Friday, April 19, 2024

Westworld is Unravelling Mystery With More Questions

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In another Dolores-centric episode,Westworld proves it is hellbent on not answering too much at a time, but keeps giving a lot of hints of the bigger picture and frustrating its audience in a good way.

Let me just start by saying fuck you, Westworld! Why do you keep being so selfish when it comes to the character of Maeve? Why only the few scenes? After finishing “Contrapasso”, I felt wishing for something more and one of the reasons was definitely the lack of Maeve.

So, you finish last week with this big cliffhanger as Maeve says “None of this matters” to not even explore in detail what has happened with her? Yes, the best scene in my opinion was seeing Thandie Newton fuck up the surgeon’s entire world with a simple “Hello, Felix”. But the actress has been criminally underused for two episodes in a row and I’m expecting a HUGE payoff.

On that matter, it was fantastic. She was so elegant in that position holding the bird. I don’t know what is going to go down—a deep conversation, perhaps?—but I am so in. I have been finding her journey incredible so far despite the quite reduced amount of scenes.

On an opposite situation, I’m not even sure how damaged Dolores is at this point. I find it hard to believe her code is completely wrecked, but she is lying in Analysis Mode now. I honestly didn’t even think that was possible. It’s all piling up too fast with her and the show doesn’t spend the extra time to explain what or why with her consciousness and trying to make sense of things just create more questions.

So, those voices in her head: is that what Dr. Ford was talking about when he was telling Bernard about the bicameral mind, the last step to consciousness, God’s voice on the hosts’s minds or their own monologue/coding? Is that the actual Arnold or his ancient coding taking over?

You see, people are really digging into this show and one of these theories is that these constant mentions of Arnold is going to play off as a Chekhov’s Identity: some huge revelation is going to happen as to who Arnold was or is.

There is the possibility that Arnold may have programmed Dolores in her really deep coding to have all these visions and progress faster when her sentience is triggered. However, perhaps Arnold’s own conscious has been put in Dolores making her a literal “host”.

Tonally, I’m not sure if either of these makes more sense than the other given how weirdly specific Dolores’s visions have been. She keeps seeing herself during her Dia de Los Muertos experience, but it’s really hard to tell if it’s her mind projecting or having a flashback from a different timeline.

She also had that creepy vision of the thread on her arm which contrasts with The Stray’s own arm situation—if it were the same case, it would have been too on the nose, right? That was JUST a creepy vision because her mind is, at this point, under too much stress? Or was it a lingering reflection on Ford hurting her hand? As he himself said, “Dreams mean everything”.

The whole thing with the device on the stray’s arm being a code-stealer creates a new mystery that is also hard to guess how it may interfere. In that spirit, my own personal impression is that it could ALSO add code to the host’s system which could explain a lot if it was an inside job or a rival company, for example, trying to destroy Westworld.

Back to Dolores, she ended up shooting a lot of guys so it’s fair to say she doesn’t have any more restrictions—she has truly learned that improvisational command. It was also a nice and touching moment as she is choosing a reality where she is not the damsel. I mean, it checked off all the boxes on the Strong Female Character checklist: it even came with a cute costume change!

That brings us to William and Teddy. I was looking forward to seeing if anything came up between these two to either prove or disprove the multiple timelines theory, but there was merit to both, especially since the factor that would prove the theory right (Lawrence showing up as El Lazo) is not a very compelling thing and it creates space for doubts.

Basically, there’s this idea that William is the younger Man in Black which means we are seeing two different Doloreses, making it even harder to pinpoint exactly how far past the gone she is. It would also tell a very different narrative: Dolores would be going on the same path twice now and the scenes are being cut strategically to avoid any confirmation. It’s very out there as a theory, but not out of the realm of possibility.

Showing Lawrence as El Lazo was… weird, especially since it’s not that clear how he even got there. As I said, this could support the theory that William is the Man in Black from 30 years ago. However, it could also mean that the workers behind Westworld are just really THAT efficient and managed to sneak him out and put him on an entirely new storyline within the time constraints of the episode.

Finally, Dolores also went on cool and very, very western adventures. The three amigos went on a high level heist for some bowls of nitroglycerin. Some shots were fired as usual, a couple hosts were dead, nothing new, but William shot his first unarmed man. Not to downplay the whole situation, but I’d say this episode showing William breaking free from his own code…at least relatively. It parallels Dolores a little, even.

Also, good on Evan Rachel Wood. She really does bring it on such a Dolores-heavy episode. There was a particular moment where her left eye was blinking—during the heist scene—sort of like a stereotypical robot glitching. I’m not sure if it was intentional or if I’m reading too much into it, but nice touch nevertheless.

One last thing on Dolores’s plot that felt important was how she didn’t tune out after William said, “No one in the real world” to her. So, this ‘improvement’ on her code happened between this episode and the previous one for she didn’t say anything last week about it.

