Vinnie: Well, thanks to the latest edition of Westworld, I can confidently say, without a shadow of a doubt, that I have never related harder to a television character than I related to Dolores in this moment:
Yo, I feel you, girl. That is a fantastic question. Where are we? When are we? WHO are we? Is this…now? During my daily morning ritual of Googling “Westworld question mark question mark question” for one full hour, I saw a lot of people claiming this episode was the one to answer all the questions. But claiming “Trace Decay” answered all the questions is the “Make America Great Again” of TV conversation. Sure, we were given the comforting illusion of maybe, kind of putting Westworld’s pieces together. But step back for a moment. Take a breath. Take your Bulk Apperception pills prescribed to you by that sketchy doctor your third cousin recommended. Do we really, REALLY, have any substantial clue of what’s happening, even after eight episodes? Do we? But do we really?
Is this…now? Honestly, couldn’t tell you.
Drew: I do find it weird that every Monday we have to reboot you Vinnie, so you’ll stop reading from the David After Dentist script we programmed you with.
I’m sorry, but it’s a real bummer to come back from a nice weekend and have to explain to you that your perception of reality is no different than actual reality, pretty much. I mean, it’s usually a way longer conversation than that, and involves a lot of diagrams, and I’ve got a recap for The Affair to write! I don’t have time to explain where now is on the temporal timeline!
Vinnie: Let’s start with Dolores, who is uncontrollably hopping between centuries and time inside her own head, jumping from timeline to timeline, traumatic event to traumatic event, like a person too high to find the remote during an Ancient Aliens marathon. And…wait, before we go any further, the whole “different timelines” thing isn’t even a theory anymore, right? It’s just straight up true?
Drew: Well, Vinnie, what is “true?” (I can play this game too. What fun we’re both having!) Yes, Dolores and Maeve are flashing backwards–and possibly forwards (oh yeah, I think this show now involves a level of precog ability in the hosts, because remember how Lost worked?)–in time. Does that mean the show is existing on different timelines? I don’t know. There are very, very few ways to know things for sure in Westworld, since the hosts don’t age, and half the staff working on the hosts are probably hosts themselves, and there are only two guests in the park who have names.
To your point though, it’s interesting that the creators are giving the Man in Black such a believable backstory (and one that dovetails with what we imagine William’s future to be), considering than every other character on the show who talks about their past–besides Ford–happens to be a host themselves.
Seriously. Go back and watch. If you tell anyone a personal detail about something that happened in the past in your life–a dead kid, what someone said to you when you got off the boat, your time with Wyatt in the army–chances are you a host. Except, apparently, Theresa and Ford. Unless they are also both hosts???? What????
Ugh. This show.
Vinnie: Either way, Dolores is bugging out, man, and William is just sort of there, unsure of what to do with his hands, probably because he didn’t think having extra-marital sex with a cowboy robot would come with this much emotional baggage. Dolores, for her part, seems pretty sure the voice in her head is Arnold’s voice, and it’s calling her home. “Home”, in this case, is the mysterious Church-town we’ve been seeing flashes of. In the current timeline, the church is buried underground, and if you remember it’s the location where Ford first started brainstorming this new, grand narrative that he’s willing to murder-death-kill Theresa’s head into a wall to complete.
Drew: Right??? So how is that not a flash-FORWARD? Because we see Ashley Stubbs is around when the MiB wants to detonate his exploding cigar. Ashley knows and works with Theresa. If Ford’s conception of Church began while Theresa was working at the park, then William is interacting with Delores BEFORE the church existed, so she’s….flashing forward.
Why is the church buried underground, again? When are we?
Also, I think we’re getting signs of William’s growing frustrations with his not-so-perfect host girlfriend. “We need to get you back near Sweetwater,” he tells her, saying that she was “breaking down” the farther out she strayed. First of all: there are so many instances in this show of someone calling Delores “crazy” as a way to show they are not sexually interested in her (story of my life, btw!) that this seems like a big, flashing sign. Is this where William starts to understand the disconnect between human and host, that eventually leads him to killing (and then watching the resurrection of) Maude and her child?
Also, I’m like 100 percent sure that William killed that soldier that was shot with arrows on the beach, and who was waiting to ambush him. (This shit is getting so confusing. There’s like a hundred different factions at war in the park, apparently, and they are all in-fighting with each other. You’ve got the Confederados, Team Lawrence, the Union Army, Hector’s bandits, Team Wyatt and…whatever group Teddy is on. Was he a confederate soldier? Is that the same as the Confederados? Help, I’m bad at history and math!) And they can not stop double-crossing each other! This is starting to feel very Lost-like indeed, especially at the end of the episode, when Logan shows up with a team of guys who were the same (I think?) as the ones we last saw beating the shit out of him. And Lawrence was JUST saying that no one ever crosses that far outside the mountains, but there seems to be a very active archery team there to meet the soldiers (or whatever) that crossed over to ambush William and Delores.
