intentionally so. Again, it feels like the show losing itself in its own narrative tangles, but thankfully this is the only instance I can think of that this occurs in what might possibly be my favourite episode so far.

Back at the institution, incarceration doesn’t seem to have changed William too much. He’s still his usual charming self. In fact, he interrupts a group therapy session, with its cloying clichés, and reduces it to bits with a calm, concise and clear explanation of why the human race was created: “to speed the entropic death of this planet, to service the chaos. We’re maggots eating a corpse.” It’s a genius moment and quite blackly humorous. As William finishes off, a woman cries and a man says “what the f**k is wrong with you?” There’s a beat as William looks at him, then reacts in very much the way I did: in a burst of laughter. It’s a very funny moment in a show that can be quite light on laughs.

The William/Caleb Connection?

William is strapped to a chair in a psychiatric institution, wearing goggles

William’s doctor recommends that he confront his problems using AR therapy, and here we have a link to Caleb. William’s doctor recalls how AR therapy was used to treat military members who had seen combat. The eye equipment that William will later wear is similar to the garb Caleb was sporting in that quick little snippet of flashback last week. What really happened to Caleb? Did the AR therapy essentially overwrite any memory of what had happened to him? Is there any further link between Caleb and Serac? Answers on a postcard, please.

It’s interesting to note that William’s doctor gets a text message whilst talking to William, in which she receives her profile—she will lose her medical license in one to two years due to affairs with patients, as well as having an opioid addiction. She also gets a message from her partner advising that he’s taking the kids and asking her not to contact them. As William is walked back to his room later, he sees the doctor in partial view, and he sees her legs climb on the table. The next moment, said legs are swinging in the air. Here is one of the consequences of Dolores releasing everyone’s profiles. But it appears only William notices the hanging. Does this mean William really saw this occur, or that the AR process has begun? William is being brought back from having an implant inserted into his mouth (very grim to watch!), so is it possible the implant is feeding him a hallucination? It’s certainly worth thinking about.

Strapped to a chair and fitted with the eye-wear, William is not transported to the desert island he was told he would be artificially taken to so as to ease him in. Instead he is sent back to a small, domestic bedroom where a young boy is reading, only to be interrupted by a shouting man with rage in his voice, looking for the boy. William is oddly moved by this and begs to go. Back in the chair again, the doctor tells him the implant isn’t taking and that William should go back to his room. Of course, the implant has taken, but William hasn’t realised it yet. And the boy? My first thought was that William was seeing himself as a child again, a theory proved by William’s next move…

The Meeting of Five Williams

Awoken by a security guard who is the spitting image of Major Craddock (played by the same actor), who William had conflict with during Season 2, he is led by the doppelganger to group therapy. The significance of the Craddock doppelganger isn’t clear, but I’d suggest he was used as a foreshadowing, rather than a complete reveal, of what was to come, as well as playing into William’s subconscious worries about his dark side and whether it truly comes from the man or whether he was “programmed” to commit his evils. In fact, I’d go so far as to argue William’s internal conflict is not so much whether he is evil or not, but rather, whether he is evil due to his agency, or whether his evil was predetermined. It’s less a moral dilemma, more a question of freedom.

Arriving at group therapy, William is astonished to see that rather than his usual group mates, he is confronted by, well, himself! Four versions of himself in fact, as well as Jim Delos as facilitator.

It’s a surreal, completely fascinating concept—trial by self—and quite literally shows us what confronting one’s self might physically look like. It’s not without its humour also. As the real William tries to tell the collected versions of himself to shut up, he is told by Delos, “William, please don’t interrupt. It’s not all about you, you know.” Brilliant.

There are five Williams in total: the incarcerated “real” one; the young boy we saw just before; the younger William played by Jimmi Simpson; the philanthropist elder William in his tuxedo; and last of all, scowling beneath the brim of his cowboy hat, William the Man in Black. Delos seems to be taking great pleasure in chairing this meeting of Williams past and present. But the Williams don’t seem to be taking the same pleasure, consistently denying any responsibility or blame for their actions inside the park.

Younger William and The Man in Black sit facing their accuser

It is only when the young William speaks that some ground is broken. He relates a story of a scared boy, defenceless at the hands of a drunk, violent father. But Delos pours scorn on this, calling it a lie William has been telling himself for years. And it’s true that sometimes we twist our perception of the way things happened so as to cushion any blows that might fall if we consider our behaviour too deeply, or to even act as an explanation for our later mistakes.

Delos bursts this bubble of illusion by showing William a real scene that took place between young William and his father, when young William had broken a boy’s arm and knocked out three teeth for mocking him and calling his dad an alcoholic. William’s father can’t understand where the anger is coming from. And therein lies the revelation. William’s behaviour, his evil, cannot simply be explained away by blaming it on his father. The evil existed in spite of, or separate from, his father. Regardless of agency or predeterminism, it is his to own, to take responsibility for. There is no blame other than of himself.

This revelation spurs William, in relation to the question of whether his evil acts were predetermined, to utter, in a strange echo of the host who welcomed him to the park all those years ago, that “if you can’t tell, does it matter?” And with that he proceeds to beat the living hell out of his hallucinated counterparts with a chair until there is only one William left, newly victorious and renewed. As he tells Jim Delos, “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.”

What exactly he has planned and why is not clear, but what is clear is that the Man in Black believes he has turned over a new leaf. Whether he has or hasn’t is a different matter, but as Bernard and Stubbs arrive out of nowhere to break William out of the AR suite (which seems a bit contrived—where did they get his location?), the opportunity to be a good man is his for the taking.

This whole section of the episode was a blast from start to finish. The Man in Black is now the Man in White. Well, stranger things have happened.

