Saturday, May 18, 2024

Westworld Deals With Lack of Internal Balance

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In “Dissonance Theory”, Dolores reaches a halt at her loop while navigating Westworld in the company of Logan and William. Maeve is remembering more and more about her conscious hours in the backstage of the park and goes through pain to prove to herself she is not crazy. In the meantime, the Man in Black keeps going on in his quest to find The Maze.

As per usual, we start on Bernard interviewing Dolores—can these interviews happen while the hosts are asleep? Because that is the impression that I get—about the events of “The Stray”. She is showing a very altered state as one would expect after basically shooting someone for the first time in her life.

This scene is interesting, though, for it mimics how last week’s interaction between Bernard and Gina Torres went. Both conversations were about grief; the writing department of Westworld really gets to shine when they give me diamonds like actual justification for why someone would insist on holding on to these feelings.

See, there is no funny montage of going through five stages of grief. There’s no AI who wants to give you a chip to forget someone because they died — I’m not condemning people who would want to forget a motive for grief because of heightened and unbearable state of depression. What I’m saying is this sadness that comes with the loss of a loved one, leaving some place you love, or even the end of a time in your life that you held dear may become the only thing that makes sense for someone like Bernard and Dolores, because it’s better to remember something with a fond melancholy than not to remember at all.

Each time Dolores and Bernard converse in their secret meetings (which may not be secret at all) something new appear to flourish in Dolores. Some new event has ensued with her life at the park that has unleashed a new chain of responses and improvisational skills. Her dialogue changes and new “doubts” on her life emerge showing quite the universal theme in  “Is there something wrong with the world or with me?”.

However, it is Bernard who gives the audience a clue on another plot: the quest for the Maze…well, this whole episode spoon fed information on what this is. If we’re supposed to take what Bernard said at face value (and the map on the scalp), the goal is to find the center and be free. The Man in Black’s (MIB) scenes told us that this Maze was a creation of Ford’s old partner: the erased-from-the-records Arnold.

This Maze, then, is supposed to be the next level of Westworld — a hidden game where, I’m assuming, the hosts are fully sentient and can break free from their code. This implies that the hosts would be able to use violence against the Guests, possibly being able to commit murder, which is what the MIB appears to want so that the stakes are elevated.

Taking a quick sidebar, what exactly are the MIB’s exact motivations? With each episode, we learn more about him, but the man is still not quite established. He was created in Westworld (“In a sense, I was born here”), has been coming here for 30 years, and apparently knows most plot lines. However, outside of Westworld, he was the salvation to another guest’s sister. I really do think he may be in cahoots with Ford in some weird way.

This piece of information kind of lines up with Logan’s apparent life outside of the park. See, both of them, in this episode, had exposition given about how different they are from their Westworld’s Bad Hat personas. I think multiples visits to the park just simply causes a dissociation/desensitization from one’s morale and acceptance of the robots as robots and nothing else.

Elsewhere, Maeve is bugging big time. The way the episode is shot didn’t really clear out with me if her vision of her death besides Clementine was a flashback, a memory, a new creation/idea, or a reset loop. But in any case, she is probably the host with the bigger developments by herself as Dolores has all these conversations with Bernard to increment to her process.

The drawings in her room are obviously important because not only do they show that Maeve is a creature of habit and routine even when she is acting out of her loop, but that the watchers at Delos don’t really have eyes everywhere; if they had seen Maeve hide those triggering drawings, they would have collected them, right?

I don’t know exactly why Maeve thought to ask Hector about information on the drawings of the hazmat suits, or even how he knows about the puppet masters who walk both worlds, but it paid off: the medical doctors/mechanical engineers forgot to remove the bullet from Maeve’s abdomen and she remembers it.

It was a bit cathartic to see her have her own catharsis that “None of this matters”. However, I really can’t predict what her endgame might be. Maeve is the second whose sentience was activated by the ‘violent delights’ passphrase and has developed a lot by herself, but it can get a bit frustrating to see her take five steps forward and three steps backwards with each resetting. I’m holding on for her to take a more leading position in the robot rebellion and start contaminating everyone. Hey, maybe Hector next week will have changed too.

