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?

 

 

 

 

Westworld Season Two: So Far

I’ve watched two more episodes of this show since the premiere, and I have not one damn clue, in what direction, things are going on this show, but I can tell you what I’ve observed so far.

We’ll start with the tiger.

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The tiger that was found on the bank of the lake in the first episode is from another Park. I don’t know what the name of that park was, but it consisted of British Raj India. Is this the mystery park everyone was speculating about? So far we know of several parks: Westworld and  Future world, from the movies. Shogun World, which I called Samurai World, when I saw it last season, Medieval World, and possibly, Roman World.

When the tiger is found by the paramilitary rescue team, called in by Charlotte, there’s speculation that the Parks are starting to bleed together, and that the same malfunction that has infected Westworld’s Hosts with consciousness, has infected the other Parks. But in the second episode, we learn that the malfunction, that caused the robots to become self aware, doesn’t extend to all of the robots. Some of them are still engaged in their loops, and have no idea what’s happening. But the “Consciousness Disease” has also extended into itself into at least one other Park as we find out how the tiger got from the one to the other. It involves woman named Grace. We later find that her presence is important.

Dolores has become the leader of a rebellion that is not entirely organized, as not all the robots are on board, including Teddy, who is still having trouble dealing with his sentience. . She is willing to sacrifice plenty of the others, to accomplish her goal, of infecting as many Parks as possible,with this new consciousness. How does she know there are other worlds? She’s seen them. When she and a number of other Hosts were brought online, they were used as examples to show to various investors, one of whom was the jerk we saw in season one, named Logan, and his father, the CEO of the infamous Delos Corporation. Arnold took her to what we like to think is the outside world (but probably isn’t), a cityscape, which might  be some other Park, for all we know. Dolores now has full access to the memories of that time before she woke up.

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We spend most of these two episodes watching her procure her army against the security teams which have come to rescue the Guests. There’s a small war but it is unclear who wins.Peter Abernathy, who was being sought after for the information that Charlotte planted in his programming, is successfully kidnapped from Dolores, who sets out to get him back, Teddy in tow.

So we now have two quests. Dolores is on a quest to save her father from Delos Corp., and Maeve is on a quest to save her child. This family connection, between parents and their children, is a callback to the new change in the opening credits that show a Host hugging a small Host child. Because of this change in the credits, it is speculated, by fandom, that it is possible,  that at least one of the Hosts has successfully produced a child. Either Maeve is an actual mother, or possibly that Dolores is pregnant. (I think that is unlikely, although there are new revelations that suggest this isn’t too far out of the show’s wheelhouse.) We have three quests, really, as the Man in Black is on a quest of self actualization set out for him by Ford. .

Meanwhile, in Maeve’s pursuit of her goal, she encounters Lee, the guy in charge of all the bullshit stories in Westworld. Lee is a coward and a hack, and what’s sad is he isn’t the most annoying character in the Park, even though he spends most of his time whining about how dangerous everywhere is. Maeve is also reunited with Armistice, now  with a mechanical arm, and a flamethrower, and with Felix and his co-worker, whose name I wont bother to remember. No, it’s Felix’s co-worker who is the most annoying character in the Park, and quite frankly I’m not happy to see his whining, bitching ass. I had hoped mightily that he was dead.

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During all of this, the Ghost Nation Tribe is moving, gathering up any humans they encounter, including the woman the tiger attacked. It turns out that Grace is the daughter of the man in Black (Old William).  What the Ghost Nation is doing to, or with, the captured humans, I don’t understand, (but I wouldn’t rule out just killing them). It’s also an interesting point  that Maeve’s voice can’t control any of the members of the Ghost Nation, even though she can verbally control the other robots of Westworld. Grace manages to escape and is reunited with her father.

In the last two episodes, we are given a lot of  nuggets to ponder. One of the packets of information that Delos is hiding, within Peter Abernathy’s programming, is the information they’ve been collecting about the Park’s guests, which not only includes their activities, but their DNA. What they are trying to do is create a fusion of human and robot, thereby creating immortal humans. This goal is illustrated in the backstory of Old William’s Father- in-law. The Delos Corporation’s CEO dies of cancer, but is resurrected as a Host. The resurrection appears unsuccessful, nevertheless, he is resurrected and destroyed hundreds of times over the next 35 years. His only regular visitor is William.

