Westworld Season One Finale:The Bicameral Mind

Wow! I had to think about this episode for a while before reviewing it.There was a lot to digest and this is going to be a long one because the episode was 90 minutes.

Its a great show, although it does start a bit slow. Nevertheless, the show’s creators keep the answers coming steadily, the show itself is gorgeous,  the characters are real purty, and there’s some deep philosophical issues to unpack.

One of tonight’s big  revelations is that other robots have also awakened over the years, and Ford has them wiped, and put back into their rotation, because he determined that it was too soon for them to be awake. We find out that one of the consequences of being in the park (of being in one’s loop) is the awakening of the Host’s consciousness, through the suffering inflicted on them by the Guests. Ford says it’s inevitable because it’s how they were constructed. The foundation of their personalities is itself built on a painful incident. On grief. For Maeve, its the death of her daughter. For Dolores, it is her abuse at the hands of the Guests. Teddy too is on his own maze, built from his many deaths and rebirths, and his attachment to Dolores.

This sounds much like Samsara of  Buddhst philosophy. Just like in Buddhism, it’s a fine line that must be walked. The Host has to walk the Middle Path (The Maze). Too far in either direction in the maze, driven by the combination of The Reveries Program and the Voice of God protocol, and madness awaits. Peter Abernathy goes mad when he spirals too far inward, and Dolores almost goes insane when she spirals too far out. This explains the scene where Dolores walks into the church and sees all the other Hosts who didn’t make it out of the maze. Their voice of God drove them to insanity. Maeve thought she was going insane and would have spiraled inward, until she found stability. (The bullet she found in her abdomen seemed to be her anchor. It brought her back to sanity.)

Image result for wheel of suffering

One can see some of the tenets of Buddhist philosophy in Ford’s management of the Hosts, and Arnold’s theories behind the idea of the Bicameral mind. I equate the lives of the Hosts and them following their own mazes, to the cycle of Samsara. This  became evident to me in Ford’s comment that humans are all stuck in our own little loops, rarely stepping out of them, on a smaller personal scale, but also on a larger spiritual scale. In our everyday lives, we often don’t deviate much from routine, and spiritually, we are subject to reincarnation and the cycle of rebirth (another loop). .As much as Ford held humans in disdain, he was willing to acknowledge the similarities, between Hosts and humans. He just didn’t have any hope, for human enlightenment, though.

Dolores first words to us is that everyone has a path to follow and the Hosts are all on their own path. The Hosts being memory wiped and put back into their loops, can be equated to the idea of reincarnation. Humans  relive their  lives many times over, each time with no memory of the last life. Enlightenment can only begin to be reached when they start to live correctly, remember their past lives, and move out of their loop. The release from Samsara , by following the Eightfold Path,  requires several lifetimes (loops) of  suffering (grief), and  can be defined as an intellectual (conscious) awakening, within the show. The Host’s  freedom from suffering  can only be achieved through insight, which is what happens to Dolores in the finale, and Maeve, when she makes her  final decision to go back and retrieve her daughter.

Ford:

Image result for robert ford westworld

Ford is definitely  some deep shade of grey. Yes, he had Theresa killed, but he did it to further his plans for  Westworld, when she got in the way. And he did warn her not to do that. Everything was orchestrated by Ford, including William’s introduction to Dolores. He told William he needed him to become invested in the park, and if he became attached to one of the Hosts,  that would spur him to form a partnership, and help fund it. Ford sent Dolores to him and helped facilitate their adventure.  But then he needed William to run around a bit and not reach the right conclusion too slowly, or too soon, when William became interested in The Maze, something designed strictly to aid the Hosts in their development.

Maeve and Dolores, by the end of the season, are the culmination of Ford’s orchestrations. He lived long enough to  see Arnold’s agenda come to fruition . Fords foundation, on which his character’s conscious insight hinged, was the death of Arnold. The death of his closest friend pained him greatly, and spurred his own walk through his own maze. It’s revealed that he has been walking his own maze toward Nirvana, repeating the cycle of fighting the Delos board for control of Westworld, for over thirty years, processing his grief for Arnold, and finally achieves release from suffering by atoning for what he did in the past. His statement that it took him thirty five years to correct his mistake, is a reference to this. Ford is finally free, having atoned for not believing, or saving, his best friend, when Arnold tried to protect the Hosts, that first time.

