We open this week with Jude Law wearing my Aunt Rona’s hat. What’s happening? Where are the cowboys?
Okay, fine. Jude Law as the Pope. I met him once. He was nice. You want to make him the Pope? Fine.
They chose a Pope they didn’t know and today they’re beginning to realize…WHO I AM.
Yeah, you’re Jude Law. I remember you from The Talented Mr. Ripley and Road To Perdition. Oh, man! I can’t believe these guys didn’t realize they appointed a British actor to be the Pope! Who did the vetting, the GOP?
An actor as Pope. What a hoot. Is this an Albert Brooks show? I can’t wait to laugh my ass off. I can’t wait to Mike Judge the Vatican. Great concept. What a riot.
But let’s get to the reason we’re here: Westworld.
Advanced Lost meets Groundhog Day.
We get a quick previously on, which highlights the search of the Man in Black for the “deeper game” and Dolores saying she’d never hurt a living thing, and then hurting a living thing.
Whooooooooosh, we’re down the rabbit hole again! Player pianos and gossamer twine. Skel-e-tons (said like Danny from Hot Fuzz) and guns. The ivory is tickled as we head back into the world. Ahhhh. It was only a week, but it’s been too long.
Wake up, Dolores.
She hears a voice (who is that? Bernard? I can’t tell) instructing her to wake up. But his voice is glitchy, there’s an interference.
She opens her eyes. She’s in bed. It’s night time. Usually, when she Edge of Tomorrow’s back to this moment, it’s morning and she smiles. Usually she can hear daddy’s chair creaking on the farmer’s porch as he takes in the “splendor.”
But it’s night time. She should be asleep.
Dolores heads outside. She’s in her white cotton nightgown, standing like a statue in the grass. We can’t see what she’s looking at, but her countenance is serious. She’s studying something. The barn? The place where the attack from the bandits always happens? The place where Teddy, whose path always leads to her, was gunned down? Or all of the above?
We never see. Because from that we transition to what looks like an image of a man in a coffin. It kind of resembles Teddy. But it’s just an image. Or is it the reflection of a passenger in a tinted mirror? We pan down to see the face of new character William. We’ll come to find that this is largely William’s episode, which is A-OK by me.
I don’t know much about Jimmi Simpson, the actor who plays William, but I’ve always kind of liked him. When I looked him up I found that he was once married to Melanie Lynskey and was roommates with Charlie Day. Huh. I guess he’s always been on the fringes of my radar, but whenever I see him, I just kind of like him. I also root for actors who are the last person in their peer group (or family…as is the case with Luke Hemsworth) to “make it.” Lots of added pressure.
Jimmi Simpson has this wounded hangdog everyman thing going that makes him accessible. He’s awkwardly handsome in a boy-next-door kind of way and his eyes make you feel like he’s an optimist, even if he’s probably an old soul who’s been on the wrong end of more than a few of life’s short straws. He seems like what you’d get if Christian Slater and Cillian Murphy made a baby and then you acid-washed the devil out of him and raised him right. Anyway, I accepted the casting choice right away.
As we pull away from William’s face, we see that we’re in what we’d describe as an ultra-high tech environment. So, we’re going to do it this way. We’re going to see how the Newcomers get into the void. Okay.
I mean, if it’s my show, I take you down the yellow brick road a bit more before I start to show you where the wizard lives, but whatever.
So we’re on William’s face. The music that’s playing is futuristic. It reminds me of the music you hear before Picard’s voice kicks in during the main title sequence of Star Trek: The Next Generation. “Space…the final frontier.” The inside of the cabin that William is in is positively starship-esque.
Off camera, we hear a woman clear her throat, politely, to wake William.
We’re about to arrive. May I take your glass?
Subjective camera on her face: she’s pretty. Blonde. She’s dressed in an outfit that’s halfway between Florence Nightingale nurse outfit and post WWII air hostess, complete with the side ponytail. She’s all in white. Clinical white. She takes his glass and walks away. The camera guiltily stays on her departing derriere as it swishes off.
Where we’re going? She’s a 2.
That’s a hell of a shitty thing to say. Who said it? Now we see Logan.
He’s in a white chair, cocktail in hand. He wears his smug superiority like an unseen smallpox blanket. It infects every part of his being. Talk about establishing who the douchebag is right out of the gate…
William reminds Logan that he’s being an asshole, and they laugh together. That’s okay. As we get to know these guys, they skew wildly different on the alignment scale:
But that’s how it goes sometimes. Logan is a co-worker of William’s, taking him to Westworld to discover William’s “true self.” William seems intrigued, but cautious. And right away we get the sense that he doesn’t trust Logan. Not a shock. Logan is intentionally portrayed as horrible. He’s the guy who goes full evil, and he’s interested to see who William really is.
Before they have a chance to go into it more, the sterile white vibrator train pulls into the station where a number of emotionless travel representatives wait at attention to lead them to the next port of call.
It’s a little creepy.
Also, the fact that some Hosts are on the blue dots and then absurdly not on other blue dots makes my symmetry compulsion twitch a bit. Twitch twitch.