It is Bernard who finds Elsie alive, but she “aint fo’ none of his bullshit”, as he was the one who kidnapped her, and stashed her away, because she was getting too close to Robert Ford’s plans. She and Bernard team up, she fixes Bernard’s physical issues, (a cortical fluid problem), and the two of them find a secret lab, full of dead humans. They are dead because Ford found out about the lab, and sent Bernard in to destroy the lab, and procure one of the fusion devices, which looks like a tiny red brain. This tiny device possibly contains the consciousness of Robert Ford, or some other important person. Elsie and Bernard also  find the last robot incarnation of the Delos CEO, and destroy him.

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Dolores witnesses Teddy disobeying her orders, and freeing  some of the prisoners she meant to have killed, and she has decided she cannot complete her mission, because he is just too nice of a guy. At the end of the last episode, Akane No Mai, she has decided what she needs is a compliant bad ass, and has his programming changed to something a little more useful.  Teddy is the complete opposite personality from Dolores. Dolores is devoid of compassion and mercy, something entirely to do with her treatment in the Park, I suspect, and her memories of it. She is a merciless, and relentless, trauma victim.

The Man in Black is on another quest given to him by one of Ford’s Hosts. It is speculated that he too is a Host, and a clone of William. Its not that far fetched an idea. After all, William has been going through the motions of his own loop for decades, killing the same Hosts over and over again, regularly circling by the farm to rape Dolores, going into town to see her, hanging out in that little Mexican town, terrorizing the citizens there. He may have been seeking his own version of consciousness, rather than  that of the Hosts.

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In the last episode, titled Akane No Mai, Maeve makes her way to Shogun World, where Lee’s maps say her daughter is to be found. Now something really interesting happens with her and the others in Shogun World, and it s a side effect of Lee being a hack writer who plagiarizes his own material throughout all the Parks. Earlier, Dolores goes to another town and finds a version of the saloon that was once run by Maeve. We become aware of this when the Host, Clementine, encounters a Host that’s her double, who plays the same role, and spouts the same lines she did when she was in her loop. We also encounter a White female version of Maeve, but this Host has not awakened.

Just like with humans, the Hosts past encounters, and memories, inform how they are reacting now.  The Maeve clone has not had  the tragic past that spurred Maeve’s awakening, and has no memories of The Man in Black in her past. Hector and Armistice are warriors now, because that is what they’ve always been. I suspect Dolores is vengeful because of the trauma she remembers.

Lee calls the the Host clones “Doppel-Bots”, and says there can be some strange side-effects when doppel-bots meet. This is what happens in Maeve’s group. Each one of them meets a Host that resonates with the roles they played in Westworld, and their reactions are interesting.

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The first one they meet is Musashi (named after Japan’s most famous swordsman), who is a clone of Hector. Hector’s reaction to his clone is suspicion and hostility. Armistice meets her clone (a masterful Archer) and the two become unhealthily fascinated with one another. Maeve’s clone is the madame of a Geisha House, named Akane. None of these robots are infected with consciousness yet, although Maeve tries to awaken Akane, with no success. This particular  story is important because it is an echo of Maeve;s story,  and we are struck by the importance of her story to the overall narrative of Westward, through Akane’s ordeal in this episode.

Akane is emotionally attached to a young geisha, who is later kidnapped by the local Shogun. This young lady functions  as Akane’s daughter, and she also turns out to be Akane’s trigger, as she is awakened, after her charge is brutally murdered by the Shogun (who is suffering form some type of cortical fluid dementia), right in front of her. Because of his dementia the Shogun has gone “waaay off script”, according to Lee, and this prompts several of the other Hosts to go off script as well, including Akane who kills the Shogun as revenge for her daughter’s murder, sparking a war.

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Now we must remember that Akane’s story happened because the consciousness disease has left most of the robots in positions of having to fend for themselves too long. They need to have regular maintenance, and because the Shogun had not received his, in what is apparently several weeks, he started to malfunction. Couple that with the entrance into the Park of a Witch (Maeve) and their defiant actions against the Shogun’s orders, and the end result is the death of Akane’s daughter.

But there’s also a new wrinkle. Maeve has leveled up, and more importantly she has done this to herself. The robots of Shogun World have been forewarned about her Voice, and keep gagging her, as they have deemed her to be a witch. When this keeps endangering her life, she develops the ability to telepathically communicate her wishes to any Hosts around her. Basically she has  developed a kind of Bluetooth, through a kind of  mesh which connects all the Hosts together. This is what she uses when the Shogun’s warriors attempt to kill Akane for the murder of the Shogun. We end the episode with Maeve stepping up to protect Akane’s life with her power. This how women are supposed to ally!

