Westworld: Genre
April 13, 2020 11:58 AM - Season 3, Episode 5 - Subscribe

Just say no.

Westworld spends some time with the man behind the machine (Zack Handlen for TV/AV Club; rating: B)
So, this is the point of the season where I complain that the episodes are too long. Sorry! But it’s true. If Westworld really is trying to be more accessible these days, if the show is honestly working towards more immediate thrills, one way to help enforce that approach would be cutting about ten minutes off of each episode. Yes, that would mean a few less long scenes of music playing and vague things happening, and maybe some of the pauses could be tightened a bit. We might lose a scene or two. But watching “Genre,” which is intermittently entertaining and tedious, it’s hard not to imagine how much more effective this might have been if it wasn’t quite so ponderous. For an episode that gets its title from a main character dosing on a mood-altering drug, all of this could’ve used a lot more kick.
List of what songs were played when, at Tunefind.
posted by filthy light thief (36 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
This episode was some anime nonsense, so of course I enjoyed it. And Fischerspooner! That took me right back to turn of the century Club Bang!. I was going to say that nostalgia is a hell of a drug, but that's a different show.

I feel that Westworld is at its weakest when it tries to engage with ideas or make a statement--this was true even in S1, which was amazing, but the puzzle was more intriguing than the robo navel-gazing. I'm not that into SF, so if even I have heard robots (or their cousins, clones) pondering what is real, then it must seem even more clichéd for people who are into the genre.

Seriously, no one on the train or in the station was okay with their file or even happy? I think I'd be kind of relieved to know that all of my terrible choices were organized by a god computer instead of the one in my head, which is apparently running IE on Windows Vista. Like I understand why Jesse was upset, he did a lot of bad things back in Albuquerque, but I would like to know if I should bother saving for retirement or not.

(While Serac claims his computer names are biblical, the real inspiration was Evangelion. He spent a lot of time watching the French dub while that was still possible.)
posted by betweenthebars at 1:04 PM on April 13, 2020 [6 favorites]


The "genre" idea was pretty good. The execution was awful.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:21 PM on April 13, 2020 [4 favorites]


I was going to say that nostalgia is a hell of a drug, but that's a different show.

Apparently, that's the same show in this episode. "Anime nonsense" is so fitting -- emphasis on nonsense. This was the most Matrix-sequel episode yet, and I mean that in a bad way. It didn't add or expand the world in any meaningful or memorable way. It felt like more of a gimmick than anything else.

Seriously, no one on the train or in the station was okay with their file or even happy? I think I'd be kind of relieved to know that all of my terrible choices were organized by a god computer instead of the one in my head, which is apparently running IE on Windows Vista.

I'm surprised they didn't play "Everybody Hurts" over those scenes. The music felt so over the top "cinematic" this time. Where the prior seasons had more on-brand covers of well-known songs (for in-world mood-building). Maybe they had a bigger budget for music? Listening to the Better Call Saul Insider Podcast, I've learned that 1) song licensing can be very expensive, 2) limited budgets can force more creative (and in the end, more suitable) music choices, and 3) using well-known songs come with pre-loaded emotions. Some of those song choices felt so expected, so boringly cinematic, especially compared with the prior covers.

But perhaps that's the point -- we're out of the controlled, artificial world of the Westworld parks, so the soundtrack is different, too.

Final thoughts in screenshots.

[And I just see now, looking at the IMDb credits for this episode note that Kid Cudi was Francis. I don't remember who Francis was, but that's another cameo role in this season.]
posted by filthy light thief at 1:47 PM on April 13, 2020


Francis is Caleb’s Army buddy who died. He’s appeared in flashbacks, and he’s spoken to Caleb via a PTSD AI therapy thing.

I know it’s all “Hollywood” geography anyway, but I did find it kinda funny they exited the real life Santa Monic (Blvd) Red Line station only to appear in the real life city of Santa Monica, 10ish miles away. Based on the time passing (got on subway in the dark, exited in the daytime), perhaps in-universe they exited in Oahu one Singapore or something.

