This particular episode of Westworld was helmed by one of my favorite directors, Neil Marshall, the director of The Descent and Doomsday, two of the best female oriented action/horror movies made in the past ten years, and Dog Soldiers, the only werewolf vs.soldier movie worth looking at.
The information is flying fast and fierce, and if you blink, or get up to go to the bathroom, you will have to re-watch, because you’ll have missed some crucial element of the plot that will pay off later. We get answers to some nagging little questions, and backstories for the humans and the Hosts.
James Marsden’s character, Teddy Flood, finally gets a backstory, courtesy of Robert Ford, which is loosely connected to the origin of Westworld. It involves Teddy’s pursuit of an evil character named Wyatt (not the MIB, as far as I can tell, but I could be wrong). Teddy has things to say about Wyatt, an old friend of his he used to serve under in the military, who deserted his career, went out into the landscape, and came back with what Teddy calls “strange ideas”. Wyatt claimed to hear “The Voice of God” and we’ll get back to that in a moment.
Dolores’ and Teddy’s story is deepened as we are shown their budding romance, and their plans to ride off into the sunset together, one day. Its funny and interesting to watch the Hosts interacting with each other like regular people because I have to keep reminding myself they’ve been programmed to do this.
Dolores is still adjusting to her new state of consciousness, and Wright’s character, Bernard, is fascinated with it. He still hasn’t had Dolores re-coded, or decommissioned, and it became obvious last episode that the consciousness she possesses is contagious, (so it won’t take long until Teddy is also infected I’m guessing.) Bernard’s head programmer, Elsie, is becoming increasingly suspicious of why he refuses to correct this problem.
I did kind of get tired of seeing Dolores be bossed around as anybody’s meat. The creators of the park have made her nothing more than a perpetual victim and it was kind of nice to see her take charge and defend herself for the first time.
Teddy tries to teach her how to shoot but it turns out that the weapons use protocol is something given only to specific Hosts, like Teddy, and the stray mentioned in the title. Dolores is incapable of pulling the trigger. But thanks to her secret conversations with Bernard, and reading a specific passage in Alice in Wonderland that he’d given to her, she is able to transcend her programming and shoot one of the Hosts who’d been intending to rape her. Bernard would be proud of her. Its a great scene, where Dolores memories, of what happened to her, save her life, as the camera flips back and forth between the past and the present.
About all those rape threats: The creators were questioned about this before the show aired and they assured viewers that it exists in the show for a reason, and that there would be payoff. I was initially dubious of this claim because it’s HBO. and known for its depictions of violence against women, but I’ve changed my mind since then. I think it is serving a purpose in showing the evolution of the hosts, and of Dolores, in particular.
Its also nice to see what I talked about in my last review. During this episode, Teddy has been accompanied by an unnamed female Guest, only ever referred to as his “dickless associate”, who has decided to go for the gunslinger experience. This is her adventure happening simultaneous with William’s and his boorish friend, Logan, and a couple of other Guests, and she turns out to be both tougher and braver than all of them. You can also tell she’s having the time of her life as she shoots down men, and cozies up to Clementine, for a discount. (I also want to point out that Clementine is absolutely gorgeous and a lot of Hosts and Guests seem to have crushes on her. Apparently she is a Park favorite.)
Interestingly, the adventure they’re all on, hunting down Wyatt along the river, with cannibals and Natives, is pretty much the exact scenario of the narrative that Ford gave short shrift to in the last episode. I was under the impression that the Red River narrative had been stalled, but the adventure we see in this episode contains all the narrative elements that Sizemore discussed in his pitch last week, and I wonder if he introduced that narrative without anyone’s permission. Notice that all the Hosts in this scene are holding weapons.
William decides to go on an adventure to hunt down some other outlaw, and Logan reluctantly decides to tag along.William, who has just been firmly confirmed as a White Hat, has just saved the life of Clementine, and was shot for his trouble. Apparently Guests can be shot, and it does hurt, I guess, because he falls down, but Guests can’t be killed. What he was hit with, I don’t know. Its also said by Logan that their adventures in Westworld cost some 40 thousand dollars a day. So yeah, you have to be making some nice dough to afford regular visits.
We get more backstory on Bernard. He lost his young son at some point in the last year and Ford is concerned that he is using the Hosts as a substitute. Bernard is still in touch with his wife (ex-wife), Lauren, played by the Goddess Gina Torres, while sleeping with Cullen, (Westworld’s operations director), on the downlow. He goes to Ford to express concerns about the Hosts, concerns brought to him by Elsie. Ford explains that he used to have a partner named Arnold, and this is where the “voice of God” idea comes in, which also ties in the philosophy of “bicameralism”.