But Logan doesn’t care about that. He sees sex objects. He loves this shit.
William is less certain.
Logan heads off, putting his arms around both a male and female greeter.
“What?” He says. “It’s not like my sister didn’t ride her share of cowboys while she was here.”
Huh. That’s a gross thought. Thanks, Logan! So, wait…I thought these guys were either friends or co-workers. Is Logan William’s brother-in-law? Is he talking about William’s wife? What the?
William is approached by a knockout Boer princess. Her hair is up and more formal. Her lines are more regal. They don’t say it, but her name is Angela. If tall, ivory-skinned Aryans with swimmer’s shoulders are your thing? Well, she’s just about flawless. Her teeth are the kind of things that dentists see once in a lifetime. She’s lovely. (Fun fact: this actress, Talulah Riley, was once Mrs. Elon Musk, so she probably feels at home in futuristic locales.)
Angela walks with William, asking him a series of questions since it’s his “first time.” Any pre-existing medical conditions? Heart problems? He answers openly and quickly until they get to the question about fears. He makes a clown joke that he has to qualify and she clues in and asks him if he often experiences social anxiety.
“What’s this for?” He asks.
“So we don’t give you more than you can handle.”
“I thought you couldn’t get hurt here.” He says.
“Only the right amount.” She says, holding his gaze on lock. She’s flirting, but it’s intense. In the real world, that type of look, that type of joke, might signify interest or availability. But he met her, literally, ten seconds ago. It’s…fast.
He laughs it off. Oh, you.
They ride the escalator together. So, escalators are still a thing in the future. Shoelaces everywhere are sobbing. But it’s nice to know you’ll still have to walk your baby stroller to the elevator in the future.
Before we even hit the second story of the station, we’re already getting answers to several questions. Angela tells him that the only limit to Westworld is “your imagination.” She says that you start in the center of the park — where it’s safe — and work your way outward. It’s more dangerous the farther out you go. How far you go is entirely up to you.
I knew she was going to say ‘entirely.’
They make it to a contemporary wardrobe room, more museum than closet, full of custom-crafted items made exclusively for William. He asks if there’s an orientation. Her answer is right out of 1997’s The Game:
No orientation. No guidebook. Figuring out how it works is half the fun. All you do is make choices.
His first choice will be whether or not to get busy with Angela.
She stands in front of him. Presenting. He’s conflicted.
You want to ask, so ask.
“Are you real?” William asks.
Well if you can’t tell, does it matter?
Ahhhhhhh yes. This is why we come here. Questions like these. Does it, in fact, matter? What a slippery slope.
In law a man is guilty when he violates the rights of others. In ethics he is guilty if he only thinks of doing so. — Immanuel Kant
If these are not ‘people,’ do human guiding principles about morality even apply? What a slippery slope. Kant would have a field day with that.
Angela stands there, awaiting his response. Look how they’ve lit her, in this ice-cold light. This is the definition of sterile there’s no warmth anywhere, certainly not in Angela, whose vocation seems to require that she give herself to guests in this fortress of sharp angles and infinite winter.
He doesn’t answer her, but moves on around the room. More exposition that we didn’t get in the pilot. ‘The guns are real, but you can’t kill anyone you’re not supposed to. So, some people, then, you ARE SUPPOSED TO KILL. Hmmm.
He asks if there’s a changing room or a…gulp…robe?
God, he’s adorable.
“Sure.” Angela says. “I can help you, or, if you prefer, I can step outside.”
Whew. What to do?
What do most people do?
Angela ignores that and begins to unbutton his shirt. Silly boy. This is Westworld.
“You don’t have to worry what most people would do.” She says. That’s sort of an initiation move. Here in Elysium, the rules are different. A man takes what he wants. You don’t worry about conserving water. You don’t bother yourself with trivialities like life and death. Fuck ‘most people.’
“I understand.” He says. She moves closer and pulls his arm around her.
Do you understand, William? All our Hosts are here for you, including me. We can stay here a while, if you like, take as long as you want…
She’s so close. Intimately close. But it’s…I don’t know…sad. Tragic, even. Something feels wrong about it, and William connects with that. Again, in the words of Kant:
Morality is not the doctrine of how we may make ourselves happy, but how we may make ourselves worthy of happiness.
William makes a whispered excuse about not keeping his friend waiting, and Angela nods with an understanding smile. His wishes are law.
As she walks off, we’ve learned a bit about William.
Now we cut to Bernard Rowe entering one of those corporate inspection rooms where Elsie Hughes is reviewing the anomaly surrounding Abernathy’s glitch. She’s of the mind that rather than reacting to the photograph and instantaneously freaking out, he was actually mulling it over. Bernard is skeptical. Elsie says there’s something really fucked up with his cognition…
…and Elsie knows that Bernard feels the same way, because she knows the error originated with Ford’s new programming, and Bernard covered for him.