Also, I know it’s on a hill and it would have made filming a pain, but it would have been nice to get some shots of the Disney Music Hall rather than just the Broad during the chase scene since it also fits into the futuristic architecture mood the Broad does.
posted by sideshow at 2:02 PM on April 13, 2020 [1 favorite]


The love theme during the gunfight cracked me up!
posted by Pronoiac at 4:40 PM on April 13, 2020 [4 favorites]


This was silly anime nonsense crossed with a sequel to "Person of Interest", but I am enjoying it way more than most of the Wyatt story line last season.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:34 PM on April 13, 2020


I have absolutely no idea what’s going on. This is going to be my last Westworld episode. They should have done one season and out.
posted by something something at 6:36 PM on April 13, 2020 [3 favorites]


I guess I'm in the minority here that I'm enjoying the show as some nice turn my brain off and roll with it SF entertainment about more interesting ideas than a lot of what's out there.
posted by kokaku at 7:48 PM on April 13, 2020 [1 favorite]


I thought Caleb's circular journey from contemplating suicide on Santa Monica pier to the death of Dempsey was good. It's definitely a high-concept episode with very iconic filmmaking of car chases through nighttime LA to the robot navel-gazing and Serac playing god while in an all-glass plane above the clouds. That was particularly subtle. I feel like they've played all of Serac's cards a little early in the season, but presumably there's more left to tell.
posted by GuyZero at 8:43 PM on April 13, 2020


I’m a big fan of the show, but this episode was pretty disappointing for me. I was shocked at how unexciting the action sequences were and the genre bit didn’t seem to have any real impact aside from bizarre music and cinematography at times.

I’m hoping this was a bit of a lull and it’s all building towards a more exciting/satisfying end.
posted by Cogito at 12:59 AM on April 14, 2020 [4 favorites]


The only thing I'm not really digging is they're not bothering to show their work at all on how Rehoboam is pulling the various strings to control outcomes--only that it can and does.

I think it is just modeling outcomes and the people/company are taking action to control the outcome.
posted by snofoam at 3:25 AM on April 14, 2020


I liked the episode. I get what they were doing with the Genre drug/Action Movie bit, and it was amusing as a one-off despite all the obvious criticism ( "chases in the future suck" and "It's nice that consumer vehicles have bullet resistant glass" ) and it did move the Serac/Rheoboam story forward.

So, the whole thing is apparently Ford's desire to free all the slaves. Not just the hosts in the park, but Incite's/Rheoboam's slaves. Still nicely paralleling Finch's desire to save the "irrelevant". Was dumping all the profiles a good idea? I dunno yet, but I can't wait to find out. ( c.f.: Mr. Robot 5/9 Hack setup and Darlene's redistribution of wealth resolution. )

#TeamMachine is #TeamDolores
posted by mikelieman at 5:06 AM on April 14, 2020 [2 favorites]


I'm mildly confused about the motivations between Serac and Dead Basic Dad, and I'm not sure if Delores is just acting as an agent of chaos or if she actually has a longer term goal. I mean, I'm nowhere nearly as confused as I was last season, but they're building up enough backstory and various moving pieces that I'm losing track of the parts they've stopped talking about.

I enjoyed the genre shifts well enough, although it was a weaker episode in general it was still entertaining.

And Emerge still slaps. Huh-I.
posted by Kyol at 7:50 AM on April 14, 2020 [2 favorites]


At this point Jonathan Nolan has done the same trick he did with Person of Interest: get a season two under your belt following the show's basic premise, then transition completely to a story about battling super-human AIs. I love it.

I hope some of the Delores clones start going their own way.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 11:53 AM on April 14, 2020 [3 favorites]


I didn’t really feel this episode and I feel this show itself has taken a dip in quality this season. This is two episodes in a row where the sound mixing was off for at least one line in a scene, like they had to record it in post and put it in the show. Last episode was a scene with Maeve I think. And some of the camera cuts between scenes looked like they were supposed to work together but didn’t really. The tunnel and the round algorithm (which looks like the alien language from Arrival, weird that knowledge of the language so gives you the ability to see the future) did not work for me. It just seems that the production is sloppier this year.

(And also the truck that was following them looked similar to the Tesla truck, which was funny. Don’t know if that was intentional)

Also, Bernard and the security dude try to get at Irishman-Delores and then just run off? It felt so contrived. Like the only point was so Bernard could get the clicker thing and move the plot along. They seem not to have enough wires connected in the brains to be able to plan that.

Fingers crossed that next week’s episode does a little more showing than telling. It feels like we’ve been explained at for a more than a couple episodes now.
posted by LizBoBiz at 1:29 PM on April 14, 2020 [2 favorites]


I thought it was deliberate and hilarious that the "genre" music cues were so thuddingly obvious. It's a party drug, its soundtrack is not aiming for subtlety or sneak subversiveness.