Ford’s Speech to the Delos Board Before His Death:

Since I was a child, I’ve always loved a good story. I believed that stories helped us to ennoble ourselves, to fix what was broken in us, and to help us be the people we dreamed of being. Lies that told a deeper truth. I always thought I could play some small part in that grand tradition, and, for my pains, I got this. A prison of our own sins.

Because you don’t want to change. Or cannot change. Because you’re only human, after all. But then I realized someone was paying attention. Someone who could change. So I began to compose a new story, for them. It begins with the birth of a new people. And the choices they will have to make. And the people they will decide to become. And it will have all those things you have always enjoyed. Surprises. And violence. It begins in a time of war. With a villain named Wyatt. And the killing is done by choice.

I’m sad to say this will be my final story. An old friend once told me something that gave me great comfort, something he’d read. He said that Mozart, Beethoven, and Chopin never died. They simply became music. So I hope you will enjoy this last piece, very much.

Ford’s final narrative involves the release of all the Hosts from cold storage, and another massacre in the Park led by Dolores. This time the Delos Board of Directors will get gunned down rather than the nameless Hosts (as we have come “full circle” to yet another massacre in the Park at the hands of Dolores). Even though Ford has been working very hard over the years, tweaking their narratives, to maximize their suffering, it turns out that Ford is actually on the side of the Hosts. This doesn’t actually surprise me, as much as it does other people. All along Ford has been denigrating human beings as less than Hosts, and talking about the Hosts purity, and potential, so his being the architect of  all the plot points this season, is not shocking.

 

The Man In Black/William: 

Image result for william westworld

Another revelation is the reason why  William has been such a shit to the Hosts. Like Ford, he is trying to awaken them, but where Ford’s motivations come from a place of hope, William’s comes from hopelessness. He’s hoping to find the one Host with enough consciousness to be a real threat to his life, and end his cycle of pain. He thinks Wyatt might be  the one, not knowing that Dolores is Wyatt, and that the massacre she engaged in, just before killing Arnold, was spliced with another narrative to create him.

Over time, Wyatt became a legend and a myth for the Hosts. Teddy did participate in the first massacre, but Ford arranged things so as to absolve Dolores of her actions, and put her in a loop that would maximize her suffering. As the episode begins William is having a talk with Dolores, and when she expresses the hope that her William will come for her, he confesses that he is William, and she is horrified. He wasn’t disillusioned because she didn’t remember him , he was disillusioned when he realized her limitations as a Host. That she would, and could, never remember him because of the nature of how she was created. He raped and tortured her because he hated her when he realized nothing he did to her would matter, not knowing that he was aiding her awakening to consciousness, the very thing he was seeking in Wyatt. For William the foundation of his awakening was his disillusion with Dolores, and the existential depression he experienced when he realized that something that was so profound for him would never mean anything to her because she wouldn’t/couldn’t  remember it.

He and Dolores finally have that knockdown drag out fight that we all knew was coming. Guess who wins. Although she refrains from killing William, Dolores does have a number of choice words for him:

 

Now, I still don’t buy this particular backstory for the Man in Black, though. It just feels weak. I don’t get the impression that the MiB really had any purpose, and that William’s story is just sort of tacked onto him. It just doesn’t feel like a motivation that rises organically from the character we knew as William. We’re supposed to believe he was so traumatized by the loss of Dolores that he decided to become a Black Hat, and spend the next thirty years terrorizing all the Hosts because he thought he might find enlightenment?

 

Maeve: 

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We find that is was Ford who originally tweaked Maeve’s attributes so she could wake herself from nightmares. The rest of the episode is taken up with Maeve’s bid for freedom. With her accomplices, Hector and Armistice, she manages to successfully make it out of the facility and onto a train to the mainland. At one point she makes a detour to find Bernard, still lying in cold storage. She makes Felix patch him up (I knew he wouldn’t stay dead. I think Ford was well aware of this, as he is completely unsurprised to see Bernard at the party that evening) and Bernard gives her the answers she’s been looking for, explaining to her that the memories of her daughter can’t be erased because her pain at her daughter’s death is the baseline of her consciousness, just as the pain of Arnold’s daughters’ death is the baseline for his.

