‘Westworld’ Recap 1×02: The Horrorboros

Jimmi Simpson, Talulah Riley in Westworld.

Jimmi Simpson, Talulah Riley in Westworld. John P. Johnson/HBO

Drew: First off, let me just say how great I thought this episode was. Starting with Jimmi Simpson as William, the beta male of the LaBute-ian guests that this episode focuses on. It’s about time Liam McPoyle got to play a good guy!

Vinnie: Oh man, I’ll be honest I was too distracted by the pure unfiltered anticipation brought on by HBO’s preview of The Young Pope–a show starring Jude Law as  a millennial leader of the Catholic Church who, I quote, “does not negotiate” but also, I assume, performs all his blessings over Snapchat–that I was like twenty minutes into this episode before I recognized who Jimmi Simpson even was. It is now officially always sunny in Sweetwater, and yes, agreed, both Simpson and “Chesnut” as a whole were stellar. Although I think having William as the sole person in Westworld who would rather help old robot vagrants off the ground instead of stabbing him with a pitchfork AND be the only Guest in the entire park who picked a white hat was a tad on the nose.

Drew: While the pilot episode seemed like a perfectly self-contained narrative (really, that would hold up as a movie, don’t you think?), this second episode really makes me excited to see what else there is to Westworld. Because while “The Original” definitely creaked and whirled with all those good ole Nolan tropes–Hey! A maze in that guy’s skull! Hey, corporate espionage, sort of! Hey, Teddy is like the Bruce Wayne of dying terribly! Memento but with A.I.! (I was disappointed when Dolores’ dad did not find a  “DO NOT TRUST HER” scrawled on the opposite side of that photo he found)– ”Chestnut” was a good reminder that J.J. Abrams is also involved in Westworld, and his influence was much more keenly felt in this episode, directed by Person of Interest’s Richard J. Lewis.

In fact, let’s try to tick off all the Lost-ian elements of Westworld so far.

PAULO’S BACK! You know, ½ of the worst couple to ever show up on that island. The ones who fans hated SO MUCH, the writers of the show literally had them buried alive just to appease us?

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Now he’s Hektor the bandit, who unfortunately was not in this episode to give any cool speeches, but still, my point stands.

Vinnie: No joke, when Delores was digging around in the dirt outside her house because the voices in her head told her to, I thought for sure she was going to dig up Hektor the bandit as a subtle nod to Paulo and Lost, OR a not-subtle-in-the-slightest hint that Westworld is actually a sequel to Lost, and Oceanic Flight 815 actually crashed into a theme park filled with robots being run by Anthony Hopkins and oh my god dibs I’m writing this fanfic no one else is allowed I called dibs.

Drew: Ben Barnes’ Logan is basically the Paulo of Westworld. Was anyone else unclear about his relationship with William? Are they…friends? Co-workers? Swagger coach and mentee? No, as we find out of the course of the episode: William, the sweetheart romantic of the two, is getting married to Logan’s sister, and this is the world’s most uncomfortable stag party ever. (Also they are coworkers, and connected somehow to the shareholders of Westworld’s parent company.) Logan is cocky only the way Bret Easton Ellis characters are cocky…so, essentially a sociopath.

Vinnie: There’s a real awkward moment where Logan casually hints that when he took his sister to Westworld she fucked plenty of cowboy androids, so William should feel free to do whatever he wants. So, yeah, at first I was confused about this pairing until I realized Logan is that dude who just brings everyone to Westworld. Logan is the guy on your dorm floor with the subpar acid who keeps saying you wouldn’t “get” Coachella unless you actually went. Logan is your coworker you only kind of know who comes up every Friday like “Hey bud what’re you doing this weekend, have you ever choked out a hooker in an Old West saloon?”

Thandie Newton as Maeve Millay.