Loved that orchestral cover of "Space Oddity," though. Make that the B-side for Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross's cover of "Life on Mars" from Watchmen.

Was "Emerge" by Fischerspooner part of the genre effect? Because that's a much better song to end your trip with than the pants-spoiling Shining theme.
posted by ejs at 5:32 PM on April 14, 2020 [2 favorites]


Irishman-Delores
Tommy Flanagan's Scottish.

So, now some humans can't be represented by 10,247 lines of code? I thought the idea that the hosts are genuinely smarter and more flexible than humans was one of season 2's more interesting ideas, but now we have some ubermenschen that can match them.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 7:32 PM on April 14, 2020 [1 favorite]


I think the idea is that there are humans who aren't necessarily smarter than hosts, just more unpredictable than Rehoboam would like. And Dolores and her team of Doloreses cleary fall into that category as well.
posted by ejs at 8:03 PM on April 14, 2020


I'm struck that all the cars in this season (other than the export-spec MGTC in WarWorld) are either (from the POV of the characters) contemporary models or really well preserved classics - that is to say recognizable luxury SUVs contemporary to we the viewers but not inside the context of the show. It'd be like traffic that consisted of nothing but cars from the 2010s and cars from the 60s, with nothing in between. It's not exactly *surprising* that there are "old" classics present, considering who we see driving them (see Nacho and Lalo's sweet-ass 70s muscle cars circa 2004 in Better Call Saul), but it's interesting that there's no indication of intermediate progress. No Blade Runnery *used*ness in this future. Not necessarily a world-building problem; guess it's one effect of AI running a centrally planned society.
posted by MarchHare at 9:23 PM on April 14, 2020


Nice! I came here just to mention how much I am enjoying the priority in the budget that was given to vehicles. Especially after that clownish dune buggy assault from last season. My theory behind that terrible battle scene is that there is not enough money in TV budgets to have multiple takes for a scene like that. They get one shot and it's difficult to predict what will work and what doesn't.

This universe suffered at least one catastrophic event, so perhaps any interruptions in technological trends can be attributed.
posted by Brocktoon at 10:16 PM on April 14, 2020 [1 favorite]


I like the reason Rehoboam has such a ridiculous name is that they burned up all the more sensible Biblical names on the early versions.
posted by Grangousier at 11:40 PM on April 14, 2020 [12 favorites]


"chases in the future suck"
Yeah, it was kinda weird that everything moved so slowly. Even the sporty looking motorbike, after being ordered to go as fast as possible, just eased slowly up to speed.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 7:19 AM on April 15, 2020 [1 favorite]


They certainly get the chase scenes wrong like most other genres, where are the police, in a hyper controlled online benevolent police state one would think that a car chase would draw hundreds if not thousands from every direction blocking every escape in seconds. I was sad when Dolores sacrificed her trusty robo-steed motorcycle. And they only used the best weapon that shoots from behind once. Should've had a couple robot horses come by at the end of the beach scene for the last dash to the private jet. But it is not a show that should be watched analytically, just let the best images flow over.

Is the big sphere cgi or a corporate art installation at some headquarters?
posted by sammyo at 8:04 AM on April 15, 2020 [5 favorites]


kinda weird that everything moved so slowly

I thought this was brilliant and I loved it. The cars moved slowly because they are AI cars and restricted in performance to maximize traffic safety, obviously. It was worldbuilding. It was also taking the piss of car chases, which are inherently dumb, and at the same time an amusing reference to the use of speed manipulation in action sequences.
posted by mwhybark at 9:16 AM on April 15, 2020 [3 favorites]


I guess, it did mean that the only point of the bike was to show off ERW's arse though.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 10:56 AM on April 15, 2020


Did anyone else notice the person in black standing on the beach near the pier when they were walking? Was that supposed to be someone we knew?
posted by LizBoBiz at 2:23 PM on April 15, 2020 [1 favorite]


I thought it was someone contemplating a walk into the sea because of what their profile showed them
posted by fullerine at 10:59 PM on April 15, 2020 [6 favorites]


Re the current model SUVs, could that be product placement?
posted by carmicha at 9:36 PM on April 16, 2020


Given my profound, searing hatred for JJ Abrams’ schtick - forever hinting at things and then never delivering - this episode and its repudiation of that trend (which Nolan and Joy flirt with over the course of the series but not excessively) was probably my single favorite in all three seasons, purely for the Serac bits. I found his motivation and means sufficiently plausible, and while the details aren’t explored there’s enough meat there to fill in reasonable explanations for myself.