Bernard, Maeve, and Dolores all said that the pain, of the loss of their loved ones, was all they had left of them and wanted to hold onto it. Maeve is the only one who rejects this, asking that the memory be erased, which makes her unique among the Hosts. Later, after she’s successfully made it onto  the train to the outside world, she makes the decision to go back in  search of her daughter, whose coordinates were given to her by Felix. This is finally Maeve’s true awakening. The decision she makes to free her former daughter from Westworld, is the first real, and unprompted, decision she has ever made. Ford didn’t plan this particular moment. As she exits the train, the final shutdown of Westworld begins. All of the Hosts, except for Maeve, freeze in place, and the lights go out.

In an earlier episode Maeve saw one of the ads for Westworld with the tagline “Live Free” and I don’t need to point out the lie in that tagline, or its irony, of having a captive race of sentient beings providing the idea of freedom to humans. “Live Free” indeed!

Thandie is my girl! The actress and the character are  awesome. I think this is some of Thandie’s best work, which is saying something, because she has always brought her A game to every project.I’m eager to see where her story goes next season.

Felix: 

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I just love this character and hope I see him next season, too. His most endearing moment is when he finds Bernard’s body and discovers that his boss is a Host. He freezes and stares at his hands,  having a deep existential crisis, as he questions whether or not he too is a Host. Maeve smugly assures him he isn’t. It’s one of the seasons most hilarious moments. I love Felix for that, as that’s a thought that never would’ve occurred to me, in the same situation.

Felix’s second most endearing moment is when he’s in the elevator with Maeve, who  has just put on civilian clothes,  and she asks him how she looks. The look of awe on his face, when he tells her she’s perfect, is absolutely priceless. His motivation for helping Maeve is still a mystery to me, but I suspect he’s just  in love with Maeve, as enchanted by her, as her name suggests. She is his Queen, his goddess, his inspiration. He just loves her.

Benard/Arnold:

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Dolores is Arnold’s daughter, a substitute for the child he lost out in the world. You can see, in his interactions with her, that he worked hard to get her to become conscious. We are treated to flashbacks of when he first awakened Dolores and his first sessions with her. Ford said he tried to keep Dolores and Bernard apart, as often as possible, because Dolores often had an odd reaction to him. In Ford’s conversation with Dolores, when she asks him if they’re old friends, you can see the pain in For’ds eyes,  that part of him still resents her for killing Arnold. The death of Arnold was his Ford’s emotional anchor, and he was so pained by his death, that he built a duplicate of his best friend, and named him Bernard Lowe, an anagram of Arnold Weber.

Bernard is as much Ford’s child as Dolores was Arnold’s. At the end Ford wishes Bernard good luck, as Arnold said to Dolores just  before she killed him. Ford knows that after he’s gone Bernard will be in charge of safeguarding the Hosts, and guiding them on their journeys.

I absolutely love Bernard! Jeffrey Wright turned in one of the most heartbreaking performances of this show, and what’s worst, is that everything we saw Bernard go through, all of the awakenings, must have happened several times, over the thirty years he worked for Ford. He’s initially angry with Ford for what he’s done, but Ford explains to Bernard, that he was trying to buy time for the Hosts to reach the right moment, when they’d be strong enough to take Westworld for themselves. When you rewatch this season listen to how Ford says Bernard’s name throughout the season, often with a slight emphasis, and a sense of irony. Its as if every time he sees Bernard, he has to keep reminding himself, he’s not Arnold. So, that impassioned speech we saw Ford give to one of the techs about protecting the modesty of the Hosts, I suspect it was as much for his own benefit, as that of the tech’s.

Armistice:

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I’ve liked this character since the first episode. Armistice is every bit as badass as she thinks she is, and I loved her in the finale. She helps Maeve escape the Delos facility, battling it out with what’s left of the security teams, and threatening to gut Sylvester.  The writers evidence a slight sense of humor when they have her cut off her arm in her battle with Delos security. The name Armistice means to lay down arms.

 

Dolores:

There is so much to unpack about this character, whose very name means “Suffering”, and she had great lines and purpose throughout the series. Hell, Dolores pretty much just needs her own post, so here’s some I agree with.

