***Spoiler Warning: Spoilers for Westworld through Episode 5 follow. Spoilers***
At “Contrapasso”‘s (title significance here) outset, Robert Ford describes life’s futility in a story he relates to Old Bill (Michael Wincott) about a Greyhound Ford’s father had brought home for his sons. After one day the boys set the dog free — “Never saw a thing as beautiful as that old dog, running” — having spent its whole life chasing after something it finally catches, the Greyhound no longer knows what to do. Is the doctor working through what he sees as the Hosts’ quest for freedom, or is Ford wondering about achieving his own goals?
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark; Host doubles (perhaps triples) appear throughout the hour, and for now it’s impossible to tell whether they’re real or imagined. Likewise, so many characters’ movements and motives are suspect, from Logan’s head games with poor, Best-day-of-His-Life, EVP William, to Dolores’ secret mission (Ford may be onto her something) and from the nefarious person(s) — Dolores? Bernard? Arnold? — smuggling data through the satellite uplink, to Ford’s entendred tête-à-tête with the Man in Black, who knows what truth really is? The voice of her creator (and others) speaks to Dolores, commanding her to find him, to follow the maze; when she asks to be shown how, breadcrumbed bits (bytes) of herself appear to lead the way.
Traveling through Pariah with William and Logan, Dolores repeatedly encounters Lawrence, who’s either got copies running around, or that (terrible) multiple timeline theory is playing out. William begins to realize something outside the norm is happening with Dolores’ behavior — she is suddenly capable of firing weapons — and his own abilities (when did he learn to twirl a pistol like that?) bear questioning as well. Ford’s new narrative has the Man in Black on a different and less familiar path. As he forges anew, learning and adapting along the way (letting Lawrence go in favor of Teddy, with help from Ford’s Little Boy), intriguingly, the Doctor steps into the middle of it all and has a telling conversation. Depending upon which side of the theoretical coin you choose, Ford’s comments could have confirmed that the Man in Black is a Host. The exchange becomes incredibly interesting:
MiB to Ford: “I always felt this place was missing a real villain … hence my humble contribution”. When he says this line, the Man in Black makes some particularly robotic head movements. I noticed them all three viewings.
Ford: “I admit, I lack the imagination to even conceive of someone like you. The urgency, however, doesn’t quite fit the character. It betrays a certain anxiety”. In response, the Man in Black blinks several times. Ford’s statements imply that the Man in Black is an Arnold creation, from Ford’s point of view, a very flawed one.
MiB: “Now Wyatt, on the other hand, that’s something new. Is he just another stooge for the tourists to mount on their wall at home? Or, have you finally made a worthy adversary? Someone to stop me finding the center of the maze”? Here, the Man in Black acknowledges that Ford created Wyatt.
Later in the conversation:
MiB: “Is that why you came here, Robert? Try to talk me out of it”?
Ford: “On the contrary. Far be it from me to get in the way of a voyage of self-discovery”. Watching Hopkins’ expressions throughout this scene, I’m convinced he’s observing the Man in Black as a Host, studying him just as he did with Dolores at the start of the hour. Because he didn’t gain the truth he sought from Dolores, Ford stepped into the Man in Black’s narrative, and that bit about the Man in Black’s voyage; that’s Ford’s sly, wry comment to let us know he is amused by how deeply in his world the Man in Black is immersed.
Earlier in the hour, Ford hints at something even crazier (though, perhaps Westworld is the one limitless seriespace where there really is no crazy); he asks Dolores if she remembers the man he used to be (she doesn’t). The implication being, Ford himself is now a Host, or some incarnation of his consciousness. “I’m sure you remember him, Arnold, the person that created you”. Dolores again denies her memories, and Ford reveals that he knows she’s heard Arnold in her head before. “Have you been hearing voices? Has Arnold been speaking to you, again“? After a few more queries, Ford asks Dolores what the last thing Arnold said to her was and wonders aloud if, though she didn’t help Arnold destroy Westworld, she’s really been content “in her little loop”. Interestingly, Dolores doesn’t answer his last question (hero or villain), and when Ford leaves her alone in the room Dolores speaks to no one … someone — “He doesn’t know. I didn’t tell him anything” — meaning, we can’t really trust that she truly doesn’t remember who Ford was.
