*After the first paragraph expect SPOILERS. These are my thoughts and takeaways after one watch of WESTWORLD season one, episode four.
SPOILER FREE TAKE: Westworld continues to effectively pour on important details while still managing to peel away the layers of every mystery set-up in earlier episodes. Storylines, both real stakes and park narratives, are starting to merge. Episode four abandons the exhaustive Lewis Carrol and Shakespeare literary references, and opts for plot movement with gun fights and prison breaks. Consistent with previous episodes, the music, imagery, and dialogue continue to be tremendous. Westworld is packed with complex characters, detailed storylines, and subtle nuances that could reveal everything or nothing in any given scene. This episode, more than others, was jam packed. So, I'll try to keep this as organized as possible.
The title of episode four is 'Dissonance Theory'. It's worth noting the episode borrows it's title from 'Cognitive Dissonance Theory', a popular psychological theory. Cognitive dissonance refers to the internal stress or anxiety a person can feel when they identify with two conflicting beliefs, attitudes, or behaviors. People strive to create internal consistency. For example, Charlie Sheen knows hookers and drugs are bad for him but he enjoys hookers and drugs (that reference was brought to you by 2011).
During 'Dissonance Theory' we see two hosts/robots/androids/cyborgs/automatons/AIs experiencing their own special brand of cognitive dissonance. Dolores, the rancher's daughter and Maeve, the brothel madame with Sherlock Holmes level observation skills are trying to make sense of past memories that should have been wiped. Let's get specific....
Dolores, William, and Logan
- The episode begins with Dolores in another quirky one on one with Bernard. The conversation follows similar questioning as all the other conversations prior, but with a slightly different result. I believe this is the first INDISPUTABLE sign that Dolores is developing some form of humanity. Dolores remembers that her father is "dead" and eloquently explains her new mental state as rooms that haven't been explored. Bernard, taken aback, realizes this wasn't written for her by the park. She freely adapted it from other scripted material. I believe these "unexplored rooms" are her emotions. No longer replicated or mimicked emotional responses, but true, deep, human, Romeo and Juliet like emotions!
- This conversation also reveals a few more minor details about the Maze sought by the Man in Black (Ed Harris). Bernard is familiar with the maze, which lends to its own theory to be explored later. Bernard says if Dolores can find and navigate to the center of the Maze she may be free. QUESTIONS....Does this mean she would be able to operate out of the park as a human? Will she need to demonstrate her 'humanity' traveling through the Maze? Have there been other hosts who have tried the Maze? Have any succeeded? Is Bernard an android or ex-host?? Did Bernard triumphantly traverse (sick alliteration) the Maze and gain his freedom?!?! More Maze talk later....
- Dolores joins William and Logan on their eventually successful bounty hunt. William is obviously smitten over Dolores, despite being seemingly disinterested in almost everything else in the park. Their story is fairly straight forward for this episode, with the exception of two specific exchanges. The first is Dolores' chat with Lawrence's daughter who shows her the maze drawn in the dirt. It's the same little girl that gave the Maze clue to the Man in Black. Is this the only host that can tip anyone off about the Maze? Not much more than that. The second is the quick little 'family over business' quarrel between Logan and William. Logan throws out some quick quip that the company should give them more stake in the park. Which begs the QUESTION.....Is that THE COMPANY that keeps being mentioned in the same breath as THE BOARD? Are the Company and the Board one and the same? How did the board become so powerful? Are William and Logan at the park on business as board members??
- The park operations tries to bring Dolores back on her loop when a lawman host or a park employee undercover put forth average effort to bring her back to Abernathy Ranch. Of course, William intervenes like the white hat wearing-nice guy-son of a gun he is.
- Logan ends up killing the bounty hunter host they followed on the mission just so they can take up the prisoner on his offer/storyline. William apprehensively joins him and both head toward the dark side together. "Go Black Hat with with me?" Loved that line.
- Keep in mind that little pistol switch Logan pulled after the shootout. Remember? "Upgrade!" or something like that. Could be something important or could be nothing at all, but they called more attention to it than I think was necessary if it is nothing.
- Maeve arguably has the most to do in this episode. Her attitude goes on a roller coaster ride from start to finish and she helps raise more questions for the viewer along the way.
- She opens the episode in her normal loop, managing the brothel, chit chatting with Clementine, thinking about how she made out with Tom Cruise like a decade and a half ago. It's here where the glitch kicks in for her again. She remembers dying on the floor in a brothel massacre. She sees the park clean up crew come in and take the dead away. Obviously, as far as she knows she lives in the Wild Wild West (Jim West-desperado). So it's especially curious seeing something that looks like a spaceman with lights on his head coming to take the dead. ("Spaceman" made me want to put a link for Marty McFly in the barn but it felt too easy. Just know I didn't miss it.)
- I thought the coolest part about Maeve's story in this episode was when she drew the thing she saw taking the dead away in her flashback. She sketches up this awful drawing and then feels like she needs to hide it for some reason? She opens the floor to hide the drawing (I have to assume the park knows there's a hidden floor compartment?) and in there she finds like FIVE or SIX other sketches equally as bad as the one she just did. But they're all of the exact same thing, so she's remembered this all before.
- Recapping Maeve's glitch symptoms: Can wake herself from sleep mode, suppresses memory wipes, sees and remembers things that happen when she's 'dead', and wants to make out with Karl from Love Actually.
