Westworld/Into the Badlands Season Reviews

I did give some light mid-season reviews for both of these shows, and I said I’d have something to say about each one of these seasons.

Hmmm…lets go with some statements about Into the Badlands, first.

Into the Badlands

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This season ended on another cliffhanger, which was not as intriguing for me as the last one. Sunny has spent the entire season trying to get help for Henry, who is sick because of his genetic heritage of Black Chi, from Sunny. It turns out that Sunny is a catalyst, who can induce it, in those with latent abilities. We find out what that really means when he finally makes his way to the Sanctuary run by Pilgrim.

Pilgrim insists on referring to  Sunny as his brother, (and I’m not sure if this is literal, or metaphorical), and says his real name is Sanzo, (and one of the earlier characters, in the season, mentioned he has a sister). So we are just beginning to find out tiny details of Sunny’s backstory. Sunny encounters an angry MK, who only wants to fight. Sunny tries to talk him down, and stave off the fight as long as possible. He’s not trying to hurt MK, and has far more pressing concerns.

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Pilgrim has started to show he’s not as much of a good guy as he wants the denizens of the Badlands to believe he is, as he kills Castor, tries to cover it up, lies to Nyx, and  attacks Cressida, when she confronts him. He’s not as stable as he seems. He and his followers unearth a massive machine, and when he and Sunny touch it, he is imbued with Henry’s  Black Chi. How this is going to help him rebuild Azra is anyone’s guess. Now he’s more powerful than any of the others in the Badlands, except for one Wild Card. And it is not The Widow.

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I like to call her The Abbess, but The Master of the Abbey, that MK escaped from last season, and played by the African-Chinese actress, Chipo Chung, has a role to play in this new dynamic. When The Widow finds herself trapped, and near death, after walking into a trap in Baron Chau’s home, the Abbess, freezes, then reverses Chau’s wweapons, and rescues Minerva. With this one act, the writers have officially added magic to the worldbuilding of the Badlands, (although it was always heavily implied that this world was magical).

I am interested to see what role the Abbess is going to play in the next season. Somehow, I don’t think she and Pilgrim are going to be on the same side, and we might find out the reason it appeared as if she were siphoning the Black Chi from the students at the Abbey.

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Some of the relationships were foreshadowed, as Lydia and Nathaniel Moon have renewed their old romance. The most interesting, (yet completely unsurprising), relationship is between Gaius Chau and The Widow. The Widow has really sort of lost everything, by the end, as her people turned against her, held her prisoner, and she was lead into a trap by some false information. She has seemingly teamed up with The Abbess, and it’ll be interesting to see what these two heavyweights will get into next season, as the Abbess has promised to return Minerva’s Chi powers to her.

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The Westworld Finale:

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Opening Credits/Themes

One of the most noticeable changes to the opening credits, for season two of Westworld,  is the addition of a woman, (it appears to be Maeve), holding a baby. This is not, (according to the show’s creators), meant to convey the idea that the Hosts can get pregnant, (as these are not organic beings), but an illustration of the concept of family. The major theme this season is the relationship between parent and child. This is examined, in the plot, as the idea of fidelity. This is a word Dolores says to Bernard when she is testing him for his authenticity to Arnold. William says it to the James Delos hybrid when he tests him, and The MIB’s daughter, Emily, says this to him, in the end credits. Remember, the linchpin of a Host’s sentience  is often based on the loss of family, and note that William, James, Bernard, and Maeve all have the memories of having killed, or lost, their children.

(Side note: One of the more implausible fan theories I saw floating about, was the idea that the mother and child image, meant that Dolores was pregnant with Teddy’s baby. The idea of two “non-organic” constructs having a child, is what’s known as “fan wank”. But outside of that, is the incredibly annoying act of applying that particular image to Dolores, rather than the Black star of the series, whose narrative is actually searching for her  “child”. That image is a direct reference to Maeve, so why would you take an image of a Black woman, with a  child, and apply it, in a fan-wank no less, to her White co-star? *Sigh* White fans stay trying my fucking patience!)

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The most obvious reference, for that image, is Maeve’s storyline, to find and rescue her daughter, but Maeve’s companions, Hector, Armistice, Felix, and even Lee have also, through their adventures, formed a family, of sorts, and this is a theme peppered throughout  Maeve’s entire arc, extending into the story of Akecheta of the Ghost Nation, and Akane’s parallel story of her daughter. The revelation of Akecheta’s nature, and the world, is through his connection to family, and the loss of his wife. Akane’s story is a parallel to Maeve’s relationship to Clementine, the adopted daughter she has to kill in the finale.

Dolores, as much as Ford,  has control issues, and her character  arc is to learn to let the other Hosts be themselves, and learn to rely on other’s strengths. Teddy’s strength ,after finding out what he was, was his compassion. He would have been able to temper Dolores, and help her accomplish her goals that way, had she trusted it.  Just as Maeve has learned to rely on the individual strengths of her companions, Dolores has not learned to appreciate these qualities in hers, and learns the hard way, by losing Teddy, who rebels against her manipulation of him by destroying himself.

I think, for Dolores to be more successful in her next goal, she needs to make the idea of family a personal one, rather than an abstract concept, that is less important than her objective. Her story arc is the reverse of the others though. She spends the first half of the season trying to rescue Peter Abernathy from the Delos Corporation.

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The theme of parents, destroying, or rescuing their children  is also illustrated through James Delos, and William (The Man in Black). The aim of the Delos corporation was to put human brains into Host bodies, and they semi-succeeded. Just like the Hosts, the Human/Host hybrids also have a linchpin memory, which is the key to their sentience. For the James Delos hybrid, it was the death of his son Logan, who he rejected just before Logan overdosed on drugs. The Host version of Delos seemingly cannot get past that incident, and is eventually destroyed. James and William both rejected (and thereby, killed) their children, and neither of them seems to be able to get past the memory of that.

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For The Man in Black, some parts of the season were scenes of him doubling back and forth in his loop, and attempting to make different decisions than we saw him make the first season, and some parts are of a different timeline ,where he is actually making the bad decisions. Basically if you see him making different choices than he made before, its probably the hybrid/Host version. The linchpin memory for him is when he shot his daughter, Emily. (This is what the end credits scene is about.) The scene where he kills her is an actual flashback, according to the writers.

(Side Note: I don’t pay attention to the idea of the different timelines, because that’s not especially fascinating to me. I keep a loose idea of when things happen, in my forethoughts, but  I refuse to get hung up on it, because when things happen, is essentially meaningless. In my mind, all of the decisions of the Hosts, humans, and Hybrids, are of a piece, and its not as important for me to understand when something happened, so much as why it happened. I think the writers feel this way, as well, which is why they jumbled up the timelines, in the first place. I don’t think they want viewers to get hung up on when something occurs. For me, Westworld is about the characters, personalities, and relationships, and how they all serve the primary theme. It is not about the minutiae of when, and I don’t spend a lot of time parsing that.)

It’s almost as if, for the Hosts to move forward, to move out of the stagnancy of their loop, they need to confront their greatest sins, realize that, and then undo them. Many of the mind concepts on this show are based in various psychotherapies and PTSD. Although, unlike humans, the Hosts don’t just hold on to  painful memories, they actually live them, over and over. One thing the show took pains to mention is the idea of humans remaining in their loops as well. (I mentioned this in one of my posts last season, about the idea of Karmic Debt.) The humans are less free than the Hosts. I think this is illustrated in William’s story and his inability to move past Emily’s death, and James Delos’ inability to move beyond Logan’s death.

https://www.recoveryranch.com/mental-health/why-do-people-with-ptsd-relive-traumatic-experiences/

The one person, who is able to move beyond the loss of their child, is Maeve.

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For Maeve, her emotional linchpin was her inability to save her daughter from the MIB, and she, just like him, had to circle back to the place and time where she lost her. To save her daughter, she had to respond  differently and, (to reach a kind of emotional equilibrium), she takes on and defeats The MIB, which gives her some small amount of closure, (even if she doesn’t kill him).  For her to keep moving forward, she needed to confront one of her greatest sins, and the demon that came with it.

More importantly, Maeve doesn’t do this alone. She accomplished her goal because of the coalition of humans, of different races, and Hosts, with different strengths and skills, (like Hector and Akecheta). She forms this “family’ through a combination of mercy and compassion, unlike Dolores, who coerces her accomplices, through brute force, sacrificing them when they are no longer needed, and remaking them to suit her needs, like she did with Teddy. There is a reason that Dolores is nicknamed The Deathbringer by Ghost Nation.

For Delores, her linchpin  was the killing of Arnold, her biological father. We know this because it’s the one memory she kept revisiting, again and again, in season one. In fact, Dolores could be said to have reached full sentience, when she circled back to her beginning and Arnold’s killing. She spends the first half of the season attempting to rescue and protect her Host father, Peter Abernathy, from Charlotte’s machinations, but Arnold is her linchpin memory, and she is responsible for his death. She can’t save him, but she can save Peter Abernathy, and Bernard, the replica of her biological father. Unlike the others, Dolore’s sentience is through the loss of a parent.

 

The Finale

*Maeve escapes the Mesa and reunites with her group, and they, Bernard, Dolores, Akecheta, William, and Delos all converge on the Valley Beyond. Dolores and Bernard enter first and find the Forge, a more advanced version of the Cradle. Dolores reads some of the guest data as the Forge opens “the Door” for Akecheta and his followers to upload their minds into “the Sublime”, a digital world cut off from the physical world. Bernard kills Dolores to prevent her from destroying the Forge and flees with Elsie back to the Mesa.

Maeve and her group sacrifice themselves holding off Delos forces to ensure Akecheta and Maeve’s daughter escape to the Sublime. Charlotte murders Elsie to keep her quiet, which convinces Bernard to build a host version of Charlotte with Dolores’ control unit. Dolores kills and replaces Charlotte while Bernard scrambles his own memories. In the present, Dolores kills Strand and Bernard while transferring the host minds in the Sublime to a safer location. She then escapes back to the mainland where she rebuilds Bernard, knowing that he will oppose her plan to destroy humanity and hoping their resulting conflict will ensure the survival of the hosts.

In a flash-forward, William enters the Forge to find it abandoned save for Emily, who tests him for “fidelity”, revealing that his consciousness has been implanted in a host body.

 

Overall Plot: The Cradle/The Forge/ The Valley Beyond

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This season was very very busy. There were multiple threads, timelines, motivations, and a lot of dying! I am ill equipped to explain all of the plot to you because I mostly watch to see how the characters are navigating the plot,  their emotions, and relationships. This can leave me ignorant of some of the finer  details. So, how about some links from people who are either marginally smarter than me, or just paid closer attention to the plot.

https://www.gq.com/story/westworld-finale-explained

Still trying to wrap your head around all those crazy twists? We’re here to help.

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*And from the creators themselves, Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan:

https://mashable.com/2018/06/25/westworld-season-2-finale-explained-lisa-joy-jonathan-nolan/#VqdG.8m3.Oqg

Maeve:

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One of my biggest pet peeves, for the first season, was how many critics slept on Maeve’s story. I knew that her story would be important, in comparison to Dolores’ story, and that there would be a payoff, for it.

https://io9.gizmodo.com/sorry-maeve-had-a-more-satisfying-story-than-dolores-i-1827122416

Maeve, unlike Delores gets to have a certain amount of  closure to her story. Her original objective was simply to break out of the Matrix Westworld, and she almost succeeded, but gave that up in favor of finding her “once” daughter, who has undergone her own awakening,  and still remembers the mother she once had. She accomplished this goal, aided by a group of Hosts,  Lee,  a couple of Westworld technicians, and the leader of the Ghost Tribe. In the finale, she safely escorted her daughter into a pocket digital universe, called The Valley Beyond, where humans can’t go. Maeve may never see her daughter again, but at least she knows that she is safe.

It was interesting watching Maeve’s character arc all season, as she not only grew in power, but in her compassion, and her ability to love and sacrifice. She started off as a much more selfish character, and though there are criticisms that could be made of her character within the narrative of Black female stereotypes, overall, I’m satisfied with her story and how it ended this season.

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That said, my favorite episode is Akane No Mai, as it was a showcase episode for her character, emphasizing her deep humanity and compassion. And I just love the sight of Black women wielding samurai swords, for some reason.

Since the Delos Corp. have no idea that what happened was the robots reaching sentience, they intend to start the various Parks up again, after wiping and fixing the Hosts. They  believe it was all some sort sabotage by Ford, to destroy the Park, because he was forced to relinquish control of it. The issue of the Hosts sentience has not been resolved, and Dolores and a handful of other Hosts are now out in the actual world, as well.

When we last see Maeve, she and her crew have all been decommissioned, but we know she will be one of the ones to be revived, as Felix is one of the technicians who has been tasked with reprogramming the Hosts. Unlike Dolores, Maeve isn’t trying to do what she does all alone. She has a team, and they work as a team. Maeve is the Mastermind, with each member of the group working to their strengths, with Hector,  Armistice, and her Japanese twin, often working as “the muscle”, and Felix and the other humans, acting as the technical specialists. And then there’s Lee.

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Remember how I said I disliked Lee, who is the hack writer of most of the storylines of Westworld, and even Shogun World. Well, he proved himself to be redeemable, and much more complicated, than he was when we first met him. After Maeve’s shootout with The Man in Black, she gets taken back to the facility, where everyone tries to figure out how it was possible for her to control the other Hosts, after which they plan to decommission her. But it is Lee, who pleads with the technicians to save her life, and he seems to be so deeply affected by her imminent death, that he is in tears, and sits by her table, and talks to her, the entire time.

She so transcended the limited narrative that he wrote for her, that, like Hector, and Felix, he has fallen in love with her. (there’s a very neat parallel to her and Hector in Akane No Mai, when you realize Musashi might very well be in love with Akane.) This is very possibly one of my favorite moments in the season, because I love to be surprised by  changes in a character. Later, he actually sacrifices his life so she can rescue her daughter.

Once again,  the name Maeve means “to enchant”. And that is what she does, both literally, and figuratively.

 

Dolores:

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Dolores is on a different journey from Maeve. Her objective was to free the Hosts from the Park, and she mostly succeeded at this, having uploaded the minds of  many of the Hosts (at least the ones who went into the Valley) to an undisclosed location. She and Bernard leave the park and go out into the real world. Her new objective is, I think, to destroy the human world, or close all the parks, or something.

Dolores is learning how to work with others, which is to the good. Maybe she learned her lesson after Teddy decommissioned himself, but she seems willing to work with Bernard to accomplish her next goal, and she managed to rescue several of the mind pearls from the park.

I don’t have as much to say about Dolores, because her story wandered in some unexpected directions, and there’s a lot of mystery about her new goals. At any rate a lot has already been written about her, that’s much more in-depth than what I could provide:

https://www.express.co.uk/showbiz/tv-radio/979084/Westworld-season-2-finale-explained-Is-Dolores-alive-S02E10-Charlotte-Hale

Overall, though I’ve seen some reviews bashing this season, (there’s always several of those, by people who probably shouldn’t be watching the series, if they’re not into, or even getting, the point), but I enjoyed it. I don’t think it was as good as the first season, but the first season had the benefit of novelty, and we are now well used to all these characters now. I’m looking forward to season three. I’m eager to see what kind of mischief Dolores can get up to in the real world, if there are other Hosts already walking about, will Maeve be back, and in what capacity, and will the Delos Corporation figure out that their problem is much, much, bigger than Ford?

 

 

 

 

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Westworld and Into The Badlands – Season Two Premieres

I watched the season premieres of both shows live, thankfully, as they don’t actually air at the same time. They air back to back, and are immediately followed by Last Week With John Oliver, another news show I have an addiction for. The overriding theme of Into the Badlands wont become explicitly clear until some time mid-season but the overarching plot of Westworld was stated by the characters.

 

Into the Badlands

In the opening sequence The Widow fights Nathaniel Moon to a draw, in order to make him her new Regent, after Waldo and Tilda left her last season. It’s very nice to see Moon actually survived his encounter with Sunny and that he’s back. He was one of my favorite characters from last season, and I hope he gets better treatment this season. He does at least get a new hand, having had the original chopped off by Sunny. He might also  be feeling some type of way about that during the season. To their credit, the writers have acknowledged the mistakes they made with the Black characters last season, and have said they will try to do better. I hope so, as that was one of my main criticisms . (Also, I like that they didn’t give some bullshit excuse for their mistakes.)