Thandie Newton as Maeve Millay. John P. Johnson/HBO

Drew: Dolores is hearing voices! Is it Bernard, who has secretly taken Dolores in her “dream state” to futz around with her self-awareness as a host (and read him bedtime stories)? SABOTEUR! Or! Is it possible that the voice Dolores follows into the field is a Jacob-like “other” who is secretly leading the hosts to learn more about their true identities? Did they even have Smoke Monsters in the Old West?

Vinnie: Historically, the Old West was way less about Smoke Monsters and way more about giant robotic tarantulas driven by Kenneth Branagh. But no, I assume the voices in Dolores’ head have something to do with that wonky code Robert Ford added into the Hosts. It also looks “infectious”, like an STD you catch by plugging into the same AUX port as someone else. It’s in Madame Maeve (Thandie Newton), at least, who wakes up on her maintenance table and goes on a naked, scalpel-brandishing tour through the facilities. A plot point, I must add, that Jonathan and Lisa Joy Nolan lifted directly from the first time I got a wisdom tooth removed.

Drew: Flashbacks! Through the “concept of nightmares”: which is a really terrible band-aid fix for explaining away any un-wiped memories of the hosts, who routinely spends their days getting raped, murdered and tortured. But instead of devoting half an episode to Madame Maeve Millay’s  backstory, Westworld provides us a terrifying, Terrance Malick-esque montage of prairie life with a former incarnation of Millay and her daughter getting ambushed by vicious Indians. Although–surprise surprise–guess who is really at the door? It’s Ed Harris, not yet a smoke monster, but certainly a Man in Black if I ever saw one. (His character is also perfectly embodied in this Clickhole article about “Dating The One Bad Man.”)

Ed Harris as the Man in Black.

Ed Harris as the Man in Black. John P. Johnson/HBO

Vinnie: Yeah, that horrific raid by the Native Westworld-ians on that caravan…why did that happen? I don’t mean on the show, I mean why is it happening, just, inside the park in general? I might just still be a little confused on the rules of Westworld, but what is the role of the Guests in that scenario? Do you sign up with the Indians to go slaughter some settlers? Or do you sign up with the members of the caravan to finally figure out what it’s like to have your skull smashed in with a buffalo’s shin-bone? Everyone keeps hinting that stuff gets reaaaaaally crazy outside of the main town, but no one seems to mention that mostly means unending terror and nightmares.

Drew: Man, the whole thing is like Lost, really! Remember how “The Others” seemed so scary on Lost, until season 3, when you saw the events on the island from their perspective? That’s what “Chestnut” is, but instead of a book club reading Carrie, we see what the arrival process to Westworld looks like for the newcomers. And boy does it seem, like a MILLION TIMES BETTER THAN ACTUALLY GOING TO WESTWORLD? Like, is there an option where you doing have to go murder and rape people in the Old West, but can just chill with some Ex Machina-looking babes in a clean, aesthetically-pleasing atmosphere? I mean, that’s apparently on offer!

Vinnie: I’d like everyone to remember that, as was established in the pilot, someone took their child to Westworld! William wasn’t even off the plane for ten minutes before a sexy maybe-robot asked him his greatest fears, showed him a rack of guns and then offered some sexy maybe-robot sex. I really want a follow-up on that kid’s initiation process. It’d be like a terrifying mashup of The Terminator franchise and a middle-school sex education class.

Drew: I do feel slightly uneasy about William’s hostess’ response to his point-blank question “Are you real?” with “Well, if you can’t tell, does it matter?” UM. Yes? Considering that you are allowed to kill the “hosts” and then rape their dead bodies (if that’s what you so desire) (to be honest, there’s not a whole hell of a lot else TO do in Westworld,) I think it matters VERY MUCH whether or not a person is “real.”

Vinnie: Yeah that line seemed manufactured in a Westworld laboratory somewhere for HBO to put in the trailer. Like, it kind of sums up the show’s entire thesis, but is in NO WAY a satisfying answer to Williams’ question. To any question, really. If I asked whether or not a restaurant had Coke and the waiter was like “Well, if you can’t tell, does it matter?” I’d be like “Oh my God just say you only have Pepsi.”