In the hour’s most exciting — though telegraphed — moment and for Felix, even more incredible than finally getting his little bird to fly, Maeve rose up from slumber again and made her true intentions known. “Hello, Felix. It’s time you and I had a chat”. The real question is: How many Maeves (and Doloreses and Lawrences) are there? As Felix notices and is freaked out by, he and his partner had just been working on Maeve when she shows up in their room again; later, in this final scene, he seems confounded that she’s returned to their workroom. Is this a third Maeve?
With each layered episode, there are myriad interpretations that work for every theory, and enough room to go back and forth between them every week. “Contrapasso” has added even more intrigue, opening doors to even deeper levels and more questions .. only more questions. There is but one certainty, all will reap what they have sown, and the punishment will fit their crimes. The joy of a show like Westworld is not only in its onscreen entertainment value, but in the continuing conversations we have throughout the in-between days. Like Dolores, Maeve, the Man in Black and the others awakened among us, we just want something we can’t have until the end of the series: the truth.
Great music this week, with Nine Inch Nails’ Something I Can Never Have (Vitamin String Quartet version) welcoming us to Pariah’s orgy den, and later, Claude Debussy’s Clair de Lune arrived via the player piano.
Utterly Out There Theory of the Week: Ford and Arnold are one and the same, with Ford being the part of Arnold’s mind that killed off his weaker half — the human body — and a superior consciousness has taken over, with the Ford we see, a physical, Hostly manifestation.
And how about that room downstairs, the one where Ford likes to visit Old Bill, where ghosts of Hosts past — including Dolores’ father 1.0, Pete Abernathy — lie in wait reside. In fact, Pete will be appearing in two future episodes (one directed by Michelle MacLaren), leading me to believe he may be behind some of the duplicates (shades of Battlestar Galactica again, with its multiples of Cylon models) we’re seeing. Remember, he’s first Host we saw pass on the “violent delights” phrase. Could there be old models of Dolores and Maeve down in that room — see the reflection in this photo —
and could Pete (and/or others) be reactivating them? There’s power in numbers, as they say.
How does Peter Abernathy come back? He was put down in the *retired* room, so to speak. Who brings him back? Dolores, Ford? Does Peter manage to get himself back online somehow? Since he may have been the first Trojan Horse, evidenced by his Shakespearean phrases which, in episode 2 seemed to trigger Dolores’ awakening. If that is indeed Peter’s role, to pass on a self-replicating virus that opens a backdoor to Hosts, enabling them to hear their creator (Arnold), that room downstairs could be an instant army of sorts.
For me, this means that the Hosts’ awareness happens in two parts. 1. Peter/Shakespeare phrase triggers the awakening. 2. The Host can then hear their creator (Arnold, bicameral), and his voice/programming spurs their self-discovery … self-awareness.
All hail nudity equality on HBO!
Logan again implies that he and William are on a business trip (research) when he discusses Westworld’s financial problems, noting that no one can dig up anything about Arnold, not even a picture seems to exist. Hmm…
Who is smuggling data out of Westworld? First to come to mind are a) Logan and his company, b) MiB and c) Most Likely: Arnold and His Host Army. Which begs the question, are Hosts out in the real world? Already taking over? This would tie in nicely with my Man in Black is a Host theory.
Does Logan have more influence in Westworld than we imagine? Much of what he does appears to be to provoke William, and the level of force Hosts use against him is questionable. The soldier choking Logan didn’t seem prepared to stop; how far would that have gone had William not shot?
Ditto, there was little sincerity in Logan’s “Help me” to William and Dolores, and when they walked away, Logan had a crazed look in his eye. Almost, but not quite a smirk.