Vinnie: In ANOTHER, older timeline, Westworld technicians are teaching the very earliest Host models how to dance, and all the familiar faces are there: Maeve, Maeve’s daughter, the sexy blonde “if you can’t tell, does it matter” Host, Dolores (who may or may not have murdered everyone there). I’m also pretty sure that’s the town where Wyatt went on his killing spree, but there’s a possibility Wyatt is really just Teddy, and there’s another possibility Wyatt is simply a metaphor for, I don’t know, loss of humanity?
See how many answers we got this episode!?
Drew: Not to mention “Host who hears voices and wanders off to scratch at her skin because she’s hearing voices from god (Arnold) and doesn’t want to practice her box-step.) Right, so…wait. Was the original Sweetwater (or town center) in a totally different location than it is now? Why would they go through trouble of burying the original town and relocating all the hosts, only for Ford to then backtrack and start to dig up that property again for his new narrative? And wait, wouldn’t that make his “new story” which he promised was NOT going to be a retrospective literally a retrospective?
Also, I’m still of the idea that Wyatt will turn out to be the host that originally played Delores’ father. Not only because the board is now tinkering with his narrative after picking him, seemingly at random, from the storage locked of bodies, but because that feels right. He could also be the Arnold host. You know, the cannibal professor who quotes Shakespeare always seemed like a particularly odd role to assign a robot you weren’t holding a grudge against, and pairing him up as father of the oldest host in the park just makes thematic sense. And since we can’t focus on things that make ACTUAL sense in this show, let’s just focus on that.
Vinnie: Speaking of Wyatt, buddy-cop duo Teddy and the Man in Black are still on the hunt for the Confederate Soldier-turned-maybe-cult leader, when they come across a familiar face; a blonde Host, who in the 30-years-ago timeline once welcomed William to the park. “It’s you. I thought they’d retired you,” the Man in Black says, recognizing her, which pretty much confirms either A) William is the Man in Black, or B) the creators of this show are Machiavellian demons who derive actual sexual pleasure from playing with our emotions.
Drew: I did wonder if the MiB’s storyline this week, where he both recognizes the first host that William ever met during his processing in her new role as…leader of the Others?…and tells a long-ass, unnecessary tale (it’s not like Teddy understands what he’s talking about, right? All he hears is “I murdered a woman and her child to see if I could feel anything,”) about his history isn’t a fake-out in itself. Maybe it’s TOO on the nose. Maybe MiB isn’t William at all! Maybe those two are going to run into each other next week and William is going to be like “Oh hello…father.” And the collective internet will LOSE ITS GODDAMN MIND.
Vinnie: Either way, we’re about two seconds from getting some actual, substantial answers when suddenly they’re all attacked by the Knights Who Say Ni from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Drew: Same people that slung the arrows at the Confederate soldiers waiting for Dolores and William on the beach, right? But somehow that motherfucker Logan can pass by these guys unharmed?
Vinnie: One bone-axe to the head later and this issue is resolved, but in the process Teddy gets some memories jogged loose; namely, he remembers he’s a big robot loser literally programmed to get shot in the face and, oh, also that the Man in Black is a pretty big part of why Dolores is missing in the first place. Teddy, unable to speak in anything other than whacks to the face, knocks the MiB out and ties him to a rock. It’s in this storyline where we come close, SO close, to some actual answers. The Man in Black, as it turns out, is a “titan of industry” and a “philanthropist” outside the park, as well as a “family man,” with a wife and daughter. Well, HAD a wife, until she got sick of her husband spending $40,000 a weekend to dress like a cowboy and killed herself, and his daughter has been estranged ever since.
So, driven not-quite-insane-but-definitely-unwell, the Man in Black headed back into the park to see if he could do something “truly evil.” He found Maeve, not yet a whorehouse madame, out on the pasture and murdered her young daughter in cold blood. That’s…fucked, but in another light it’s also kind of the healthiest form of stress relief, considering the situation??