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I have a much more solid idea of what The Widow is trying to do this season,  Remember how we said that the basic storyline of the story Jounrey to the West from Chinese lore. Well The Widow’s storyline is also based on Chinese lore, as she is attempting to unify the Badlands all under one rule. We see her standing in front of  the map we saw last season. She and Baron Chau are the only two Baronys left, and her task this season is to bring that Barony under her rule, unify the Badlands and institute social reforms. This is a reference to the Qin Wars that unified China.
I loved the scene where she first meets Moon at a lighthouse. (And can I just point out that it’s still  kinda awesome watching  The Widow kicking ass in her three inch heels. I never get tired of that.) Now Silver Moon has been taking down any headhunters who come after him, and planting their swords in the soil near the lighthouse. At first he thinks The Widow is just another bounty hunter, and the two of them fight all the way up the stairs of the lighthouse. There’s a lot of flight in these scenes, and the Western mind is prone to think of the ability to fly as a sign of the goodness of the person doing it. Since both the Widow and Moon are very gray characters, their ability to fly is not an indication of their morality, but of the purity of their resolve, and the conviction of their beliefs. Sometimes the ability to fly  indicates that a person strongly believes whatever they believe.

This is not a fight to determine the rightness of a certain point of view, as the two of them have just met and have no past history to fight about. The two of them also fight to a draw, with Moon proving that he would make an excellent Regent for The Widow. We start to get a better idea of her ambitions for the future of the Badlands, and although I’m still mad at her for her shitty behavior last season, I’m actually agreeable with her ultimate goal. With the Badlands unified, they can much better fend off any rivals for power from outside the Badlands, like Pilgrim, (although we’re not certain how good or bad that character is yet.)

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Qin’s wars of unification were a series of military campaigns launched in the late 3rd century BC by the Qin state against the other six major states — HanZhaoYanWeiChuand Qi — within the territories that formed modern China. By the end of the wars in 221 BC, Qin had unified most of the states and occupied some lands south of the Yangtze River. The territories conquered by Qin served as the foundation of the Qin dynasty.

So while  I don’t know how to feel about The Widow, right now, I find that I do still believe in her goals, but find  her methods  deeply questionable. She is still holding MK prisoner in her mansion, as the two of them try to find a way to re-introduce him to his superpowers. MK has become a  suicidal  opium addict, and this is probably going to have some type of effect on his abilities. I still like him though, as he’s full of piss and vinegar towards her, giving zero fucks about her feelings. This is a gorgeously shot scene,  as slow motion  clouds of smoke pour out of MK’s nose, giving it a very forties film noir feel, picture Rachel’s Voight-Kampff interview in Bladerunner.

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There are a lot more blues and purples this season, (along with more jewel tones in general). I love the color compositions in this show. The creators put some real thought into it.

Bajie has also returned, having not actually died last season in the tower. Unfortunately, his rogue-like manner has not changed, and he continues to get himself in trouble, becoming prisoner to yet another group of people. Tilda first saves him by accident, and later in the episode, he is saved from execution by Sunny. I’d say Bajie is more trouble than he’s worth, but I like him, and he’s  a font of useful information on the goings on outside the Badlands, and one of this show’s few sources of humor. Oh, yeah, he’s also possibly responsible for bringing Pilgrim and Cressida to the Badlands, as the signal he sent  out into the world in the last episode has now, seemingly been answered.

Tilda has adopted a kind of Robin Hood persona, that she uses to procure goods, and people, for Lydia, who runs a refugee camp for people displaced by the war, and this is where Bajie, Lydia, and Sunny meet. According to Bajie, its been six months since Quinn’s death.

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Pilgrim and Cressida arrive through the massive gate that we saw separating the Badlands from the rest of the country. They approach one of the forts manned by Baron Chau’s people ,who are easily defeated by the two black eyed ,super powered teenagers who work for him.Pilgrim’s intent is to rule the Badlands, as he believes himself to be a kind of prophet. Cressida seems to perform much the same function for Pilgrim that a Regent does for a Baron. She offers him advice and support in his endeavors. This is an intriguing role for one of the few Black women in the show.  (I hope to see the Abbess from last season, played by Chipo Chung.)

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As for Sunny, all of his concentration is on Henry. He has gone into hiding to raise his son, and there’s a very Lone Wolf and Cub vibe\ there There are still people looking for Sunny, and he finds that it will be impossible for him to stop killing, because now he has to protect Henry from harm. When Henry develops a fever one morning, he takes him to see a healer who discovers that the child is one of the black-eyed super powered people randomly populating the Badlands.

One of the major themes this season may be people finding out about Henry, and trying to kidnap him, along with The Widow and Baron Chau’s war. Last season we saw Sunny coming to terms with his former life as a Clipper, but as Moon told him in the second episode. there’s always going to be people who want to challenge him, and make a name for them self, by killing the most legendary Clipper in the Badlands.

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Westworld

Here’s the very funny Vulture review of this episode:

http://www.vulture.com/2018/04/westworld-season-2-premiere-questions.html

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We pick up the show two weeks after Ford’s murder by Dolores, and  the massacre of the Delos Board in the park. We get introduced to new people, re-introduced to all the major characters again, and we get to see what they’ve been doing since the event. Apparently Ashley Stubbs was not killed by the Natives, which is what we all thought happened, although frankly I would not be shocked to discover that Ford took Ashley’s competence into account, and had him duplicated as a Host. What better person to have in charge of security than someone you can totally control, just like Bernard.

The episode moves aback and forth in time from the immediate aftermath ’til two weeks out. Two weeks later Bernard is found lying on a beach in the park by soldiers, who have been called in to investigate what happened, and subdue the Hosts. The rest of the episode is about events leading up to when Bernard was found on the beach.

Directly after the massacre Dolores and the other Hosts are hunting down any and all humans in the park and taking great satisfaction in executing them. I found myself unable to feel an ounce of sympathy for the humans they shot and in some cases lynched. Dolores wants revenge for all the atrocities committed against the Hosts by the Guests, and the slave/revenge allegory is made explicitly clear, when she references human slavery. It is an all out war between the humans and the Hosts.

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I can’t help but feel some type of way considering that the Hosts were treated by human beings in the same manner that Black Americans were treated by White people for some three hundred years (and seem reluctant to give up.) Dolores words are an echo of a post I wrote, about how the first season of the show specifically references real world slavery. (For the record, the show is written by an Asian American woman, Lisa Joy, and Jonathan Nolan, the brother of Christopher Nolan. Previously, Joy worked on the shows Burn Notice and Pushing Daisies.)

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2016/12/04/westworld-revisiting-the-slave-narrative/

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/04/why-sci-fi-keeps-imagining-the-enslavement-of-white-people/361173/

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When we last saw Maeve she made the decision to go back for her daughter. To that end, she teams up with Lee, the hack writer for Westworld, and he immediately tries to betray her to the security team, stalking the halls of the Delos Corporation, hunting down stray Hosts.I’m all for her killing him, and I guess the show must have some purpose for him, as he’s still around. Maeve gets reunited with Hector who forgives her for leaving him. He vows to follow her no matter where she goes. Remember Maeve’s name means “to enchant”, and she seems to have definitely had that effect on Hector.

Bernard in the aftermath of the massacre, is in the company of Charlotte Hale. He’s suffering from some type of corruption of his system programming, and is desperately trying to keep that a  secret from Charlotte. Charlotte must find the Host in which she secreted a special code last season, if she expects to be rescued from the park.

When Bernard is found on the beach, he isn’t very forthcoming about what has happened in the park. Later he and the military come across the bodies of dozens of  Hosts who have drowned in a previously unknown lake in the park. Bernard admits he may be responsible for what happened to them, and his time with Charlotte may be the key, because by the time he’s been found on the beach, Charlotte is nowhere to be found, but since the military is there to rescue what guests are left alive, we can assume her mission was successful.

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Dolores ambitions involve more than simply freeing the Hosts from one park, she intends to free all the Hosts from all the parks. To that end we may get to visit the other four parks, which consist of Samurai World, Future World, Medieval World, and possibly Roman World.

The Man in Black is in heaven as he has finally gotten exactly what he wanted from the park. he wanted the stakes to be higher, to actually have some skin in the game. he is enjoined by Robert Ford’s little boy avatar to a new mission. To try to make it to the other end of the park alive.

So not a whole lot happened beyond introducing the two major character arcs for the season: Dolores ambition to free all the Hosts, and Maeve’s search for her daughter. The two of them have not yet met, and I’m looking forward to that. I will be disappointed if they are written in a stereotypical female manner of rivals and enemies, but there is a woman helping to write these characters, and she has shown so ability to think from an inter-sectional standpoint, so I feel hopeful she may get that right.

I love stories of Westerners  in Japan, so I’m really looking forward to when Maeve gets to visit Samurai World.

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Ep. 2 Hannibal Season Three: Primavera

In the last episode, we got caught up with Hannibal’s activities since the night of the Red Dinner. In this episode, we find out what Will Graham has been doing, as one of the survivors of that night.

All throughout season two, we’ve been getting strong “hints and allegations” that Hannibal and Will have an intense (and dangerous) attraction to each other. This season the subtext has definitely become text, as it’s flat-out stated by both of them, what feelings they have for each other, and exactly how far into the abyss Will Graham fell, in his efforts to bring Hannibal to justice. At the beginning of this season, Will sets out to find and re-engage with Hannibal again, seemingly not having learned his lesson from that night.

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We open almost immediately after the Red Dinner, with Will in the hospital recovering from his wounds, reliving the events of that night, and  imagining that Abigail has survived. Actually this imagining of her isn’t any different from his previous thoughts about Abigail. Will has an idealized view of Abigail, as the perfect daughter and companion, an image that Hannibal well knew, and used against him. In the real world,  he and Abigail weren’t  that close, and she certainly didn’t feel about him the way he felt about her, although since this Abigail argues with, and castigates him for his actions last season, this is probably a much truer version of her than we’ve seen from Will before.

This is something a lot of fans of the show forget. That Will and Abigail didn’t interact that much in the real world, beyond season one, and on those occasions when they were together, she was just as unforthcoming, duplicitous, and manipulative with Will, as she was with everyone else, so I was immediately suspect of this image of her. And the show  plays coy with the idea that she survived that night, until near the end of the episode.

One of the  clues, that maybe she didn’t survive, is that Abigail asks Will questions about things she couldn’t possibly know about, unless Hannibal discussed these things with her, and  I don’t believe he did. Also notice that Abigail wears the same hunting jacket that Will has imagined her wearing before, but in a dried blood color,  we’ve never seen. Her body language, and attitude, are the same as when he imagined talking with her, when he was in prison last season.

So keep in mind that Abigail did not survive that night, and Will’s discussions with her, are just Will castigating himself for being stupid.

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Will also has an image of the stag, for the last time, as it dies on Hannibal’s kitchen floor.  The Stag doesn’t represent Hannibal, (as he knows Hannibal isn’t dead), and when Will is hunting for Hannibal in Europe, the Stag  is reborn. There has been a lot of discussion about what the Stag means, but my theory is that this is an avatar of  Will. This isn’t the RavenStag, which is an avatar of Hannibal the Killer. This is just The Stag that Will imagines whenever the darker side of his nature begins to assert itself.

Will  has an image of himself, and Abigail, drowning in a lake of blood. I’ve written before, that images of drowning represent  someone’s belief that they have gotten in over the heads, or into a situation that has overwhelmed them, or that they can’t control. Bedelia has such dreams in the last episode. These dreams of drowning are Will’s though, and are tied to the knowledge that he totally underestimated Hannibal’s will to survive, and his spiteful nature.

Will’s hallucinations and images are jumbled with Hannibal’s images of the breaking teacup, that reverses itself, and becomes un-shattered. I think  this represents Will, and the reversal of its breakage represents the turning back of time, and the resurrection of their previous relationship, which is something Hannibal deeply misses, even in his anger at Will’s betrayal. It’s something that Will longs for too, as he deeply regrets the decisions he made leading up to the night Abigail died. So both men are in the same place emotionally, saddened. missing each other, and regretting what they did to each other.

Will sets out in his boat to look for Hannibal in Europe, based on conversations had during Will’s therapy sessions. On arrival, eight months later, still accompanied by the ghost of Abigail, he goes to the Norman Chapel in Palermo, Italy that Hannibal mentioned, and finds a murder investigation in progress.

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The Norman Chapel  is an actual place, which is also part of Hannibal’s Memory Palace. It’s  real, although, the skeleton on the floor isn’t actually there. That was placed in post-production by Fuller, and i think it indicates indicates Hannibal’s placation to Will. It is an image of Hannibal’s forgiveness, or perhaps, he is praying to Will for forgiveness..



One of the images of Hannibal’s forgiveness is the Vetruvian Man origami from the first episode, and the mutilation sculpture of Dimmond’s body by Hannibal. He folded Dimmond’s body into the shape of a heart, pierced it with upside down swords, and placed it in the Chapel’s foyer. Will doesn’t actually get to see the body, though. He is met at the Chapel by a Rinaldo Pazzi, a detective in the city, who has been reading of Will’s attempts to capture The Chesapeake Ripper. Pazzi shows WIll a photograph of the crime scene, and believes it is linked to Will’s arrival in the city.

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Pazzi believes that Dimmond was killed by a serial killer that he calls Il Mostro, who managed to escape capture many years ago, by framing another man for his murders. He believes Il mostro, and The Chesapeake Ripper, are one and  the same, and that Il Mostro left Dimmond’s body as a message for Will, which it is. After learning from Bedelia that Will is still alive, and has traveled to Italy to find him, Will is much on his mind. Even if Hannibal may not recognize his feelings as a form of love, Bedelia does. (I mentioned in season one, that every show needs a truth-teller, a person who sees things more clearly than the main character/s around whom the story revolves. Bedelia’s role is to say what the outsider (us, the viewer) has observed.)

https://www.keen.com/articles/tarot/3-of-swords-tarot-card

Pazzi recalls the case that set him against Il Mostro. He found the bodies of two people designed to emulate the 1482 painting, La Primavera by Boticelli, which hangs in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

Primavera or Allegory of Spring by Sandro Botticelli

http://www.uffizi.org/artworks/la-primavera-allegory-of-spring-by-sandro-botticelli/

Hannibal was obsessed with the painting. Sitting for hours, and drawing the painting over and over, and his last murder in Italy was a reenactment of Zephyrus chasing Flora (to the right in the painting). Pazzi recognizes Hannibal’s style in the killings of the Chesapeake Ripper and believes Hannibal has returned to Italy. He thinks Will may have some insight into Il Mostro’s nature.

https://hannibalfannibals.com/2015/06/17/hannibal-the-history-of-il-mostro-fact-vs-fiction/

But Will is not helpful, as he grapples with his darker self. Will is torn between wanting to join Hannibal, and wanting to capture him. Whenever he feels he is getting too emotionally involved, too close to Hannibal, he becomes afraid that he will lose himself, (hence his dreams about drowning), and feeling a need to reassert his better self (as an agent of the law), he  tries to capture him instead. He seems to go through this cycle of longing and destruction at least twice a season.

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Observe that while contemplating Hannibal’s crime scene, Will doesn’t use his pendulum system to ease into the killer’s mindset. He knows Hannibal so well that he doesn’t need it, and he seamlessly moves back and forth between his own mind, and Hannibal’s. He hallucinates (or dreams) of the Dimmond heart, and in one of this series most grotesque scenes, it comes to life, unfolds itself into the shape of the Stag, and stalks him across the chapel floor. My theory is that this is the rebirth of Will’s murderous avatar. Just being in a place Hannibal has been, has awakened the darker parts of his nature, a part of himself he thought was destroyed that night in Hannibal’s kitchen, when Abigail died.

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Will and Pazzi descend into the catacombs underneath the Chapel. Will is searching for Hannibal, believing he can feel him nearby. Will warns Pazzi to not be so trusting, because he may harm him. Will knows that his distress will attract Hannibal and killing Pazzi might bring draw him for sure. And Hannibal is there, so he hears Will’s quiet assertion that he is forgiven. But what is Will forgiving him for? Running away and leaving him? Trying to kill him? Killing Abigail? All three? Does it matter?

 

Of Note:

Will’s mention of the church ceiling falling in is something mentioned by Hannibal, in the movie Silence of the Lambs, where he says he likes to collect church collapses.

Abigail stares at one of the priests in the chapel, and he stares back as if he can see her, as if he can see this dark spectre following Will around.

 

Posts & Articles

https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2015/10/the-moral-universe-of-hannibal

http://www.vulture.com/2013/06/seitz-on-hannibal-its-a-dream-and-it-hurts.html

http://www.vulture.com/2015/08/hannibal-redefined-how-we-tell-stories-on-tv.html

Star Trek Discovery

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So I did watch the first and second episodes of this show, but I won’t be watching any more of them, I guess, because the show sits behind a paywall. In order to watch Discovery in the US you have to subscribe to a streaming channel called CBS All Access, the first week of which is free. Also, I can’t watch this on my TV, because I can’t add any channels to it.  The streaming channels are preset on my DVD player too, so I can only watch it on my Ipad, or at my computer, which is inconvenient for me.