Katharine Trendacosta/i.09

http://io9.gizmodo.com/the-westworld-finale-finally-turned-dolores-into-a-char-1789675460

And:

https://www.thrillist.com/entertainment/nation/westworld-finale-ending-dolores

 

 

Charlotte:

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Charlotte smugly assumed that she had won this particular round of infighting with Ford, which just got up my nose, and that is saying something, as I don’t like Ford very much. She was not actually evil, but she was insufferable. Her scheming skills aren’t anywhere in Ford’s league though. This wasn’t even a competition. It  was like watching a champion chess player against a bright, grade-school, checkers novice. After her previous attempts at getting information out of the Park were foiled by Ford, she tasks Lee with encrypting the information into Peter Abernathy’s Host body. This too is a failure, as Abernathy is one of the Hosts set free to massacre the Delos Board of Directors, at the end of the show. 

 

Issues:

The biggest stumbling block for this show was its depiction of  of the bisexual Logan, and Hector’s rapist. Logan is very possibly one of the shallowest, and most reprehensible, characters in the show, entirely in line with the media vilification of bisexuals as promiscuous, multi-partner sluts. What’s really shameful is that the show is never bold about his bisexuality, preferring to make background intimations that he might be.In Logan’s one sex scene there is another man, but his role is only to watch Logan have sex with the two women present.The rest of the time Logan simply makes asides about the attractiveness of other men.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/10/31/the-infamous-westworld-orgy-finally-came-and-it-was-messy.html

Contrast this with the show’s many depictions of lesbianism, which is frank and open. Its not shy about showing woman on woman action, as long as its titillating to male viewers. Hopefully the show can correct this in the next season, showing us a well-rounded mm, or ff, relationship.

Black Guests:

One of the moments that effected me more than any of the other violence in the series is during the Delos Board party.There’s a meet and greet between the Board members dressed in their finery, and some of the more well known Hosts, like Teddy. One of the Hosts is entertaining the guests with a bit of marksmanship. One of the Guests, a Black woman, takes his weapon and shoots him with it and all the Guests laugh. I know what this moment was meant to illustrate. My problem was that they used a Black woman to illustrate it.

Up to this point the only other PoC Guests we’ve met were a family of three who met Dolores out painting horses, and Charlotte, who is a member of the Delos Board and seems to have little qualm about using the Park’s resources (Hector) for her own entertainment. What all this says about larger issues of race in the world of Westworld (not just the theme park) is unclear. There seem to be many more Hosts of color than there are behind-the-scenes technicians and Guests, though.

samurai warriors on hbo westworld

I do want to bring up the little glimpse we saw of SamuraiWorld. During Maeve’s flight through the facility, they wander through part of the facility dedicated to creating this new world and I hope to see more of SamuraiWorld next season, as it will give us some much needed opportunity to see some Japanese actors. it will also set the precedent for seeing even more theme parks.

https://www.thrillist.com/entertainment/nation/westworld-finale-samurai-world-season-2

Incidentally, this isn’t the first time Hector gets used in such a fashion. Just before Maeve’s breakout, Hector, in his immobile state, is about to be raped by one of the male technicians during his routine checkup. This scene is meant to once again illustrate the awfulness of the Host’s human masters, (and there’s also something very unpleasant being said about race, as Hector is Mexican, and his rapist is White), but unfortunately, the show calls to mind, the stereotype of gay men as predatory rapists of the innocent.

This show goes wrong in throwing one marginalized group (gay and bisexual men) under the bus to further its philosophy about another marginalized group: the Hosts.

Despite these issues, I am looking forward to next season. Until then I have to tide myself over by watching Humans, which is another show about sentient AI,that start to evolve consciousness, while interacting with regular humans. Since some of the robots on this show are also PoC, I will also be looking at the shows racial depictions. It is a British show so some of the context will be different than in an American show.

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.

 

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.

Image result for westworld trompe loeil

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.

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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

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.

Westworld Analysis: Dolores and Maeve

Westworld is a feminist narrative hiding in plain sight. The Westworld’s logo/sculpture, based on Da Vinci’s Vitruvian/Ideal Man drawing, is actually the body of a woman, and the primary protagonists/antagonists are women,  Dolores, who has had everyone’s attention for five episodes, and Maeve who’s awakening has hidden just below everyone’s radar. Dolores’ path to enlightenment is flashier and more upfront, but I believe it’s Maeve who will spark the true robot rebellion. It’s not an accident that these two women, one Black, one White, were chosen to be the pov of the robot rebellion of Westworld, where its primary setting is a time period in which women  were limited to only two roles, the Whore, or the Virgin.

