Monday, October 31, 2016

Westworld, Season One, Episode Five: Contrapasso

Contrapasso marks the halfway point of season one of Westworld.  Now that we know the characters fairly well, Westworld has sped up the narrative.  Something is obviously going on with the hosts, Ford is playing his own game, and The Man is Black and Delores are looking for the center of the maze.  Each scene is filled with symbolism and clues as to where this story is going; however, each episode seems to get more and more complex. Contrapasso is the first episode not to begin with Delores but that doesn't mean that her role in the episode is small. In fact, between Delores and Maeve, some very interesting things are happening with the hosts.

Contrapasso begins with Ford having a conversation with Old Bill, about his pet greyhound. It seems that one day, Ford let the dog off the leash and it chased and killed a cat. The greyhound then sat down confused not knowing what to do next because it had accomplished the one thing it always wanted to.  This story really isn't about Ford's dog but in fact about the Hosts, whom he keeps on a tight leash, despite the fact that it costs profits because at the end of the day giving something or someone exactly what they want leads to disaster.  This is why Dolores is always destined to be raped and why Teddy is always destined to die.

In the park, Logan Head Douchebro is excited to finally get William to turn black hat. Douchebro is constantly breaking the fourth wall and talking about Westworld in front of the hosts. It seems that the company isn't doing well and so the company he either works for or owns (they've not told us which yet) intends to acquire Westworld.  In their research, they've learned that Ford had a partner who killed himself at the park named Arnold but beyond that they know nothing about him and haven't been able to find so much as a picture.  The three head to Pariah, where just as promised, it's a lot more dangerous and sexually explicit than the center of the park.  Head Douchebro hasn't been out this far into the game but that doesn't cause him to show any kind of caution.

Later, Dolores spots a vision of herself and follows it to into a parade. She hears Ford's voice saying sleep and when we see Dolores again, she is underground being interviewed.  Maybe this explains how it is that Benard has been able to seemingly pull Dolores out of the game without anyone knowing. Could it be that the hosts aren't physically in the basement and what we are seeing during the interview is a projection?  At any rate, Ford asks a crucial question, “Tell me Dolores, do you remember the man I used to be? … I’m sure you remember him — Arnold, the person that created you?”

Before we can even get excited about this big revelation, Ford starts questioning the last time Delores had contact with Arnold, speaking about Arnold in the third person.  Is Ford Arnold or not?  Is it just some identity he has run from? Dolores says that she hasn't heard from Arnold and reveals that Arnold wanted her to destroy the park.  In her head, Delores hears a voice saying,  “He doesn’t know. I didn’t tell him anything.”  I don't know about you but I'm even more confused and I didn't think that was possible. The only thing I know for certain is that Delores is the key to everything about the park, she just doesn't know it yet.

Things are just as shifty behind the scenes.  Elise is busy working on a bartender who cannot seem to actually pour whiskey into a glass when she sees the stray host who bashed his head in get wheeled by. Elise decides to investigate but first she has to get past a tech, who steadfastly believes that she should stay in her lane.  Elise produces video of the tech having sex with a dead host and blackmails him into giving her the access she needs. Hey, if the host was never truly alive, does this still count as necrophilia?  Yeah, I know, either way, it's gross. When Elise gets a good look at the stray, she discovers a transmitter lodged in its arm.  Elise heads straight to Bernard to tell him what's going on. She's figured out that the stray was trying to get high enough to send off a signal. Someone inside the park is trying to steal the code and no one knows who or why?  I would blame Douchebro but he's not that smart, so it must be someone we haven't met yet or someone on the inside.

The MIB (Man in Black) is still making his way through the park with Lawrence and Teddy in tow. Teddy, who as we know is destined to die saving Delores is not doing well.  This time however, the MIB cannot afford to let Teddy die, so he kills Lawrence, drains his blood and gives Teddy a transfusion.  Teddy is still in pretty rough shape but when the MIB tells him that his nemesis Wyatt has kidnapped Delores, Teddy gets up and starts moving.