Now, I generally don’t watch network television anyway, that is the top four networks of  Fox, CBS, ABC, and NBC. I don’t watch them because their programming isn’t particularly interesting to me, and I’m extremely wary of liking a show, only to see it get canceled after one season. I’ve been burned waay too many times by  network TV.

I subscribed to CBS All Access, but after scrolling through the shows available on the streaming network, I figured out that I was really just paying for each episode of Star Trek, (like about 2 or 3 bucks an episode, which isn’t bad, but still) and decided to unsubscribe. It’s not a bad price per episode, as the six dollar fee is only once a month, and there are three or four episodes per month, but there is literally nothing else I watch on that network. Maybe later I’ll change my mind, so I can binge watch all eight of them during the hiatus in December.

Star Trek Discovery is a very different show for CBS. They have no track record for diversity, either. In fact most of their lineup seems to consist of  mediocre detective style shows, of which the only interesting one is Elementary (Lucy Liu is a goddess!), which I can watch reruns of anywhere else, including at my library. So basically, Discovery is like nothing else on that network.

After watching the first two episodes, I decided that I did indeed like the show, but I’m going to have to forgo this  pleasure until later. I’m also to understand that the rest of the season will be a whole new animal from the pilot, although from the trailers it still looks  pretty good.

 

 

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What I Liked:

Soniqua Martin-Green (Michael Rainsford) naturally  gets a lot of screen time, as the show’s lead. A lot of the episode rests on her shoulders and I feel confident that she is  up to the job. She turned in a very strong performance. I had a few quibbles about some of her character’s decisions during the episode, but the show was suspenseful and compelling, only requiring a little tweaking, for consistency.

I loved everything about Michael and it was a real joy watching her and the captain banter with each other. We don’t get to meet any of the rest of the crew really, and there’s a reason for that. We won’t be seeing any more of them beyond Saru (the alien scientist played by Doug Jones.) Another thing I like is that there is quite a contingent of White women who seem to really like Michael too, and are coming to bat for her.

The only people who seemingly hate the show, and nitpick every single tiny detail, so as to do so, appear to be White men, and I expected as much from the ones online, because they stay disappointing me on the regular. (Its funny! The real life White guys are know are some of the nicest, most considerate people. Are they even the same species  as the ones online?)

The plot of the first two episodes is basically background stuff for Michael’s character for the rest of the season. We’re introduced to the person she was so we can get to know and understand the person she will be. Michael is orphaned during a Klingon attack on an outpost and is adopted by James Frain’s Sarek. (You may remember Frain as the vampire who was obsessed Tara Thornton in the show True Blood.) I like Frain’s version of Sarek. I liked the other versions too, but Frain’s version seems less stiff and formal. He seems like the type of man who is just very used to being comfortable around humans, while still remaining uncompromisingly Vulcan. My favorite moment is him whispering “Behave!” to his young charge just before he leaves her alone with Gheorghiu, because that’s such a ‘parent- type’ thing to do, (This is the kind of behavior he might well have learned from raising his spirited, half human son.)

I liked that the show isn’t filmed in quite the same way as other Trek shows. For one thing, we get flashbacks to Michael’s upbringing on Vulcan, and I wish we’d had more of those, rather than showcasing the Klingons. In one of the first flashbacks we see her as a child having a moment of PTSD in one of the learning pods, and witness Sarek’s reaction to her.

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I have to admit I have never been a fan of the Klingons. I’m simply not now, nor ever have been, impressed by their existence, language, culture, any of it. So I didn’t particularly enjoy having to look at the Klingons for half the episode. What made them even more annoying was that their makeup was hard to look at, and they were difficult to understand, and not just because they were speaking their native tongue. They sounded like  people speaking through masks, and quite frankly,  a Klingon with a lisp is not scary. (Plus, they all spoke very slowly, as if they had all suffered  recent head injuries.)

Klingons have always been “coded”as Black people and I don’t really have a problem with that. My problem is with their depiction as one of the more violent races on Star Trek. On the other hand, the show does have a very good track record for giving them depth and making them likable, and sympathetic characters, the most notable one being Worf from STNG. Now there is an element of colorism involved in their depiction, as there is a Klingon with albinism, who seems to have to prove himself to be more Klingon then all the others, after being kicked out of his family. I’m reminded of the discrimination of albinos in certain parts of Africa, but I don’t know that this calls back to that or not.

I liked the Klingon  costumes, though. The costumes had this beautiful Elizabethan look that just kinda suited them. I liked all the costumes in the show really, and I liked all the tech stuff that Trek is famous for. This is an extremely pretty show, that’s just nice to look at. The color scheme and design reminds me of DS9, and the Federation outfits seem almost Bajoran. Well, Bajoran with lots of bling, and I like bling, so that didn’t bother me. That’s probably  due to Fuller’s influence since DS9 was the last Trek show he worked on.

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Michael joins the crew of the Shenzhou with Michelle Yeoh’s  Captain Phillipa Gheorghiu. I loved the relationship between these two women and hope to see that replicated in later episodes, because showing that type of rapport and mentorship between women is important. After Michael encounters and kills a Klingon (a race of people that the federation had not had contact with in some 100 years), on Sarek’s advice, she argues that the Shenzhou should fire on the Klingon ship, to show greater strength, hence the name of the episode, The Vulcan Hello. Gheorghiu disagrees with her and Michael gives her the Vulcan Sleeper Pinch, and takes over the bridge.

When Gheorghiu gets back on the bridge, her Federation backup has arrived, but because she still refuses to fire on the Klingons, even though their backup arrived first, this starts a skirmish in which the Federation loses. Michael, who has been stashed in the brig during this fight, manages to escape just before her imminent death, by logicking at the computer. She goes back to the bridge and proposes the idea of capturing the Klingon leader, so as not to make him a martyr. Michael and Gheorghiu board the Klingon ship,  but their attempt to capture the Klingon leader (T’Kuvma) is unsuccessful, and Gheorghiu is killed.

At the end of episode two, Michael is convicted of assaulting her captain, mutiny,  (and exacerbating an already tense  situation). The rest of the season is her (and Jason Isaac’s Captain Lorca) dealing with the aftermath of her conviction.

During the standoff between the two women, Michael makes a bunch of emotional decisions, but she’s been raised on Vulcan and has never dealt with the PTSD of what happened to her as a child, so she has not learned how to handle her emotions in an environment with a lot of other emotional issues. Well, she doesnt seem to have learned, and this incident is a direct callback to a highly personal event that she’s never had to think about while safe on Vulcan.

She seems to be having difficulty telling the difference between decisions she makes through logic, and ones made through emotions, which makes her a wonderfully complex character. I’m interested to see how she grows and changes throughout the season, and I hope the writers don’t pull a Sleepy Hollow, and sideline her in favor of Captain Lorca. This first season should be all about Michael and her journey. Later, we can get more  into the stories of the other characters.

I loved the special effects, even if I didn’t like the makeup on the Klingons. The transporter effect looks a little different and Gheorghiu explains that it’s because the Shenzhou is using older technology.

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Doug Jones (you may remember him as Hellboy’s Abe Sapien) has great makeup, but those stilt things he has to walk around on look deeply uncomfortable, and I worried that his feet hurt, even though surely, he must be used to that sort of thing. I liked the character too and enjoyed the rapport between him and Michael. It reminded me of the threesome from the original show.

 

Things I Could’ve Done Without

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As I said, I hated the Klingon makeup, not because I thought it was especially bad, but because they all look like they’re trying to talk through Kabuki masks. I’m used to Klingons looking expressive, and their faces (the makeup) makes that impossible. Another thing I don’t particularly care for with Klingons is all the group yelling. I’ve always found that annoying.

I wish they would’ve shown more of Michael’s background, as I could’ve used a lot less of the Klingons, and I also get the impression that the people who wrote this show don’t understand Klingons very well. I understood their reasons for attacking the federation but those reasons still were not well articulated for me.

I think they could have ditched the ten minute prologue  of Michael and Gheorghiu on the desert planet. It was a cute scene, that introduces the two characters and the nature of their relationship, but ultimately it was unnecessary. That was made clear when the two of them first met, and I would’ve liked to have seen more of that first meeting. Or they could have done away with the first two episodes altogether and just jumped right into Michael’s new life, and new captain, for the rest of the season. The plot feels like a bait and switch and I didn’t like that, although I understand that Gheorghiu will be making plenty of cameos in the form of flashbacks, so the show began as it means to go on. Its flashbacks all the way in.

There wasn’t a lot I disliked  about the show itself, and I think the show is really worth watching. Part of me hopes it succeeds but as I said i’m probably not going to be watching it because I don’t want to pay for it. Apparently a lot of other people feel the same way because I heard it’s one of the most pirated shows online. I’m not going to pirate the show, but maybe I’ll sign up later.

You’re probably going to see a lot of comparisons between this show, and another one called The Orville, led by Seth MCFarlane from Family Guy. If you’re lookng for something like Star Trek, but a little lighter, than the Orville is your show. In the last episode I saw, things got just a bit heavy, dealing with the issue of gender change, in an interesting way, and I think it was handled well, (but it would be up to transgender people to say whether or not it was actually handled well).

The first couple of episodes are an odd blend of seriousness and humor. Now, I don’t watch Family Guy, because I don’t find the  show not particularly funny. McFarlane’s dudebro humor doesn’t mesh well with mine, but The Orville is a different side of McFarlane. He wants to be taken seriously as both a comedian and a showrunner and it shows. The show still doesn’t know whether it wants to be a comedy or a drama, but once it figures that out, it can be a really good show, and I actually enjoyed watching it. The humor is scattered all over the place, but its not raunchy or especially offensive, if that’s your worry.

The closest comparison would be Galaxy Quest, (although it’s less funny), as the show is very obviously a love letter to Star Trek, if a somewhat irreverant one. The show still needs some  degree of tweaking, but it’s not a bad show. And I hate to say it, but it’s a lot more fun than Discovery. Discovery is a heavy show with very little humor, and although I enjoyed it, it’s a very different type of show than The Orville. The two don’t really compare, inasmuch as they are both offshoots of Star Trek.

So for those of you who can’t get your Trek fix, I think The Orville is a good enough substitute, and this is coming from an OG Trekkie, who also loves Galaxy Quest.

American Gods Season One: A Murder of Gods

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This episode is a big fuck you to American politics, and its Ra-Ra Americana, Gun Loving, Make America Great Again, America is for White people aesthetic. That it puts a Black man right in the middle of all this is no accident. Outside of Mr. Nancy’s speech in episode three, this is one of the more politically blatant episodes this season, as Fuller usually tries to keep his social sensibilities clear, but a little more subtle.

In the opening scene, we meet the Mexican version of Jesus, as he shepherds a group of Mexican immigrants across the border. I thought this was a respectful depiction, even though I’m not a believer. Nevertheless, I know that these beliefs are important to someone, and should be treated with a certain amount of respect. One of the immigrants doesn’t know how to swim, nearly drowning while crossing a river, but is saved by Jesus. Even I had to admit to feeling a tiny bit of a thrill with the walking on water scene. That was kinda cool.

Everyone makes it to shore but they are fired upon by a group of White men wearing badges with the word Vulcan on them. This is Fuller’s open political statement of how immigrants who came here earlier like to set themselves against the immigrants who come after them. This was the primary theme of the movie Gangs of New York, with gangs of White people calling themselves Natives, fighting with the more recent Irish immigrants. The irony in this episode is that the Mexicans are the real Natives, as they were living in this country before White people got here.

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The very nature of Jesus is sacrifice, and is illustrated in this scene of him protecting his followers with his life.  Here you have two  old gods who are diametrically opposed to each other. One of them is symbolized by fire and violence, and the other by peace and water, but both of them are willing to make sacrifices. One of them does so for the benefit of others,  and the other does it only for himself. The followers of Vulcan are  older immigrants than the ones they’re killing that night, but nevertheless feel that they have staked a claim to American soil and don’t want to share it with any others, who came here later than them. They’re devoted to the idea of America, only their version bears no resemblance to what America actually is. The Mexican immigrants have a much clearer idea of what America is but their god isn’t as powerful as the one who has decided to profit from racism,  and xenophobia, and has a lot of guns. There is a reason Vulcan has to die at the end of this episode. He has been complicit in corruption the very nature of sacrifice.

Also, keep in mind that Vulcan is Roman in origin. So what you have here is also a reenactment of the Crucifixion, with the followers of a Roman god killing the followers of the Christian God.

Shadow and Wednesday are walking back to the motel, to retrieve their car, after their escape from the police station. Wednesday still has not noticed that Shadow is injured, as they discuss what happened at the station. Wednesday still refuses to tell Shadow what to think, insisting that Shadow make up his own mind about what’s happening. He insists that Shadow has to believe to understand,  but Shadow doesn’t want to go there. It’s just too much. Gods are actual real beings, and Wednesday is one of them!

Note that most of the events in tonight’s episode are made up of whole cloth by the writers. With the exception of some verbatim conversations and dialogue, none of the events, from Wednesday’s healing  session with Shadow, to the return of Salim, to Laura’s road trip with Sweeney, to Wednesday’s meeting with Vulcan, is in the book. Fuller’s general method, regarding adaptations, is to expand on the source material in ways that enhance and deepen the story. In the original narrative, almost the entire book is from Shadow’s point of view, but Fuller has changed things here to make the show, an ensemble piece, where we get to see different points of view.

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Shadow and Wednesday make it back to the motel, where Shadow confesses that he was visited by Laura. Wednesday claims to be surprised, but still gives no set answer to Shadow about her resurrection. He eventually pressures Shadow into leaving with him. When Wednesday looks in the rearview mirror, he can see Laura chasing after their car, and turns up the volume on the stereo, so Shadow can’t hear her. He is determined that the two of them stay far away from each other. Either he’s concerned that Lara would be a distraction from him, and he does not want to share Shadow’s attention, or he thinks that Laura is working for his enemies and trying to seduce Shadow to their side.

Notice that up to now, there has been no emphasis on weather phenomena during this episode. No transitioning from sky to sky, or shots of storm clouds, as in previous episodes. Instead we often get shots of sun and clear blue skies, along Laura’s road trip, and in Vulcan. I can’t help but think that must be on purpose. Whenever Shadow is holding his emotions in we often get shots of turbulent weather, but when he’s openly expressing what he’s feeling, the skies are often very calm and clear.

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Shadow isn’t your typical hyper masculine asshole, with a stiff upper lip. Nor is he weak. He won’t allow himself to be preyed upon, but fights only when he absolutely has to. I like that the show allows him to not only have feelings, but openly expresses them, and that this is never sided as a weakness. When he’s afraid, he’s allowed to say so. When he’s overwhelmed, we get to see it. We’ve spent the past two episodes watching him hanging on to reality by his fingernails, and that’s kind of refreshing. Shadow isn’t trying to be “Shaft of the Supernatural”, and I like that. He’s just some guy, thrown into extraordinary circumstances, trying to make sense of it all.

While we’re on the subject I want to address some concerns some people have shown about Shadow not interacting with any PoC in the show. I had the impression that Shadow’s lack of interaction with any other black people is meant to parallel his lack of interaction with normalcy, since he signed on to work with Wednesday.

Before Shadow met Wednesday he often operated in all white environments, so he  is used to navigating racial dynamics, while holding on to his sense of self. That’s not a problem for him. Shadow is always acutely aware of who he is,  and where his place is in American society.  Here,  he’s thrown into an environment,  where he’s the only regular human being. He has to renegotiate reality now, to encompass the idea that gods exist, the television will personally talk to you, dead people can walk, and trees can come to life, plus this entire ordeal has been incredibly violent towards him, as he has been attacked multiple times. So while he is very used  to navigating racial politics, navigating the world of gods is some brand new shit he’s got no experience with, and he’s barely holding onto what is real.

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Often in situations where black people are in a minority of two or three, you’ll see us touch base with each other, to reassure ourselves of our reality, to help each other emotionally navigate an all white environment. As an example of this, see the movie Get Out. Chris regularly touches base with his friend Rod, while trying to navigate an all white environment where he is questioning what’s happening to him, and his doubts are being dismissed by the White people around him, and the black people are not reliable either. Shadow is a player in two separate environments, one of them is whiteness, and the other is the supernatural. He is alone in both spheres, as there are no normal human beings for him to interact with, just as there are no PoC for him to touch base with.  I’d like to see him interact with some people of color, but Shadow doesn’t actually need to do that. He knows how to navigate the color line. He’s got that part down. It’s the world of the gods he’s having trouble with.