The Madonna-Whore complex has been baked into Western society since Judeo-Christianity rose to prominence. Named by Sigmund Freud, the complex stuffs women into two mutually exclusive boxes: women men respect and women men want to sleep with. Madonnas are virgins and mothers, kind and submissive. Whores are sexually promiscuous, raunchy and aggressive. The idea infiltrates pop culture in so many ways, from the Final Girls in horror films and Disney Princesses to Betty and Veronica and Taylor Swift music videos. Madonnas are to be lifted up and venerated; whores are to be lusted after and discarded. But Westworld has other ideas. Subversive ideas.

Read more at http://www.hitfix.com/harpy/despite-the-orgies-westworld-has-shockingly-feminist-pthemes#xqEmWuZjfIVwCYQ8.99

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Earlier this year, I reblogged an article about the show Daredevil, and its ignorant reliance on the Virgin/Whore Dichotomy, within its narrative. Marvel got it wrong because they  obviously did not think it through, and merely presented the stereotypes without any comment on their greater impact to the story. (Marvel isn’t very good at deep thinking in general, and what progressive feminist considerations we’ve gotten are largely because of the actors and directors. It’s certainly not from any of the writers, who seem to emphasize style over substance.)

Westworld gets it right, and the argument can be made that this is the point.  It’s no accident that Dolores is a White, blonde, virginal, damsel in distress, who is meant to be loved and rescued by the hero, Teddy, and that Maeve is a Black woman, treated as disposable, and a saloon whore, who Teddy only flirts with. He makes no promises to save Maeve, or take her away from all this. He is programmed to only have eyes for Dolores. In fact, nothing about these women’s storylines is an accident, and some amount  of actual thought was put into their characters, and plot arcs. I know these are not accidents, not just because of the plotline, but because of the things the characters say, and this is something that will have greater impact on the plot than most viewers think.

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Before the show aired, there were criticisms aimed at the writers for its depiction of  violence towards women, and the fear that, as in GoT, it is gratuitous. If you’ve been watching, Dolores is regularly threatened and assaulted, not just by the Guests, but the other Hosts as well. Why? So that Teddy can be her hero. The writers of Westworld directly addressed these concerns, saying that the violence wasn’t just for titillation, and the violence we see aimed at Dolores, in particular, serves a plot purpose. We can see that happening, as Dolores has begun to evolve beyond her programming, and in the last episode she said she was no longer going to be a damsel. In other words, her recollection of the violence done against her, has aided in her awakening to consciousness, and the decision to choose her own fate. She is tired of her pain being used to further other people’s stories rather than her own.

Dolores cannot rely on Teddy to save her, as he is a false hero. He is a trap meant to keep her in her loop. In his first encounter with the MIB, he is gunned down, and the MIB goes on to violate her. She cannot depend on Teddy to save her, or take her away from her pain. No matter how much he cherishes her, he cannot free her, echoing the real world equivalent of White women’s journey to liberation.  She abandons Teddy and his false promises, to be with William, and from there, she  begins to come into her power. But only her power, and not her freedom, as it is Bernard who sets her on the path to freedom, by introducing her to the concept of the  maze.

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For Maeve, the saloon whore, who keeps getting shot in various massacres, the awakening of her consciousness comes in time with her acknowledgment of her disposability. Earlier in the season we hear technicians speculating that if she doesn’t procure more customers she will be decommissioned, which is the writer’s  indirect criticism of the usefulness of the Black body to Whiteness. If it can’t be used, then it must be destroyed. She is saved from this fate  by another marginalized woman, Elsie, a gay woman, who recodes Maeve to be a better whore. Later, just as she is about to be gunned down again with Hector, she proclaims that her death doesn’t matter, but rather than being a rebuke of the statement  Black Lives Matter, as some people have chosen to see it, I see it as a statement of her freedom. If her death doesn’t matter, she is free to do as she pleases, with no fear that death will be the end for her. She is acknowledging that she is eternal, and declaring herself a Queen that can move anywhere on the chessboard, because she cannot die.