The Decoherence of Dolores

Never let it be said that Serac is not determined to get what he wants. Assassinating an influential Delos board member by having him shot in the head at point blank range in public in broad daylight? I’d say that’s pretty damn determined. And with that, Delos’ hopes of stopping Serac’s buyout are well and truly dashed.

Not that Serac is interested in much Delos has outside of the encryption key Dolores has in her head. Oh, and the fact that he’s worked out that there is a host secretly placed somewhere in Delos and wants everybody checked out.

Here is perhaps where the title “Decoherence” best fits. It’s a quantum physics term and, while I have a layman’s understanding of some quantum concepts, I did have to look this up. The most concise description I could find: “quantum decoherence is the breakdown of the relationship between the different quantum states of a system. If kept in isolation, a quantum system will maintain coherence, but otherwise the system will breakdown over time.”

In other words, the further the Dolores hive minds go their separate ways in their host bodies, and the more they are subjected to different experiences, the more they will differ in their states, feelings, and ideas.

This is never more clear than when a panicking Hale calls Dolores up to let her know of Serac’s arrival and the success of his takeover. Dolores is direct, hard, to the point. She tells Hale that she needs to copy all the host making data she can before Serac destroys it. Hale knows it’s a suicide mission and says so, referring to Connells’ similar sacrifice the week before. Dolores tries to calm Hale, telling her she’s not going to die, but it’s cold, matter of fact. There’s no compassion.

We’ve talked before about Hale/Dolores taking on more of the characteristics of her host body, and it’s clear that this is still happening. When Hale says they’ll come after her family, Dolores tells her that they are not her family. Which, of course, is quite true. But to Hale, her feeling towards said husband and son have taken on a learnt emotional truth that only experience can provide.

Hale asks why they had to keep the emotions within their code, to which Dolores replies quite curiously that if they changed themselves just to survive, would it matter if they even did? Hale states that she’s already changed, but Dolores continues to feed her promises of a new world.

It seems, then, that the two Doloreses are moving further apart in their attitudes to life.

Decoherence, indeed…

Maeve Gets the Band Back Together

Maeve readies herself for battle against Nazi troops

Meanwhile, everyone’s favourite host, Maeve, has been brought to see a version of the paradise that her daughter was taken to. Maeve says she doesn’t need an incentive, just help. Serac promises to get her some hosts to fight Dolores and company, but he tells Maeve she’s going to end up somewhere much worse if she doesn’t succeed.

Presumably, that doesn’t mean Warworld, but that’s where Maeve awakens again for reasons I have been yet to fathom. Perhaps Serac wanted to get Maeve in fighting shape so she doesn’t fall when she meets Dolores again. The scattering of dead Nazi bodies on the ground would suggest she hasn’t lost her battle form, so that’s something for her to celebrate.

As is the fact that she can see through the simulation into the host making centre at Delos HQ, where her pearl is being held along with the others who Serac has chosen to help her. One of these is Hector, who Maeve is able to reach through Warworld, altering his profile so that the old Hector comes back to her. It will be, however, short lived.

While we know from the pearls Maeve sees, and her reaction to such, that there are still some surprises to be had, we do get to see that one of the pearls has been recovered from Connells, which means Dolores can be interviewed. This Dolores, in the room where Bernard and Dolores previously spent so much time speaking, cannot comment on Dolores’ current plans because she has been removed from the outside world for a little while. But she knows that if she was the leader version of Dolores, she would take out Maeve’s help before Maeve could put them to use. Which is exactly what happens as they speak.

A Fiery End

Back at Delos, Serac calls a board meeting before Hale can escape with the data she has retrieved. Unfortunately for Hale, she made a phone call to her son moments before she entered the meeting, telling her son that it was all going to be okay. As Serac says, the real Hale wouldn’t have shown such consideration. This is most likely true, but doesn’t take into account that people can change during stressful times. In any case, Serac wants her dead, but he hasn’t taken Dolores’ will to survive into account. The gas cannister on the table has been quietly ignored, but now it’s active, knocking everyone into unconsciousness. A gunshot goes right through Serac though, who it turns out has been presenting one of his hologram illusions to Delos all this time.

Running for dear life as Serac’s men chase her, guns blazing, Hale finds herself in the host making room, where she momentarily has enough time to see which hosts are being made. She only has enough time to crush Hector, emotionally crushing Maeve at the same time, before being chased again. The way Maeve’s body writhes in torment at Hector’s passing is heartbreaking. I guess you could say, if I wasn’t before, I’m certainly on Team Maeve now.

Making her escape with the use of one of her riot control machines, which look suspiciously like the good old ED-209, Hale manages to pick up her husband and son in her car and, as they drive off, promises she won’t let anything happen to them. But it’s too late. The explosive charge does not leave time to react. Those words will be the last Hale’s husband and son heard as the car smacks off the tarmac and bounces as if made of the flimsiest paper. The flames claim what is left of their mortal remains.

All except one.

The sight of Hale, looking off into the distance, her hair gone, her flesh charred and scorched, barely keeping it together as she processes what the hell just happened, nearly brought me to tears. To see such atrocity done to a human (and the makeup on Hale is absolutely fantastic, if that’s not too grim to say!), my heart sunk. No one deserves to lose their family and to be punished in such a way. What will she do next? Who will she blame? She may not be able to get her hands on Serac. Will that mean she’ll take it out on Dolores? What violent ends will come of Serac’s violent delights?

Join me next week. I’ll be waiting for you—in Westworld!

Written by Chris Flackett

Chris Flackett is a writer for 25YL who loves Twin Peaks, David Lynch, great absurdist literature and listens to music like he's breathing oxygen. He lives in Manchester, England with his beautiful wife, three kids and the ghosts of Manchester music history all around him.

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