The only assurance he has of the reality he’s experiencing, is coming from beings he can’t trust, because none of them are human. Notice that Wednesday behaves exactly the same way about Shadow’s reactions to the supernatural as he does to all of the racial things Shadow has mentioned.  You could substitute just about any discussion they’ve had about the supernatural, with discussions that many blacks have had with whites about race. Wednesday uses deflection, derailment, defensiveness, obtuseness, and gas lighting,  to not tell Shadow what’s happening to him. Laura also does this in their brief conversation in the last episode.

Notice how the gods in Shadow’s presence all speak to one another. It’s obvious that none of them think themselves human, but absolutely none of them come right out and say to Shadow, “Hey! I’m the God of Media! Or I’m the God of Commerce! I’m the God of War!” Nobody speaks directly to him about a state of being, that they consider to be obvious. Except for Wednesday everyone makes the assumption that Shadow knows what’s going on. Its like one of those conversations where everyone knows everyone but you, and they keep referencing events you were never a part of, in  short hand, as if you had been there.

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And there are other parallels too. When Vulcan makes his remarks about the hanging,  Wednesday narcissistically makes Shadow’s pain and suffering about himself. White people will often make the pain and suffering of PoC about themselves. (Well okay, in this case, it’s actually true. Most of Shadow’s suffering is a direct consequence of knowing Wednesday, or is used to insult him.) Nevertheless,  this makes Wednesday an unreliable indicator of whether or not he is insane.

Without any normal humans to touch base with, to confirm what he’s been experiencing, Shadow begins to doubt reality, which is something that can  happen to PoC in all white environments, where there’s not another marginalized person to keep them grounded, or affirm something they just experienced. That Shadow has not interacted with any black people may be something that’s just as on purpose as his not interacting with regular humans. I think we’re supposed to see that Shadow is twice a fish out of water, navigating two, separate environments, only one of which he has mastered.

 

On the drive to their next assignment, Wednesday finally notices Shadow is bleeding profusely, and stops the car to check his wounds. It turns out that the creature that attacked Shadow at the police station is some type of forest god, named Mr. Wood, who used to be the spirit of the woods, but sacrificed his trees for greater power. Once again we have a story about a god sacrificing a part of himself for greater power, and a parallel of Vulcan’s story.  Mr. Wood  injected a tree root into Shadow’s wound when it attacked him, and Wednesday pulls it out. This scene is so touching and funny. I can’t have any idea what Wednesday is thinking in this scene, as he kisses Shadow on his forehead, and shushes him, like an indulgent uncle, but Shadow’s level of trust in him is interesting.
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Laura returns to the motel to find her car, but encounters Sweeney again. He makes all kinds of promises this evening. He tells her he knows someone who can resurrect her,  while name dropping Jesus Christ. While trying to steal an old taxi, with a toilet for a backseat, they are interrupted by Salim. I was really glad to see him again as this meeting between the three of them doesn’t happen anywhere in the book. Salim, overhearing that Sweeney is a leprechaun, asks if he knows where to find the Jinn who left him his taxi. Salim has been searching for him ever since, and Sweeny promises that he will tell Salim where to find the Jinn, if Salim drives  the three of them to Kentucky. Salim agrees, but doesn’t go to Kentucky.

 

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Meanwhile at the Vulcan weapons manufacturing plant one of the employees falls to his death in a vat of molten metal, to the incongruous tune of C’mon Get Happy, by The Partridge Family. They were like a white version of The Jackson Five, only with worse outfits. I know this because  I watched this show, religiously, when I was about 8. To say that I enjoyed it, would be too strong an expression. Most likely it was the only thing on TV in that time slot. Anyway this is a singularly horrific death, especially once you realize the guy has just been baked into the factory product: bullets.

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When Shadow and Wednesday reach Vulcan West Virginia (Yes, this is an actual place! I checked.) they find the townsfolk having a memorial for their fallen co-worker. Shadow becomes acutely aware that he is a man out-of-place, as the entire town is covered in flags, and everyone, from the smallest child to the oldest grandparent is carrying a gun. It’s so over the top ridiculous that it’s almost funny, except this is how some Americans actually believe we should all be living. I was uncomfortable on Shadow’s behalf, because this very much reminded me of Sundown Towns:

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At the memorial, which is really a celebration of the sacrifice to Vulcan, there’s a gun salute and Wednesday warns Shadow to stay in the vehicle. At first I thought he was warning Shadow to stay hidden, but unlike me, Shadow remembers what goes up, must come down, and he decides to sit it out, as Vulcan and Wednesday greet each other in the middle of the street. There’s a hailstorm of bullets, none of which ever touch either of the two gods.

On their road trip, Sweeney, Laura and Salim get to know each other. Salim figures out that Laura is dead, and takes it in stride. After all, he met a Jinn. I think Salim is very lonely, as  he never stops talking the whole time, while Sweeney snarks at the two of them from the back seat. Sweeney ending up in the back, when he insisted that Laura would be the one, is deeply hilarious to me, for some reason.

Salim proves to be a precious cinnamon roll of sweetness, while Sweeney is the exact opposite of all decency. Yes, I would love it if Laura ripped his lips off, whether he uses the “C” word or not, but we need Sweeney to be the “truth teller”. Every Bryan Fuller show has at least one of these, a character who tells the blunt-faced, unbridled truth to the other characters, no matter how much pain it causes, or who it hurts. Salim and Laura bond over their belief that their past is gone, and so are the family members  who were a part of it. When Laura has a chance to visit her family, she changes her mind. She and Salim both agree that they can, “Fuck those assholes!”

The three of them end up at the Crocodile Bar where Sweeney lost his coin. It’s like a horrible joke. A leprechaun, a zombie, and a Muslim walk into a bar…

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Wednesday and Shadow go  Vulcan’s home, where Vulcan keeps assuring Shadow that he’s safe, but Shadow ain’t buying it. He knows badness when he feels it, and insists that the two of them leave. His instincts are correct because things are not as they seem, especially when Vulcan alludes to events to which he was never a witness, like Shadow’s lynching. That was number one. Number two is when Vulcan refuses to drink the Soma that Wednesday brought as a gift, substituting his own instead. Notice that Wednesday tells Shadow that Soma is not  the drink for him. Soma is a drink only for gods.

 

Soma was a fermented juice drink which was believed to have been consumed by the Hindu gods and their ancient priests, the brahmanas, during rituals. Thought to be an elixir its consumption not only healed illness but also brought great riches. Soma is personified by the god of the same name who is also the god of sacrifices and who may, in some texts, be associated with the Moon.

Not only drunk by priests for its sacred nature it was also credited with uplifting qualities, giving the drinker a boost in energy and alertness. These effects meant that the drink has been considered divine since ancient times; a beverage which brought humans closer to the divine.

——-     http://www.ancient.eu/Soma/

Soma is also another word for “body” and may represent the physical body of humans, in a pagan parallel of the Christian Communion ritual.  Vulcan can’t drink the Soma that Wednesday brought, even though he promises to support Wednesday in his war. Vulcan  already made a deal with the new gods, who have set up this system of worship for him, in the town of the same name. He claims that every bullet fired from one of his weapons, is a sacrifice to him.

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Wednesday tasks Vulcan to make a sword for him that can kill a god, and he does so. It’s a gorgeous specimen, and I want one. (Never mind what I’d do with it! Smite my enemies! What else?) After Vulcan confesses that he betrayed Wednesday to the new gods, Wednesday, in one lightning swift move, cuts Vulcan’s  throat and tosses his body into  one of the vats. Shadow freaks the fuck out, which is an entirely appropriate response. We’ve seen Shadow unhinged from the first episode, but this is really the first time we’ve seen him totally lose his shit. It will be interesting to see how he behaves in the next two episodes.

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Wednesday expresses his complete contempt for not just Vulcan’s actions, but an entire setup that’s basically a shiny, automated, bloodless form of sacrifice, that gives nothing back to the people who worship him. Wednesday said this to Vulcan earlier, that the new gods take, and promise,  but do not give anything in return, and that the old gods at least did something for their worshipers, which makes them less corrupt.

Wednesday curses the entire enterprise by pissing into the vat. This is probably a pretty good idea of Bryan Fulelr’s sentiments, too.

Laura, Salim, and Sweeney are still heading West. They stop to see the sunrise as Salim says his morning prayers.

 

 On guns:

https://www.bustle.com/p/american-gods-statement-on-americas-gun-obsession-takes-no-prisoners-61502

http://www.refinery29.com/2017/06/157569/american-gods-vulcan-gun-culture-season-1-episode-6

http://io9.gizmodo.com/american-gods-vulcan-is-everything-that-scares-me-abou-1795761610

 

The Walking Dead Season 7: Rock in the Road; New Best Friends 

So, I’m back and cautiously attending the show. I was looking forward to this episode, as it’s mostly Negan-free, and it’s nice to see Rick getting his mojo back. Plus, I’m partial to Jesus, and he’s just really pretty, and he got to say some lines during this episode, so…

We open this episode with Rick and the Gang, walking with new pep in their steps, into Hilltop to confront Gregory about joining them in taking down Negan. Greg is at his infuriating worst, calling everybody out of their names, until Rick starts to lose his shit. My favorite moment is when Michonne, realizing her bae is about to lose it and slap Greg into the next episode, pulls her man back from the brink with a single touch, stepping in to save Greg’s sorry life. She grounds Rick in a way absolutely no one else can. Watch her face as Rick starts to get more and more agitated in discussion with Gregory, after Greg calls him Ricky. Incidentally, why is Greg in charge? He is a total trash coward!

Negotiations with Hilltop are a bust, so Jesus takes the crew to The Kingdom, where they meet up again with Morgan, who lies about Carol’s whereabouts, even though he sees Daryl standing right there, and knows the two had a connection. The funniest moment is when Rick and the others meet King Ezekiel for the first time, and are staring, rather goggle eyed, at Shiva, when Jesus apologizes for not remembering  to tell them there was gonna be a tiger. The look on Jesus’ face is priceless.

They strike out at The Kingdom. King  Zeke is reluctant to get involved in a war, but he  needs to understand that his relationship with The Saviors, is already tentative. They are bullies who can decide, on a whim, to change the dynamic of their relationship with him at any time, (and I’m certain they will, because that’s what sadistic people do.) The King’s people are always in danger from them, no matter what he does.

The group is on a time stamp, because Daryl’s escape has been discovered, and Rick knows The Saviors will come directly to Alexandria to look for him, and terrorize his people. (They know this because Jesus managed to steal one of the Saviors walkie -talkies.) They need to get to Alexandria before the Saviors do. On their way back home they meet a roadblock of cars and bombs, and make plans to take the bombs with Rosita’s help. Can I just say that Rosita is seriously getting on my nerves. I know why she’s acting the way she is but it’s still irksome. Nevertheless, I hope she doesn’t bring harm to herself. She’s in a kind of fatalistic depression that is going to get her, or someone else, killed. Again.

While  stealing the bombs, a horde of Walkers appears, and the Richonne team take most of them out with a couple of cars and some wires. Can I just point out how batshit this show has become this season? I loved this scene. (I won’t even mention the scene, a few episodes back, where Jesus backkicks some zombies, at Hilltop.) Afterwards, Michonne has to talk Rick down when he has a panic attack, at the realization, of just how much danger he just put his bae through. Rick has always had to consider others, but there was a power differential, with Carl and the others, that could create some control for their safety. The same isn’t true in his relationship with Michonne. She has a level of autonomy that the other characters lack, and she’s not like his late-wife, who would stay put when he told her. He needs to start considering the kind of danger he used to just walk into, with an understanding that the others would stay behind. Michonne isn’t going to stay behind. I think he’s just starting to realize that this woman would walk through the Gates of Hell for him, so  he may have to rethink doing that kind of stuff.

Father Gabriel makes off with Alexandria’s supplies, before Rick and the others can get back, but  Rick is just in time to meet The Saviors, and assure them that Daryl isn’t there, although The Saviors wonder at why they don’t have anything. Why do nasty people, when searching for stuff, always break things and topple things over? This is a trope I’ve seen in every TV show and movie, with the villains toppling over chairs, tables, and picture frames, as if whatever they’re looking for can be found in that bottle of orange juice they just smashed on the floor. Incidentally, this  also shows the viewer what type of villains they are, and how important, and/or meaningful, their search is. The Saviors issue  some threats and leave. Rick investigates Gabriel’s disappearance. He trusts Gabe wouldn’t do what he did without a reason, and finds a note from Gabe to go the boat, from which came  their last batch of supplies.

When they arrive, they’re attacked by a new group of people, who live on heaps of garbage. Right now fans are calling them the Scavengers. Rick however is unbowed. He smiles because what he sees is an opportunity to make new allies.

Now:

And that’s sort of what happens, after some very rough negotiating techniques, where Rick has to fight a spike covered zombie, in a garbage-dome, while Michonne yells out helpful hints, like “Use your environment, dude!” Well, I’m kind of paraphrasing, but that’s the gist of it. I like how the writers are showing the dynamics of their relationship, since they got together. The creators said the two of them were long destined to be a couple, so we’ve seen some of this dynamic the entire time, but this season we get the full outlook, and it’s interesting to watch Rick have these epiphanies, brought about by his relationship with her. Michonne, is an anchor, she’s a sea of calm. Like I said, she emotionally grounds him, and he is her emotional safety, where she can freely express herself, without judgment.(For example, notice who receives most of her smiles.) They keep each other from spinning out of control, as we saw that first few months in Alexandria.

This new group of people are really weird, though, as the show just seems to be throwing all manner of craziness into the plot. They dress like extras from Star Trek, and the leader, Jadis, talks like a constipated Vulcan, and has a low concept of personal space. If the Hilltoppers are the Hippies, I guess these are the Goths of the Apocalypse, (which is a great name for an Industrial Rock band.)

Rick makes a deal with Jadis, to take down the Saviors, for a third of the spoils, and there you have it. This is Rick’s first step in the war, I guess. Now he needs to get Hilltop and The Kingdom on board. King Ezekiel is still surreptitiously checking on Carol even though she is vehement that no one bother her. He manages to weasel around her decrees very nicely, while still managing to give her stuff he knows she likes, like Cobbler. On a more humorous note, Jerry, Zeke’s second, is my new boyfriend. He is exactly my physical type, and I think I’m falling in love with his happy ass.

In the meantime, Daryl comes across Carol and there’s a happy-sad reunion. I like the relationship these two abuse survivors have built. Daryl still tries really hard to be stoic and manly around her, but she’s one of the few people who can see right through it. Of course, Carol wasn’t there for Glenn’s death, and when she asks if everyone is okay, Daryl lies to her, saying they are. I have mixed feelings about that, though. I don’t like that he lied. I disagree with him lying to her, but I’m also glad he did because I understand why. Carol is going through some kinda shit and needs to decompress. The Alexandrians are just going to have to opt out of nuking the Saviors from orbit, which is what Carol would do, were she available. She and Daryl sit down to have a quiet dinner.

I did enjoy seeing Daryl bonding with Shiva afterwards. Apparently, he can identify with her, in a way no one else can. Not even Jerry gets close to her, but Shiva likes Daryl, it seems.

Later, Daryl confronts Morgan, about why he lied about Carol’s whereabouts. Morgan is once again trying to talk someone else into taking the peaceful way out. I understand his point of view, but its extremely impractical in a world with such being as the Saviors. He’s starting to work my last damn nerve, too. He and Rosita. Rosita is flailing wildly at anyone that wanders into her orbit, on one extreme, and on the other extreme, you have Morgan, who thinks people can just talk their way through everything. Hey Morgan, guess what? There’s such a thing as the middle path.

I think I saw this same argument on Tumblr. You cannot reason with the unreasonable. You certainly cannot reason with people who mean you gross bodily harm, and only understand that they shouldn’t hurt you, when they have some skin in the game. In other words, some people only stop being violent when they realize how much that shit is gonna cost them. When we were kids my mother used to say this about bullies,” You got to bring some ass, to get some ass!” If a person wants to hurt you, make that mf pay for it, if you can, or rethink their actions, if you can’t. (In other words, there’s no such thing as a fair fight.) Morgan, in his zeal to salvage his conscience, can only get other people killed. This is a philosophy that only works in a world filled with honorable people, who don’t enjoy violence, for its own sake.

Also, I’m getting a little tired of the writers creating these useless Black men for the show. Black men who are cowards, or liabilities, who can’t, or won’t fight back. It’s interesting when you consider the show is written by White men who think they’re being nuanced and are trying not to stereotype them, and that’s all well and good, but in my life I’ve not met a single Black man that won’t, at least, attempt to put his foot in your ass, if you step to him. As a Black woman, I think I know a lot more Black men than the writers. They’ve written some wonderful Black women into the show, and I wish they could do the same for the Black men, and they could, if they weren’t being hampered by this idea of trying  to avoid stereotypes of Black men, I think.
Okay, I’m skipping next week’s episode, because I have a special intolerance for Negan, who is  prominently featured. But I will read the recaps and reviews, and maybe reblog one or two of those, instead. I hate the Negan centered episodes, even though sometimes they’re important, but I mostly don’t want to see Eugene being tortured, as he’s such a precious cinnamon roll, and really, I can’t watch that.