Drew: But also she came back from the dead, or didn’t die, or died but only after she picked up her dead child and brought her to rest in the center of a maze-shaped crop circle? I don’t know. This part really confused me. Like was Maeve reset after killing new Clementine, or just after the death from the MiB, where she apparently went “off-script” enough (by not dying) to warrant a full reboot. We know she’s been Maeve at the brothel for the past five years (so says Felix, who also has a cat name!). So…something. I just hope they haven’t reset Maeve JUST when she was set to leave the park (what was that shit about an EXPLODING DEVICE in her spine? That’s as plausible as the exploding cigars MiB just happens to be carrying when he frees Hector.)
Vinnie: But anyway, yeah, Maeve. Something inside Maeve’s internal hard-drive never quite recovered from the MiB’s gun-toting visit, and those memories are flying back now that she’s planning a full-scale robot revolution.
I really, really wish I could get more into Maeve’s storyline–I mean, ROBOT UPRISING. Come on. We’re like two episodes away from going Full-Brynner–and, truly, I loved revisiting the saloon heist but with Maeve casually manipulating Hosts behind the scene. But the road to get here, to give Maeve control over her fellow Hosts, was just so…poorly explained. The big problem is Lutz, whose only character motivation seems to be “but…but…but…but…” with a side of stammering. Maeve is charming, I get that, she’s literally programmed to be that way, but she’s straight mind-controlling this dude into risking not only his job but the lives of his coworkers because…why?
Drew: His name is Felix Lutz. That is definitely the name you give to a stammerer. Also yeah, it’s kind of dope that Maeve can do the voice-command thing, but I’m really wondering how THAT shit works. It doesn’t, apparently, work on the older hosts (the ones made by Arnold) and SOMETIMES Maeve doesn’t respond to them? Or the voice of “God” (aka Arnold) can override the voice commands? And Ford doesn’t need to use the voice commands at all, he can just sort of wave his fingers around and make stuff happen? I feel as frustrated as Lee Sizemore when he realizes that he’s stuck writing recaps…er…narratives…with a completely different set of rules than the ones he’s used to.
Vinnie: I think low-key the most interesting parts of this super-busy episode were the conversations between Robert Ford and Bernard, which also low-key might have convinced me I am a robot. Bernard is, let’s say, distraught over the fact he was built in a laboratory to serve a megalomaniac, every choice he’s ever made was designed on an iPad, his memories of an ex-wife and dead child are fabricated and, oh yes, he smashed the woman he loves’ head against a wall. It’s been a Monday, folks. Bernard is a mess, a blubbering, angry mess, but here’s the thing…he designed himself to feel those feelings. The Host’s life-like emotional ticks, the reveries or whatever, Bernard had a large part in creating them, according to Ford. If Bernard is devastated, it’s only because of his handy-work. He gave the Hosts the capacity to feel loss, and hurt and love and now he’s feeling all those things himself. That’s…so sad! I mean, not as sad as the fact that Theresa used to call Bernard “Bernie” in sweet little letters before Bernard smushed her brains, but sad nonetheless:
Drew: My actual first note from this episode was “Bernard is taking this news about as well as Vinnie would. Vinnie = Wyatt? LOL, FML.”
Vinnie: Ford, however, RSVP’d a Hard No to the Bernard Pity Party, and his having none of this “feelings” nonsense. That’s what Arnold was all about, and Arnold met a quick, unfortunate end. I think, underneath all the mazes and mysterious and Nolan-ification of everything, that’s Westworld’s only interesting point, the idea that in every way, shape and form, the robots on this show are more human than, uh, the humans. Maeve is planning a revolution, while humans are, as Ford says, “Content, for the most part, of being told what to do next.” That’s so true! Just tell me how to feel, Westworld!
Drew: Yeah, that content line is a big “fuck you” from creative types to executives everywhere. It’s important to note that Ford always referred to these as narratives or stories before, but now they are “content.” He told Theresa he was not a sentimental man, but if he doesn’t care about the hosts, and he doesn’t care about the stories as anything more than gristle for the guests’ entertainment mill, than what, exactly, does Ford stand for?
Vinnie: Finally, in this episode’s biggest nothing-burger of a storyline (for now), we have Charlotte Hale enlisting Lee Sizemore to help smuggle Westworld’s data out of the park. Hale’s plan is to upload the info into a Host, and then just have that Host walk straight out of the park. Seems simple! In a bit of irony, she chooses Dolores’ old father to serve as the world’s largest, most naked thumb drive. Or, I guess we could go with “floppy disk”, if you’re into low-hanging robot dick jokes.
Which I totally am.
Drew: A+. Someone should def hire you to write the content for their nonsensical theme park, Vinnie. Well, once you figure out what reality is again.