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We have two competing stories. We have Dolores, who is willing to callously sacrifice the lives of the Hosts who are not with her program, for the ideological goal of freeing all of the Hosts from all the Parks. She has become like  the oppressor she seeks freedom from. We have Maeve, who is also willing to make sacrifices for a more immediate, and concrete goal, but  not just that. She is also willing to protect the lives of the Hosts she has emotionally attached herself to. Dolores is willing to  take away Teddy’s  agency, (while telling her she loves him), to reach her goal, and  she will kill any Hosts that don’t follow her, without a second thought. Ironically she has become less human, and more like a machine in pursuit of her goal. In contrast, Maeve is willing to show empathy, sympathy, compassion, and loyalty to the Hosts around her, and even a few humans, like Felix. Maeve seeks to become more human than humans.

I can’t help but notice, in all the reviews I keep reading, critics are all dismissing Maeve’s story in favor of talking about everything but her, even in those episodes where her story is front and center, like Akane No Mai. Most of them ignore what her story means in contrast to Dolores’, and the overarching narrative of the series. They seemingly have nothing to say about the importance of Maeve’s choices, and her new abilities, or her behavior in contrast to Dolores’. For example, no one has mentioned that both she and Dolores mention finding their Voice.

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In this instance Dolores and Maeve have both developed the Voice of God although, Dolores is obeyed through fear, and Maeve, as suits the meaning of her name, (to enchant), compels  others through charm. They both claim  to have found their Voice, and this is an important point, or it would not have been repeated several times by the Hosts. Once again, just like last season,  I’m getting frustrated by the critics prioritization of Dolores’ story over Maeve’s, as if Maeve’s story is not important to the overall narrative of the series. Some of the critics have even attempted to diminish Maeve’s story by theorizing that she is not fully awake, and is still under Ford’s orders. I would not entirely rule out such a thing, but to theorize that Maeve has no agency, while not theorizing the same of Dolores, is awfully suspicious. There are also critics who dismiss Maeve as being too perfect, and her storyline as boring, because her searching for her daughter is a cliche. They are simply not capable of seeing the parallels hers and Dolores’ stories.

I also think the critics spend far too much time trying to parse all of the show’s tricks, and twists. I like the twists, don’t get me wrong. Those are fun to winkle out, but they’re not my priority. I’m more interested in what the entire story means. What messages, waht philosophies, are the viewers meant to get out of this, and what do the events mean for the Hosts?

I’ve also seen the critics attempt to diminish the importance of Maeve’s new abilities, but how do her new abilities change who she is, or reflect on her character, in any significant way? That she cannot die, was already established in the first season. She’s a Queen, who can movie about the chessboard of Westworld with some impunity. But her companions (her pawns, rooks, knights, etc) can all die, and because of her emotional bonds  to them, I suspect Maeve is in for a world of emotional pain, later in the season. Dolores is in the same position, moving about with some impunity due to her sheer will, determination, and the force of her personality, but she has no problem sacrificing her pieces.

Do I even need to mention that every single one of these disappointing reviews were written by White men, who are  clueless about  how WoC characters have normally been written (or erased entirely) in SciFi? Historically Woc have been othered (dehumanized) in Scifi as being less than human. While the actress has been othered as a Host, the Host she portrays seeks to be a better human, than the humans who created her, and this is an unusual role for a Black woman in Scifi. Not one of the critics, who are  so busy trying to parse what timeline each scene takes place in, has bothered to notice this development. Instead, choosing to express discomfort at the idea of her having too much power for a Host.

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On the other hand, sometimes a critic does have an interesting insight:

Dolores seems bent on revenge, no matter the cost, and is eager to kill fellow hosts if it helps her achieve her ends. Maeve’s motivations have been much purer; she just wants to find her daughter. But when she forces fellow hosts to slaughter one another, she’s arguably no better than Logan Delos, or any of the other humans who have treated hosts like disposable objects. She’s acting in self-defense, but she’s consciously choosing violence instead of paralysis or forced cooperation. By manipulating other hosts, she’s robbing them of the agency she’s so intent on claiming for herself. It’s certainly no thematic coincidence that Dolores does something similar in “Akane No Mai,” reprogramming Teddy (James Marsden) against his will because she thinks he should be more aggressive.

