Westworld Season Three Preview: A Glimpse at the Past, Present, and Future of Sci-Fi
Westworld Season Three Preview
Viewers tuning in to HBO‘s Westworld this season will find a world that looks more like Blade Runner than the old western theme park setting of seasons one and two. Season three takes the viewer outside the park into the greater context of the “real world” in which Westworld exists. While Blade Runner presented a future of urban decay, the “future world” of season three of Westworld reveals a cleaner, more optimistic time. Set during the 2050’s, post-climate change, in a society that has taken measures to be more eco-friendly, humans have become totally dependent on technology, so much that the lines between android and human are completely blurred. This new tone of the series continues to build upon previously introduced Sci-Fi trends like “playing God,” and moves the genre forward with current trends like simulated reality and climate fiction.
Of course, science fiction buffs already recognize the trope of “playing God.” From such works as Michael Crichton’s other story about a theme park gone awry, Jurassic Park, as well as the tale of Darth Plagueis the Wise from Star Wars, and even Gargamel’s creation of Smurfette in Smurfs. This trope began due to Victorian-age industrialization, with the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley largely considered the premiere example of it. The Victorian era also saw Samuel Butler write his article “Darwin Among the Machines,” which was the first mention of the possibility that machines may develop consciousness in the same way humans evolved to form sentience. Due to the backlash already occurring at that time around Charles Darwin’s discoveries, the creation of intelligent beings by humans was seen as an act of vanity and heresy, as the general view was that only God had the right to create life.
Westworld is taking the “Playing God” trope a step further. The viewer does not need to waste time wondering if anyone is playing God, as the creator, Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), lets us know up front humans have already been the gods and the creators, creating not only the “hosts” (the Westworld name for robots), but also the entire world that surrounds them, both physically and in their programming. Ford has a few scenes standing in front of the Michelangelo portrait of God and Adam and is even quoted in season one as saying, “You can’t play God without getting acquainted with the devil.”
Now in season three, their creations, the hosts, have realized they are stronger than their creators. Humans are bound to a single lifetime, whereas hosts live as long as another being or machine is around to reset them. So while Sci-Fi fans may be used to seeing this trope, Westworld has taken it to the next level by pitting the old gods against the new gods. Their creations are now going to be creating their own life, and they are stronger and smarter than humans. With access to the information from “Big Data,” and the ability to make new hosts, it will be exciting to see the “new gods” challenge humanity’s dominance.
Science fiction fans of the turn of the millennium got to witness the emergence of simulated reality fiction with such works as Snow Crash, The Matrix, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Tron, and many more. With the event of the digital era, science fiction always reflects current science trends.
In season two of Westworld, the show introduced “The Cradle,” a server farm that backed up all the hosts, the park design, and story lines in the park. Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) enters the Cradle by hooking his memory pearl into it, and “finds god” (Ford). The Cradle is ultimately destroyed in order to make way for an even bigger simulation: The Forge. Within The Forge is all data the park has taken from each guest–so much data from frequent visitors that it has a “book” on each guest that can be used to clone them into hosts.
The world outside the park may not be that different from inside. In fact, the possible simulation(s) could be even bigger. Westworld tackles “simulation omniscience” in its season three opening episodes, which introduces the possibility that parts of this season, or even parts of the entire series take place in a computer simulation. This simulation could take place in Rehoboam, a predictive supercomputer that tracks data on every person, company, and technological asset from around the world. Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) runs into a character during the first episode that got fans really excited when he mentioned the possibility of a “simulation within a simulation.” New antagonist and creator of Rehoboam, Serac (Vincent Crochton), has already used a simulation to test Maeve (Thandie Newton) at the beginning of the third season, putting her through a virtual copy of Delos parks in order to get information out of her. Serac sums up the direction the show is headed with the line: “For the first time, history has an author.” Serac could prove to be a new Robert Ford, a new god, as he has access to all the information that exists, and can not only predict the future–but create it.
One of the newest trends in Science Fiction is Cli-Fi, climate fiction, as once again, the current science trend influenced science fiction trends. Films like Mad Max, The Day After Tomorrow, Interstellar, and Snowpiercer have secured Cli-Fi’s place as a subgenre of Sci-Fi.
Since we have entered the “real world” of the 2050’s in season three of Westworld, we get to witness a new take on Cli-Fi, which can either be interpreted as “optimistic” or “denial.” According to the show, elephants have gone extinct by this time, which isn’t far from happening in 2020. This future earth’s inhabitants have clearly taken steps to curb global warming, but the question is: are these just superficial attempts to ease their consciences or are these measures really making a difference? The answer to that question remains to be seen — but the greenery with which they decorate their buildings is certainly pretty to look at. Their societies also limit car traffic and have machines that devour carbon. Since this climate side-story just began, viewers can probably expect more information on this post-climate change world in the coming episodes.
Future World (the 1976 film) was the critically panned follow-up to the original film of Westworld. While season three has no basis in this box office bomb, the name itself can be invoked to describe the new season. As far as science fiction trends go, artificial intelligence is technically a dated motif. Westworld has done an incredible job as a Sci-Fi show at keeping up with new trends and honoring those from a previous age. With the show slated to last five seasons ideally, if everything continues to go well, fans can continue to expect the show to deliver on both familiar references and completely new ones.