Dr. Ford had quite the busy episode. He started off with a conversation with Old Bill (also possible candidate for Arnold, in my opinion, because of the familiarity) about the dangers of being left devoid of any motivations after the conquering of wish fulfillment and/or breaking free of a previous restraint. Not so subtle, you guys, but it was an entertaining story. Old Bill mentioned “the lady with the wet shoes” and I did NOT get that reference.

Later on the episode, there’s more speculation on who Arnold was in relation to Ford. We can go from a simple and plausible “Did Ford kill Arnold and covered it up to look like an accident” to a more reachy “Were Ford and Arnold a couple?” over his deliberate use of the word “partner”.

Now, while this last one may seem wishful thinking, I think there may be actual merit to the first one. Lately I found out that, apparently, some authors baptize their characters with names that carry meaning and it may be a hint of their role.

This may be what’s happening with Hector Escaton (Eskaton means “dawn of a new day”/”end of the world”) and Teddy Flood; I think Ford’s name may have something to with his role.

Initially, I thought “Ford” was just a hint-hint/honor to Henry Ford and his Fordism. I figured it was, in some way, about how both these men were manufacturing a thing in an assembly line to be ubiquitous, but given how his first name is Robert, the meaning may change to the Robert Ford who killed his gang leader Jesse James.

This tangent sort of opens up a new possibility: Arnold and Ford are the same person as in “Robert Ford” is just a chosen name/moniker picked after a younger version of that person (Arnold) died metaphorically so a new one (Ford) could emerge.

I know, it’s all a bit reachy, but Arnold has been name dropped to death since Chestnut so I have to believe that a plot twist is coming on this story. Maybe the Man in Black is Arnold—I mean, the two of them seemed very well acquainted.

It also adds up that Ford’s game is really unclear. He said once that “consciousness is the last thing one would want in a place like Westworld”, but he is also not going to move a finger to stop the Man in Black from trying to reach the maze, which is what, possibly, will unleash the general sentience of the robots.

So now that we got the good stuff done, let’s get a bit salty: the nudity on this episode. Yikes. I’m not even going to defend this. It just did NOTHING to me. I was being particular proud to see another show on HBO that was not being overly gratuitous about nudity, but this episode really did it.

Jonathan Nolan did say “This is the one episode where we were going for it—to show the pure pleasure of this place.” and I guess that is fine from a production point of view, but the amount of time that was spent showing the brothel…

Don’t get me wrong: it all looked very nice and aesthetically pleasing (production value, yay!). At the beginning, it was fine to get some context, but it reached a point at the end where every sexy person in the room could be replaced by a sexy lamp and I would not have cared nor would it have changed the plot one bit. Not even Logan was engaging, so why should we?

I like to think that Westworld is *better*, but I really do have anxiety about it going off rails to appease to HBO’s demands. Nolan said it was this one stance that was going to be overtly sexy so, for all the good so far, I am trying to see past it. Maeve’s and Dolores’s nudity are still used in ways that may help the plot, so there’s that.

At least in terms of violence, they toned down on the gore a little bit. Little victories after seeing a lying Armistice being shot repeatedly and a man’s face explode last week.

Final Thoughts:

  • It surprised me that I got surprised with the necrophilia/robot-philia (is this a thing?). I don’t know why I thought this show was above it (maybe they got that quota on Elsie kissing a sleep mode Clementine and that was it?), but I just felt so gross seeing that at 7:40 am.
  • I am not quite sure who is supposed to be going through Contrapasso (Dante’s vision of suffering in a way that either is similar or contrasting to one’s sins). I didn’t really come to a self-satisfying conclusion on that, to be honest. Maybe Logan, because he got captured and William decided not to save him? Ford in some capacity for some bad thing *killing Arnold* he did in the past? He did get very emotional talking to Dolores about him…
  • I wanna think that the voice in Dolores’s head is her own monologue and not someone else telling her what to do because that would take a little bit off her self-discovering arc
  • Who is that fucking kid? Where are his parents? Why is he always unsupervised? For a moment, in Chestnut, I thought he was a guest, but now he has to be a robot (I’m gonna throw that kid on the list of Possible Arnold Reveals).
  • We broke the Teddy Suffers ™ cycle!!!! Well, he did the Samaritan Reflex thing to prevent the Man in Black from hurting Ford, but in comparison to every episode so far, that was fine.
  • I don’t know about you guys, but the heist scene felt so stereotypically western. I felt like I was watching a Woody Woodpecker cartoon – and that is a good thing because everything was looking really good.
  • Hey, say what you will about Westworld, but at least it buys merkins for its actors since that’s the way it was back then (*unlike other HBO shows*)

Images courtesy of HBO

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