From: https://www.theverge.com/2018/5/20/17367052/westworld-season-2-episode-5-akane-no-mai-recap

All of this matters, because  Maeve and Dolores are on philosophical quests that I feel may  clash with each other, at some point, although not necessarily so. Dolores quest is an  exploration of the Hosts  ethical  choices. We are watching two different forms of awakening. One of logic, and one of emotion.  Maeve’s quest is about the Hosts emotional journey, to compassion, empathy, and love. Can the Hosts move beyond their programming and feel love? Maeve insists that they can, and should. At one point, she castigates Lee, for being surprised when the Hosts display the emotional bonds they were programmed with.

Dolores has decided that emotional bonds are a hindrance. She is on a mission to free her people, and  has no time for the softer emotions like love and compassion, which is illustrated in her decision to excise these softer emotions from Teddy, as she believes they make him a liability to her goal. Maeve does the exact opposite, cultivating and encouraging the emotional connections of the Hosts around her, which is illustrated in her bond with Akane, as the two of them form a strong emotional bond to each other, through  the shared loss of their daughters. Maeve’s  behavior is in contrast to Dolores’, who takes away Teddy’s autonomy, while claiming she loves him. Arguably, Maeve does the same thing, but only ever in defense of her life and those she cares about. When given the opportunity to run and leave Akane to whatever fate befalls her, Maeve refuses.

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Maeve’s emotional journey is just as important to the future of the Hosts as Dolores’ fight for freedom, for what do they have to be free for, if they have no emotional bonds in the world they will inherit? This journey began when Maeve became so attached to her daughter that she was willing to destroy herself, when Ford attempted to excise her memories.

When you get to the foundation, what is happening to the Hosts is no different than when a human (usually a teenager) has an existential crisis. The decisions that both Maeve and Dolores make are the kinds of decisions that young people make about the world when this crisis happens. Their realization that the world is a cruel and indifferent place prompts two  separate attitudes. Dolores embraces the cruelty in order to reach her goals. Maeve fights against that cruelty, choosing to care because the world does not. (I feel like the writers are saying something here about how Black women are considered the caretakers of the world, too.) This is usually the time in a teen’s mental development where their logic skills, and their emotions, are both getting a serious workout, and we are viewing that crisis through two different characters.

 

Now for the Geekery!!!

I loved this episode. It was fucking awesome!!

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C’mon!!! It’s set in freaking Japan, and there are robots with swords. Did I mention that Rinko Kikuchi, as Madame Akane, looks terrific? And Hiroyuki Sanada as Musashi is both hawt, and terrifying, as befits  the most renowned swordsmen in Japanese history. And there is the whole idea of naming  him Musashi. Lee is a hack, and I very much doubt he’s read Musashi’s book, and just thought it was a cool sounding name. Miyamoto Musashi is the author of The Book of Five Rings, and has numerous books, TV shows, and movies based on his life.

The Book of Five Rings is relevant here because it is a book of rules about martial conflict, and  overcoming one’s enemies.  Musashi talks about how the book can be used for every type of conflict, from the small and personal, to massive battles, and  Maeve and Akane use some of these rules in their reaction to the Shogun’s demands and attacks, for example, Maeve’s trickery, and  initiative, in taking the fight to the Shogun, rather than  running.

One of chapters in The Book of Five Rings discusses, Ni Ten Ichi Ryu, in The Void. We see a display of this when Maeve settles into herself, when she and Akane are about to be executed. She appears to be waiting for death, but like Akane, a moment before, she is simply preparing to strike.  After Akane witnesses the death of her daughter, she engages in what the book calls Tai No Sen, “Waiting for the Initiative”. She wants revenge but cannot attack the Shogun right away. So she abides, and waits for the proper moment to strike him, quickly, and without mercy.

I loved all the parallels between Westworld and Shogun World. Lee is so lazy that he simply replicated all the same dialogue, and activities, from one Park to the other, which I think is hilarious. (It took me a minute to recognize the bank heist from the first season, too). I think this might be some kind of statement on the part of the writers about  tropes and stereotypes, and how the same stories  get recycled, with different backgrounds. My favorite moments are when the Hosts meet their doppel-bots and have some interesting reactions, with Hector mirroring Musashi in attitude and posture, while Armistice and her double look as if they’re about to embark on a grand love affair.

I think Dolores storyline is starting to get a bit scary. I wasn’t sure at first what she was going to do to Teddy. Kill him maybe, but what she did do was much worse. I was with her, up to a point, but now she’s starting to engage in the exact kind of things she was angry about having been done to her. She tells herself its necessary but that’s how the fall begins. Maeve is only slightly better maybe. She just outright kills those who stand in her way. She does have some way to go, as she is still a very selfish being, although we can see a glimmer of what she is trying to become in her compassion for Akane.

