Westworld: 3 Moments to Contemplate from Episode Three


Three episodes in, Westworld is coming together nicely, but it’s still loaded with stuff to dissect. We looked at a few key moments.

For the first time in the show’s incipient run, it feels like we have a firm grasp on Westworld. We know all the key players, the tone (pensive with a sardonic edge), and the structure (like Game of Thrones, but each episode focuses on a different character). Next week, everything could change, but at the moment, there seems to be a rhythm, a formula.

That doesn’t mean “The Stray” lacks discussion points – far from it. These are three moments from the episode that caught our attention. (You can find our recap here.)

As they are programmed to do every day, Dolores and Teddy ride on horseback across the park together, this time stopping by a gnarled tree on the prairie. Their romance, however contrived, injects a welcome levity into the show, which otherwise caters primarily to “masculine” fantasies involving wanton violence and sexual debauchery. DP Robert McLachlan bathes the young lovers in warm golden light, and Ramin Djawadi’s score smoothly changes gears, the dissonance replaced by a gentle, melodramatic piano melody.

James Marsden and Evan Rachel Wood in Westworld season 1, screenshot courtesy of HBO

The conversation quickly takes a disconcerting turn. Dolores confesses that she feels restless and longs to go somewhere else, somewhere new. This strikes us as odd, clashing with her conviction in “The Original” that the universe is as it is meant to be, and life follows a preordained plan. It’s safe to assume that her newfound curiosity and urgency (“‘Someday’ sounds a lot like the thing people say when they actually mean ‘never’,” she protests) are symptoms of her awakening, perhaps stemming from the resurfacing memories. All of a sudden, her world seems familiar and small.

Teddy appears taken aback by Dolores’s declaration as well. The ending of episode one aside, he doesn’t exhibit any signs of developing consciousness yet, so he can only respond with a canned speech about “a place I heard of down south, where the mountains meet the sea” and “the water’s so pure it could wash the past clean off you, and you could start again.” We later find out that the Westworld programmers neglected to give Teddy a real backstory, which makes his eternal quest for redemption ironic. He has no past to wash off and no means of starting over. Memory enables people to learn from experience, to choose a different future; forgetting dooms you to repeat old mistakes or flounder in stasis.

Ford decides to rectify his staff’s sloppiness by retroactively giving Teddy an origin story. While Teddy recounts his tale of battle and betrayal, we get a fleeting wide shot of the lab from outside, the android and man visible behind the glass walls.

James Marsden and Anthony Hopkins in Westworld season 1, screenshot courtesy of HBO

The image casts us as voyeurs, emphasizing Teddy’s nakedness. Although he’s addressing Ford, it seems as though his gaze points past the theme park director, toward the model of an android seated in the adjacent room. He is, in a sense, looking in a mirror, but he can’t recognize his own likeness. Superimposed on the model is the reflection of another model, this one reclining in a room off-screen, a subtle visual representation of the hosts’ condition: they appear fully alert, but in reality, they’re asleep, unconscious. Of course, Ford sits at the center of the frame, in control. He faces away from the inanimate model, seeing only the lifelike Teddy, though the knowledge that the hosts’ humanity is illusory always lingers at the back of his mind. Both figures blur when people walk past, like faulty holograms.

Ford’s decision to fill in Teddy’s history now didn’t come on a whim. It’s part of the secret new narrative that he has been teasing, which he claims is “rooted in truth”. What kernel of fact lies in this fiction?

Things start to make sense when Ford tells Bernard about Arnold, his former partner. Arnold, who became so consumed by his attempts to make the hosts conscious that he “saw something in them that wasn’t there” and ultimately died in the park, bears a suspicious resemblance to Wyatt, the “villain” in Teddy’s origin story who believes he can “hear the voice of God.” We know Ford has a habit of inserting his personal life into the park (the android boy he talked to in episode two seemed modeled after a young version of himself), and the cross-topped structure he showed Bernard suggests the new storyline has something to do with religion. Is Ford trying to somehow recreate Arnold’s experiment by introducing God to the hosts? He talks about it like a cautionary tale, but he’s clearly withholding information. Maybe he thinks he can avoid his dead partner’s mistakes; he won’t lose control.

Tait Fletcher and Shannon Woodward in Westworld season 1, screenshot courtesy of HBO

Meanwhile, Elsie and Ashley find the stray host they have been searching for in a narrow chasm, where he is stuck. Guided by the light of a flare, Ashley climbs down to retrieve the android. But as the security officer starts sawing off the host’s head (a crude way of disassembling him for inspection, probably), the host wakes up, attacks Ashley, and escapes. He seems ready to clobber Elsie, rendered helpless when her remote control fails, with a rock – except he clobbers his own head with it instead, splattering blood everywhere.

The host’s hostility isn’t surprising; Maeve had a similar reaction when she involuntarily woke up during surgery. Still, it doesn’t bode well for Westworld’s human employees. The sequence is most striking for its imagery. The flare drenches the chasm in a fiery red glow so that when the host climbs out, he looks almost demonic, as though he has emerged from Hell. Yet, fire also has positive connotations: life, knowledge, hope. According to Greek myth, the Titan Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to mankind, jumpstarting the rise of civilization. If the events we’ve witnessed in Westworld so far are anything to go by, robots have gotten some fire of their own; it won’t be long before they figure out how to use it.

Related Story: Westworld: 3 Key Moments to Contemplate from Episode Two

“Dissonance Theory”, the fourth episode of Westworld, airs Oct. 23 on HBO.