Drew: Another thing: how do the guests tell themselves apart from the hosts? We addressed the “fake bullet” theory last week, but what’s to stop a guest from taking a knife to another one, or drowning them in milk, or just grabbing them by the hair and dragging them off for a barn raping somewhere?

Is there a host-only safe word? What do you think that safe word is?

Vinnie: HBO hid the safe word in an episode of Vinyl, so unfortunately only about ten people know what it is.

Anthony Hopkins as Doctor Robert Ford.

Anthony Hopkins as Doctor Robert Ford. John P. Johnson/HBO

 

Drew: I do want to circle back to Logan for a second, because if Ed Harris is the embodiment of the “Bad Man” in a J.J. Abrams/Western sense, than Logan is…what? Where does he fall on the Alignment chart? Is there a subset for “Chaotic Rich Dicks?” His response to William’s reasonable question of how to tell the “real” people in the saloon from the hosts was “There’s only one way to find out!” while unholstering his gun. That’s….nuts. Even if guests can’t hurt other guests (I’m just realizing I’m ASSUMING that’s a rule, but it’s never actually specified), he’s ruining everyone’s dinner! And you can’t tell me the best way to deal with an annoying one-eyed prospector is to STAB HIM THROUGH THE HAND AT YOUR DINNER TABLE. That’s just super inconvenient!

Vinnie: It bothers me a lot that Westworld seems to think the only possible way to kill someone is with a gun. “The bullets won’t hurt you” is not enough for me to feel safe in a world that also includes hatchets, knives, forks, wooden logs, particularly heavy horseshoes, bows, arrows, the aforementioned buffalo shin bone…

Drew: At least we know that somebody at Westworld has Logan’s interests in mind: narrative director Lee Sizemore, aka “Not David Tennant,” who is putting together the most blood-soaked, self-cannibalizing(?) experience for guests who think the town square–you know, the one with the massive shoot-outs and hand stabbings and weirdly agro brothel madams is too tame. His presentation on the Journey Down Red River (or whatever) was such a perfect pitch to exactly the clientele that we see populating Westworld. Sure, Ford is thinking of loftier goals–like a church, or at least something that doesn’t involve the phrase “Horrorboros”–but honestly, we’ve seen few signals that people are showing up to Westworld because of the subtleties and nuances. Some come for the raping, some come for the murdering, some come to listen to a jaunty player piano do Radiohead covers before shooting up the entire saloon because WHOOOA! THIS IS WHAT I CALL A VACATION!

Vinnie: …spoons, fists, feet, well-placed elbow strikes, spurs, rope of any kind, etc etc. Basically I’m saying you’re right, Westworld’s clients are literally told to do whatever they want, so there is no guarantee Ben fucking Barnes isn’t going to drop a piano on your head because he mistakes you for an android. And yeah, that’s why Ford’s grand proclamations feel so hollow: “They come back because they discover something they imagined no one had ever noticed before. Something they fall in love with.”

Who? Who is doing that?

Drew: No one, in other words, is coming to Westworld because of the boots, or so they can give advice to a robot replica of their younger selves (as I assumed is what happened in that Ford scene out in the field)? Ford describes the ultimate experience of a visitor as “not to tell them who they are…they already know that. We allow them a glimpse of who they could be.”

Ironically, the answer 99 percent of the time is “Patrick Bateman with spurs.”

Vinnie: Maybe we’ll get more soul-searching from the promised new scenario that ends the episode. “Something I’ve been working on for some time,” Ford says. Something quite original.” Cue a pan up to a cross, which means…something, definitely. Is Ford going to introduce the idea of Catholicism to all his creations? Is Ford literally God? Wait, is Westworld a prequel to The Young Pope oh my god dibs I’m writing this fanfic no one else is allowed I called dibs.

‘Westworld’ Recap 1×02: The Horrorboros