(Bicameralism (the philosophy of “two-chamberedness”) is a hypothesis in psychology that argues that the human mind once assumed a state in which cognitive functions were divided between one part of the brain which appears to be “speaking”, and a second part which listens and obeys—a bicameral mind. The term was coined by Julian Jaynes, who presented the idea in his 1976 book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, wherein he made the case that a bicameral mentality was the normal and ubiquitous state of the human mind as recently as 3000 years ago. –Wikipedia)
At some point, Arnold was going to program the Hosts with this feature, which would allow the Hosts to overcome their basic programming, and interact in any situation, but Arnold killed himself before it could be implemented. There’s the implication here that Ford may have had something to do with Arnold’s death as the two of them disagreed about this endeavor. The new programming that Ford has implemented “The Reveries” that allows Dolores to overcome her inability to use weapons, comes to her as the Voice of God, but only after she remembers being tortured by the MIB. The Host that went batshit last episode, and killed a bunch of Hosts before pouring milk on them, was seen speaking to a voice only he could hear, named Arnold.
Ford shows Bernard a picture of Arnold, and no, he doesn’t look like Ed Harris character, but he does look sorta like Wyatt. (Not saying he is Wyatt, just that they look alike to me.)
The Stray of the title refers to a lost Host who has wandered off and gotten trapped in some gulch in, the desert. Hilariously, the group of outlaws he was with, have been caught in a kind of feedback loop, unable to move forward in the narrative because none of them possess the “weapons protocol “, and that Stray is the one Host in their group that is allowed to handle the ax. So they have been sitting in the same place for two days, staring at a decaying jackrabbit, because there’s no fire, arguing about who is going to cut the firewood, as none of them can pick up the ax, but they don’t understand why.
Ashley, Westworld’s Head of Security, played by Luke Hemsworth, (the brother of the taller, and prettier Liam) and Elsie go hunting for the Stray, and this is quite a pairing, as Elsie is a master of the snarky putdown and deploys some of her best at Ashley, who grows increasingly irritated. When they find the Host, Ashley goes down into the gulch to take its head (to decommission it), it attacks and climbs free, but rather than bludgeoning Elsie with a large rock, it kills itself instead.
So there was a lot of information packed into this episode, and the mystery of the Maze and the Man in Black is slowly unfolding as viewers speculate if he is actually Arnold. Ford did say Arnold had gone insane and died in the park and Ed Harris character says he was born there. We find the Stray has gone haywire in the same manner, as Elsie finds a small stone version of the maze in his tent. She pockets it and doesn’t tell Ashley.
And here’s another perspective from Tumblr:
The above actor’s performance (Louis Herthum seriously shook me) , Jeffrey Wright, Thandie Newton, and Anthony Hopkins being in this sold me in the pilot.
Haven’t had a bit of genre haunt me like that since the second episode of Black Mirror.
On to my bulleted thoughts on it, so far:
- As a black viewer, I couldn’t help comparing how the Hosts are used as entertainment, fun props to use to make the Guest “feel something new” while they themselves are seen as non-entities. In fact, it is mandated that they be dehumanized in every non-Westworld setting. Reminds me, specifically of how black entertainment is used in a similar way by non-blacks, while the people are often seen as disposable.
- Likewise, Dolores and Maeve’s narratives, I see as apt metaphors of aspects of misogyny and misogynoir. Dolores and Maeve both embody the perfect Virgin/Whore dichotomy, and their casting, in terms of race and look are incredibly on the nose with casting and viewer constantly placing women like them in those roles; exotic” unbreakable whore and virginal damsel.
- Jeffrey Wright is my absolute favorite working actor. Period. Ever since, of all things, the remake of Shaft and then going back to watch him in Basquiat. I adore his precision. He’s one if I hear he’s in it, I will watch it, right along with Michael Shannon. …I think Bernard may be a Host.
- The Man in Black was there for the last “accident” 30 years ago and that is the reason for obsession with the ultimate quest. That is a definite hat-tip to the original movie, which I am also a fan of, despite it being very different from this incarnation. I also think that’s why it “isn’t for him.” despite his loyal patronage.
- The actual purpose of the Hosts, which Theresa Cullen hinted at, I think both she and Bernard are doing their best to coax from the Hosts as comes from orders above Ford’s head.
- Maeve’s awakening on the table along with Dolores’ original father’s glitch and subsequent shelving were absolutely the most heartbreaking parts of the show for me, thus far.
- LOL @ Teddy, the man who “has to lose” in order for the Guests to feel like winners being played by James (Perpetual Second Fiddle in EVERYTHING) Marsden.
- This show has been blessed by that cameo by GINA TORRES <3
- I have seen Jimmi Simpson shine in so many day player roles over the years, I’m happy to see him getting bigger featured roles.
- All the gamer stereotypes are on this show, the newbie, the pro, the troll, the filthy casual, the girl gamer (my favorite so far, she’s the only one who is actually in full rp mode actually enjoying playing”) and on and on.
- OMG!!!! this show is chock full scenery porn, both western and speculative. Lord, the details. <3
- I am thoroughly intrigued and here for this show until it’s end or quality dips.
- The diversity of Hosts and Guests in both race and sexual orientation is much appreciated.
- I also can’t wait to see Tessa Thompson show up.