Bernard looks away but doesn’t refute it. What’s the dynamic here? This seems like a managerial relationship he has with Elsie. She’s like his best student. Maybe she’s a younger version of him. Smart and focused. She’s worried that there’s a wider problem and that there’s a possibility — however unlikely — that what happened to Abernathy could actually happen to other Hosts that he came in contact with.
She wants to pull Dolores.
No. Bernard says. She’s been examined and cleared.
Then he gives her a slight rebuke, saying the ‘stories’ are better left for the guests. It’s a little burn, and probably not something that Elsie should or will take kindly to. Elsie is smart and a bit off, which may repel some viewers, but I like her. Is her kiss of Clementine in episode 1 a bit rapey? Uh, yeah. But she’s smart and she has an edge and she’s good at her job. She’s worth cheering for at this point, even if she’s working at odds to Bernard, who is the hamster that makes this show’s wheel turn. He is fucking unreal.
Then we’re back inside Westworld, and despite my deep and abiding love for Jeffrey Wright, honestly, this is where I want to be right now. Yes, the outside world is interesting, but I’m looking for some unbroken immersion.
We’re on Dolores. She’s walking her bot path with a big smile and then…what is that? Something is happening. Her smile fades. A cacophony of unseen voices fills the air. And then a voice:
Time slows down…she turns, and the street that was just lively is now full of dead bodies and…what’s that? A roaming WOLF?
There’s always the hyena of morality at the garden gate, and the real wolf at the end of the street. — D. H. Lawrence
Well, at least we know where Nymeria ended up.
The spell of the dead street is broken when Maive (that’s Thandie Newton) rolls up behind Dolores and asks her to leave the street, lest any of the gentlemen callers accidentally mistake her as one of the ladies for hire.
Dolores turns like a possessed person and says “These violent delights have violent ends.”
In this way, Maeve is ‘infected.’
Once that line is delivered, Dolores seemingly snaps out of it, and moves on as if nothing has happened, but Maeve looks worried.
Could the infected code be programmed to not only jump to another Host, but to erase itself from the previous Host when it does? When Pa Abernathy whispered it to Dolores he didn’t go clear like Dolores did when she whispered it to Maeve. He locked up. But he was already in an epileptic glitch-state when he told her.
Now we’re looking over Angela’s shoulder in the ultra-modern wardrobe area. William comes walking around the corner with a little drawl in his gait, if that’s possible. It’s amazing what dressing like a cowboy can do to make you actually feel like a cowboy.
“Hello, Cowboy.” She says.
And now, character creation is almost complete. He has the trousers and the jacket. He has the five o’clock shadow and he’s chosen his gun belt and gun. I love the striped pants. Loved the subdued earth tones he chose. William is alright by me.
But what alignment is he?
And just like that….a Jedi is born.
William heads through a door without as much as a nod farewell to the lovely Angela and he’s transported — from ice cold polypropylene to warm cherry wood. From fluorescent to sunlit.
William is into it.
Logan follows behind a minute later, zipping his fly. What a shocker. When they each entered the “room” you could see something shift or close behind the frosted glass of the door. I’m not sure how.
Just as William asks Logan how they’ll actually get to the park? Bam! The room they’re in is magically a train and they’re already on their way to Sweetwater.
William is more into it. Logan enjoys his surprise and takes the opportunity to hype it all up, saying that maybe William thinks he knows what this is, but he doesn’t. That this place seduces people. That William will be begging him to stay at the end of it, and that William’s true self will ultimately be revealed.
Logan is mustache-twistingly digusting. To me, anyway. He’s reminiscent of people I’ve known over the years who melded weaselly svelte handsomness with hair that looks like they used a toothbrush to curl it, to a sense of douchey entitlement. He’s just fucking awful, and he notably wears a black hat. That’s not an accident. He exudes something — if not outright evil, then certainly a sense of chaos and incitement of negativity.
I’m not sure what the world these guys come from looks like, but it feels a lot like the Silos from Wool. There seem to be umpteen levels everywhere. Escalatorville. And for some reason, you never get a panoramic view of the outside. I feel like the outdoors may not be as clear and open as they were in Earth’s heyday. (And yes, I feel like it’s Earth because Ford references it at one point). Maybe the world the Newcomers are from has a scorched sky like The Matrix or copious pollution like The Fifth Element, but they all seem to react to the sky and the light and the clean, openness of it all.
Now we’re over to the Man in Black, who rides up to an imminent hangin’.
I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel about this Power Gamer. While I’ve always liked Ed Harris, it almost feels like the casting of Ed Harris was too Ed Harriss-y. Not sure that makes sense, but it’s just all Ed Harris being Ed Harris and not stretching. Like Jack Nicholson as the Joker. You’re not like “There’s the Joker!” You’re like “There’s Jack Nicholson being Jack Nicholson!” Whenever I see Ed Harris ride on in, I think, “You got one cleaved up face, there, Ed Harris. You be you.” And then he is. And not much else. So I may be having a bit of a hard time thinking of the Man in Black as a character more than just an actor. Maybe it’s just me.
