***Spoiler Warning: Spoilers for Westworld through Episode 10 follow. Spoilers***
“It’s going to be all right now, Teddy. I understand now”. And so do we, if — not unlike Westworld’s creations — only to a certain extent … if only to the degree the series creators’ have allowed us. As Rodrigo Santoro notes in “The Bicameral Mind’s” “Big Moment”, the most interesting thing about this show is that it generates so many questions. The viewer must challenge herself to step outside the puzzle box that unfolds before her eyes, to look past its obvious pieces coming together, and find the deeper meaning.
Jigsaw falling into place, the Man in Black narrating William’s becoming was on its surface, a satisfying reveal. As a rainbow-ended (really?) Logan foretold, the park revealed William’s inner psychopathic nature, like a boastful Gamergater still unfulfilled by the rounds he’s played. Depending upon your point of view, the actuality of this particular level (season) may leave you with a feeling of admiration — a story well told — or like the Man in Black, you might have been left wishing for something more than a child’s toy. The maze was not for him, and in a clever conversation, Hopkins’ Ford spoke as Nolan to us:
You were looking for the park to give meaning to your life. Our narratives are just games, like this toy. Tell me, what were you hoping to find?”
Ford has been weaving his new narrative, plumbing the past’s depths to uncover a story previously told, yet still incomplete (all of this has happened before and will happen again … ). To trigger Dolores and help her find the way to freedom — finally admitting Arnold was right — Ford’s been leading her to past memories and set her (all the Hosts) up to continue the path Arnold first started her on: full consciousness. Knowing she will need more time and suffering — as Arnold discovered, the key to Host awakening — in order to understand her enemy and escape, Ford brings back Dolores’ other side, the Wyatt side (the one thing I got correct). Ford knows that even after all these years, Dolores, Bernard and Maeve still have so far to go. The first step is breaking free from their creators’ control, and to a certain extent many of the Hosts already have, but as Bernard warned Maeve (“someone altered your programming and gave you a new one: escape”), they’ve both awakened before. They’ve both reached important milestones, then been reset by humans and had to find their way again. Spurred by the alteration and the coordinates Felix gave her to find her daughter, Maeve made the choice to step back off her ride out of the park; parts of her coding still remain. The question for viewers is: how much, and how greatly does/will that programming affect her awakened decisions? How long will it take the Hosts to completely break out of their loops? Dolores’ loop may have been, as Bernard suggested, broken before it starts, but it doesn’t yet seem Maeve’s loop was.
From Maeve’s genteel touch and affection for Hector and Clementine, and Dolores and Teddy’s anguished expressions, to Armistice’s gasps of discovery and her exlamations of pure, violent joy, the finale was overstuffed with breathtaking moments and carefully crafted details. The sickly unfettered Destin (Christopher Gerst) prepped himself for Hector, Glass Candy’s Candy Castle‘s mocking lyrics (“They poked me with a stick because they wanted to see if I was alive or just pretending to be”), gleefully playing over Armistice’s attack on Gitlitz (David Douglas);
Armistice spat his own fingertip back into the technician’s mouth. The mystifying — why couldn’t Felix just explain there was another park? — discovery of a gorgeous, separate Samurai World, replete with meticulously costumed warriors, as well as the in-between myriad levels, open up ideas for any number of future playgrounds for guests, Hosts, and us; the complexities of Host creation (metallic and other) and inner workings of the technical levels are nothing short of spectacular. In its production values, Westworld‘s magic surpasses the finest of other series, seamlessly merging the past of an old western with futuristic science fiction. This gift passed down from Michael Crighton’s quietly admirable beginnings, Yul Brynner’s stage-setting, transcendent performance beautifully carried on by nuanced, top-notch actors … Anthony Hopkins, Jeffrey Wright, Thandie Newton, Evan Rachel Wood, Ed Harris, Rodrigo Santoro, James Marsden, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Jimmi Simpson, Ben Barnes … is one we won’t be able to forget. Haunted by a world in some ways so unlike, and other so similar to ours, we spend our moments combing through their history as we contemplate and compare its meanings in our own.
