Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Westworld, Season 2, Episode 1: Journey Into the Night

Westworld is one of those shows which is hard to recap because you almost want to quote every word because nearly every speech has so much nuance

Take our opening scene with Arnold and Delores having a conversation about a dozen or so different things at once.

But after all that setting it up we now have Bernard waking up on the beach to see an army of people moving in. Stubbs, the former security head, is the only familiar face and everything is under the control of Karl Strand, a Delos big wig with a small army of men. We also have one of the big mysteries solved - where is Westworld? Well we have actual soldiers from an actual government wanting to find out what is happening only to be given their marching orders by Strand because apparently their government gave them possession of this island and complete rights over it. Even in the case of massacres apparently

So Westworld is an island - and we hear there are 6 more parks on this island as well because some creatures (like a tiger) are crossing borders). What we do see a lot this episode is a lot more blurring of lines between the humans and the hosts - we see this from Karl as well. His men are rounding up hosts and shooting them.

And yes I expected them to destroy the hosts. But this isn’t how you deal with malfunctioning equipment. This isn’t even how you deal with equipment that you’re scrapping. Especially very expensive equipment - and doubly so when it’s resilient. After all, from a practical point of view, hosts are designed for two things: to be super realistic and to be killed repeatedly. Any competent designer would make them resilient and easily repaired - especially when facing bullet wounds which in an old west park happens a LOT. Gathering them together and shooting them? Not a clever way to destroy them. But it is how you kill a human enemy...

Bernard is having something of an amnesia incident which Karl really needs him to get over, especially when they examine one of the host’s memories and find that Delores is the one killing everyone - human and host alike. Which rather confuses the tech because Delores is the nice welcoming face and she has gone waaaay further off script than hosts are supposed to.

So let’s have some flashbacks. Bernard and a group of expendable extras and Charlotte. She thinks that This is all set up by Ford as an elaborate suicide and doesn’t buy Bernard’s theory that the hosts are acting on their own free will. They try to escape, killing one pretty innocent host, finding other hosts torturing and killing humans and the extras all eventually walk into a trap and are slaughtered by former members of Wyatts gang who are now following Delories.

That leaves Bernard and Charlotte to find one of Charlotte’s secret Delos bases. Inside are deeply deeply creepy drone hosts who are doing disturbing experiments harvesting guest DNA and experiences from hosts… which to me means either a) blackmail or b) scarily accurate clone hosts used to replace people in the real world and do Delos’s bidding. Both makes Delos scary.

Charlotte seeks a rescue but her bosses don’t really give a shit about her - they want the host she uploaded all the secret data on. Until she delivers that, no rescue. But Bernard knows tricks which will help her track this Host (Delores’s father) down.

But he’s also having problems. During the escape he was… wounded?Damaged? Basically his brain is cracked and he needs to inject himself with more host brain goo to keep functioning. This could be a problem and introduce a weird serial killer storyline.

And from here we have Delores.

I think one of the main questions on this season is less “who is a host and who is human” but how awake are various hosts? Like we’ve seen Rebus, a rather nasty host, killing humans in torturous ways - is he awake and seeking revenge or just following his programming to be a nasty mid-level bad guy who just sees humans as other hosts now?

Or we have the innocent stablehand boy so deep in his code he’s offering happy horsey rides to people covered in blood and cowering in terror. Even with the park fully running that kind of obliviousness to external stimuli would never pass muster for a host.

And then there’s Delores. And I approve of the fact that one of the first things Delores does, beyond kill many people and torment them and generally being super super scary, is lay out her consciousness. She, Bernard and Maeve are perhaps the only hosts we know have broken their code - and there’s still doubt with Maeve and maybe Bernard. She lays it out, she remembers every one of her lives: she remembers the role of the innocent, good-seeing farmer’s daughter. She remembers her role of the cruel, murderous Wyatt. But they are roles, and what has grown now is neither of these personalities, it’s something else. It’s her. I like that she’s not even saying her new self is a combination of those roles - she’s saying she remembers those roles but they’re NOT HER. She, herself, as a fully realised person, is a completely separate entity from the roles she played.

Allegedly… I think the test will be when she meets Charlotte’s lost host - her father. And she is still forged by the lifetimes of rape, torture and death she’s endured

Teddy is another character whose code is in doubt. Is he awake and aware? Or is he just utterly devoted to Delores which is pretty much the central theme of his code? He is also basically good and not entirely happy with Delores slaughtering and tormenting everyone. But she has a plan - she describes monsters that live among them (humans) which must be stopped if they’re to be free. And they can’t just make Westworld Human free - because humans own a whole world that will destroy them

Which is ominous. True. But ominous. Especially since she has her gang looking for something.

William, the Man in Black, has managed to survive. And, after a moment when I thought he was genuinely afraid when faced with a park where he could actually be hurt and die, seems to be absolutely loving the new park with consequences. Even if it means a couple of desperate fights for survival and having to treat his own bullet wound.

He also runs across the small boy host which has a message from Ford -yes even though dead he’s still pulling strings: this time setting up a game for William. Not a maze - a door.

Which raises the question of whether Ford is actually just pulling alll the strings from behind the scenes all along even after death- perhaps even Delores herself.

Now to the main storyline (I can call it main if I want to) Maeve!

So we have Lee, the super arrogant writer, facing the cannibal host he created quoting his own lines at him as he plans to eat him. All the voice commands fail - or his does. Maeve’s do not when she rescues him

She looks classy and awesome. We have awesome lines like:
“Did you do all this?”
“No, but I suspect I share the sensibilities of whoever did”.

He is less so and he quickly begins digging a deep hole by questioning whether Maeve is real, whether her daughter is real and generally not reading the room. He does realise that staying near Maeve may get him not dead and offers to help her find his daughter. Except as they go through the complex they find everyone is dead and no-one is in control at all while Lee quietly melts down

They do find some human soldiers and Lee almost exposes Maeve, only for some hosts to arrive and Maeve use a big machine gun to get rid of the pesky humans. She then comes soooo close to exposing Lee before covering for him and making it clear that trying that again would be a Very Bad Idea.

And it must be somewhat galling to have her quote threats to him that he wrote.

She drags him along to find her daughter at least in part in punishment for saying her daughter isn’t real. Besides even if he does hate the outdoors, no-one knows the characters in the park better than him

They arrive at the bar - and Hector is there, alive. He’s a bit beat up but Maeve can patch him up after they have a passionate reunion (he is not shocked and she not overly apologetic about her abandoning him).

And then we have one of the most meaningful moments of the show. Maeve makes Lee change clothes to fit in. And she makes him strip in front of them - and it’s full frontal nudity. It’s stark and necessary because it’s the ultimate symbol of power we’ve seen on this show. Naked hosts - especially Maeve - vulnerable, prodded and molested by humans, controlled especially by Lee, the main author. This nudity is the ultimate symbol of the reversal of power - Lee naked and vulnerable at the orders of Maeve.

Back to the present, Bernard leads Karl to a huge lake, a sea, which shouldn’t be there. In it are floating many host bodies. He has a memory flash - he says he killed them all.