Anyway, Ed Harris rolls in and we see Clifton Collins Jr. ready to hang. I’ve been watching this actor since the 90’s when his name was Clifton Gonzalez Gonzalez and he’s always rock solid. But I always know it’s him, too. He has such a recognizable face that it often pulls me out of the scene. Not his fault, for sure. He’s a pro. But this was the first time in watching Westworld where, watching these two actors, I popped outside the suspension of disbelief for a minute.
And yes, while I’m interested in the hunt for the maze, and the game within a game, I think about the stakes that have been set up: namely none.
The Man in Black lolling up to the gallows on Black Beauty and then winning an impromptu gunfight is sadly lackluster when he literally cannot be hurt. What are the stakes? There are none. And that’s going to be a real problem going forward. This is one of the huge dilemmas that you find in a movie like Thor 3. I got a peek at the bible and one of the constant problems that they understand and account for is: what’s interesting about a god — who can’t be defeated — fighting anyone?
Nothing. That’s what. So some “removal of powers” is a necessary step, unless the opponent is also god-mode. Make one weaker or someone else stronger. Otherwise, why would anyone care?
That’s where we are here. Ed Harris shoots a bunch of yellin’ targets in hats and mustaches and heads off with Lawrence in tow. Eh. You can’t argue with the fantastic production value of these scenes, but the best part of this one was probably the facial expressions of the stupid looking sheriff played by Josh Clark.
From there we hop to the saloon in Sweetwater where Maeve is working a tourist. She’s got a pre-programmed speech that she’s always delivered flawlessly. How do we know? Because they keep detailed metrics on her. The Hosts have a number of counting features built in and they’re real-time monitored by a team at the command center. So, when the lovely gift of memory that Dolores passed on to Maeve hits her at exactly the wrong moment, and a Newcomer begs off? The staff at Pillage Central take note.
Maeve is supposed to be a closer.
In a blink, we go from Maeve’s native peoples scalp attack to the Narrative department, where some low-level asshats jack up her aggression and casually talk about decommissioning her. She sits there, naked as the day she was dipped, and doesn’t react in the slightest.
Now we head to the actual Vitruvian latex dipping facility and it’s an editorial establishing lineup we’ve seen twice in two episodes. Vitruvian men on conveyor. Dipping. Ass muscles. Unfortunately, that’s a bit visually tedious. Normally, I probably wouldn’t have noticed or cared, but if you’re going to show us individual ass muscles? Twice? Yeah, I can’t scrub that. It’s staying with me.
Bernard is waiting for Ford and informs him that they’ve decommissioned the two malfunctioning hosts. He laments to Ford, probably the only other person who would understand, how hard it is to actually put the Hosts away. We still don’t know what Bernard whispered to Peter Abernathy last week before he sent him to cold-stand with all the rest of the decommissioned naked ghouls.
They talk a bit about Occam’s razor, but in general, it’s establishment filler to show the relationship between the two.
Now, we’re back inside. Thank god. They tap the same BUM BUM BUM music every time the train rolls into Sweetwater and I’m all about it. It works.
Logan leads William off the locomotive and the journey begins. William still is holding his fucking hat. Goddamn, that’s the mousiest anti-hero shit I’ve ever seen right there. Logan has to actually snatch and pop his hat on his head for him. That’s how meek entry-William is. Something tells me exit-William will be much different.
Right away, the shoulder-bump guy jacks William and he apologizes and kowtows away. Logan is having none of it. “FUCK YOU, GRIZZLY ADAMS!” He yells. It’s nice to know that, a thousand years in the future, this show from the 1970s will still be as beloved and referenced as it is today.
Anyway, the wary scowls of townfolk follow their every movement as they walk down Main street. The “Hector Escaton is up in them thar hills” mission has been replaced with a “Join the Union Army” mission. I’m smiling from ear to ear about that, thinking about those sweet, sweet faction points you’d get.
William is like a toddler. He’s smiling like a goofball at everything as Logan in his stylish black finery and dress coat leads the way. Another mission appears in front of them in the form of a man falling from a cart, and when William moves to assist him, Logan is irritated.
Don’t! He’ll only try to rope you into some bullshit treasure hunt.
This made me laugh out loud. William is a complete level 1 noob. I half expected him to spend the entire episode on fetch missions.
Luckily, Logan has seen it all before and he hauls William off to start the day with a drink. “They’re not going anywhere.” He says.
Down that very street, Dolores is tending to her saddlebags on her Dun when she catches a look at her reflection in a shop window.
And we pop through her eye into probably the most interesting scene in the episode: A secret meeting with Bernard.
It’s a little bit research, a little bit therapy. Bernard is probing. Is he looking for the specific glitch in the reveries? Possibly. But it feels somehow…wrong. And when Dolores asks him if he’s doing something wrong he instructs her to erase her log of this conversation.