Teddy and the MIB make a stop at a saloon and are visited by none other than Ford himself. It seems pretty clear that Ford and the MIB have history.  The MIB talks about Westworld needing a real villain, a role he has clearly taken on himself. He does however ponder if Wyatt has been created to fill this void. The MIB taunts Ford about trying to stop him and Ford makes it clear that he has no interest in doing so. The MIB then wonders if Ford is a host and threatens to cut him open with a knife, only to be stopped by Teddy.  The MIB may want to play the role of villain, but it's Ford who has the real power.  This scene is absolutely intense and there's no doubt that both Hopkins and Harris earned every damn dollar. With a snap of his fingers, Ford sets the piano playing again and leaves. Teddy stands and says that it's time for them to get moving.

Having turned black hat, Willian and  Douchebro seek out a group of ex soldiers called the Confederados.  To make contact they meet with none other than Lawrence. Yes, that Lawrence. Okay this has to mean that I am right and that we are not seeing the story in a linear fashion because there's no way the techs could have fixed Lawrence fast enough to have him appear in Pariah.
Lawrence sets up, Delores, William and Douchebro to rob a stage coach. Douchebro for some reason cannot get it into his head that he's not in the center of the game anymore and that the rules are changed.  He does his usual douchebro things and it comes with the consequence of getting punched and choked. Luckily for him, William steps up to the plate and kills his attacker.

As a reward for their actions, they're all invited to an orgy.  Delores, while fascinated by the goings on, clearly isn't really interested in participating. I guess this is her ranchers daughter programming kicking in, and she walks away. William kills Douchebros buzz by talking about the morality of fucking hosts.  Douchebro is not impressed, believing that William had finally flipped his switch and gone bad. Douchebro taunts William about being safe and talks about the day of William's promotion and how he thanked him for the opportunity.  In essence, Douchebro attempts to emasculate William by suggesting that William's weak and that his accomplishments are meaningless.

While the boys fight, Delores find a tarot card reader and is told that she must follow the maze. Delores the sees what looks like a wire lodged in her arm and she starts to pull on it, removing skin in the process. Is this a way of letting the audience know that like the stray, Delores has a transmitter inside her arm? Is that how she is managing to communicate with someone off screen? Is this what is influencing her behaviour?

Lawrence has used his time alone to double cross William and Douchebro by filling the bottles of explosive with tequila and then giving them to the Confederdos. He pumps the explosive into the now dead man who guided William and Douchebro to Pariah.

William and Delores meet up and pause for a moment when they see that Douchebro has been captured by the Confederdos.  For once, the hosts have the upper hand and so Douchebro asks for help but William turns his back.  I know that I'm not the only who celebrated Douchebro getting his ass kicked.  Unfortunately, William and Delores find themselves cornered. After losing his gun to a Confederdos, William yells for Delores to run but instead she fires her weapon, killing three men. Delores explains that she was able to shoot by imagining that she wasn't a damsel who needed to be saved. Is this more proof of Delores coming into her own, or is it yet another sign of Ford tinkering in the park?  The two then chase after a departing train to escape the Confederdos and run right back into Lawrence again.

In the final scene, we had back into a lab where a tech is working on a bird using a stolen control pad to play with the code. He is so fixated on this he doesn't really pay attention to Maeve, until he turns to find that the bird has landed on Maeve's finger and she is sitting upright. Unlike the last time Maeve woke up in the lab, she's not confused or scared; instead she tells Vincent that it's time for them to have a little chat.  While we have been seeing the hosts awakenings largely through Delores leaving her tiny story, I really want to see the different spin Maeve can put on it. Unlike Delores, Maeve wasn't written to be a delicate little flower who needed saving or presents as an easy target. Maeve is a street smart prostitute who sees all of the angles.  What does Maeve want to know and where is her consciousness leading her?