*After the first paragraph expect SPOILERS. These are my thoughts and takeaways after one watch of the above mentioned media.
Episode Three of Westworld was titled, The Stray. Named for the plot-line following Elsie Hughes (Shannon Woodward) and Short Thor (Ashley Stubbs, Luke Hemsworth). The two co-workers are off in the park trying to track down a host that has wandered off and abandoned his story. The rest of the episode deals more with the hosts recalling purged memories, aiding in their "consciousness". However, the major theme of episode three is BACKSTORIES. Backstories of both the android hosts and the humans creating them. Or are one or two of these humans actually androids as well...... Lets talk about some questions that have been answered, questions we still need answered, and theories about the direction of the show moving forward. DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE AND THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS WE GO!
Questions and Answers
Dolores: The third episode opens with some more quality one-on-one time between Dolores and Bernard. It becomes evident in these talks that Bernard is fully aware of Dolores unique manifestation of the reverie glitch. He's asking her questions, probing, trying to understand if SHE understands what she really is. Bernard continually asks her if she's told anyone about their conversations, despite knowing that he told her not to and the hosts must obey their commands. Is this just a nuance in the script to reassure the viewer that these are secret conversations? Or does Bernard actually worry that she is developing the will to change her programing? Alice in Wonderland themes began as a subtle nod to the mysterious nature of the show and it has now devolved to Dolores just reading straight from Lewis Carrol's actual words. It makes it much easier for the viewer to see the similarities, but it also makes for lazy writing. Overall, Dolores starts to long for more than the same old routine: wake up, ask her dad how he slept, go to town, drop a can, see her family get slaughtered and possibly get raped in the barn. I think even androids would get tired of that eventually. She goes off script and asks Teddy to run away now, not 'someday'.
This episode is the first time we see Dolores truly evolve past killing a fly. At the start of the episode Bernard asks why she inquired about his son, to which she has a very normal and acceptable answer about ingratiating herself to the guests. At the end of the episode she answers one of Bernard's questions in a highly unique way, so he again asks. Why did she reply that way? To which she responds "I don't know". This is obviously both concerning and fascinating to Bernard because she's no longer making decisions that can just be explained by her programming. Dolores is beginning to recall her old memories and react based on those 'emotions'. She's even developed the ability to go against her lack of weapons privileges. Early in the episode with Teddy, she can't pull the trigger on the gun because she doesn't have the permission (as later explained by Elsie and Stubbs). At the end of this week's episode she blows her would be rapist away and even changes her narrative, riding off into the woods where she stumbles on William and Logan. *She also stashed the gun she dug up in her dresser. That gun could be important or special moving forward.* CURIOUSER AND CURIOUSER!
Is Dolores gaining humanity and real emotion? Is she creating memories despite being erased? Can she really go against her programming? Why is she so tired when she collapses in William's arms? Can that gun she dug up hurt guests and hosts? Is she going to return to her loop the next day even though she's changed the outcome? Does she know more than she's letting on in her conversations with Bernard? What's her favorite color? Is she sort of stuck up? Such a goodie good always trying to get back home before dark. Live a little!
Ford and Bernard: We get to see a little more from our main man Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), the architect of all that is Westworld. However, it feels like we see a bit of a different side of him than we have in the first two episodes. He scolds an engineer for covering up the naked host they're working and even cuts the host's face with a scalpel to illustrate that they aren't human. (I still would like to see what the process is like to repair the host's skin from cuts and bullet holes) They do not get cold, they do not feel ashamed, they feel nothing. This is particularly interesting on two fronts. Number one: Ford is obviously right and he knows the androids aren't human, they're merchandise (Teddy says that about his dead dude bounty too). Other interactions we've seen of Ford with his hosts have been more warm and friendly. The second way to look at that interaction: Is it almost a warning to his employees? Don't treat them like humans, don't develop feelings of any kind for them, they feel nothing, and we must remember that and be fine with treating them as such.