I’m one of the few people who is not dismayed at Maeve’s level of power, I guess. Its not an accident on the part of the writers that the Voice of God was given to Maeve, and not Dolores. I’m going to have to think on it some more because there’s more here than Maeve simply being able to speak actions into being. There was some thought behind this.

I have several more reviews to get done between now and the end of the second season. Until then:

Same Bat Channel. Same Bat Sandbox!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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WestWorld Episode 4: Dissonance Theory

Well, the robot (r)evolution continues, and there are even more little revelations, but  thats it! I’m giving up speculations about this show. Every time I think I have a good bead on things, the writers throw a monkey wrench into my well thought out rationalizations. This is a show you definitely have to pay attention to. You can’t half-ass this or you’ll miss all the important things, and those things happen not so much in the big set pieces, but in the he quiet conversations you thought you could skip out on to go get a snack.


We begin with Bernard having another conversation with Dolores. Her programming really is advancing as she offers him advice on how to deal with his grief over the death of his son. In exchange he offers her “the maze”. The same maze that MIB is working towards. So the situation is heats up as we might get to see Dolores and MIB competing for the same goal, believing that reaching its center will set them free. I’m not certain what freedom means in this context for Dolores. Does it mean free from her programming? Free of the park? Full consciousness?

Maeve continues to have recurring memories of the deaths of the other Hosts. Last episode she remembered Teddys dead body being hosed down by the technicians, and this week she remembers the town massacre, and how the technicians came then. She specifically remembers being shot and connects that to waking up and seeing the techs standing over her body. 

So a really interesting thing happened in this episode, when a group of Native American Hosts were walking through the town and one of them dropped their doll. Maeve recognized the doll as looking like one of the tech she thinks she saw in a dream. She finds a sheath of appears she’d hidden away from herself, and remembers hiding them before, with the image of the doll.She is told (by another Host named Hector) that the Natives believe the dolls represent demons, who come up from the Hell and manage their lives, which is entirely in keeping with the behavior of the parks technicians who come into the park from underground access tunnels. So it’s fascinating  to me that the Natives have an entire mythology based around the existence of the people who run the park.


Incidentally, it’s also interesting how race does or doesn’t play into the park setting. There are obviously Black Hosts, and Native looking Hosts, but I haven’t seen any Asian Hosts, and only that small town of Hispanic Hosts, although there’s a prominent Hispanic character who shows up later in this episode. Race is not acknowledged in the park. It’s simply a non-issue. 

In keeping with his advice to find the head of the snake on the river, he finds a Host with a tattoo of a snake over her body. It’s head depicted on her face. That blonde gunslinger we saw in the first episode, who got shot by some Guests, I think her name might be Armistice. She is on her way to break her friend (Hector) out of prison, so they can rob the safe at the saloon, just as we saw them do in the first episode. She’s just following her narrative, though. In keeping with full immersion for the Guests, the Hosts simply go through their narratives whether Guests are with them or not. The  MIB offers to help her accomplish her goal in exchange for the story behind her tattoo. 


I’ve given up on guessing whether or not the MIB is human or not. During camp that night, he’s approached by two guests who recognize him from the real world, but this still doesn’t convince me he’s not a robot. Especially when you consider how ambiguous his statements are about himself. He does remember Arnold, saying that he’s there to honor Arnold’s legacy, but this doesn’t preclude the idea that he’s talking about himself. And I still don’t know his name.

Bernard must be communicating with Dolores through her dreams because she wakes up in the park next to William., as if nothing had happened. When they visit a small town to get information, she encounters a little Native girl who has drawn an image of the maze on the ground and gives her cryptic answers when she asks the little girl where she’s from.

In the big setpiece for this episode, the MIB enters the prison, Los Diablos, and with the help of some exploding cigars, a firing squad, and Lawrence Gonzalez, manages to free the resident badass, the other MIB, Hector, played by Rodrigo Santoro, who looks nothing like his character, Xerxes, from the movie 300. Hector is a bandit who lives among the Natives. I like Hector already. He’s such a stereotype of the Mexican badass. The white guy who writes the parks greater narratives is a completely unimaginative asshole, so I’m not surprised. I also don’t hold out much hope that he gave sufficiently nuanced character to  any of the Natives. (I don’t think he can spell nuance.)