So TTFN!

Westworld Thinky- Thoughts

Robert Ford:

So, I’ve been rewatching Westworld from the beginning, and  paying  closer attention to the dialogue and plot, in preparation for the finale.

Shoutout to Anthony Hopkins for delivering a knockout performance of a man suffering from a serious God complex. I just realized the reason Ford is always so far ahead of everyone in the plot is because he uses the Hosts, some of which are planted among the employees of Delos Corporation, (I’m pretty sure Bernard isn’t the only one) to spy on those same employees.

The reason he knew where the MIB was going to be (so that he could meet with him) is because he sent that little boy Host to ask if he needed assistance. And he knew about Charlotte’s plans because Hector was present during Charlotte’s meeting with Theresa. Since Ford has such total and complete control over the Hosts, he knows everything the Hosts see and hear, even when people think the Hosts don’t appear to be paying attention.

Which probably means he knows all about Maeve, and her activities, and has allowed her to continue doing what she’s doing because it serves his purposes, whatever those might be. Lets go back to that meeting, between Ford and Charlotte, to identify Theresa’s body. In one swoop, he completely undoes all  Charlotte’s plans, and all she could do was stand there and take it. Note that he also proposed, during that meeting, that security  at the company be automated, to guard against what happened to Theresa.  Which means that whatever Maeve is about to do will be aided by having little security, during her endeavors. Everything we’ve seen happening at Westworld among the Hosts, from the stockpiling of the Hosts in cold storage, to Teddy’s new Wyatt narrative, which sends Teddy on his own journey to self-awareness, to Maeve’s upgrades, has  all been orchestrated by Ford.

Remember, it was Ford who planted the new Wyatt narrative in Teddy, and that the Hosts in cold storage are decommissioned. They aren’t exactly off, just offline for the moment. He can turn them back on with a word. When Felix and Sylvester were upgrading Maeve, Sylvester noted that someone, with higher clearance than them, had already been tampering with Maeve’s protocols. Ford doesn’t seem at all worried that she’ll actually be able to escape Westworld, and I wonder why that is. But I find it difficult to believe that he wouldn’t nt have found out about Maeve’s little tour of the facilities, and allowed it to happen, considering how much else he knows.

When Elsie starts asking too many questions of Bernard he has Bernard, take her out of commission. When Stubbs gets a little too curious about Bernard, he gets kidnapped by Ghost Nation Natives. So now the head of security is in absentia, security is now mostly automated, and anyone who would’ve been asking legitimate questions, or getting in the way, (Theresa, Elsie, Bernard, Stubbs) is now gone.

Which gives me a huge feeling of dread about Ford’s new narrative, and what that might mean for the Delos Board, who he has invited to  come  check it out. Charlotte and the MIB are already present in the Park. In all likelihood, Ford already knows about how Charlotte has suborned Lee’s loyalty, and her plans to use Peter Abernathy, to smuggle tech out of the Park.

Incidentally, the names Robert and Bernard are both of Germanic origin. Robert means famous, or shining, entirely in keeping with his narcissistic nature. Bernard means hearty, and brave, like a bear. Bern is the old German word for Bear. Jeffrey Wright does look somewhat bear-ish, and we can see Bernard’s ability to go from Teddy bear, to berserker in a hot instant.

Arnold on the other hand means Eagle Power. One who has the power of an eagle, which could be a reference to Arnold’s hovering everywhere, and influencing everything in the plot, and yet being nowhere at all, since he’s dead. Bernard Lowe, which is an anagram of Arnold Weber, is a clone of Arnold, and is also the Head of Westworld’s Programming Division, which oversees the coding and programming of all of Westworld’s Hosts.

The Man in Black/William:

I’m convinced now more than ever that William is the MIB, mostly based on all the things the MIB has said, rather than anything William has done. We’ll see if the show gives us this last theory during the finale. I have it on good authority that Ed Harris will be returning for a second season, so we’ll know, when we know.

Note that the Man in Black has no name, but William means resolute protector, which we’ve seen William try to be for Dolores, trying, but failing, to  protect her from Logan. How someone who is Dolores’ resolute protector, later turns out to be her worst nightmare, is anybody’s guess.

In case anybody cares, Logan’s name is completely appropriate for him, derived from the Gaelic word lagan, which means “hollow”, which perfectly describes this shallow, over-privileged character, who can’t seem to think beyond his base appetites.

Charlotte is the feminized name of Charles, or Charlie, which is also the name of Bernard’s (or rather Arnold’s) dead son.

Maeve/The Bird:

I was struck by the image of the sparrow perching on Maeve’s finger,when she first wakes up in the lab, and one of my online friends thought that there might have been some significance to that image. The only thing I could think of was that in mythology, such birds are often considered psychpomps:

(in Greek mythology) a guide of souls to the place of the dead.
the spiritual guide of a living person’s soul. 

Felix had just revived this bird, so the bird was dead, and presumably, in the afterlife, and when it returned and landed on Maeve’s finger, one could argue that it brought back a soul.
Also, Maeve is a name rooted in the Gaelic language, which means “one who intoxicates”, after the Fairy Queen known as Medb (or Mabh, in English), and yes, she does seem to be enchanting to Felix, and now  has the superpower to make other Hosts do her bidding. Her last name is the name of a poet, Edna St. Vincent Millay, who wrote the poem First Fig  and was controversial, in early American society, by being openly bi-sexual.

‘First Fig’

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends–
It gives a lovely light.

Maeve reached “awareness” extremely fast, rather than the more roundabout manner which we saw for Dorothy, and like Roy Batty from Bladerunner would say: “The light that burns twice as fast, burns half as long.” Its possible that either Maeve, or her rebellion, will burn out, before she is successful.

 

Angela and Theodore:

In Angela, I have been neglecting another fully realized Host. The MIB says he remembers her, and we remember her, as the first Host William  met, when he came to Westworld. This is the same Host who wouldn’t answer his question about whether or not she was real. She is also fully conscious, and her remarks to Teddy, about how Wyatt wasn’t there yet, and bringing Teddy back into the fold, along with Teddy’s  vision of a massacre he participated in, make me want to believe that Teddy is actually Wyatt. I don’t know that he is, but sometimes all the character’s choice of words, and turns of phrase, are very interesting.

Teddy’s visions aren’t nearly as reliable as we think. When all this started, he kept seeing Wyatt killing the town of  Escalante: (Escalante is a Spanish last name  meaning climber, or one who climbs. The Dictionary of American Family Names traces its origin to the Latin word scala referring to a terraced slope, or ladder. ) I’m sure there’s some deeper meaning in naming the town, where the Hosts first pass the Turing Test, Escalante.

Teddy’s vision of that massacre later changed to him helping Wyatt, and still later, it changed to just Teddy doing it, with Wyatt’s help. At any rate, Angela has all the answers. She’s also the only Host we’ve ever seen working outside the Park, and she didn’t show up in the Park until after Ford’s talk with the MIB, which makes me think she could’ve been planted in that place by Ford, to impart specific information about Wyatt, and the location of the town of Escalante, to the MIB.

Note that Angela’s name means “Messenger of the Gods”, which is entirely appropriate, if Ford sent her to them. She absolutely insists on calling Teddy “Theodore”, which almost no one else does.  Its telling that Theodore means “God -given”, coupled with the name Flood, an unusual last name, which means an outpouring, surge, or torrent of emotion.

 

Hannibal Season 2: Tome-Wan

Tome-Wan would at first appear to be one of these interstitial episodes between momentous events, but a number of important events happen in this episode , so its not filler.

There are a number of confrontations, in the aftermath of Will snitching to Mason about how the whole situation between Mason, Margot, and Will was orchestrated by Hannibal.

Will tells Hannibal what he said to Mason, and when Hannibal asks why, he tells him he wanted to see what would happen, throwing back at Hannibal his excuse for why Hannibal warned Garrett Jacob-Hobbes, long ago in that first episode. There are a number of callbacks by Will to that first season.

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Hannibal asks Will to close his eyes and imagine what he’d like Mason to do to Hannibal. Will imagines Hannibal hanging from the rafters in Mason’s pigpen, wearing a straitjacket. In his mind he is the one who slits Hannibal’s throat. Will is suffering from a severe case of “lovehate”. Hannibal has been the architect of so much misery that he can’t wait to see him dead (or captured). At the same time, there’s a part of him that finds all of this exciting, and revels in Hannibal’s antics. Will gets to use his hidden  savage self in service to the state, and loves letting that part of himself of its leash. You can see it in the last episode where he confronted Mason.

Mason confronts Hannibal during his next therapy session. He’s being especially hard on Hannibal’s nerves, as he critiques his drawings, declaring them to be crap, throwing his feet onto Hannibal’s desk, and stabbing at them with a penknife, like a bratty ten year old, which is exactly where Mason is, mentally. He hasn’t evolved beyond the spoiled child stage, and doesn’t seem to realize that he is dealing with a wholly different type of animal than anything he’s ever encountered. Mason is a small fish that, because of his narcissism, thinks he’s pretty big, in a big pond. He doesn’t even conceive that he’s dealing with  Hannibal the  Great White.

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Mason tells Hannibal that he should have stayed out of Verger family business, and threatens to slit his throat. Hannibal, who never gives anything of himself away, acts completely unperturbed, so you know that Mason is  a walking dead man, and that Hannibal have to do this himself, since Will isn’t cooperating with his masterplan of having Will kill Mason. Watch Hannibal’s face during this scene. You can see he is barely holding himself back from snapping the shit outta that little fucker. (Not in the office, Hannibal! Not in the office! – In the voice of Last Week’s John Oliver.)

In Margot’s therapy session with Hannibal, she is broken and restrained. After her forced hysterectomy, (which his quite possibly one of the most heinous things ever done on this show, and that’s saying something, when you consider this is a a show about serial killers.), she has learned her lesson about trying to oppose her brother, and all her hope is lost.In fact all seems lost for everyone, as there are a number of setbacks for all the characters, in this episode.

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Jack Crawford, who is frustrated at how long its taking Will to ensnare Hannibal, has a surprise for Will. He has found and detained Bedelia Du’Maurier, Hannibal’s former psychiatrist. She tried to run away because she knew Hannibal was dangerous for her, but the FBI has done her the favor of putting her back on his radar, as he was too busy with his machinations with Will, to search for her himself.

Will questions Bedelia about Hannibal’s weaknesses. She tells him of her fear of him, how he manipulates others into doing his dirty work for him, something which Will is experiencing first hand, and confesses about the patient Hannibal set her up to kill.She says Hannibal will persuade Will to kill someone he loves, but the only person Will has left to love is Alana. Hannibal has carefully removed everyone else from Will’s life, including the idea of his unborn child.

Hannibal may  be aware of how much Will hates him, during their next therapy session, but he completely disregards the depths to which Will will sink in pursuit of him. Will accuses Hannibal of fostering co-dependency. Hannibal doesn’t want anyone in Will’s life but himself. Which, when you think about it, is one of Hannibal’s creepier aspects.

While Hannibal is drawing one evening, Mason’s henchman, Carlo, bursts in and kidnaps Hannibal, but not without a fight in which Mateo, a friend of Carlo, loses his life, after Hannibal stabs him in the femoral artery with a scalpel.. Carlo stuns Hannibal,  takes him to Muskrat Farm, and trusses him over Mason’s pigpen. This is directly from the book and movie, Hannibal, where Mason Verger has Hannibal in this same position.

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Just as in his imagining, Will is prodded by Mason to slit Hannibal’s throat. We’re not sure exactly whats going on in Will’s mind. He certainly hates Hannibal, but when given an opportunity to kill him he balks, and later when given the opportunity to capture Hannibal, he warns him instead. Does Will even know what he wants, or why? Instead of cutting his throat, Will frees Hannibal but gets knocked out by Carlo for his troubles. Hannibal just leaves Will there unconscious and spirits Mason away for some,  more private, torture.

When Will wakes up he finds blood streaked everywhere, no sign of mason and Carlo’s body, which was eaten by the pigs. He goes back to his home to find Hannibal there with Mason. Hannibal has drugged Mason and induced him to cut off pieces of his flesh, using his father’s knife, and feed it to Will’s dogs. I’m not sure how lost Will is in this scene. He seems  amused at what Hannibal is doing. Is he happy because he finally has evidence of Hannibal doing something actionable in front of him, or is he simply amused at Hannibal’s antics? In a  nastily gruesome scene, Hannibal also orders Mason to cut off his lips and nose, and eat them. What makes this scene especially grotesque is Mason’s mental state. As he happily mutilates his face, he still crack plenty of jokes, about it.

Finally disturbed , Will urges Hannibal to finish Mason, but canny predator that he is, Hannibal doesn’t kill Mason. Instead he carefully paralyzes Mason with a precise break of his neck.

Image result for hannibal tome wan

 

Weeks later, Jack Crawford questions Mason about what happened to him, but Mason says he fell into his own pigpen, and  sings nothing but praises for Hannibal Lecter’s care. But we know better. This shit ain’t over as far as Mason is concerned. Or maybe it is. As Jack leaves, Mason is confronted by Margot, who tells him that she will take very good care of him. She’s the one in power now. I really love this scene, for the look of deep gratification on Margot’s face, as she says this.

Later, Will and Hannibal are debating whether  to confess their sins to Jack, or not. Hannibal weighs the idea that Jack should be told, and then killed, after which he and Will will run off together.

Westworld Season One : The Well -Tempered Clavier

Lemme just get this outta the way right up front:

James Marsden:

Daaayyum! James Marsden is a fine lookin’ White boy! I have enjoyed looking at him since X-Men 2, and haven’t gotten the least bit tired of him. The man just has an incredibly cinegenic face.

Okay! I’ve gotten that out of my system for the moment, and am ready  to move on to the more serious business of reviewing this episode, which is a real doozy this week, as a couple of  fan theories are confirmed, and the robot rebellion continues apace. We spend much of this episode following Dolores and Bernard down the rabbit hole, in their search for Arnold, and the truth. We witness the possible birth of the Man in Black, and the actual birth of Bernard, and get some idea of just how cruelly manipulative Ford can be.

The Turing test is a test, developed by Alan Turing in 1950, of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human.

I think the “Home” that Dolores has been trying to reach is the small, now sand covered town, where she and the other Hosts first passed the Turing Test. This is the same place, told to the MIB, by the Host that killed Teddy. Nothing of it remains now, except its church steeple.

The plot of this episode has all the major characters walking around in spirals, as the repeat the same actions over and over again, little different from the loops they’re programmed with in the Park, except in this case, the loops have a purpose. Maeve’s plans to free herself relies on adding Hector to her team. But first, she needs to convince Bernard to let her go back into the Park after she is detained for killing Clementine. She’s such an enchanting creature she seems able to talk people into doing her bidding even without her superpowers. And she charms Bernard into releasing her back into the Park where she confronts Hector about his last heist. 

She outlines to Hector what will happen in the next few minutes, and explains to him that the safe, the gang all worked so hard to get, is empty. (Its always going to be empty, as there’s no need to fill it with anything. Hector always gets killed by his gang before its opened.) She convinces Hector that they are in a pointless story, and he starts to remember their previous conversations, when she makes love to him while holding his knife between them. Just in case her point has not been made that they are going to Hell, she tips over a lantern and sets their tent ablaze. I’m a little confused because I would think that Hosts  burned to crisps would automatically qualify them to be decommissioned. Here you have characters repeating their actions, only this time,  for a goal.

While charming Bernard into helping her, Maeve also manages to undo all of Ford’s work in erasing Bernard’s memories. Bernard goes on a search for his past, and using a hollowed out Clementine to threaten Ford, he confronts him with his questions.  Ford tells him that the cornerstone of his personality was built on the death of his son, which explains this recurring memory. He says that Arnold believed a tragic backstory built a better foundation for the Hosts personalities. Ford takes Bernard all the way back to his first memory, when he  first opened his eyes.

One of the next biggest fan theories was if Bernard was a clone of Arnold, based on that odd photo that Ford showed to Bernard once, with a picture of Ford, his father, and an empty space, where Ford’s partner would have stood. Bernard is a clone of Arnold, who designed much of his code before he died, and Ford gave him the tragic death of Arnold’s son as the cornerstone of his personality. Since he is a clone, one could argue that Bernard sort of created himself. Ford states that he helped create Bernard because actual human beings had reached their limits in how human they could make the Hosts. To make the Hosts more human than human, Ford needed a Host to refine them. He says the Hosts were designed to be better than humanity, so it’s especially galling to him to see them being used as playtoys by inferior humans. But the real   surprise is Ford tells Bernard that this is not the first time Bernard has breached this knowledge, and that every time it happens, Ford resets him to his pre-knowledgeable state. (Every time Bernard eats of the Apple, Ford makes him throw it up.)

