Monday, July 22, 2024

Westworld and Wonderland

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In its third hour, Westworld dials down on the action and shocking moments to quite literally upload and expose some backstory, as well as show how Dolores is going through the motions of her ever-growing consciousness.

Trigger warnings for mentions of violence, gore, and rape. 

Apparently, those talks between Dolores and Bernard have been going on for a while. Bernard’s story becomes more fleshed as we learn that his kid died some time ago and he is distant from his (ex?) wife – the very welcoming surprise of Gina Torres. This conversation also opens up debate on exactly how far the setting of Westworld is from the ‘civilization’, as it is hard to get a free line to skype with the outside world.

Bernard, by the way, “gave” Dolores a copy of Alice in Wonderland and asked her to read a paragraph about change. I’d say it was very on point the parallel between Dolores and Alice: both women being blonde with curly hair, wearing blue, and definitely going through some major life changing events as their worlds are turned upside down with new concepts and new ideas.

Dolores’s sentience is continuously increasing. It’s clear that Bernard is letting it happen because it just absolutely fascinates him in a way that he wants to allow her to “grow”, all the while knowing full well that this is a big issue when it comes to keeping Westworld functional. A couple of theories out there say that Bernard is a fully sentient host itself, so it could give a bit of nuance to this matter as he is allowing/pushing another host to come fully realized.

Dr. Ford is, meanwhile, hard at work creating his own original storyline and closing off some major parts of Westworld. It’s interesting to see that there were similarities in the way he literally uploaded backstory into Teddy and the way he explained who Arnold was to Bernard — his old building partner who died a long time ago.

Speaking of Teddy, we are 3/3 on deaths by episode. It calls in, again, the matter whether it’s gratuitous or if he literally is doomed to have a tragic end. It’s not up to the new interactions among Guests and Hosts: Teddy Must Die and we keeping seeing it happen (over 1000 times, to quote Dr. Ford). His love story is destined to be an unfinished one. “Your job is not to protect Dolores: it’s to keep her here, to ensure that the guests find her if they want to best the stalwart gunslinger and have their way with this girl”.

However, Dr. Ford uploads the backstory that comes with a nemesis, Wyatt, and his apparent West Cult, which ends up shooting him down. It’s not clear though if those people were Guests or Hosts because Teddy either missed all his shots (unlikely as it’s established he’s good with guns,) or they were all useless if they were Newcomers.

However, Teddy did get some time with Dolores this week as he pushed her further into questioning her own existence. It’s also worth pointing out that, seemingly, Dolores story climaxes with violence being thrust upon her, which is causing her to have these visions of her past experiences even while awake.

Her code is failing miserably as she has gone through so much violence that a host whose code literally did not allow her to pull a trigger — not even at wood as practice — has gone so far as to kill the bandit (who invaded her house in the pilot) when he tried to rape/murder her.

Dolores herself is a “stray”: she is going further and further from the normative code given to the hosts, showing more signals of conscience with each conversation with Bernard — her catalyst. Obviously, it’s a time consuming journey (hey, Alice) in which her improvisational ability is gradually taking over her scripting.

The title “The stray” refers to a man who literally walks off from his loop climbing a hill. Elsie and Ashley are in charge of tracking him down and it culminates on the most “thrilling” sequence of the episode, I believe.

As Ashley begins to saw off the head of the stray man in sleep mode, he wakes up, punches Ashley and begins to go after Elsie who stumbles and falls. The man grabs a huge rock, holds it in the air like he is going to stone Elsie and, on an actually well done Shocking Moment ™, he smashes his own head (kind of a brutal image to be quite honest). The most obvious interpretation is that he remembers in some way what violence he has gone through and couldn’t live with it anymore. It also brings up the event of the sleep mode failing like Maeve in “Chestnut”.

In another of the background scenes, the narrative makes a point once again to reinforce how little dignity the hosts get from their operators. Case in point, one of the hosts was covered with a sheet while being analyzed, so Dr. Ford “kindly” scolded the operator telling him “[the host] doesn’t get cold, doesn’t feel ashamed, doesn’t feel a solitary thing that we haven’t told it to”, as he proceeds to cut the host’s face with a scalpel.

This passage sort of comes along with his remarks to Bernard about, basically, how he shouldn’t get attached to a host even if he feels sad over his son because ‘they are not real’ (wink at the camera). This felt like dialogue from a horror movie when the Obviously Bad Guy tells the protagonist, “don’t go to the woods/dig deeper into the investigation because I wouldn’t want to get hurt.” Can you get more obvious than that? Come on, Westworld, I need you to subvert these expectations.

In the end, this episode was solid, but way toned down from the previous two installations. It was nice seeing Dolores going through this initial process of beginning to doubt her own reality, but I fear the show may give in and end up showing some graphic violence against women — the start of her remembrance of what went down with the Man in Black in the pilot is not a particular good signal, but I’m gonna give them the benefit of the doubt.

I missed Maeve. Like a lot. The woman just went through major discoveries last episode after wondering about the behind the scenes of Westworld and we only got a single scene with her with Teddy, especially as it’s usually her nucleus at the saloon that has the good positive female interactions.

Random Thoughts:

  • I actually like finding out bits and pieces about the worldbuilding of Westworld. This week, for instance, we saw another example of how some hosts can’t shoot guns and use axes — this is reinforced by the code that prohibits everyone from shooting the head of the Guests. Also, how some characters just get vague backstories because the writers were lazy.
  • So, Dolores met William and Logan… This is gonna go SO WELL 🙂 especially with Logan wanting to hump everything that moves in Westworld.
  • Gotta say, HBO is really coming through for the gore fans out there. It’s not in every tv show that you get to see someone start sawing the head off someone (well, a robot, but we are humanizing them just as they will humanize themselves eventually).
  • Is Orion going to have a special meaning?
  • I’m still waiting for Tessa Thompson to appear.

Images courtesy of HBO. 

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