Now, what do we get from this scene? Well, Bernard is certainly off the grid. I still don’t understand how these Hosts move back and forth through the world from Westworld to the command center. Like, how did Maeve end up naked in Narrative? When Bernard instructs Dolores that she should be “getting back before someone misses [her].” What does that mean? Wouldn’t someone in monitoring know she was gone the second she wasn’t there? They were all over Maeve’s shit the nanosecond she didn’t close one sex deal. How could Dolores, or any Host, for that matter, just slip away? And what does slipping away mean? Like, how? Am I daft? What am I missing? Is there a transportation mode where the Hosts are in transit, but not accessing cognitive function? Shit, I don’t know. Maybe I’m missing something.
Okay, so from there we’re back, quickly, into the next interaction of Maeve 2.0: Agressionista! She’s delivering the same speech to a different newcomer, but now it’s much more forward and features Maeve pinning the Newcomer against the wall and groping her. It’s too much for the Newcomer and she bows out. Maeve seems distressed at not closing the deal. It’s an interesting choice that the bots seem to have a reaction like this. It must be tied to their core drives, like the three that Abernathy listed last week.
(Incidentally, I’m still reeling from that tour-de-force performance by Louis Herthum last week. He must have been giddy when he saw the script. It’s the kind of meaty role that actors always dream about and never, ever get. That’s the kind of performance an actor sees another actor give and says “fuck I wish I got that role.” But Herthum didn’t waste it. He was un-fucking-believable.)
So Maeve’s settings appear to not be calibrated properly.
We get a little interaction with Clementine and her Fellini-esque face and Maeve sets up the concept of, when you’re scared in a nightmare, counting backward from three to wake yourself up.
But guess what, in the command center, Maeve’s lack of sexytime is noticed immediately. They’re like a bunch of sexual predators up in monitoring. It’s totally cool for Dolores to head to subbasement 4000 for a chat, but the second Maeve isn’t knees-up, Thor’s big brother is decommissioning her. His name in the show is Ashley Stubbs, by the way. Ashley. Stubbs. That’s a Security Chief “Roc” Ingersol name if I’ve ever heard one.
Is sex that much of a focus of this place? Allow my European roots to politely chuckle at that. If you figure that there are 1400 guests in Westworld at any given time, at a cost of $40,000.00 per day, that works out to 56 million dollars per day in revenue. Interesting that they place such an acute lens on the sexual metrics of the place.
Anyway, with the tap of a screen on a future iPad, Clementine is promoted to madame and Maeve is virtually tagged for Cannery Row. Ashley Stubbs is not a romantic.
The plot thickens as Bernard lights a cigarette for actress Sidse Babbett Knudsen, who plays QA department head Theresa Cullen. I’ve heard varying reports on her performance. Some people really like her, some are put off by her. When I looked her up, I saw that she was in the acclaimed Dutch show Borgen which also featured both Pilou Asbaek, the actor who plays The Stickwater King of the Ironborn in Game of Thrones and Birgitte Hjort Sorenson who played the cool Widling lady chief at Hardhomme. The jury is still out on Asbaek as well, but commenters have sworn that Borgen is legit. So far, I’m on board with Knudsen’s performance of Theresa, if it is a bit dour and relatively one-note so far.
So what do we learn from this interaction? Bernard is trying to get some information from her about her latest call with “corporate.” She’s under pressure to guarantee a good ‘launch’ and to quell any Host-based anomalies. Not much more there than that.
This show is all about patterns, so far. Bot pathing, for sure, and the programmed events like the can dropping from Delores’ saddlebag. But now we’re establishing some other patterns. The same music kicks in when the locomotive rolls into Sweetwater. Bernard and Ford like to meet in the dipping chamber. Theresa Cullen is often alone, and approached by a man trying to elicit information.
After that we shoot back inside, thankfully, where William and Logan are having a bite at a local establishment. Logan sees William studying the Hosts, trying to figure out who’s real, and Logan has a speedy solution: he pulls his revolver and gets ready to start a-killin’. William talks him down.
See, this is your problem, my friend. You’re always worried about making a mess. You are the same way at work: You are talented, driven, and inoffensive.
So, work again. That’s what I thought. Then where (and why) did Logan saying William’s sister bumping uglies with the bots come into play? What is this relationship? Family and co-worker? And is Logan footing the bill for William’s adventure? Is William sort of beholden to him for it? It kind of feels that way.
“I thought you didn’t want to talk about work here.” Says William.
“Who says this trip isn’t work?” Says Logan.
Two ideas popped into my head here:
1) Is this actual work? Is Logan gathering intel for a competitor of “the corporation?” Is he a spy from “the corporation?” Is he a human version of what we’d consider a hacker? Or even a virus? Is he being paid to go to this park and fuck shit up or pull information?
2) Is William in danger from Logan? Like, when I wrote about the contract for the company that owns the park, it seemed like a great place to take someone you wanted to kill, because the park stonewalls local authorities about information. So, is Logan bringing William into the park to kill him?
That thought gives me chills, honestly. Because Logan, for lack of a better term, is William’s lifeline and personal guide. And if he’s out to get him? Man. That’s going to be one deep gully for William to crawl out of.