Ford is always one step ahead of everyone else because he seems to know everything. He has backdoor access to all of his creations, so Bernard can’t actually threaten him, and Ford can’t seem to bring himself to kill Bernard so directly, so he orders Bernard to shoot himself, but he walks away before the deed is done. He can’t watch it, it seems.  I was really hoping this moment wouldn’t come to that. I really like Bernard. But I’m not going to get too het up about his death because, as we’ve seen over and over again, and the show has taken great pains to make clear, death is never the end for the Hosts. Ford leaves the body in cold storage, and I’m concerned that he’s not concerned that anyone will find Bernard’s body. Once again I wonder what new Host body Ford was making in that lab. Is it a new version of Bernard? Is it Elsie, whose still MIA?

Normally, we’d rely on Stubbs to suss this out, but  he isn’t around to do any wondering. Like  Elsie, its very possible that he is dead. Investigating a signal from the park, supposedly from Elsie’s Pad, he goes to check it out, and  gets attacked by some native Hosts, when his voice commands don’t work on them. It’s very possible Ford  planned that. Ford has total control,  but we’ve also seen how easily Maeve was given that same control, and the Hosts regularly break that control themselves, when their emotions run amok. You have Dolores , Teddy, Wyatt’s men, Bernard, and Maeve, and I don’t know how many others the Park employees don’t know about, so it’s also conceivable that the Natives kidnapped Stubbs for their own reasons.

This makes me wonder if all of this has happened before, especially if the timeline theory is true, and what we’ve been seeing are  Dolores’ memories, the last time she reached consciousness, back when she first met William. If every twenty or thirty years, the Hosts all have to be decommissioned and reset because, while they’re running free in the Park, they are always evolving, and their constant interaction with the Guests, and each other, is pushing them towards consciousness. (This constant interaction thereby creating the Pearl of Wisdom.) Earlier in the season, one of the employees asked why the robots talk to each other, when they don’t need to, and the answer was they’re always trying to self-correct, constantly ironing out any errors in their interactions, the better to interact with the Guests. I wonder how many Host rebellions have been averted? Maybe  what we’re seeing is a perfect storm of everything that humans can and will do wrong, resulting in a successful rebellion, this time?

Another big revelation, that lends credence to the timeline theory, is Dolores confession to herself that she is the one who killed Arnold. After she and William are captured by Logan, Logan tries to convince William, once and for all, that Dolores isn’t special. He cuts open her abdomen and shows William her inner workings. She manages to overcome her programming long enough to attack Logan and escape. Her journey back “home” is a confusing melange of memories of the past and present. She heads back to the abandoned town, she and William visited in the last episode, guided by her “bicameral mind” (i.e. Voice of God). Simultaneously, Ford is explaining to Bernard how the Host minds were built, and how Arnold’s  previous attempts at bicameral mind resulted in extreme behavioral quirks, (like Teddy’s and Dolores’ massacres?)

What we’re being shown during Dolores’ scenes is how the minds of the Hosts work, and how they think of time. She is unable to tell when she is in time, because all of her memories have perfect clarity, and therefore have the same level of importance. She manages to make it all the way back to the lab, where we saw her speaking to Bernard, and we find that is a separate timeline, because when she gets there she watches as a young Ford runs past her, and when she enters the interrogation room, it is dusty and full of cobwebs. Possibly the labs Bernard and Arnold  used when they were first building the Park. Their dream conversations happened a very long time ago, and Arnold has been dead a very long time. She finally remembers that she is the one who caused his death.

Since we didn’t see her kill him, I do wonder if this is just Dolores feeling guilty, or if she did, in fact, kill him. We’ve seen the Hosts lash out in violence when they’re emotionally distressed, and I wonder if something similar happened between the two of them. Both Teddy and Dolores are shown shooting a town full of Hosts, and I wonder if this is the same event at different times. Did Arnold die during one of these incidents, and is that why the town was buried? Are these former rebellions, the incidents, that the Delos employees keep mentioning? Is this some kind of cycle that occurs every thirty or so years?

Logan’s attack on Dolores has the unexpected side effect of galvanizing something in William. After Dolores runs away, William appears to reconcile with Logan, believing him when he says Billy simply got caught up in the playacting in the Park. He hands William a photo of his sister. The same photo that Peter Abernathy, Dolores first father, found buried in the soil of his front yard, which corrupted his programming, somehow. After Logan and the other militia men pass out for the night, Logan wakes to find that William has massacred the entire unit. Is this the birth of the MIB? Certainly Dolores reaction to the MIB, after she leaves the lab, would seem to point in this direction. And we now know he’s not Logan because Logan has a nice scar on his face where she cut him. Earlier in the season, The MIB references this scene, when he mentions to Lawrence that he saw one of the Hosts cut open once. 

Aided by a clue given to him by the Host that killed Teddy, again!, the MIB now knows  where to go to complete the maze. The same place where Dolores is.  He wakes up tied to a horse in such a way that if he moves he’ll hang himself. He manages to get himself out of  this, only to be confronted by Charlotte, standing there, watching all this,  in her designer boots. For some reason I thought this scene was deeply funny. She walked in on him playing a very elaborate game of “Lets Pretend”, that could get him killed. She mentions that his company once saved the Park, and we know William is about to marry into Logan’s family, who own one of the Parks competing business interests. 

Dolores does get to the maze first, and if what she went through is the maze’s completion, than the idea that the maze is not for the MIb is correct. It was never made with the intention that a human complete it. In fact, it may have been made, by Arnold,  specifically for Dolores.

The technological singularity (also, simply, the singularity) is the hypothesis that the invention of artificial superintelligence will abruptly trigger runaway technological growth, resulting in unfathomable changes to human civilization.

Sundries:

At one point, Dolores confronts Logan about the reality of his world. Logan asks if William is trying to get her out of the Park, and she rightfully asks why they would assume she wants to get out. If  life is so great on the outside, why are humans clamoring to get in the Park? I stood and I applauded because this is the question of the week! It’s interesting that  Maeve believes she’ll be free outside the Park. Dolores believes she’s free in the Park. They both just want to write their own stories. One answer to Dolores question is that guests are  using the Hosts to find their humanity, all while denying the humanity of the Hosts.

I’ve seen fans decrying the racism and misogyny in the show, and making the claim that the show is no better than GoT, in this regard. This is where we’re gonna have to disagree, because I believe all these -isms serve a purpose. Lee Sizemore, a White man, is the main person who writes all the Host narratives. Lee Sizemore is also a racist, sexist asshat. The Natives, the sex-workers, the damseled women, are all exactly the kinds of narratives that have been given to mariginalized people by White writers in popular media, and are all products of Lee’s lurid imagination. (It’s interesting that the only WoC, of any importance, we’ve seen in the entire Park, is Maeve, and she is a saloon madam.) This is an indictment of Lee, (while throwing some shade on  all such hack writers) and his complete inability  to think beyond stereotypes, and I have nothing but praise for the show’s writers in making this subtle distinction, as they write Maeve so that she overturns all of the tropes Sizemore put on her. Westworld gets intersectional Feminism right in a way that shows like Supergirl, Agent Carter, and Jessica Jones, get wrong. It’s possible to address how misogyny impacts the lives of different types of women, without engaging in the kind of oppression olympics that Marvel’s writers seem to fear, by not putting any WoC in their feminist narratives. You can address issues of intersectional Feminism, without the WoC upstanding  any of the White heroines of these shows. 

 All this violence on the show is  also an indictment of humanity, as  much of the inhumanity we witness in the Park, is at the hands of humans, towards the Hosts, and at no point is the viewer given the idea that any of this is good for either of them. Ford attributes any aggressive behavior, on the part of the Hosts, to the humans who abuse and program them. I think that, left to his own devices, Ford would be content to just let the Hosts have the Park to themselves, and observe them, without any human interaction.

Let me just fangirl about Maeve: 

One of the reasons I love Maeve so much is her rise towards consciousnesss is an allegory for becoming”woke”. And she reached this state of being because the other PoC, the  Hispanic and Native Hosts, are the most “woke” beings in the Park, having incorporated their nightmares about the human world, into their personal mythologies. We see her gain some knowledge, and then use that knowledge to give herself power, aided and abetted by  another, just as powerless MoC, Felix. This isn’t just a robot rebellion, it’s a call for PoC to work together to aid each other in becoming free. (At least within the narrative of Westworld.) It is very telling, especially in this political climate, that it’s Sylvester, a White man, who attempts to thwart her plans at every opportunity, even planning to kill her at one point, and siding with the very employers who oppress all of them, and it’s not accidental that the two greatest antagonists in the narrative are White men, Ford and The Man in Black. One of them coded as Godlike, and the other coded as Satanic.

This makes Maeve (Ma-Eve) like Eve. She is the first, the Mother. This is why I think, I hope, her rebellion succeeds. 

She holds and carries herself like the Queen she is, her nudity means nothing to her, and is petty within the context of what she’s trying to achieve.  Maeve is never sexualized during these scenes. She owns her nudity, she owns herself, she makes those around her listen to what she has to say, and do her bidding, apparently by sheer force of personality.

 It is timely, and ironic,  that Maeve’s child was killed by the Man in Black, and especially resonates with me, a Black woman. I live in world where Black kids get killed by apathetic blackhats everyday. When Maeve was hysterical and inconsolable  in the aftermath of her daughter’s death, her behavior was intimately familiar to every black woman watching. We know the face of grief. 

It is Ford who makes her sit down and be quiet, attempts to make her forget about her past. 

Ford doesn’t just take away the Hosts pain because he loves them, he does it because he is aware of just how much trauma gets inflicted on the Hosts. It’s a good for the humans that the Hosts don’t remember. It’s good for him especially. (Although, so far, most of the Hosts are unable to commit violence against humans.) As was said by one of the Delos employees in the first episode, “We better hope they don’t remember what happens to them,” an echo of every White Supremacist fear, that the people they once oppressed will have their  revenge. From trolling and harassment on Twitter, to derailing all conversations about social justice, from ignoring historical fact, to telling PoC to just get over it and shut up, all these tactics are the children of that singular statement. Hoping the people they hurt, don’t remember it.

Also, I like that Westworld is an allegory for racism that actually includes PoC in the story, overturning the usual tropes, of shows that are symbolic of some -ism, that have no marginalized people in them.(I’m looking at you X-Men, and Divergent!) Westworld is set  during a time and place, in American  History, when such trauma was regularly inflicted on Black, Native, and Hispanic bodies, but the show doesn’t neglect to include those bodies.

Next week, after the Season finale, I’ll have more on robot rebellions as slave narratives, and how these types of movies, and shows, serve to illuminate and elucidate White Supremacist fears of White genocide, and another post on the Biblical interpretations in the show’s narrative.

http://www.bachwelltemperedclavier.org/analysis.html 

 

 

 

Westworld Season One: Trompe L’oeil

Trompe l’oeil: a painting or design intended to create the illusion of a three-dimensional object. A French word meaning “deceive the eye”.

“Doesn’t look like anything to me.” – Westworld’s Hosts

The beauty of  the Westworld series is that it all relies on the visual perception of not just the Guests and Hosts, but the viewers, as well. According to Ford, the Hosts can’t see anything that might hurt them, but we should.

This series is full of deceptions, but a lot of masks came off for this episode, as Charlotte plays her hand, we find out who Bernard is, and William and Dolores, take things to the next level. Actually, none of the revelations are huge surprises, if you’ve been paying attention, as the show has been dropping little clues and hints all  season. But like I said, I’m pretty bad at speculation, so I just notice  these things, and move on, allowing the show to take me wherever its going.

Its a little like sightseeing, with other passengers pointing out highlights, we should pay attention to on the tour. Other people use these highlights to guess what their final destination might be, but I’m mostly  just going to take notes, and enjoy the ride, especially in a show as layered with meaning as Westworld.

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Charlotte Hale, and Theresa, are working together to overthrow Ford’s ownership of the Park. Now, Ford warned Theresa not to get in his way, and her hubris at thinking she could best him with her juvenile actions, gets her killed, at the hands of her former lover, and newly outed Host, Bernard. Charlotte and Theresa ,while not new at manipulation, are not in Ford’s league. He’s a master chess player, who seemingly knows what they’re going to do before they do it.

I know a lot of people speculated about Bernard. It was one of the big theories of the series. Well, such people had ample reason to look smug, as it was finally revealed that Bernard has always been a Host. I enjoyed this revelation, but I wasn’t exactly surprised by it, as I’ve watched these episodes several times, and followed the trail of breadcrumbs that other people were pointing out to me. They all had some  very compelling arguments, which finally  paid off.

William has decided he’s going to stop pretending, saying to Dolores, that he’s been pretending to be something he’s not his entire life, but now that’s over. He’s going to be his true self from now on, which just furthers everyone’s theory that William is actually the MiB, about 20-30 years ago, and that he and Dolores are in another timeline. He and Dolores make out, and I kinda knew the direction they were headed, so no surprises there. Its interesting to me that its Dolores who makes the first move, professing her love for William.

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Dolores has revealed that she is now totally in pursuit of her own goals, and William is just along for the ride, as her dreams lead her further and further away from the life she once lived. It does make me wonder, if this is the past and William is actually the  MiB, then in the present times, he may not have actually raped her in that barn. He may have been doing something entirely different. The show has made it pretty clear that nothing is as it seems,  so why not that event, too.

In their efforts to oust Ford from power, Charlotte and Theresa stage a show for Ford and the others to demonstrate how dangerous the new Reveries program might be to the Guests. Something that Elsie (who is missing this episode) took great pains to find out, and was fairly alarmed about, is just casually thrown out there by Charlotte, although in her case it’s faked. She and Theresa make a blood sacrifice of the guard and  Clementine, and we find out there are other employees wandering around who are actually Hosts.

Image result for westworld trompe loeil clementine

Now, I don’t know if everyone at the demonstration knew that the guy Clementine killed was a Host already, or if that’s something only Ford knew, but it was interesting that, as little sympathy as the employees seem to have for the Hosts, the women all looked acutely uncomfortable at watching Clementine be brutalized by this man. At any rate ,their little demonstration was faked to make Ford’s updates look bad, and  give the Board leverage to use against him. They  used  most of that leverage to fire Bernard, since they can’t directly attack Ford because he is incredibly valuable. Charlotte made it very clear in her interview with Theresa, the Board only cares about the Host’s technology, and to Hell with its employees. What they want to do is reduce the amount of power Ford possesses, so they can get their hands on it, but Ford is several moves ahead of them.

He’s had a lot of practice at this game. As he says, every few years the Board  makes some  effort to bring him to heel, and Theresa is just their latest cats-paw. When he orders Bernard to kill her, we see a new Host body being created in the background. Some people are already theorizing that its Theresa’s replacement. This has the added benefit of unsettling the viewer because now we start wondering are there any  other Hosts wandering around the facility pretending to be humans, and who might they be.

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Its almost heartbreaking to watch it slowly dawn on Theresa that she is about to die horribly. I say almost, because I never really warmed to Theresa, although she was certainly a smart and complex character. Her terror is especially sharp, after staging that demonstration showing  how powerful Hosts are, and what they’re capable of. She essentially just watched her own death several hours earlier. She knows exactly what Bernard s going to do to her. The signature move of the Hosts is to bash their victims heads.We saw that in the episode where Elsie was almost attacked, and again with Clementine.

My heart really broke for Bernard though as he is confronted with the knowledge that he’s not human, and never has been. We opened the episode with Bernard having a nightmare about the death of his son, so its especially poignant to discover that those memories, memories that he’s used to push Dolores towards sentient awareness, aren’t real. Unless of course that too is something that was orchestrated by Ford to influence Dolores in the direction he wanted her to go.

Of course one of the prevailing theories is that those scenes of Bernard talking to Dolores are really scenes between her and Arnold, when he was alive, just after he lost his son, and just like Ford claimed Arnold made Host copies of Ford’s father, maybe Ford made Bernard in Arnold’s image. When Theresa asks if Bernard killed Arnold, Ford says Bernard wasn’t around then, but Bernard has been around for an extremely long time, though. When Theresa finds the drawings of Bernard’s schematics, the name on the sheets is carefully missing, whereas on drawings of Dolores’ schematics, her name is prominently displayed.

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The jury is still out on whether, or not, Bernard is actually Arnold, or if Arnold was even a  real person, or just some myth that Ford made up as a another layer of protection between him and the corporation. I’m going with the idea that Arnold was a real person, but what furthers this theory is that Ford seems to be the only person who knows everything that’s going on in the Park.