I really, really liked it.

The titular Genre concept itself was directorial self-indulgence that approached irritating without quite crossing the line. Whoever let it run that long owes Aaron Paul a fruit basket for saving it.

I continue to hope that Dolores wins and humanity loses. As far as nobody having good news from their Incite file: I don’t want to delve too far into privilege and its relative scarcity on mass transit in our world probably being amplified in this one, but suffice to say I assumed all the happy people were back at the party in the prior episode.
posted by Ryvar at 12:37 AM on April 17, 2020 [3 favorites]


Surely Caleb is Serac's brother, mindwiped and sent to war? I mean Caleb's origin story and what happened to the brother are practically the only unknowns left, aside from what Delores's plan for Bernard might be. Parsimony practically demands they solve each other.
posted by slappy_pinchbottom at 2:39 AM on April 17, 2020



Surely Caleb is Serac's brother, mindwiped and sent to war? I mean Caleb's origin story and what happened to the brother are practically the only unknowns left, aside from what Delores's plan for Bernard might be. Parsimony practically demands they solve each other.


Caleb's nowhere near old enough to be the "older brother"
posted by lalochezia at 5:53 AM on April 17, 2020


Clone of the older brother.
posted by rocketman at 7:46 AM on April 17, 2020


I continue to hope that Dolores wins and humanity loses.

I'm starting to worry that Dolores isn't a hey-baby-wanna-kill-all-humans murderbot and that her plan or intent is actually to save everybody, human and host, from Rehoboam and similar attempts to predict and control. ie, that she's trying to pull a God Emperor of Dune trick.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 9:04 AM on April 17, 2020 [4 favorites]


I have to say that genre is perhaps the most boring futuristic fictional drug ever invented. Like, all it does is play some background music and change the film stock? I wanted to see everyone's dialogue go all hard-boiled in the first segment of it if they were really going to buy into the concept. (It's also still not clear what the motivation for dosing Caleb with it was in the first place.)
posted by whir at 11:52 PM on May 16, 2020


Trying to be charitable, maybe the idea of Genre sounded better in the writer's room. Perhaps they were imagining the budget and time and artistic ability to film the various scenes truly in the style of their influences. To make that rocket launcher scene look like Apocalypse Now instead of just cueuing up the cliche music and having Aaron Paul look wild-eyed while illuminated by yellow and red lights.

Also being charitable, maybe the idea of Rehoboam predicting everyone's lives and also controlling them sounded really cool in the writer's room. The power of that immediate reveal of everyone's past and future, it'd be more profound than Person of Interest or FlashForward or any other existentialist / free-will drama! Instead we just got a bunch of lame shots of extras staring dejectedly at their phones, a couple of minimal street fights. The folks joyriding the automated car were the only fun part.

Finally being charitable, maybe it made sense for Murder Bot, Genre Tripper, and the two hired hitmen(*) to walk literally all over LA and end up on the beach at Santa Monica. All while holding a world famous man hostage at gunpoint, marching him through the streets, the subway, the boardwalk, the sand. To then... shoot him and split up into two groups? I like sammyo's idea; give me robot horses on the beach.

It's weird because this episode was written like a climax. Dolores has accomplished a major goal; she's exacted huge revenge on humanity and maybe also broken them all free of their corporate-imposed loops. The end! But there's 5 more episodes to go? If another one of them is devoted to Bernard affectlessly shambling around indecisive, I may be done entirely.

Do love the production design though, the realization of cyberpunk near future. They've now shown most of their hand on that so the novelty has worn off, but I still love it.

(*) hitmen played by Lena Waithe and Marshawn Lynch. I love Lena Waithe, she was hilarious in Master of None.
posted by Nelson at 7:33 AM on May 18, 2020


"Trying to be charitable, maybe the idea of Genre sounded better in the writer's room. Perhaps they were imagining the budget and time and artistic ability to film the various scenes truly in the style of their influences. To make that rocket launcher scene look like Apocalypse Now instead of just cueuing up the cliche music and having Aaron Paul look wild-eyed while illuminated by yellow and red lights."

Yeah, I think the concept in the script is very interesting and sound. Somewhere in production, one or more people really dropped the ball and it came off terribly. Describing it as "underwhelming" is being generous.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:47 AM on May 18, 2020


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