Now, back at the restaurant, William is greeted by the old man prospector Host who fell off the wagon earlier. He raises a glass from across the room in greeting, and despite Logan’s groaning entreatment that William not make eye contact and empower the Host to approach, William is a good dude. The old man prospector Host comes up and begins his programmed speech, with alterations that fit the narrative. Seems that one of his core drives is enlisting Newcomers on treasure hunts.
As he makes his pitch, Logan, who has been itching for some malice since the second the vibrator train pulled into bot central, barks viciously for the old man prospector Host to “LEAVE US THE FUCK ALONE.”
When the Host continues his pitch to William, Logan the cobra has had enough. He flips his cutlery and drives his knife through the old man prospector Host’s hand an inch into the table top. The Host screams and falls to his knees.
Now, we’ve seen some viciousness so far on this show. We’ve seen some killing and possibly rape (or at least suggested rape). We’ve seen a couple versions of scalping, something I’m particularly squeamish about, but what Logan did to the old man prospector Host? And the way his blood pooled on the table? Man that was tough to watch for some reason. His use of force? It was just so…unnecessary.
Force always attracts men of low morality. — Albert Einstein
One of my general fears is to be in a situation (in my worst fears it’s my family with me as well) where an armed lunatic is holding us. If the person is troubled or angry or vengeful, I always feel like I have a shot at talking my way out of it. At appealing to some humanity. But the scariest thing is being held hostage by either someone like the necrophiliac bandits from episode one, who are just unreachable, soulless imbeciles who are hell bent on maiming because it’s all they know (many of the Trump supporters tweeting about repealing the 19th amendment fall into this dunce-filled netherworld) or a willfully chaotic bad guy like Logan, where the hatred excites him. Truly terrifying to me.
Anyway, Logan has worked up a “new appetite” anyway. Cut to him having sex.
So let me get the Tiger Woods of this straight: Logan gets off the white dildo train, reaches out like a schoolboy for a hot female and male Host. Has sex with them. Then he rushes into the train compartment zipping his fly. Whooo! The train pulls into Sweetwater. William wants to do all kinds of stuff, but Logan is like “no, you’re buying me a drink.” They have a little steak for lunch, Logan stabs a dude, and then he’s like: I’m hungry again.
Cut to him in bed with two more female Hosts and a male Host, and him getting hit by one of them while he is ridden by another. Okay then! Omnivore much?
Meanwhile, William is in the other room with Clementine. The key thing is that he establishes that he doesn’t think of Logan as a ‘friend.’ He also says that he doesn’t want to indulge with Clementine because he has someone waiting for him at home. Not sure I believe that. Who is it, his sister?
One thing I really liked about this scene is that I’ve felt like William a lot in my life. Like, I’ll be in attendance at a strip club for someone’s bachelor party and I’m just not into it. It’s just tough for me to not see the strings of grossness and mental illness and weird, fakey-fake sex stuff and uncomfortable money-trading stuff. I’ve never been able to just let it all hang out and be Logan, hootin and hollering and feeding the id. It’s not me. Luckily, most of my friends are like me in this way and we don’t end up in these situations very often, but many times, especially in my younger days, social commitments or work relationships got you entwined in a can’t-get-out-of-it invitation to a place that didn’t feel great. It’s just nice to know I wasn’t the only one. Conversely, it’s also okay to see that some people can just really cut loose when they need to. Must be a nice skill to have.
Anyway, when William politely rejects Clementine, she says “I understand.” Which is also what Angela the Boer Princess said. Programming.
After that we shoot back outside, to possibly the least interesting subplot yet. Yes, one key to a compelling story is to keep lots of balls in the air. The problem is that all of the balls need to be at least moderately interesting. The storyline involving human thong-strap Lee Sizemore is the opposite of that. I don’t know the actor Simon Quartermain, so I can’t say it’s his portrayal. Honestly, it feels like a directing and development issue. Narrative designer Lee Sizemore just isn’t all that believable as a character. He’s not particularly intelligent or interesting, is a shameless self promoter, and a talking human penis. No redeeming skills or interactions whatsoever and all he does is eat precious time and so I’m going to just skip ahead. It’s hard enough pulling myself away from the spurs to see the ghost in the machine, but when he’s on screen? UGH. You get the feeling they were going for “controlling designer type” but what they ended up with was “petulant asshole.”
Okay, so from there we go to something actually interesting. Ford uses some kind of Willy Wonka elevator to go visit a remote part of the world. A boy Host rolls up on him and we have a nice little interaction where Sir Anthony debunks the idea that ‘only boring people get bored.’
It’s only a beat before we cut to Ed Harris leading Clifton Collins to his home village, where a scene that’s supposed to be full of tension just isn’t. And why? Again: No stakes. The Man in Black can’t be harmed. There could be a thousand Apache braves falling onto him and he wouldn’t break a nail. DANGER WILL ROBINSON! DANGER! Plot yawns commencing!
Yes, there’s a cool beat with a young actress who sends him to some eggs via the ‘arroyo’, which may be my least favorite spoken word ever. And yes, there’s a nice beat where the Man in Black somehow resets the hammer depth on his revolver to somehow fire a bullet…what…harder? I don’t know what that was. It looked cool, but I’m not sure it makes any sense.