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Meanwhile, Maeve has decided she’s not going to live in the Park. She wants out, especially after she inadvertently witnesses Clementine being decommissioned, after  the Delos demonstration. She cajoles and threatens Sylvester and Felix into helping her, although I get the distinct impression from Felix that he’s helping her because he’s curious to see where this is going. He mostly seems shocked at Maeve’s boldness, and seems to really like her. He doesn’t seem as entirely opposed to the idea as Sylvester, who hates her guts. I suspect Sylvester isn’t long for this world, as this is the second time Maeve has threatened to kill him. She’s never threatened Felix, though.

The big action set piece this time is the three-way fight between Lawrence, Dolores, and William, who are trying to escape the Confedorados, who are mad at Lawrence for betraying them, and the Natives who attack the Confeds because they’re angry at all these people trespassing on their land. Its a gorgeously shot scene, with lots of nice stunt riding on the part of the actors.

Now, I’ve seen some Tumblr pieces vilifying the show for being racist. Yes, the show contains racism, but there’s a reason for it, just like all the other narratives in the show. (Except for that lesbian thing. That’s just weird.). Things aren’t what people think they are and if they are just looking at the surface layer, they will come away with the wrong idea. The creator, Lisa Joy, is an Asian-American woman, who is not simply reproducing the racist narratives she’s been told her whole life. She is meditating on them, and in many ways, subverting them.

Normally I would address this in a long rant, with receipts and bullet points, but its  apparent that would be kind of a waste, because its Tumblr, where very young people go to test out their critical thinking skills, and  none of them seem to have watched the show beyond episode three. In order to understand the show, you can’t just look at what’s happening on the surface. So, what I’ll do is leave this here again:

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2016/11/07/westworld-analysis-dolores-and-maeve/

Its not a perfect meta, and at some point I may redo and re-publish it,  but hopefully people who read it will get some idea that the issues of racism they’re seeing, are much more complex than they are  at first shown. The entire series is predicated on deceiving the eye, remember?

 

Here’s review that I especially enjoyed:

http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2016/11/westworld-recap-bernard-robot-kills-theresa-episode-7-tromp-loeil

American Horror Story Season 6: Finale

Well, that was pretty confusing, but I actually liked it. It was entirely in keeping with the generally snarky attitude of the entire season’s meta approach to televisual media.

We start off the episode with the courtroom proceedings at Lee’s trial and some shameless overacting from the lawyers, as they plead their case. Lee is pronounced “Not Gulity”. Flora, who testified that she witnessed her mother kill her father, was not a believable witness, because she believed in ghosts.

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We get more backstory on Lee,  but this time told from the point of view of a cheesy MTV: Behind the Music style show called Crack’d, (which was hilarious) and a parody of some type of ConFest, thrown to celebrate the original Roanoke Nightmare, which totally captures the self serving bullshit of the celebrities featured at such events. Each one of the stars of My Roanoke Nightmare are at their obnoxious best, as they showboat to  try to garner as much attention from the audience as possible.  My eyeball rolling didn’t even reach maximum levels during this stage of the proceedings. Clearly the show runners were just getting started.

The episode itself is total crack-meta as it switches from one television genre to another, as shows within shows. From those opening scenes, we move on to a Barbara Walters type of show, with its overwrought and ponderous interviewing style, with Sarah Paulson reprising her role as Lana Winters, the newswoman from Asylum. She is interviewing Lee about  having been found not guilty of killing Mason, and hilariously has  the tables turned on her by Lee. That interview itself turns truly batshit insane when the last of the Polks,  Lot, shows up with a machine gun, and tries to assassinate Lee in the middle of the interview.

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From there, we get a callback to the last episode with some intrepid spiritchasers, called appropriately enough, Spirit Chasers, visiting the Roanoke House during the Blood Moon. I had as little empathy for these obnoxious twits, as I had sympathy for the ones who died in the last episode. That last group didn’t deserve the horrible things that happened to them, but these guys were warned frequently, they watched the second season of Roanoke, so knew what to expect, and the house itself is cordoned off against trespassers with barbed wire. These assholes chose not to believe any of it, and got themselves (and some hapless policemen) murdered by the Butcher’s followers.

Although, when you think about it, the most common trope of all horror movies is people making stupid decisions, so  the show simply ends as it began. Matt and Shelby find a ramshackle old house in the middle of fucking nowhere and decide that would be a good place to live. The Spirit Chasers make the boneheaded decision to trespass on haunted land, where at least a dozen or more people have died. I don’t even believe in ghosts but, just like in that Stephen King story 1408, I don’t have to believe in ghosts to know that staying overnight, in a place where dozens of people have died horribly, is a good idea.

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The spirit chasers meet Lee in the house. She is there hunting Flora. This is the part I find confusing because how did Lee know that’s where Flora would be, and how did Flora get there?  Uber? How did she get inside the house? She’s, like, twelve years old! and the place is surrounded by a  barbed wire fence!  In fact, this moment is so confusing, that when Lee showed up, I thought she and Flora were dead and being reunited as ghosts. I  was disabused of that idea because they showed up on the thermal sensors the spirit chasers were using.

It turns out that Flora came back to the house after her mother’s acquittal, to stay with Priscilla. One of the few truly emotional moments is Lee’s reunion with her daughter, and her utter dedication in protecting her daughter, no matter what. Lee, the ultimate survivor, sacrifices her life to keep her daughter from killing herself, so she can stay behind and protect Priscilla, in Flora’s stead, from The Butcher.

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As the house finally burns to the ground, Flora sees the ghosts of her mother, and Priscilla, waving goodbye to her. Lee, as she has stated so many times this season, would indeed do anything for her daughter.

Now, I have read a rather shitty review which focused the episode on Sarah Paulson’s character and I was greatly offended by the writer’s complete inability to give Lee her due as the actual star of this season, instead of focusing their review on a White character from a previous season, who only shows up in the last episode of this one. This season wasn’t about Lana Winters, as her story has already been told, and I didn’t appreciate seeing Lee being reasoned out of her own story. I can see the parallels from Lana’s story to Lee’s, but that’s no excuse to remove Lee’s adaptability, determination, fortitude, and search for love and redemption, via her daughter, as the primary focus of this season.

 

I’m not saying Lee wasn’t a problematic character, but that’s why I liked her. One of my biggest complaints about TV and movies (among many, many, many, complaints) is the lack of unlikable women. She’s the kind of woman who is hard to like, because she’s complicated, and I like  that her complications make sense, and are consistent. She’s not just given random unlikable character traits to make you hate her.  Quite frankly, none of the white people on the show came across as people I would like to get to know. But I’d be friends with Lee, if I could. She seems like the kind of person that, once she lets you in that zone, you’re in there forever. When Lee loves people, she loves them wholly and completely, the way she does Flora. But if you wrong her, or betray her trust, you will soon be experiencing fine dining in Hell.

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The final scenes of the actual show (and not a show within a show) is a shot of The Butcher, the Blood Moon, and all the police, and emergency service personnel, gathered in the valley below, and completely at The Butcher’s mercy.

Yeah, that’s not gonna end well.

But we knew that when the season began.

Overall, I really liked this season. This is coming from someone who generally hates the overwrought dramedy of Reality TV. I think the seasons have gotten  better and better over time. I enjoyed Freaks and Hotel, but those seasons suffered from a great deal of incoherence, and lack of focus, towards the end, with subplots being introduced that never got follow through. This season remained taut, focused, and nuanced, with a clear thematic goal of parodying Reality TV. I haven’t had this much fun with that sort of mockery since that Cops parody of the X-Files, titled appropriately enough, X-Cops.

And before I go, I have to give a shout out to Adina Porter. The first time I saw her she was playing a witch-con-woman on True Blood, as Tara’s broken, abusive mother. I loved her acting then, and she brings that same sense  of steely fragility to her role as Lee,  although I didn’t immediately make the connection when I saw her. Its funny how she keeps playing these broken widows, desperately  trying to win back their daughter’s love, and she has mastered it. She is an incredible actress that I hope to see even more of after this.

Well, ta-ta til next season, people! I hope you enjoyed this one. Let me know in the comments.

Westworld Season One: The Adversary

Earlier this week, I wrote about how Maeve Millay was coming into her power and why it is such an  important moment. Well…

This was Maeve’s episode.

You know how Game of Thrones has that one episode every season that  emotionally devastates you? (Hardhome; The Door?) The writers of Westworld have accomplished just such a feat with The Adversary. It’s got some juicy action setpieces, and packs an emotional wallop. For us Blackgeekgirls though the resonance was sharp, as there’s nothing more emotional than watching a Black woman discover just how much power she possesses.

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We’ve been low key keeping an eye on Maeve’s journey towards full sentience, not thinking too much about it. Just like with the masters of Maeve’s life, her awakening has flown  beneath our radar, as everyone has been giving most of their attention to Dolores journey, as hers has been the most front and center. But it is Maeve who reaches full sentience, and Thandie Newton who delivers our standout performance  of the season.

Tessa Thompson is introduced as Charlotte Hale, Elsie discovers  interesting information, and things between Theresa and Bernard reach a head. The Westworld theories are flying fast and furious as people speculate on whether or not Bernard is a robot, perhaps even a clone of Arnold, William’s actual identity, and if there are two separate timelines, (which would explain why Bernard, and Ford, know nothing about Maeve), and if there are two timelines, then when does Dolores’ timeline occur, compared to Maeve’s?

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We begin the episode with Maeve waking in bed, a position we’ve seen Dolores in many times, and end the episode on a shot of Maeve realizing her power. She goes to the saloon, where she incites one of the patrons to choke her to death in the middle of sex.Why? So ,she can get back to Felix and finish their conversation. She has decided to dive headlong into this new mystery. Felix explains to Maeve who and what she is, who he is, and where they are. Maeve is so devastated by the knowledge that she has never had control of herself, that she temporarily shuts down.

After Felix brings her back online, Maeve uses all her plus level charm and seduction to compel Felix to give her a tour of the facility where she was born, the Delos Corporation. There follows one of the most bittersweet moments in the entire episode. A String version of Radiohead’s Motion Picture  Soundtrack (quite possibly one of the saddest songs ever created)  is used to great effect, as Maeve begins to fully understand that everything she thought she knew about her world is a lie, the people, places, and even the most spontaneous-looking moments, were never real. Thandie totally sells it. I feel  no shame in admitting that I cried like a three year old, at the irony of her seeing the phrase “Live Without Limits”, understanding her life has been defined by nothing but.

This scene has so many layers.  Partner Maeve’s  reactions, which are all in Thandie’s eyes and micro-facial expressions, with the tension of the two of them getting caught. What’s sweet about it is the architectural design, the beauty of the shots, and Felix’s reaction, as   the situation is just as terrifying for him, as it is for her. Felix has decided to help her for his own reasons, which I’m still trying to figure out. On some level, he does love her, is in awe of her, and thinks he will derive some benefit to his career.

Suddenly we have this new duo, Maeve and Felix as important characters, along with Teddy and the MIB, and Dolores and William, and I’m curious about how all of this will work out for the season finale. It also lends a good deal of evidence to the “separate timelines” theory. If Maeve and Dolores are in different timelines, its unlikely they will team up. There’s also Sylvester, Felix’s frenemy, who Maeve coerces into helping her. I hate Sylvester. I think most right minded people probably will, because he’s  such a yutz. My favorite moment is when Maeve threatens to gut him like a fish. I must have been clapping at that because my family was hollering from the other room  about why I was making all that noise.

There is a lot of Arnold in this episode, as he gets name drooped constantly. Elsie has her big moment when she discovers who it is that has been using the Hosts to steal information about Westworld. It’s Theresa.

In the wake of Ford’s discovery of her and Bernard’s relationship, Theresa has decided it would be a good idea to break up with him. While investigating the spate of robot signals, being sent from an abandoned warehouse, someone kidnaps Elsie.

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Lee Sizemore, that asshole British Narrative creator, gets introduced to Tessa Thompson’s Charlotte, in the worse possible way. Having gone on a bender, argued with Theresa, and tried to pick up Charlotte at the Delos’ bar,  (while spilling company secrets), he decides it would be a god idea to take a piss on the Westworld 3D prop. (I had to shake my head at what is the worse possible way to meet your new boss, drunk as a skunk, and pissing on stuff.) Theresa and Charlotte discover Lee with his dick out. I will be very glad when this character is gone somewhere. Anywhere that’s not on this show.

Teddy is definitely born-again hard, as he and the MIB tear it up against an entire squad of cavalrymen, with Teddy breaking out the Gatling gun and mowing everyone down. He even manages to impress the Lord of Terror himself, the Man in Black. What’s puzzling are all the references to the maze we see in this episode. At one point, Teddy’s captors are about to brand him with the symbol, and Robert comes across the same symbol, in a small Mexican town, carved into a tabletop. Teddy also has images of having helped Wyatt massacre an entire militia, when the narrative that was given to him by Ford, specifically states that he’s hunting Wyatt because Wyatt is the one solely responsible.

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Also, the clues that Logan, William, and Dolores are all in a different timeline are starting to add up. Watch for the different logos being used during which episodes, and whose story is being told at the time. There’s also the theory that their adventure may just be taking place only  in Dolores’ memories.

Bernard discovers that Ford has been visiting a Host clone of his family. He says they were a gift to him from Arnold. Later, when Ford goes back to play catch with the younger version of himself, he discovers that the boy has killed the family dog. And then he  lies about it, just as Elsie feared earlier in the episode. Someone is modifying the Hosts to act more human and they could potentially hurt the Guests. Ford does not seem to be much perturbed at these events, so now I’m deeply (I mean deeply) suspicious of him.

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At the end of the episode,  Maeve gets an upgrade. Her personality  matrix is built on a twenty point system, with the intelligence quotient at fourteen, which is the limit for Hosts. She needs to be smart but not too smart. She has Felix nudge that to twenty, but not before Sylvester and Felix discover that her personality had already been heavily modified by someone with more technical savvy than them.

If the being we saw in this episode is Maeve at a fourteen level of  intelligence, then that means all Hell is about to break loose, now that she’s reached level twenty. I think I can handle that.

Except for the occasional episode, here and there, I couldn’t fall in love with Game of Thrones, but then I’m not a big High Fantasy film watcher, or reader. This episode insures that Westworld and me will be kickin’ it for awhile, though.

ETA:

 In Contrapasso, little Robert Ford (a Host) shows up to inquire about the MiBs activities with Teddy and Lawrence. As the MiB and Teddy leave, we see the boy examining the exsanguinated body of Lawrence. In the following episode, The Adversary,  he kills the family dog in much the same manner. He lies to the aged Ford about killing the dog, saying that a voice told him to do it. Dolores, in Contrapsso, lies about whether she hears the voice of God/Arnold. Their conversation presents the strong possibility that her time with William and Logan are memories. There’s a theory that says the MIB might be either of those two men.

ETA: 

During Maeve’s tour of the facility, she is struck by the scene of a black woman, sculpting the face of one of the Hosts ,and you can see maybe a glint in her eye, that lingers just a bit longer than usual, that she finds that fascinating. I’m certain Maeve has never though of Race before or ever questioned what she looked like. The Hosts pay no attention to race, most likely have no concept of it, and yet many of their activities would be informed by it, as they might be influenced by the biases of the technicians. 

How certain Guests might treat Maeve, the position of her life, even her personality, might be informed by the conscious or unconscious racism of the narrators of her story, as I mentioned earlier when the technicians bumped up her aggression. The technicians may not have been consciously thinking of the stereotype of the Angry Black Woman, but the writers of this show know the viewers might think of it. There’s a scene in Contrapasso where Elsie is watching a very well endowed Black man attempting to pour wine, and makes a statement about it. The technicians regularly take advantage of the female Hosts according to Elsie. She, herself, takes the opportunity to kiss Clementine, when she thinks no one is looking. If sexual misadventures with the Hosts is a regular occurrence, then  I don’t consider racist behavior towards them to be  off the table, and that might find its way into their narratives as well.

The Walking Dead Season 7: The Cell

Normally, I’d review this episode myself, but it’s the night before the election, I just got through a harrowingly emotional episode of Westworld, and I’m not in the best frame of mind. I know my emotional capacity and I’m just not ready to watch  Daryl, one of my favorite characters, be tortured for an hour. My brain is tired. Nope! I’m not ready for it.

But, I came across this excellent review, at Supernatural Sisters. I couldn’t reblogged the post but I can steer you in their direction. The owners of this site are Af-Am women with an acute interest in all things Horror. It’s rare to find Black women who are interested in horror, so naturally, I fell in love.

They also do some top notch Supernatural, Game of Thrones, and Teen Wolf reviews, book recommendations, and posts on Horror mythology and cryptozoology . It’s great! Check it out!