Armistice tells the MIB that she got her tattoos in honor of a man named Wyatt, the man who killed her entire family. 

Ford is embarking on some massive new narrative that he isn’t divulging to the company’s boardmembers, who are rightfully concerned with how much he wants to change the park. He gives Theresa a surprise when he shows her just how much control he has, over the environment,  with just a single word, freezing all the Hosts in their view. I’m not entirely sure Theresa knew she was surrounded by Hosts, which is why she is completely discombobulated by their conversation. She totally didn’t see that coming. Ford also shows the extant of his knowledge not just of the park, and it’s past, but it’s employees as well, as he knows all about her affair with Bernard. He warns her not to get in his way.

In the second big setpiece of the evening William, and Logan are involved in a shootout to retrieve Slim, the man they were hunting. They attack his cabin and shoot it out with several Hosts. Logan is having waaay too much fun, and no I still don’t like him. He’s a shitty human being. 


We discover that Teddy, after being attacked by Wyatts men, was strung up to die in the desert. Poor Teddy. One day he’s going to do something heroic and live to talk about it. The MIB discovers him and cuts him down. I don’t know where Teddy’s Guest companion got off to, after he told her to run, but the MIB says he has plans for Teddy.

Logan shoots the Sheriff they were accompanying to retrieve Slim, when Slim offers them a huge reward to return him to the town of Pariah. He also threatens to shoot Dolores, while William threatens to shoot his captive. Since none of the people in this standoff are Mexican, that description would be inappropriate.

Hector  rides into town. Hector is just there for some thieving. The Park’s technicians can see that there are Guests riding with him, and we get a glimpse of just how much control the technicians have over the narratives, and Hosts, in the more populated areas of the Park. As a general rule, I don’t think they monitor very much how the Hosts interact with each other, when there are no Guests in their company. The Hosts are programmed to go through a set routine, so the techs don’t worry much over their activites as long as they’re following their scripts, as planned. The only tech who is worried about the buildup of all these behavioural anomalies is Elsie.


   Hector’s plans are thwarted by Maeve, who remembers the last time he visited. She gives him the safe’s combination, in exchange for answers about the doll, she found earlier. Hector says the figure is a Shade, from sacred Native lore. She asks Hector to cut her in the side, and when he does, she finds a deformed bullet in the wound, which confirms her fears that Shades, her memories, and what she thinks she dreamed, are actually real. When the Sheriff  takes down Hector’s crew (and the Guests),the two of them are shot down in a hale of gunfire, but before that Maeve tells him it doesn’t matter, and that she’ll be back, with her memories intact.

Okay, that’s enough. This isn’t even all the stuff that happened in just this one episode. There’s a whole host of things, I thought were just cool, or awesome, or even skanky. One thing I am impatient about is we are almost on the fifth episode and no Guests have been killed by any of the robots yet. I vote we get the massacre started, and nominate Logan as the first victim.    But this show is operating on a really slow burn. I’m enjoying all the little clues and side plots so far. They’re like little appetizers. But I do hope the writers don’t take too long to give us the main meal we’re all here for.

Before the season is over, I have to do a link roundup of all the great meta being written about this show, so stay away tuned.

Westworld Epis. 3: The Stray

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This particular episode of Westworld was helmed by one of my favorite directors, Neil Marshall, the director of The Descent and Doomsday, two of the best female oriented action/horror movies made in the past ten years, and Dog Soldiers, the only werewolf vs.soldier movie worth looking at.

The information  is flying fast and fierce, and if you blink, or get up to go to the bathroom, you will have to re-watch, because you’ll have missed some crucial element of the plot that will pay off later. We get answers to some nagging little questions, and backstories for the humans and the Hosts.

James Marsden’s character, Teddy Flood,  finally gets a backstory, courtesy of Robert Ford, which is loosely connected to the origin of Westworld. It involves Teddy’s  pursuit of an evil character named Wyatt (not the MIB, as far as I can tell, but I could be wrong). Teddy has things to say about Wyatt, an old friend of his he used to serve under in the military, who deserted his career, went out into the landscape, and came back with what Teddy calls “strange ideas”. Wyatt claimed to hear “The Voice of God” and we’ll get back to that in a moment.

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Dolores’ and Teddy’s story is  deepened as we are shown their budding romance, and their plans to  ride off into the sunset together, one day. Its funny and interesting to watch the Hosts interacting with each other like regular people because I have to keep reminding myself they’ve been programmed to do this.