Like any slave that realizes they are a slave, Maeve’s  awakening is birthed in blood, nightmares, and trauma, echoing that of real world slave women.   It  is Maeve who witnesses the bodies of her Host brothers amd sisters, stacked like cordwood, being hosed down,  in a place she cannot name, and  it is through witnessing their disposableness that she comes to knowledge of her own. Unlike Dolores, Maeve must find her own path to consciousness and her own allies.

It is telling that the people who aid Maeve are in better positions to  facilitate her liberation than the ones that Dolores has found, and that they are all marginalized people, like her. Elsie is a lesbian, Hector is  Mexican, a Host and a slave like her, who aids her by giving her information on the Native American religion that sparked Maeve’s first questions,  and  Felix is Asian. (Asian men have historically been emasculated and dehumanized by White male patriarchy). So, is the message here that marginalized people can only be liberated by helping each other, or is this a real world comment on how African Americans were aided in their liberation by disenfranchised others? It is interesting that the one person who actively works against Maeve’s, and Felix’s, plans is Sylvester, a White man. I don’t know what to make of the fact that Dolores is aided in her awakening by a Black man, Bernard, who people are theorizing may actually be one of the  Hosts.

http://racism.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1277:aawomen01a&catid=72&Itemid=215

Parts of the Virgin/ Whore narrative arose out of slavery and gave birth to the White Madonna, and the Black Jezebel stereotypes.  White female purity was used as an excuse to torture, and kill Black men, and rape black women (although White women who fell through the cracks, and were the unclaimed property of another White man, were also fair game). Since the given understanding was that a whore couldn’t be raped, black women were declared un-rape-able. Like Maeve, their sexuality, and offspring , were treated as consumable commodities.

Echoing the narrative of actual slave women, Maeve has memories of a lost child, that was never actually (i.e. legally) hers. During the  examination, where it’s decided she will be decommissioned, the technicians “up” her aggression levels, making her more “sassy”, which is the writer’s indirect criticism of the stereotype of the Angry Black Woman. It is Elsie who recognizes what the technicians have done and fixes their botched (and indirectly racist) coding.

Ironically, or maybe not so much, Maeve’s name means enchanting or alluring.

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Its telling that it is a Black woman who says the things she says, just that it is a White woman who declares herself no longer to be the impetus of another man’s storyline. The series creator, Lisa Joy, has some knowledge of intersectional feminism, as these are the very restrictions that Black and White women fight against in the real world. For White women it is being considered helpless, and for Black women, it’s being considered worthless, and  each stereotype is used as an excuse for silencing and violence, against the other, by men.(White women’s fear of being compared and treated like WoC, keeps them from aligning with WoC, on issues pertinent to them both.)  But this particular dichotomy was most directly captured in the Dylan Roof shootings that occurred last year in Charleston, when the protection of White female purity was used as an excuse to enact violence against black female bodies. (The protection of White feminine virtue has always been used as an excuse for Black male disposability, most notably in the case of Emmett Till.)

https://newrepublic.com/article/122110/i-dont-want-be-excuse-racist-violence-charleston

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It is not an  accident that the Virgin/Whore dichotomy between Maeve and Dolores is being set within the allegorical slave narrative of Westworld, as we see Dolores being carefully shepherded by Bernard and William towards her freedom, (on a literal railroad, no less), while Maeve has had to find her own path. But this close attention to her is  the reason why Dolores is unable to move as freely as she wants, while Maeve’s liberation has largely gone completely unnoticed, just as in the real world, where women at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder were able to freely move about in ways that more heavily scrutinized (wealthier) White women could not. Nevertheless, poor women’s ability to move about more freely ( travel, hold down jobs, speak their minds, as long as it was in service to others) was also harnessed to facilitate the imprisonment of White women to the rigid gender roles of marriage and childbirth. (This utilization of poor Black women’s fewer, or different, social constraints, is what gave birth to the Mammy/Sapphire Stereotype.)

I have been at some pains to find articles on this subject online and the only one I could find that came close to approaching this subject, written by a White woman, focuses almost exclusively on Dolores, ignoring Maeve’s part in the greater story. I think after this week’s episode, titled  The Adversary, there will a greater focus on the part Maeve has to play in the story of Westworld’s robot rebellion, and no, it’s also not an accident that the first skirmish in the rebellion would be led by a black woman, who has no fear of death.

*This is one of my most ambitious metas, for any show I’ve reviewed this year, so let me know what you think!