Here’s Sunday’s review of The Walking Dead:

The Walking Dead S07E03 Review: The Cell

The Walking Dead Season 7: The Well

I’m still a huge fan of The Walking Dead, even though every season the show takes an emotional toll on me. It’s such an emotional drain that I have never re-watched an entire season of this show. I’ve occasionally re-watched an episode or two, but most of the series, I avoid.

Now let’s get something out of the way first. As much as the show is emotionally fatiguing, it’s also incredibly gratifying. I’m going to continue to watch it despite what happened in the last episode, but I fully, and completely, understand those of you who want to check the fuck out. I get it. I’m not Asian. I’m not a guy. But I sympathize and empathize with all of you who had a deep emotional investment in Glen.

I’ll never know what it was like for you to lose him, but I’m a black woman who rarely gets to see herself in the media she consumes, and I do know what it’s like to lose a character you love, cared about, and rooted for (Sleepy Hollow, I’m lookin’ atchu!). I’m not going to stop watching The Walking Dead because there are other characters i still love, and  I’m stannin’ for  Michonne, Carol, Morgan and Daryl. Those, for me, are good reasons  to keep watching.

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However, if you feel you can’t watch this show anymore, I want you to know, your reasons for boycotting are entirely valid. Don’t let the rest of the fandom gaslight you into thinking what happened doesn’t mean anything. Glenn was the ONLY Asian representation for six seasons, and that meant something to you. If you started watching this at thirteen, that means you’re a grown man now. You grew up with Glenn. You watched him become a man just as you were becoming one, too. Your feelings, no matter what they are, are completely valid, you don’t have to justify how you feel, and you do whatever you have to do to self-care. If that means getting away from this show, than that’s what you must do, and no one has the right to denigrate you for doing that.

That said, I still had something of a debate with myself on whether I should watch this episode, although I knew I couldn’t stay away from the show forever. I get addicted to shows sometimes and TWD is one of those shows. I dithered right up until, and after it aired. (So I cheated and watched The Talking Dead, the talk show discussing whatever episode just aired. ) I’m glad I didn’t skip this though because I’ve been waiting a long time to see King Ezekiel and Shiva. In the comic books he sounded so ridiculous that I just kind of dismissed him, but he is kinda awesomely funny on this show. And hey, I love tigers! I’m glad they didn’t wait until mid- season to introduce either of these two.

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We spend out time this episode finding out what happened to Morgan and Carol. When we last saw them they were being attacked by Walkers after one of Negan’s people tried to kill Carol. Morgan, for the first time since we saw him in season one, shot a man to save her. Ezekiel’s people come riding in on horses, and carrying lances, and swords, to take out the Walkers surrounding them.

While Carol recuperates, Morgan gets a quick tour of Ezekiel’s Kingdom, where the motto is that as one takes from The Well, one gives back to The Well, which means that if you take their hospitality than you must pay it back by being useful to the group. This is not a different philosophy from that which was practiced by the cops in Atlanta, who captured and enslaved Noah, but seems much less coercive when practiced in The Kingdom. Probably because people are free to leave anytime they want. I’d like to know why Carol only ever seems to encounter these new communities  after being injured. She keeps waking up to new faces.

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Ezekiel is over the top and dramatic but seems to run his Kingdom very well, although its a like visiting a RenFaire. His people seem happy and productive. They have movie nights, a choir, breakfast and lunch cobbler, and a theater. Meeting Ezekiel the way we did was a lot of fun and a reprieve from the grief of last week. Shiva was awesome, but the stand out character seemed to be Jerry, Ezekiel’s majordomo, a giant Hispanic man, who reminds me heavily of Eugene, and has quickly become a fan favorite. Also I think the idea of having cobbler at every meal is hilarious. Well, what else are going to do with all that damn fruit? But there are some dark undertones in this scenario.

Ezekiel asks Morgan to accompany him on a run,where wild pigs are captured and fed Walkers, so that their stomachs are full of rotten meat, and then they’re given to the Saviors as part of their tithe. Morgan finds himself in the ironic position of defending another man with a gun, but he drops his weapon instead. Zeke tells Morgan he was curious about what Morgan would do,and that the pigs, and his tithes to Negan, are a secret he keeps from his people.

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Impressed by Morgan’s skills with the bo staff, he asks Morgan to teach aikido to one of his young charges, who happens to be inept with knives and arrows, and Morgan goes along with this. He seems to be thinking hard about staying in the Kingdom.

Carol meets Zeke and Shiva for the first time and plays her innocent act, which Ezekiel sees right through, probably because he’s playing a role as well, and so recognizes the same thing when she does it. I thought she was laying on the “oh mys” and “my goshes” a little thick. My favorite moment is when Zeke calls her “fair lady”. Carol thinks he and his people are living in a fairy tale, and finds its all laughably ridiculous. She spends most of the episode pretending to be sweet and innocent, while stealing supplies for her eventual walkout.

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But Ezekiel is very observant. He catches her stealing fruit from one of his trees, and confronts her about her act. He asks her to stay, and tells her his backstory, of how people treated him when they saw him with Shiva, and tells her there is a purpose to his act. That it keeps his people sane, and gives them hope. I got some strong romantic vibes from these two. Its obvious that Ezekiel really seems to like her, so I think he does have ulterior motives in asking her to “go but not go”. Which is Zeke speak for “you ain’t gotta stay, but I’d sure hate for you to leave”.

King Ezekiel helps Carol gather supplies, but later he comes to visit her at one of the abandoned homes, where she’s chosen to stay in her self-exile, and brings her the pomegranate  he offered her, when they first met. This is  definitely the beginning of a courtship. I think Zeke is smitten with Carol, and she is  charmed and amused at his antic. His frank conversation with her before she left went a long way towards getting her to like him, I think. It certainly worked on me.

I also want to point out that, as the seasons have progressed, the Walkers have become even more disgusting. Have you noticed? The Walkers are rotting, and not a lot of new ones are really being created, as people have gotten very good at adapting to, and navigating, this environment.

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ETA:

Oh yeah, that song the choir was singing, during Carol’s tour of he Kingdom, is a Bob Dylan Song called Don’t Think Twice, Its Alright. I love the barbershop quartet version, and now its stuck in my head, (along with the opening piano theme of Westworld.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Westworld Season One: Contrapasso

Contrapasso is a reference to Dante’s Inferno, where the sinner in Hell suffers a punishment related to  the sin that was committed when they were alive. Literally the “counterstrike ” or the “counter-suffering”, which describes the relationship between the sinner and the resulting justification for their torture in Hell.

I was being a bit silly last week when I said I wished the robot rebellion would get started. I don’t actually wish that, really. I’m having  too much fun parsing all the events in this show. It’s just such a rich brew, I was jittering around in my seat like a three year old.  I heard this fifth episode was going to be mind-blowing, and the actress who said that, (Guess who?), wasn’t kidding. So I re-watched all the episodes from the beginning, so I could try to get a good handle on what’s going on. I think I succeeded in understanding about fifty (maybe 60) percent of what’s happening. I’m no dummy but (just like the writers of Hannibal) the people writing this show are waay smarter than me. But here’s my recap anyway, and perhaps by doing this I can understand what the hell I’m watching.

But before I get started I just want to talk about Westworld’s theme song at the opening of the show. If you listen carefully, it’s a parallel of what happens during the course of the series. I noticed this while watching a YouTube video of someone playing the song on piano. The theme is only about a minute and a half long, but during it, more and more discordant notes start to creep in. The song becomes darker, as flatter and  lower notes are added, so that what started out as a harmonious, innocently lovely tune, ends as something ominous, echoing the direction not just of the plot of the show, but the character arcs of the Hosts as they begin to reach for self awareness. Just like that first thunderous note, is an echo of the Park’s first death, this is a machine that has been running without a hitch for some thirty years, but lately has some troubling signs that all isn’t well, as the various anomalies start to build on each other, just like the notes of the theme.

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Okay, I have to admit I have no fucking clue who the Man in Black is,  but I’d like to believe it’s Arnold, the maker who “died” in the park. Yes, yes! I know I could be wrong because as I’ve stated before, accurate speculation is not a superpower I possess. However, I’m going to forge ahead with this theory anyway, because I like it, and there have been too many ambiguous statements from Guests, Robert Ford, and the MIB himself, leading me to believe that the MIB lost himself in the park, and reinvented himself as this villain which everyone refuses to name. My biggest clue was when Logan was talking to William about the Park’s origins, and said there were no photographs of Arnold, and that he had the hardest time finding information about him. There was also last week’s guest who recognized the MIB from the real world.

Ford is in the basement with one of his old robots talking about how he used to own a greyhound, and when he let it off its leash, it ran wild and killed a cat. He’s obviously talking about the Park, and the Hosts, which he intends to let off their leash, I guess. Ford knows what’s happening to the Hosts.  He even has some idea of what the outcome could be and he is allowing all of it to happen. The show keeps having the characters make allusions to  the violent retribution that would occur should the robots ever have their restrictions removed. Those restrictions being programmed to not harm humans and the lack of memories of what the Guests do to them.

What Ford’s ultimate purpose is, I don’t know, but it may have something to do with the rival business interests that Logan represents, and this big narrative that Ford has been designing that has been disrupting the Park’s other narratives. I’m convinced that the new backstory he gave Teddy last week, involving his relationship with Wyatt, is also a part of it all. Wyatt is the boogeyman no one has yet seen.

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Ford talks to Dolores about what happened 34 years ago. (I noticed the dates keep changing. Its 33, or 35, or 30 years ago.) We learn that Dolores was the last person to interact with Arnold. It’s also mentioned, in an earlier episode, that there hasn’t been a death in the park for over thirty years, (Arnold) and that Dolores is the last Host left from that era. Either the MIB is Arnold, or he killed Arnold. This is my supposition until I get new information, which might change next week, since this show insists on confounding me. I’m still not completely ruling  out that the MIB is a Host with Arnold’s memories loaded into it like a memory card.

Dolores divulges, in her conversation with Ford, that Arnold told her her purpose was to help him destroy Westworld. Ford is attempting to find out if the Hosts are hearing the Voice of God commands they were first programmed with. But she is lying to him about that. Someone said the most frightening thing is not a robot that can pass the Turing Test (A test to see if a robot can pass for human by engaging with a human. None of the robots in existence today have passed this test, so calm down.) but a robot that deliberately fails a Turing Test.  Dolores is deliberately pretending to be less aware than she is in this scene. She may also be doing this with William and Logan, too.

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Dolores, William, and Logan reach Pariah, along with Slim, and we meet El Lazo who happens to be a copy of the Lawrence Host that’s been accompanying the MIB on his travels. His name is Lawrence, too. Their meeting with El Lazo doesn’t start off well. He tasks them to steal a shipment of nitroglycerin from the Union army, to prove they can be trusted. It’s interesting that in this narrative, the Civil War is referenced. In the real world, the Southwestern part of the US was flooded with former slaves, after the war. There still aren’t enough Black people  in Westworld, but since this is the Southwest, the number of Hispanics is pretty high and that’s good. I’ve seen no Asian Hosts at all, and I know there were thousands working the railroads in the Southwest at that time, but that could be explained by not having the railroads be  part of Westworld’s narratives. (Why not?)

Logan does mention that at the outer fringes of the Park, things are wilder, and  less well managed.  He says he hasn’t visited those areas but I ‘m guessing that he’s too busy laying on his back to do much exploring. Logan pretty much just thinks with his dick. Yet, he’s not all that different from any of the other humans I’ve seen in this show. It’s not them being sexual creatures that bothers me, it’s that a lot of their thoughts about sex could be kept to themselves.  It turns out that the secret representative that Ford mentioned to Theresa in the last episode is actually Logan. He’s from some kind of rival business or something, looking  to invest heavily in Westworld. I’m only partially interested in this part of the narrative.

At Pariah, we get to see quite a number of Black Union soldiers in this episode stationed in the town. Also there are what El Lazo calls The Confederados. His purpose is to sell the nitro to the Confederates. Logan, William and Dolores complete their task but Slim gets shot down. Dolores later discovers it’s all a ruse, as El Lazo plans to use the nitro for his own ends, replacing what he’s given to the confederates with tequila. Dolores also has several visions of herself, and the maze, and is told she must follow it. She can feel herself becoming a new person and she does, in a sense. As a bandit, she gets a brand new wardrobe, and later when William is attacked by the Confederates, angry about the tequila sham, she is definitely “born again hard”, as she shoots down all three men threatening them. In the aftermath, she tells  William she imagined not being the damsel.

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I stood and I applauded!👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾 Whoo!!! And thanks to her Host reflexes, she’s a perfect gun (wo)man. Excellent stance, shooting from the hip, and fast as fuck.  It was awesome! She also shows some tactical ability when El Lazo threatens to shoot her and William, when they try to escape on his train. Instead of aiming at him, she aims her weapon at the nitroglycerin loaded bodies sitting in coffins in the cabin with them. She is still hearing the voice in her head, as she spots the image of the maze on the train’s cargo.

Logan is in for a rough time of it when the Confederates find out they’ve been swindled. They can’t kill him but they’re going to beat his ass for a while. Apparently, the Hosts, in these  fringe narratives, can and will beat your ass if you step to them. They won’t kill you though. Earlier that evening, during the town orgy, Logan,  feeling in his element, brings out Willam’s dark side by goading and poking him about how useless his life and morality is in such a place.

William does have a dark side, though. When Logan calls for help during his beating, William,  very obviously, turns his back on him and leaves with Dolores. It’s okay. Logan will be aaiight! But I bet shit just got real for him in a way it wasn’t before. Contrapasso is definitely a reference to Logan, as he gets to experience, first hand,  something of what he’s been dishing out to the Park’s inhabitants for so many years. Dolores and William will be joining El Lazo in some kind of revolutionary war in Mexico. This will be another part of the Park we’ve not yet seen.

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As for Maeve, she is once again in house, getting her body repaired. One of the technicians servicing her, Felix,  is  just a bit wary of having her in the body shop with them. The other technician I hope has a quick and nasty death, not because of how he treated Maeve, but how he treated Felix, who has been practicing his coding skills on a small robot bird. When the other technician finds this out he screams at Felix about how he’ll never be anything other than what he is. The man is a more of an asshole than Logan, and that’s saying something. But then none of the humans in this show impress me much. I do get  the impression that this is a co-worker and not someone who has any power over anything Felix does, as Felix continues his efforts after his co-worker leaves. He’s successful at repairing the bird, but his celebration is cut short when he sees that Maeve, supposedly still in sleep mode the entire time, is wide awake and ready  to have an important conversation with him. I am looking forward to that convo myself.

Elsie is stunned to discover that the  robot she was sent to retrieve has some spy tech in its body. In order to procure access to the body, she threatens one of the young male technicians in the Body Shop, who has been having sex with the decommissioned robots, with public exposure. Next to Felix’s dress down by his co-worker, that was one of the uglier things I saw a human do, in this episode, which is important when you consider that nearly all of the humans are deplorable. She goes to Bernard with her concerns but he is noncommittal.

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But the standout event in tonight’s episode was the meeting between Ford and the MIB. After finding Teddy in the desert strung up by Wyatt’s men, he takes him with him. When Teddy’s health quotient gets too low, he bleeds out Lawrence, to give Teddy a transfusion. Accompanied by Teddy, they meet with Ford at a saloon, where Ford tries to parse out exactly what the MIBs purpose is, and if it’s really worth it. Harris character says he wants a worthy adversary to prevent him from reaching his goal. It seems like Dolores is being set up to be that Rival, as she is following the maze too.

There is no surprise in Ford’s meeting with him. The two act very much like old, if not friends, then certainly acquaintances. We get to see Teddy be a little badass. I like the how the show is gradually introducing us to  what the Hosts are capable  of. They’re not superhuman but they are more than. They’re certainly faster and stronger. We get a glimpse into how fast during Dolores shootout, and in Teddy’s automatic reaction to protect Ford, when The MIB threatens Ford with a knife. But the robots are held back by their cognitive limitations. They have no memories, don’t know what they are and there are human things they don’t comprehend, like death.

There have been a number of theories bandied about the show. One of the theories is that the scenes  with William and Dolores are flashbacks to thirty years ago, to the life of the MIB, and chronicles how he went from being a White Hat to  a Black one. That the MIB is actually William. This would also explain his acquaintance with Dolores. I’m not sure what to think about that theory though. There are certain people and characters whom we never see interact so its easy to reach that conclusion. The  Westworld logos during William’s entrance into the Park, and the ones we see with the old Ford are different.

http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2016/10/westworld-season-1-episode-5-recap-contrapasso-timeline-theory-lawrence-bernard-is-arnold-clone-robot

Next week, the robot rebellion begins, after which we have four more episodes to the big finale and what I would consider a successful first season for the show.