- Which brings us to her and Hector. She knows Hector is part savage (Native American) and the doll resembling her drawing was carried by an Indian girl. He explains to her the thing in the drawing is called a Shade. Shades walk in both worlds, theirs and after death. Or something like that. After a bunch of witty banter and sexual tension they cut her stomach open and Hector pulls out a bullet the clean up crew left in her. Now Maeve embraces death, knowing its not the end. Totes NBD.
- QUESTIONS: Are Shades written in the scripts by the park? Are they written in as a coverup incase a host remembers or sees the clean up crew? OR a more dangerous theory...What if the hosts developed the Shades on their own to rationalize seeing the park take away the dead??? It would make sense that the Native Americans create the myth of the Shades after a few see people dressed in hazmat gear carrying the dead off. No park employees know that Maeve is experiencing the glitch? Obviously Bernard knows about Dolores, but Maeve is being much sneakier. Elsie said to Bernard it's not a glitch, but something done on purpose....will Maeve continue to remember more easily after each reset?
- Very interested to see how the Park's leadership reacts to her cutting herself open to find a bullet in her stomach. No other motivation for her to do it other than remembering everything.
The Man in Black
- The Man in Black was absent in episode three, but he's back and does a lot of talking, traveling and killing in 'Dissonance Theory'.
- We join The Man in Black (MIB, another Will Smith drop!) in search of the Maze where the snake lays it's eggs. He and Lawrence find plenty of snakes but nothing useful. Then they see a woman with a huge snake tattoo named Armistice (full disclosure--had to look that one up). She's all naked and bathing in the lake. We saw her earlier in episode one or two massacring Sweetwater with Hector. I think she's going to be a pretty cool character if the writers have her stick around long enough.
- Long story short, The MIB breaks Hector out of jail in exchange for info from Armistice on her tatt. She explains the snake tattoo is about Wyatt and what his gang did to her family. Wyatt went from non-existent to feared by half the hosts in the park. I assume they just mass upload that info for Ford's new narrative.
- A couple neat things: The FIRST, two guests recognize The MIB and one even says his foundation saved his sister's life. He responds with a pretty aggressive death threat and an explanation that it's his "fucking vacation". So is he really just at the park to enjoy himself or to seek the ultimate thrill? He obviously is one of very few people that know about Arnold, considering Bernard didn't even know about him before. MIB and Ford are probably old frenemies.
- The SECOND thing shows some neat theme park logistics and expands on The MIB mystery. He wants to use two explosions to escape the jail and the park has to request approval from Short Thor for two pyro effects. Of course, these are approved because The MIB can do whatever he wants for some reason.
- Pretty pumped to see his interaction with Ford in the next episode. Also, think Teddy is there after they cut him down from the tree.
- Ford continues to build his massive, mysterious final narrative. He doesn't care how difficult it is or how much it affects other narratives and hosts. He's doing outrageous construction and using like a hundred host slave androids. But, the most interesting thing we get from Ford in this episode is even more of his evil side.
- After a few interactions in the last episode I felt like Ford might be the real bad guy in this adventure. Or at the very least, a big jerk. After this episode, I think he's either Sorkin's jerky Steve Jobs on steroids, or the true antagonist in Westworld. The Man in Black has been portrayed as the villain thus far, but I wanna know....who's the bad guy???
- Ford explains to Theresa that he didn't make a theme park, he built a world. And in that world, he is a GOD. If you ask me, he's more of the Old Testament God than the New. Old Testament God needed to chill out, right?
- Ford ties a nice bow on his lunch with Theresa by threatening her and letting us, the audience, know The Board already has a representative at the park or on the way.
Burning Questions and Final Thoughts!
- Who is The Man in Black outside of Westworld? How rich and powerful is he? Is he actually a pretty nice guy? AKA: White hat by day, Black hat by Westworld.
- What's The Maze all about? Did Arnold create it? Can even the guests die at the center of the maze? Can hosts die for good? Can they free themselves?
- If it's not Orion in the carving, what is it? Probs just nothing, right? Yeah right.
- How does Ford have such massive control over the hosts and the park? Last week was a simple snake, this week he freezes and directs about 100 hosts at once. What's his narrative all about? Do he and the MIB know each other outside of the park? Or do they only know eachother because The MIB has been coming for 30 years?
- Are Lawrence, The MIB, William, Logan, Dolores, and Slim all going to the same place in Pariah?
- I absolutely LOVED The MIB's little exchange with Hector in jail. Saying he's like an audience test or something. Black hat, half native, tasteful scar---BAD GUY! That, plus the way they talk about Hector riding into town in episode one, makes me feel like Hector is the Westworld equivalent to Mickey Mouse. Much more adult, obviously. Hector is the guy on the posters. You buy a Hector the Outlaw Cowboy Hat in the gift shop. His attempted saloon safe heist is one of the main attractions. Like the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular in Disney World Hollywood Studios. Maybe not. Maybe I'm reading too much into it. Either way, I hope we get more from Karl or Xerxes or unnecessary Paulo from LOST.
- Now that Maeve talked to Hector about all of this will he have the glitch? Or just be more aware? Or will Hector just wake up in jail on his loop none the wiser?
- What are they trying to find in that safe? Obviously The MIB tells him he won't find it in there.
- If Ford is the true bad guy we should get a pretty good understanding of that in the upcoming episode when he talks to The Man in Black.
Till next time.....