The conclusion of episode one of Westworld was a shot that launched 10,000 fan theories. Jeffrey Wright’s Bernard Lowe, head technician behind the scenes in Westworld, assures one of his staff members that host Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) is definitely all clear to continue her role in the ‘game’ and that she would never hurt a living thing – namely the customers. Cue the final shot of the episode where a fly lands on Dolores’ face; which she swiftly swats to death.
Series creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy are tackling psychology, satisfaction, and the social responsibility of awareness in such enticing ways. Strap in for reality paranoia or as I call it “The ‘Silver’ unicorn”.
Chestnut: What happens in Westworld, stays in Westworld.
As we watch what it’s like to be a part of the park entry and the outfitting stage of the game. From the moment you depart at the arrivals terminal of the futuristic train station, you appear to be assigned bespoke hosts that ready you for your experience in the park. Ben Barnes’ Logan is the veteran customer goading his friend, Jimmi Simpson’s William, into an uninhibited experience and therefore to increase the corporate confidence and cockiness to a whole new level. There’s an inference from the outset. The West is wild. It’s not a totally lawless place but there are indeed less laws. Logan and Williams are work colleagues. There’s the moral decency and societal norms and then there’s the codified, litigious cotton wool experience of the corporate environment. Logan seems like he’s bursting at the seams. William on the other hand demonstrates a curiosity. Westworld is at the very early stages of questioning what the evolution of our human experience is doing to a psyche of people that about 150 years ago were scratching out a brutal frontier existence and now march to the tunes of “codes of conduct,” wearing suits, or as Billy Connolly calls them, “liars clothes.”
In episode four “Dissonance Theory,” the Man in Black’s pursuit of the game within the game is interrupted when another player realises that he’s someone of international renown in the outside world. He snaps at the other player; this is his vacation after all and who he’s on vacation from IS that part of himself.
The series so far is putting a microscope on the necessity to realise and asking is this controlled hedonism healthy for the ‘real’ world. Equally and more fascinating still, is asking if people who don’t have the impulses have something ‘defective’ like William (Simpson).
The Stray: Down the Rabbit Hole…
The latest clue leads The Man in Black from one seemingly inconsequential storyline to another. Landing in the the employ of the Snake woman a jail break of Hector Escaton (Rodrigo Santoro). The Man in Black has epiphany after epiphany that characters he’d walked past, especially those who outwardly look stuck in their tiny loops require attention to conquer this emerging – “game within the game.”
We have the next clues to the maze and yet again the layers are difficult to unfurl so that only the most determined and worthy players are able to dance across the precarious stepping stones.
The Man in Black (Ed Harris) continues his pursuit to discover the layers of Westworld’s game that he’s sure have been traced in his observations of the thirty year devotion to and immersion in the game. One assumes that all gamers have asked themselves the question that the Man in Black is plagued by; what if there’s a deeper, secret level to this game that been disguised by developers? It’s not as crazy as it sounds. I can’t remember what I’m doing on the weekend, but I can tell you that if I press A, C, UP, B. UP, B, A, DOWN when playing Ultimate Mortal Kombat III start screen on my Sega Megadrive, it unlocked a cheat menu. Before I bought a Hyper magazine and discovered the codes to unlock new layers to the game, they existed. Therein lies the maddening conundrum.
Dissonance Theory: “Do you feel in charge.”
Stray characters (Tate Fletcher), Dolores (Wood) pulling the trigger, Maeve (Thandie Newton) seeing behind the curtain of the host experience and being able to hoard the impressions of her visions aren’t perhaps the anomalies that Bernard (Wright) has described to management. The awakening of the hosts touched by the updates, doesn’t just appear to be in the echoes of the unquantifiable repetitions of death and debauchery unleashed upon their artificial forms, but it’s like the world is goading them into awareness. The new storylines, the introduction of Wyatt begin to create opportunities for interactions with new characters and people in the world. The clues to what’s behind the curtain for the hosts, isn’t just being revealed in the awakening of several of the hosts, but actually appearing to bleed into the storylines themselves in ways that often go unnoticed by the hosts. The latest migration OF Native Americans through the park, as a result of Wyatt and his crew, reveal religious totems made in the image of their creators; the service technicians in the park.
Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) sits across the table from Theresa Cullen (Sidse Babett Knudsen) and discusses the state of the park and the recent flutter of glitches, malfunctions and pits her monetary motivation against his architecture. For the beginning of the series, Dr.Ford feels like he’s slipping and relinquishing his calculating smarts in his old age. Meandering through the world with custom hosts that he can interact with, visiting decommissioned hosts, activating the reveries that are the catalyst for the strange happenings in the park. When Theresa realises that Dr. Ford has staged their meeting at the exact table that she and her family sat at on their first visit to the world and that he stops the entire army of host staff without an outward gesture you get a taste of the power he’s able to wield in his world. He describes that he and his partner GET NAME ARNOLD? “thought we were gods” and it’s only now apparent that he’s already living “God mode.”
Delving into the psychological satisfaction and consequence of gaming; the addictive nature of that illusive 100% completion in an ever updating sequence of stories and finally the illuminating omnipresent power of the architect; if Westworld was a book, it would be un-put-down-able.
Blake Howard – follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman
Jonathan Nolan, Lisa Joy Nolan
Anthony Hopkins … Dr. Robert Ford
Evan Rachel Wood … Dolores Abernathy
Ed Harris … The Man in Black
James Marsden … Teddy Flood
Thandie Newton … Maeve Millay
Jeffrey Wright … Bernard Lowe
Rodrigo Santoro … Hector Escaton
Shannon Woodward … Elsie Hughes
Ingrid Bolsø Berdal … Armistice
Simon Quarterman … Lee Sizemore
Angela Sarafyan … Clementine Pennyfeather
Luke Hemsworth … Stubbs
Sidse Babett Knudsen … Theresa Cullen
Tessa Thompson … Charlotte Hale