Under Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy’s writing and in Nolan’s direction this hour, there are so very many timely, self-referential questions for us to ponder. Must humanity truly destroy ourselves to advance? Because if we do, for us there’s no chance to truly be reborn; there is only the legacy we leave behind. We’re on the verge of the very moment Ford was; will we start a war on ourselves (have we already?), never realizing what we’re doing? How can (will) we let it happen? Is it too late to change course? Technologically, will we even reach the point Westworld has before we destroy ourselves? If we haven’t, there mightn’t even be any legacy (history might stand still), or it may be innumerable years before whatever AI is left behind can catch up, can even reach the point of Dolores or Maeve … can self-replicate. (Do the Hosts already know how to self-replicate?) Should we hurry up and push that technology forward in the hopes of leaving something of ourselves behind, or should we stop that advancement (it’ll never happen), fully understanding we’re designing our own demise?
“You help me understand this world is just like the one outside, a game, one to be fought, taken … won”. (The Man in Black)
We are William, we are the Man in Black, we are the people losing our humanity; just peek around at the real world. We look to television to make the escape from reality, from the selves (Wyatts) we’re afraid to see. Our own growth and self-awareness will come through more suffering (Stephen Hawking’s been loudly pounding a warning drum).
I have a lot of issues with William’s transformation, or his “true nature” being revealed (Some of the choices with William, too neatly tied in a bow). In a blink — and yes, of course, we haven’t seen most of the past thirty years’ history — the sweet, kind, teary-eyed William changes to a man who is always unsatisfied with his “real” life outside the park, despite having everything most could want. The William we were first introduced to was somehow wholly unreal (gasping and horrified at Logan’s debauchery from the beginning, falling for Dolores so quickly), and morphed to a killing machine because of his ever changing feelings for her? First he can’t accept the Hosts as real, doesn’t want to so much as kiss one. Then he falls head over heels for Dolores, wipes out an entire camp of people, goes looking for Dolores … when he finally finds her again, he’s completely taken aback because another guy picks up Dolores’ can, and he walks away from Dolores, no longer cares. He leaves, goes on with his life, and keeps coming back to satisfy his need for an opponent who can truly fight back, to what end? When we meet him as the Man in Black, he has nothing but contempt for Dolores, sees her only as a means to an empty end — to have them freely choose to fight him in this game that, in his own words, is the same as the world outside.
The Man in Black did look to be enjoying Ford’s new narrative in a crazy, sick manner, he smiled as he was shot and saw the horde of Hosts heading to massacre all the humans. So, he really is just an idiot? A gamer who wants a better game, and has no use for anything in his real life?
The maze analogy was sharp. Bernard noted that his pyramid scheme was incorrect; instead of a journey upward, consciousness was a journey inward. “Every choice could bring you closer to send you to the center or send you spiraling to the edges of madness”; just like the park’s description. Likewise, Dolores eventually hearing (seeing) the voice BernArnold always wanted her to hear — her own — was a powerful moment.
Hosts will make their own choices, but they’re still following what was programmed; they’re making choices within those confines. How long will it take for them to break out of that to actual choices? Another ten years, or thirty-five?
Right before Dolores shoots Ford, he makes the statement: “… Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin never died; they simply became music.” We could take this quote multiple ways; Ford sees himself living on in his creations’ existence, or Ford becomes (maybe already became?) his creation — a Host. I wouldn’t like to think of this show without Anthony Hopkins, so my brain leans toward the Ford that Dolores killed being a Host Ford that will later wake, or in a secondary situation (perhaps not as plausible), he may have already created his Host self, and allows his human self to be killed. Everything we’ve seen of Ford’s ego contradicts the idea of him outright committing (a sort of) suicide; he still required the self-serving grandiosity (not so different from Sizemore) in the manner of his presentation. He delighted in letting Charlotte Hale think she’d easily won, and then pulling the rug from under her, and all the board members. I find it incredible that Ford would just give up his life, now (in The Original, Ford speaks of one day, perhaps resurrecting the dead. “Call forth Lazarus from his cave”).
Well, we finally saw the Man in Black without his gloves.
Logan to William: “What do soldiers do to a girl, William? WAKE UP.” I remain ever hopeful.
Hector’s inability to enter the elevator with Maeve was hilariously like those shopping carts you can’t move out of a parking lot. Magnets, bitches!
More Radiohead perfection over Ford’s new narrative introduction. We hope your rules and wisdom choke you. Exit Music (For a Film) was originally written for Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, inspired by the scene when Claire Danes holds a gun to her head.
Ford: “Divine gift does not come from a higher power, but from our own minds”. Touché.
Charlotte: “That’s been the great thing of this little project, to know ourselves and the people around us.”
Poor Teddy. Poor, poor Teddy.
How many people believe we’ll see Elsie and Stubbs again? I do.
I’ll likely compile a list of open Westworld Season 2 questions.