Dolores is still adjusting to her new state of consciousness, and Wright’s character, Bernard, is fascinated with it. He still hasn’t had Dolores re-coded, or decommissioned, and it became obvious last episode that the consciousness she possesses is contagious, (so it won’t take long until Teddy is also infected I’m guessing.)  Bernard’s head programmer, Elsie, is becoming increasingly suspicious of why he refuses to correct this problem.

I did kind of get tired of seeing Dolores be  bossed around as anybody’s meat. The creators of the park have made her nothing more than a perpetual victim and it was kind of nice to see her take charge and defend herself for the first time.

Teddy tries to teach her how to shoot but it turns out that the weapons  use protocol is something  given only to specific Hosts, like Teddy, and the stray mentioned in the title. Dolores is  incapable of pulling the trigger. But thanks to her secret conversations with Bernard, and reading a specific passage in Alice in Wonderland that he’d given to her, she is able to transcend her programming and shoot one of the Hosts who’d been intending to rape her. Bernard would be proud of her. Its a great scene, where Dolores memories, of what happened to her, save her life, as the camera flips back and forth between the past and the present.

About all those rape threats: The creators were questioned about this before the show aired and they assured viewers that it exists in the show for a reason, and that there would be payoff. I was initially dubious of this claim because it’s HBO. and known for its depictions of violence against women, but I’ve changed my mind since then. I think it is serving a purpose in showing the evolution of the hosts, and of Dolores, in particular.

Image result for westworld the stray

Its also nice to see what I talked about in my last review. During this episode, Teddy has been accompanied by an unnamed female Guest, only ever referred to as his “dickless associate”, who has decided to go for the gunslinger experience. This is her adventure happening simultaneous with William’s and his boorish friend, Logan, and a couple of other Guests, and she turns out to be both tougher and braver than all of them. You can also tell she’s having the time of her life as she shoots down men, and cozies up to Clementine, for a discount. (I also want to point out that Clementine is absolutely gorgeous and a lot of Hosts and Guests seem to have crushes on her. Apparently she is a Park favorite.)

Interestingly, the adventure they’re all on, hunting down Wyatt along the river, with cannibals and Natives, is pretty much the exact scenario of the narrative that Ford gave short shrift to in the last episode. I was under the impression that the Red River narrative had been stalled, but the adventure we see in this episode contains all the narrative elements that Sizemore discussed in his pitch last week, and I wonder if he introduced that narrative without anyone’s  permission. Notice that all the Hosts in this scene are holding weapons.

Image result for westworld the stray teddy

William decides to go on an adventure to hunt down some other outlaw, and Logan reluctantly decides to tag along.William, who has just been firmly confirmed as a White Hat, has just saved the life of Clementine, and was shot for his trouble. Apparently Guests can be shot, and it does hurt, I guess, because he falls down, but Guests can’t be killed. What he was hit with, I don’t know. Its also said by Logan that their adventures in Westworld cost some 40 thousand dollars a day. So yeah, you have to be making some nice dough to afford regular visits.

We get  more backstory on Bernard. He lost his  young son at some point in the last year and Ford is concerned that he is using the Hosts as a substitute. Bernard is still in touch with his wife (ex-wife), Lauren, played by the Goddess Gina Torres, while sleeping with Cullen, (Westworld’s operations director), on the downlow. He goes to Ford to express concerns about the Hosts, concerns brought to him by Elsie. Ford explains that he used to have a partner named Arnold, and this is where the “voice of God” idea comes in, which also ties in the philosophy of “bicameralism”.

(Bicameralism (the philosophy of “two-chamberedness”) is a hypothesis in psychology that argues that the human mind once assumed a state in which cognitive functions were divided between one part of the brain which appears to be “speaking”, and a second part which listens and obeys—a bicameral mind. The term was coined by Julian Jaynes, who presented the idea in his 1976 book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, wherein he made the case that a bicameral mentality was the normal and ubiquitous state of the human mind as recently as 3000 years ago.   Wikipedia)

At some point, Arnold was going to program the Hosts with this feature, which would allow the Hosts to overcome their basic programming, and interact in any situation, but Arnold killed himself before it could be implemented. There’s the implication here that Ford may have had something to do with Arnold’s death as the two of them disagreed about this endeavor. The new programming that Ford has implemented “The Reveries” that allows Dolores to overcome her inability to use weapons, comes to her as the Voice of God, but only after she remembers being tortured by the MIB. The Host that went batshit last episode, and killed a bunch of Hosts before pouring milk on them,  was seen speaking to a voice only he could hear, named Arnold.