Nod to the Hands. Ford honed in on Dolores’ hand, Elsie honed in on the Woodcutter’s hand; it’s what led her to find the satellite device. A nice nod to the one thing designers said they couldn’t get right in the original film.
Dolores and Lawrence shared more than a few knowing looks.
Dolores’ last official contact with Arnold: 34 years, 2 days, 7 hours ago.
Great Lines: Elsie to Dustin: “Your answer can either be ‘I’m helping Behavior track a problem’, or ‘I’m a creepy necroperv“.
Confederado(s for Trump?) to Lawrence: “There’s a place in glory for a brown man who knows his rank”.
Logan to William: “Don’t you get it? There is no such things as heroes or villains, it’s just a giant circle jerk”.
William to Logan: “That philosophy says way more about you than it does about the world”.
William to Logan: “Whoever designed this place, you get the feeling they don’t think very much of people”.
In words that will come back to haunt; Logan to William: “I picked you precisely because you will never be a threat to anyone. My sister probably picked you for the same reason … Do you remember the day that you finally got those three fancy little letters? EVP. You walked into my office in that cheap black suit of yours and you shook my hand, and you thanked me for the opportunity. That was the best day of your life”. (I predict one day William will kill Logan and say, “This is the best day of my life”.)
Dolores to Dolores: “The maze. You must follow the maze”. “What’s wrong with me”? “Perhaps you’re unraveling”.
William to Dolores: “The created a sense of urgency, a sense of danger, so they could strip us down to something raw, animalistic, primal. It’s a sick game, and I don’t want to be a part of it”.
On the train with Lawrence, William tells Dolores “It’s okay” and uncocks his pistol, twirling it like an expert. Even Dolores notices it. When did he learn that little trick?
Dolores after she sees the maze on the coffin box: “I’m coming”. She hears her creator’s voice in her head.
Ford to Dolores: “Dreams mean everything. They’re the stories we tell ourselves of what could be, who we could become … My father told me to be satisfied with my lot in life, that the world owed me nothing. And so, I made my own world. Tell me, Dolores, do you remember the man I used to be?
“Your mind is a walled garden. Even death cannot touch the flowers there”.
When Dolores asks Ford if they’re very old friends, Ford’s response is very emotional. He quickly tears up, and the expression on his face gives away something. Is Dolores modeled on a daughter, a wife? Did Arnold first make her as a gift to Ford, before their friendship dissolved? Before Ford … killed his partner (other half)?
Who is the Man in Black’s old friend who said, “There’s a path for everyone. Your path leads back to me”. Maze, anyone? Arnold, anyone? Old friend, or creator? Of course, it could also have been Ford. In their later conversation, Ford implies he has the answers the Man in Black is seeking at the center of the maze.
Ford: “What is it you’re hoping to find there”?
MiB: “You know why you exist, Teddy? The world out there, one you’ll never see, is one of plenty. A fat, soft teat people cling to their entire life. Every need taken care of, except one. Purpose. Meaning. So they come here; they can be a little scared, a little thrilled, enjoy some sweetly affirmative bullshit and then they take a fucking picture, and they go back home. But, I think there’s deeper meaning hiding under all that. Something that the person who created it wanted to express. Something true”.
Ford: “Well, if you’re looking for the moral of the story, quite simply ask”.
MiB: “I’d need a shovel. The man I’d be asking died 35 years ago. Almost took this place with him. Almost, but not quite, thanks to me. Well, maybe he left something behind. I wonder what I would find if I opened you up. (To Teddy: Even at death’s door, you’re still a loyal pet)
Ford: “Mr. Flood, we must look back and smile at perils past, mustn’t we”?
MiB to Teddy: “Your humanity is cost effective”.
Felix’s a-hole partner technician will most definitely get the smackdown he deserves (“You are a butcher, that is all that you will ever be”) now that Felix and Maeve are partnered.
I’m working on isolating audio to hear what the voices Dolores heard in the parade were saying. There was something that sounded like Ford telling Dolores to dream of snow …
We could all use a swig of Lawrence’s whiskey, don’t you think?