The most important thing from this scene, really, is that the casual observers at command central who issue a Total Recall if Maeve doesn’t bat her eyelashes properly at a prospective John don’t seem to think twice about The Man in Black cleaning out a few posses. He doesn’t seem notable to them. Which is a bit weird, because usually game developers at least know the handles of the power gamers in their game. Game developers know better than anyone where the outer walls of their game are, and if all of a sudden, one of the gamers is pressing toward that boundary? Believe me, the devs know about it.
Here we’re thinking the Man in Black is such a badass, but he isn’t really on the radar at command central and he has no problem just kind of saying his plan out loud.
“I’m never going back.”
If I type the word napalm in this piece the NSA will probably get a red flag on it. (Hey gang!) But in the far future when a guest in Westworld tells a bunch of Hosts that he’s going to break park rules in a hyper-monitored omnipresent-watcher experience and nothing happens?
Westworld, listen. Meet me at camera 5. Right now I’m a believer. Right now I’m with you. Right now I’m taking the time I could be using to literally write about anything else because I’m into this shit. But you better have a better plan than that, or a pretty clear reason for why that doesn’t alert a thousand nanobots in the HQ. Why is it just “the gentleman gets what he wants?” Is Ashley Stubbs in on it? How is it that this dude has a thirty year visiting history and doesn’t have his own human host? If you’re a high roller in Vegas, they park a slave that looks like Natascha McElhone at your side for your entire stay and she gets you anything you want. How is The Man in Black just falling through the cracks when he has the map of the deeper game IN HIS VERY HANDS? He doesn’t even have a name! He’s just a walking color! How does no one notice that?
You have to have a satisfactory explanation for this, Westworld, or next week? This may turn into a scoffcap instead of a recap. I’d hate to do it, believe me. But it has to make sense.
Where were we? Okay, so Ed Harris now knows the entrance to the Maze. Someone cue the bagpipes! Let’s get Leonard Cohen in here to sing Hallelujah. The Maze! At long last! We’ve waited small part of two whole episodes to find out where it starts! Huzzah huzzah! Pour the Babylonian wine! Peel me a grape! The maze is foundeth!
Yeah, guys. We, uh, don’t KNOW WHAT THE MAZE IS.
And I’m not sure we care, yet, frankly. We don’t really have an understanding of the characters yet. We don’t really know who we’re rooting for, both in and outside the park. We don’t know what the MAIN GAME is, so why are we trying to find the DEEPER GAME?
So Ed Harris dancing with and shooting a bot that we know will be repaired and whipped back into circulation tomorrow? Meh. This rates zero on the caremeter.
Zero understanding + zero character development + zero actual danger = bathroom break.
After that we’re right back to Ford and the boy in the desert, looking at pretty much nothing, but I guess we’re looking at a place where a future town will exist. That’s nice. Sir Anthony continues to hold every consonant at the end of a line delivery for three seconds to give it extra weight. But he’s done that for years. We also see that the creator can command a rattlesnake with his hands. Okay then! That’s actually interesting. Especially if someone else learns to do it.
We find out the boy is a Host when he’s dismissed unceremoniously by Ford and he walks away on command. Boom.
After that we’re in Bernard’s apartment when the formidable head of QA, Maureen Cullen pops by. Work meeting? Is she here to- aaaaaand they’re kissing.
Aaaaaaand then they’re in bed. Hmmm. Okay. Don’t love it. But okay. Holding on to hope….suspension of disbelief….waning…
Takeaways from that scene: Bernard’s not very talkative. But his Bots are. They talk to each other even when no guests are around. Bernard says they’re trying to “error correct” and make themselves ‘more human,’ which is an interesting way to think about it, especially as we see that he’s noticed that Dolores is thinking ‘differently.’
We also see a residence that’s more cement and escalators. It’s making me cold just looking at it. Someone needs a goddamn dalmatian or a fluffy rabbit up in this mamma jamma. It’s just so industrial and minimalist. How about a couple of paperbacks on a shelf somewhere? How about a velvet Elvis painting? How about anything with a little soul? Nope. It’s just this no-frills apparatchik housing. Yuck.
Okay, now we’re in front of an about-to-be-retired Maeve when Elsie from…behavior?…I guess, walks in. Yes QA, has scheduled Maeve’s retirement, but Elsie points out that they’re not in QA. She looks Maeve over with an expert’s eye. Ah, that’s refreshing. Someone who’s actually doing their job and is good at it! Elsie is a professional. She’s doing a full spectral analysis through her google glass(es). She archives the configuration from the halfwits at narrative, submarining Maeve’s increased aggression and instead jacks up her perception and emotional acuity. Nice. Much better than just making her a rage junkie.
There’s some talk of dreams, and how they give the Hosts the general understanding of nightmares as a failsafe in case someone in the body shop forgets to initiate sleep mode while reassembling. (wink wink)
Then Maeve is put back into circulation.
Elsie says… “you’re gonna wake in three…two…one.”