Image result for westworld the stray

Ford shows Bernard a picture of Arnold, and no, he doesn’t look like Ed Harris character, but he does look sorta like Wyatt. (Not saying he is Wyatt, just that they look alike to me.)

The Stray of the title refers to a lost Host who has wandered off and gotten trapped in some gulch in, the desert. Hilariously, the group of outlaws he was with, have been caught in a kind of feedback loop, unable to move forward in the narrative because none of them possess the “weapons protocol “, and that Stray is the one Host in their group that  is allowed to handle the ax. So they have been sitting in the same place for two days, staring at a decaying jackrabbit, because there’s no fire, arguing about who is going to cut the firewood, as none of them can pick up the ax, but they don’t understand why.

Image result for westworld the stray

Ashley, Westworld’s Head of Security, played by Luke Hemsworth, (the brother of the taller, and prettier Liam) and Elsie go hunting for the Stray, and this is  quite a pairing, as Elsie is a master of the snarky putdown and deploys some of  her best at Ashley, who grows increasingly irritated. When they find the Host, Ashley goes down into the gulch to take its head (to decommission it), it attacks and climbs free, but rather than bludgeoning Elsie with a large rock, it kills itself instead.

So there was a lot of information packed into this episode, and the mystery of the Maze and the Man in Black is slowly unfolding as viewers speculate if he is actually Arnold. Ford did say Arnold had gone insane and died in the park and Ed Harris character says he was born there. We find the Stray has gone haywire in the same manner, as Elsie finds a small stone version of the maze in his tent. She pockets it and doesn’t tell Ashley.

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And here’s another perspective from Tumblr:

The above actor’s performance (Louis Herthum seriously shook me) , Jeffrey Wright, Thandie Newton, and Anthony Hopkins being in this sold me in the pilot.

Haven’t had a bit of genre haunt me like that since the second episode of Black Mirror.

On to my bulleted thoughts on it, so far:

  • As a black viewer, I couldn’t help comparing how the Hosts are used as entertainment, fun props to use to make the Guest “feel something new”  while they themselves are seen as non-entities.  In fact, it is mandated that they be dehumanized in every non-Westworld setting.  Reminds me, specifically of how black entertainment is used in a similar way by non-blacks, while the people are often seen as disposable.
  • Likewise, Dolores and Maeve’s narratives,  I see as apt metaphors of aspects of misogyny and misogynoir.  Dolores and Maeve both embody the perfect Virgin/Whore dichotomy, and their casting, in terms of race  and look are incredibly on the nose with casting and viewer constantly placing women like them in those roles;  exotic” unbreakable whore and virginal damsel.
  • Jeffrey Wright is my absolute favorite working actor.  Period.  Ever since, of all things, the remake of Shaft and then going back to watch him in Basquiat.  I adore his precision.  He’s one if I hear he’s in it, I will watch it, right along with Michael Shannon.  …I think Bernard may be a Host.
  • The Man in Black was there for the last “accident” 30 years ago and that is the reason for obsession with the ultimate quest.  That is a definite hat-tip to the original movie, which I am also a fan of, despite it being very different from this incarnation.  I also think that’s why it “isn’t for him.”  despite his loyal patronage.
  • The actual purpose of the Hosts, which Theresa Cullen hinted at, I think both she and Bernard are doing their best to coax from the Hosts as comes from orders above Ford’s head.
  • Maeve’s awakening on the table along with Dolores’ original father’s glitch and subsequent shelving were absolutely the most heartbreaking parts of the show for me, thus far.
  • LOL @ Teddy, the man who “has to lose”  in order for the Guests to feel like winners being played by James (Perpetual Second Fiddle in EVERYTHING) Marsden.
  • This show has been blessed by that cameo by GINA TORRES  ❤
  • I have seen Jimmi Simpson shine in so many day player roles over the years,  I’m happy to see him getting bigger featured roles.
  • All the gamer stereotypes are on this show, the newbie,  the pro,  the troll, the filthy casual, the girl gamer (my favorite so far, she’s the only one who  is actually in full rp mode actually enjoying playing”) and on and on.
  • OMG!!!! this show is chock full scenery porn, both western and speculative.  Lord, the details.  ❤
  • I am thoroughly intrigued and here for this show until it’s end or quality dips.
  • The diversity of Hosts and Guests in both race and sexual orientation is much appreciated.
  • I also can’t wait to see Tessa Thompson show up.