It is still quite mysterious what precisely is either causing or propelling the sentience as there are a couple of factors involved. The phrase is most likely something that either Arnold or Ford created to put the whole thing in motion, but I keep asking myself if it could be some other thing. Is there some foul play among one of the executives/programmers who is deliberately increasing Dolores’s and Maeve’s process? Is it the quest for the Maze itself? The reveries in the code by accident? The early implements of Ford’s new storyline doing some sort of unforeseen Chaos Theory effect?

From what we can tell, this new storyline is going to involve major new set locations and various interconnecting plots like Teddy “Misery is All I Got” Flood’s nemesis/part time cult leader Wyatt, who has entanglement with Armistice’s tattoos. I wonder if, given Wyatt is part of Ford’s specific story, he has some sort of twist we should look forward to seeing, like he is supposed to be Ford’s perception of Arnold or some other equally weird secret identity for a major shocking moment.

On the more human and relatable side of Westworld, we didn’t get much from the aftermath of the attack on Elsie, but they got to a different interpretation than mine: a part of the coding of the stray was failing and the part that he couldn’t hurt humans took over and made him bash his head in. These were considered outside of conventional conditions, but not quite outside normal behavior.

I don’t really have a lot to say about Dolores’s time with William and Logan. I mean, they were just going after the bounty hunter. Logan was being the problematic white boy/chaotic neutral/hedonist that was established since episode 2 and William was being the also consistent nice guy (no trademarks needed as of yet, but we’ll see). It is quite interesting that Dolores is really going back and forth on different Westworld storylines — she even (maybe?) met Lawrence’s daughter and saw the map of the Maze, so we can safely say she is going to end up meeting the MiB again some time soon.

So now that Dolores is being partnered with Logan and William, she is officially out of her loop. The memory of her father dying may be permanent at this point and I am guessing she shares the same factor of tragic with Teddy in a way that she is also meant to suffer and/or possibly die so she can finish her loop (by the way, poor Teddy being left out like that… but hey, 4/4 on Teddy’s No Good Horrible Season).

Last, it comes down to the conversation/dick measuring contest between Ford and Theresa. Sure, props to Anthony and Sidse for carrying that scene, but, honestly, that was a little difficult to read. I think Dr. Ford’s whole idea was to assert his superiority as the creator over the investors and board of directors. He tries to shake the balance of the relationship by showing Cullen how he can, with a lifted forefinger, literally stop and control the hosts. He tells her he knows everything. Basically, he is Westworld’s God.

One thing that kind of comes off as either a plot hole or speculation is that if Ford knows all about his employees, does he know about Bernard’s conversations with Dolores? And so, is he purposefully allowing this to happen to see in what manner and intensity the sentience shit might hit the fan?

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I really liked this episode. I do agree with anyone who may say that the violence on this episode was over the top and unnecessary — why the fuck was that scene showing Armistice getting shot several times needed? In what way that helped the plot? For a show that has barely showed violence against woman in a graphic way, this particular scene was quite dissonant.

On that segue, I do wanna point out the title, “Dissonance Theory” is probably referring to the major plotline of the oncoming sentience — it’s all about how a situation promotes a feeling of discomfort and lack of balance which propels a change in attitude and behavior to complement and improve equilibrium. It’s about how in a place where something feels off, we start seeking for consistency and this idea is showcased in what state of mind Dolores and Maeve are like.

Final Thoughts:

  • I really found refreshing how not-too-catty that scene between Elsie and Theresa arguing was. Like, that was a whole level of being professional even when scolding and asserting guilt to a party in a workplace. For a show that barely passes the Bechdel test, it really is cool when something like this happens, especially on HBO. Shannon Woodward and Sidse Babett Knudsen really sold it. (Side note: I love Sidse Babett Knudsen’s name).
  • Also, poor Sidse, having to walk in soft sand with those heels. I felt really bad.
  • I wonder what happened to the writer who has been missing for two episodes.
  • To finish off on a positive bullet, the cast of the backstage (at the very least) of Westworld is quite racially diverse even if it’s mostly one-line-roles. The park itself… meh.

Images courtesy of HBO

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