And when we cut to Maeve, she’s now back to being a closer, aided by her increased perception and emotional acuity. And they only bumped it 1.5%. What if a Host had a perception or acuity bump of say, 10%? Or 50%? What would that look like?
Side note: Most of the Newcomers are these dopey looking imbeciles. They’re all just stupid-looking. Chances are, if Maeve is pitching you, you’re a hayseed.
Maeve closes the deal with one doofus and heads over to chat with Teddy. It’s just kind of casual until Teddy is just mercilessly gunned down by a drunken, beer-muscled Tucker Max on vacay. What a life, boy. What a life.
We jump to later in the day, Maeve is getting ready for bed and she catches her reflection in a mirror. That shoots her into a fever dream where at first, she’s with her daughter…
…and then she’s in the middle of an attack by native tribesmen. It’s terrifying.
Maeve grabs her daughter and rushes for shelter with the natives in pursuit. She pulls down a shotgun and loads it as they approach the door….
But as they open it…wait…it’s not them. It’s Ed Harris, fresh off the set of Appaloosa! See? Goddamnit, I’m already making fun of it and it’s only episode two.
Anyway, The Man in Black walks in, extends his knife and prepares to scalp her. Meave closes her eyes, the way she instructed Clementine to do, and counts backward from three.
When she opens her eyes, she’s on an operating table in the ‘body shop.’ Two techs better suited to Silicon Valley than E.R. are grumbling about various infections and they fucking FREAK out when they see she’s up. That must be highly irregular. Like it NEVER happens.
But rather than overwhelm her (maybe they can’t?) or otherwise attack her, they’re more worried about
A) not damaging her and
B) not being caught by their superiors for this situation.
Maeve feels her incised midsection and slides off the table, grabbing a scalpel on the way. Making her escape, we follow her unclothed form as it stumbles…where…through more levels and industrial floors and cement rooms with glass partitions. She goes outside between two buildings that look like they’re just corporate, personality-free blocks. Like this was shot at night at the suburban Oracle campus in any business park in America. She ends her jaunt in a hosing-down area where we see the Teddy Bot that was gunned down for sport earlier that day.
As she drops to her knees, because of what — shock? Probably not blood loss — the techs who were cleaning her swarm up behind her with a Star Trek hypo-spray and knock her out. They rush to get this “thing” out of there before anyone sees them.
Droid cleaning jobs, I’m guessing, are hard to come by and easy to lose.
They pull her motionless body away and we cut back to the very beginning of the episode, with Dolores waking up at night, for some reason.
She’s outside again, like we saw at the beginning, but someone — something — is directing her.
“Here?” She asks.
There’s no response that we can discern, but she kneels and digs and viola! She finds a gun. A special gun, I’m guessing. One that doesn’t adhere to the rigged rules of the park.
From there we go to the filler scene where pissant talking douchenozzle Lee Sizemore is shut down by Ford with a “no.”
That’s a fair comeuppance. But shoulder shrug. Who gives a shit? Not me.
Ford does establish that the goal is not for people to find out who they are, but who they could be. Certainly works for Jimmi Simpson’s William. We see him emerge from the brothel with Ford’s voiceover leading him out. He sees Dolores packing on her Dun and she drops her can. That can beat. A subtle thing designed by Ford which feels like it’s innocent. We’ve now seen both Teddy and The Man in Black pick up that can. Now it’s William’s turn to step through the looking glass.
He picks up the can for Dolores, and just like that, a new path opens up in his life, and maybe in hers as well.
Logan calls “Billy” away and he tips his cap to Dolores.
With Sizemore squashed, Ford and Bernard (in a baseball cap…I feel like I’ve never seen Jeffrey Wright in a baseball cap before) head out to that deserted part of Westworld. Bernard respectfully says that the board will be irritated. They were promised a new story line…
“And they shall have one.” Says Ford. “Something I’ve been working on for some time. Something quite…original.”
The camera fills with a rising steeple with a cross atop it as Ford and Bernard gaze from a distance. Music picks up as we hold on the cross image…and we’re out.
Okay. For the three of you that made it this far, congratulations. I decree you a shining point of light in a dark and mysterious world.
I don’t know where we are with Westworld yet. I don’t know if the story is about to get better or collapse in on itself, but I’m still with it. I’m still along for the ride. I’m definitely on board with William. He and Bernard feel like the characters I’m most ready to get behind. I’m interested to see if either of them can find some honor in both of their respective, tainted worlds.
Honor is simply the morality of superior men. — H. L. Mencken
Anyway, let’s see how this weekend’s episode goes.
Until then, I do not wish any of you a deep and dreamless slumber. That’s pretty much the way every single person ends their Westworld articles. Instead I hope you relish in the glory of latex, white ass-muscles, the mathematical calculation of how much creamy peanut butter it would take to fill all of Ed Harris’s face craters and the solemn, unspoken strength of William’s face mole.
Until next week. If I can muster it. I think I lost a year of my life writing this. Holy shit. I can’t imagine how many brave people died reading it. My apologies.
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