Monday, October 17, 2016

Westworld, Season One, Episode Three: The Stray

I'm not even sure where to begin talking about this episode which left me more confused than anything else.  One of the biggest problems with Westworld is the size of its cast.  There are so many characters, each with their own motivation and backstory that three episodes in I still don't have a good understanding of who these people are.  Sure, the robots all have a connection relating to their consciousness and its definitely headed somewhere but its happening at different levels for each individual robot.

Let's begin with Delores and Teddy, who seem to be fated to never get together thanks to the way their story has been written.  Teddy has always been destined to love Dolores and die trying to protect her, while Dolores has been fated to be raped night after night for the entertainment of the guests who want to participate in this sort of thing.  Dolores gets to watch Teddy and her mother be murdered, find her father dead and be raped.  This story line is Dolores's loop and it's beyond gruesome and dark. It's particularly troubling that Dolores is remembering what's happening to her rather than waking each morning with a clean slate.

Last week, we saw Dolores dig up a gun and have it appear in her dresser.  Later, we see that the gun has disappeared from the dresser.  When Dolores heads into to town, she is accosted by some men and Teddy intervenes.  Teddy then takes her to learn how to shoot a gun and we learn that Dolores cannot seem to pull the trigger. This of course telegraphs the moment when the assault inevitably plays out and this time, Dolores finds the gun in a haystack.  She points the weapon at the would be rapist and hears a voice in her head tell her to pull the trigger.  Dolores manages to do so and escapes right into the arms of William.

Who is the voice and what does it represent?  Ford has been making some changes in the park and Bernard wants to know what's going on given how the robots are reacting.  For much of Westworld to date, we've seen Ford have a wistful approach towards his creations but this week, he's quite adamant that the robots aren't real and most certainly are not conscious of their environment. Ford goes as far as to chastise one of his workers who covers a nude robot to protect its modesty.  Ford talks to Barnard about the early days of the park and his partner Arnold, who wanted to the robots to achieve consciousness and he does so by instructing them to hear the voice of God and then act upon it. According to Ford, Arnold died in the park and it's clear that Ford believes this to be because of Arnold's hubris.  The fact that we now have at least two robots arguing with an invisible Arnold suggests that possibly, Arnold may not be dead.  We know that Dolores for instance acted on a prompt to shoot from an invisible voice. Ford clearly thinks that Barnard may going down the same path as Arnold in an attempt to heal his broken heart at the death of his son and takes care to warn him that the robots aren't real.

Barnard, as we know, has been having private meetings with Dolores which he has been keeping secret. It's clear Barnard has been trying to determine Dolores's level of consciousness and in his own way, prodding it along by giving her books he read to his now deceased son.  Barnard asks Dolores leading questions and with each answer prompts her to learn why she answered the way that she did. Barnard is trying to consider whether to continue with the experiment of allowing Dolores to continue to develop sentience.  He finally comes to a determination when Dolores says, that she will be free when she knows who she is. It's a telling statement given that all of the backstories have been written for the robots and they are playing out scenarios for the entertainment of others.

Things are clearly changing for Dolores and she at least has the will to want something different. This is evident in her scene with Teddy when she asks him to take her away.  When Teddy says someday, Dolores suggests that someday is what people say when they really mean never.  It's enough to make wonder if Dolores is willing to flea with or without Teddy.  As for Teddy, he has been programmed with some unspecified guilt and cannot move forward.

Teddy is clearly nowhere near the level of sentience of Dolores and is still very much a play thing. Ford, in his attempt to give the guests something new writes a new backstory for Teddy which includes his former commanding officer from the war Wyatt, who believes something new is coming and is clearly the land for that entity. Wyatt's does so by torture, murder and skinning people.  This interrupts Teddy's loop with Dolores because instead of being killed on the ranch, Teddy now heads out to hunt for Wyatt, promising Dolores that he will return.  Ford may have given Teddy a backstory but it's clear that he still believes that Teddy was made to die.

While Ford has been tinkering with the robots, Dolores and Maeve have been having flashbacks and Barnard has been mourning and deciding whether or not Dolores's possible consciousness represents new life and thus a salve for his loss, things have once again not been running smoothly in the park. Some of the robots are caught in a loop because the robot responsible for starting a fire and chopping wood is missing.  In order to limit the danger to guests, robots are assigned specific tasks.  It's up to Stubbs and Elise to track down the missing robot and Stubbs enters the park armed to the teeth. Stubbs snarks that only one line in Elise's code is keeping them safe.  When they finally make it to the robots who are stuck in a loop, Elise discovers wood carvings made by the missing robot of Orion.  This stumps Elise and Westworld doesn't exactly explain why this is significant.  It suggests that they are dropping seeds to follow them back later.

When Stubbs and Elise finally find the missing robot, he is stuck in a crevice, waving his hands in the air like a zombie. After asking Elise to shutdown the robot, Stubbs enters the crevice to free the robot and this involves dismembering him.  Stubbs starts slashing the neck of the robot only to be attacked. The robot then makes its way out of the crevice and heads in Elise's direction. Elise trips and ends up on the ground as the robot picks up a large rock. For a moment, the robot looks like it's going to attack Elise but it ends up bashing its own head in with a rock.  It seems that this robot is also aware and that it wants it all to stop.

I really think that what Westworld desperately needs is some focus.  Yes, we have the large sentience plot line with all of the robots but it feels all so disconnected somehow.  We know that its coming to a point where all of the robots will rebel in some way and already, I think I'm team robot.

This week we learned that Ford isn't just some wistful old man.  He clearly has a dark cold side which is leading somewhere.

As for Arnold, at this point I suspect that he's actually the MIB (read: Man in Black).  We know that the MIB has been coming to the park for thirty years and searching for a deeper level in the game. We also know that the MIB is allowed to kill as man robots as he wants without intervention from the staff for some reason.  My only reason to doubt this assertion is the fact that the so-called voice of God doesn't sound like Ed Harris but given all of the futuristic technology, changing the sound of a voice certainly isn't out of the realm of possibility.