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What is Marshawn Lynch doing in HBO’s ‘Westworld’?

Not talking much, at least not in the season three premiere

In the war of humans versus robots, it might help to have a guy on your side who has a body built for plowing through linebackers.

Former Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch is in the third season of Westworld, which premieres Sunday on HBO. He’s playing a mysterious character named G who, much like Lynch, is not exactly generous with his words.

A tumultuous and often difficult-to-follow second season revealed the real reason for the creation of Westworld and its adjacent android-filled parks, which include Shogun World and Colonial India World. They didn’t exist simply to give obscenely rich people opportunities to leave their lives and step into a place where they have carte blanche to kill, rape and torture the “hosts” — the term used for the androids who are subject to such abuses. No, the parks were a device that allowed Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) to work on a bigger project: figuring out how to separate human neurological function from its physical trappings and rehouse it in a host body, thereby creating a mechanism for immortality.

Ford’s project got railroaded when the hosts started to gain various levels of memory, consciousness and autonomy, which eventually led to the slaughter of some 130 park employees and board members of Delos, the company that owns and operates the parks.

Marshawn Lynch’s character, G, is friends with Ash (Lena Waithe) in Westworld. The two live in a Los Angeles dominated by on-demand driverless cars and most humans ingest a daily microchip that monitors and adjusts their biometrics.

John P. Johnson/HBO

Now creators Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan have moved the story to the “real” world, a shiny, tech-fueled dystopia that runs on algorithms. One of the hosts, Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), escaped the park, having altered her internal code to make herself into an attractive killing machine. She’s out for revenge and the first casualty of season three is a wealthy sadist who raped her in Westworld. But Dolores is on more than a mission to kill Westworld customers. She wants to destroy the tech that made it possible, and the people and company that created it.

This is where G comes in. He’s friends with Ash (Lena Waithe). The two live in a Los Angeles dominated by on-demand driverless cars and most humans ingest a daily microchip that monitors and adjusts their biometrics. Here, humans are graded with a social score, not unlike the social credit system under development in China. Decide to opt out, as Ash and G have, and your options become more limited. Individuals can earn a living in the underground economy, taking on extralegal assignments in exchange for cash, selling drugs such as “beta limbics,” besides working in low-paying fields such as construction, alongside robots who can take on far more dangerous tasks. Ash has a valuable skill: She knows how to engineer gadgets that screw with the tech embedded in every part of society.

When we meet G, he’s stoned out of his gourd, and he and Ash have decided to rob an ATM, a mission they’ve labeled “redistributive justice.” But they need a third person to pull it off, and a war veteran named Caleb Nichols (Aaron Paul) answers their summons.

Caleb is a repeat figure in this criminal-for-hire system, and he crosses paths with a wounded Dolores.

And so, before long, my guess is that Dolores is going to enlist Caleb, G and Ash in her mission of vengeance and destruction. The only folks who might be able to stop her? Bernard (Jeffrey Wright), who’s been lying low and working in a meatpacking plant under an assumed identity called Armand Delgado, and possibly Maeve (Thandie Newton), who’s still stuck inside the park (or a simulation of it) and is now fighting off Nazis in Warworld.

As G, Lynch blends in well enough, though he’s not going to win any acting prizes. It’s an ambitious series for an athlete making the transition to acting. (Former journeyman NFL cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha is making a similar transition, largely with theater roles — this season he’s Pfc. Melvin Peterson in A Soldier’s Play on Broadway.)

So the third season of Westworld invites at least two questions: 1) Will Dolores be successful in her bloodsoaked quest to tear down the technological system that created her? And 2) Will G ever say more than two sentences in the process?

Soraya Nadia McDonald is the senior culture critic for Andscape. She writes about pop culture, fashion, the arts and literature. She is the 2020 winner of the George Jean Nathan prize for dramatic criticism, a 2020 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in criticism and the runner-up for the 2019 Vernon Jarrett Medal for outstanding reporting on Black life.