Bernard goes to Ford with his and Elsie's concerns regarding the glitch. Based on the video of the host, Walter, hearing voices and talking to a non-existent Arnold. Ford can't be bothered to care till Bernard mentions Arnold. We find out that Arnold was Ford's original partner and was later cut out of the history of Westworld for some pretty vague reasons. We get to see a pretty awesome flashback and great CGI of skinny/young Anthony Hopkins explaining the early years of the park and the process of developing androids that can pass the Turing Test. However, Arnold wasn't interested in just replicating humanity, he wanted to create actual consciousness. Ford says something happened in Arnold's personal life, a tragedy, and he became obsessed with his main goals of creating, not emulating, consciousness. I don't know how reliable Ford's account is or even if Ford can be seen as a good guy at this point. After all, he is the guy that invented murder-rape Disney World. The writers use this as an opportunity to reveal that Bernard's son died, but we don't know how yet. Ford warns him that the hosts "are not human" once again, in a sort of caution to not go down the same path as Arnold. They are not human. They cannot be used as replacements for those we've lost. AKA: Don't make a host that's like your son and don't try to create humanity.
Is Ford a good guy trying to steer the park in the right direction? Or a bad guy with ulterior motives? Did he create the glitch on purpose? Is his new narrative with Wyatt and Teddy related to the maze? Does he know something more about Bernard and his intentions? Did he create Bernard to be his successor? If so, wouldn't that make Bernard his greatest creation yet? A host/android that has developed the ability to build and create other hosts. And even seems to have true emotions toward his son and his (ex?) wife. Is his son's story real or is it all part of his back story meant to shape his character?
Elsie, Stubbs, and the stray: This plot line had a lot of good dialogue that answered some basic questions about story lines, host control, and of course..back stories. Short Thor has a great line about the danger of the hosts. One line of code is the only thing that prevents them from being violent toward guests and other humans (that's paraphrasing). Elsie and Stubbs continue their playful banter throughout the day as they trek into the wilderness to find the stray and fix the issue. Elsie explains the concept of weapons permission, and that's the reason one group is stuck in a loop. They can't leave till they eat, they can't eat till they get fire, they can't get fire till they chop wood, they can't chop wood because they can't use an axe. They eventually find the stray stuck in a small canyon trying to scratch his way out. When Stubbs tries to retrieve him he wakes himself from sleep mode, knocks the little guy to the ground, climbs out of the hole, then.....bashes his own head in? I didn't really understand this reaction but I summed it up to something related to the glitch and not being able to harm a human.
Is Elsie onto something bigger with this glitch? She seems very suspicious. Even implies it could be deliberate sabotage or something created by someone in their own office. Are Stubbs and Elsie sorta into each other or am I mis-reading that? I know Elsie made out with Clementine, the second hooker in command, but I don't know...maybe I'm reading that wrong. Something else I might be reading wrong - Is Stubbs an android? He gave a little remark about his 'backstory', but that was probably just a quip. Maybe I'm overanalyzing that one.
Other Burning Questions
- How is it that the hosts, Like Dolores and Teddy, can interact with each other so convincingly even without guests around? That is like next level sci-fi television. We're becoming invested in the relationship of two androids that are only interested in each other because they're programmed to be. They have genuine romance going on even though they can't technically feel emotions.
- What was the Man in Black up to this episode? I know he's been coming for 30 years but how long is he there each trip? 40k a day is nothing to Ed Harris, huh?
- Did Teddy not shoot any of Wyatt's men in the woods or are some of them guests? Why didn't they die or get hurt? How good as James Marsden getting at dying on camera? So good. That's the answer.
- How does Wyatt fit into Ford's larger narrative? We know it isn't complete because he's "carved out a large chunk of the park" and is using other hosts already in existing storylines. How does the black church play into Wyatt and his gang of nuts?
- How did Bernard's son die? Was it a swimming accident? Is he still married to his wife? Is his wife even real? How long ago did his son die?
- When William got shot he went down and it seemed like it was burning. When Ed Harris gets shot nothing at all happens. What's the difference between the two of them? Maybe Ed Harris just knows what to expect. Or maybe it has to do with his standing in the park and why he can do whatever he wants.
- Who is the company and is Ford on their side or against them?
- Is it just me, or do the hosts seem a little more human than the guests at times?
- Why is Logan trying to get his future brother-in-law, William, to have sex with android hookers? Does he not like his sister? They also mentioned they are co-workers, what do they do for work?
- We saw what happens when hosts shoot at guests, but what would happen if one swung an axe at a guest?
- Is Arnold really dead? If so, did he actually die in the park the way Ford said? If he's alive, is he in the park somewhere? Need more cool flashbacks.
Westworld continues the quirky mystery that it began with, however, we are seeing more and more every week. Peeling back the layers one by one. Stay tuned for more One Takes and let us know what you think about the show! Share your theories or comments.