Westworld: Sex and Death Run Rampant While Purpose Remains Elusive
“I imagined a story where I didn’t have to be the damsel.”
Catch up with our coverage of last week’s episode.
The title of this week’s episode translates roughly to mean “suffer the opposite,” as in the punishments suffered by souls trapped in Dante’s Inferno are catered directly to the sins that put them there. Pretty much everyone in Westworld is a sinner in some shape or form, and if there’s a verbalized theme to “Contrapasso” it’s that too many people move through life without purpose. I’d label that more as laziness than an actual sin, but if it is the moral crime at issue – and if the punishment is a purpose they can’t avoid – then I’d like to see a lot more of these characters suffering that punishment.
And I’d like to start with Ford (Anthony Hopkins). He opens the episode with a sweet anecdote from his childhood about a greyhound that tears a small cat to pieces. After a life spent chasing and never catching a felt rabbit at the race track the beast finally sinks its teeth into a real furry animal and has no idea what to do aside from destroy it. It’s a not-so subtle nod to humanity’s own pursuits, but five episodes in – the halfway mark for the season – I’d like to start getting information from Ford rather than stories and elusive thoughts.
We learn nothing new this week of his church-related narrative or his real intentions for the park, but he is starting to look more like a villain isn’t he? Maybe it’s just Hopkins’ delivery, but when Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) asks him if they’re very old friends his reply – “No, I wouldn’t say friends Dolores. I wouldn’t say that at all.” – is as ominous as it gets. His first sit-down with her contrasts with her chats with Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) both in tone and the fact that here she’s nude, and there’s a condescension in his voice when he refers to her apparent efforts to escape her “modest little loop.”
He asks if she still hears Arnold’s voice, and while she says she hasn’t since his death thirty plus years ago it’s not clear if he believes her. We know he shouldn’t. The one worthwhile detail here is the revelation that Arnold had tasked Dolores with helping him destroy the park. Just as interesting though is his question as to whether she’d be the hero or villain in her own story… especially when paired with her later acquisition of a new outfit and a brown cowboy hat.
Ford’s chat with the Man in Black (Ed Harris) – a meeting that felt like the diner scene in Heat in the way a face-off between these two veterans both excited and in some ways underwhelmed – is equally tense and even less informative. It’s clear there’s no love lost between the two men – the MiB credits Arnold (over Ford) with crafting the park’s greatest meaning, and Ford sees the MiB as little more than a nuisance and offers a patronizing congrats on his “voyage of self discovery.” The last of the episode’s three mentions of villains occurs here when the MiB says he always felt the park was missing a good villain so he filled that absence. (The other comes courtesy of Logan who says there are no heroes or villains, it’s all just one big circle jerk.)
Dolores’ main story line is home to the most change though, and it’s with her that we continue to see the most growth. She arrives in the heathen-filled town of Pariah with William (Jimmi Simpson) and Logan (Ben Barnes) and quickly get involved in a narrative involving rough-riding confederates and a shipment of nitroglycerin. Dolores finally gets out of that blue dress and into ass-kicking pants, and after a couple more visions of her past or future she quietly decides she’s no longer interested in being the damsel in distress. It’s a tremendous moment and the kind of progress we’re not seeing with certain other characters. She’s playing the same game as the MiB, and their inevitable reunion grows more combustive with each episode, but I’m growing worried that it might not come to pass.
I’m still not even remotely a fan of the theory that William is the younger Man in Black, but it gains minor traction with MiB’s comment to Lawrence that “Not a man in the world would take the tone with me you do. In a past life perhaps.” His past life could conceivably be the younger, softer William. But I think a different piece of dialogue argues against it in an even bigger way. The MiB tells Teddy that he “gutted” a host back when the park first opened and preferred what they were made of then to their softer, modern innards. The problem is we know William’s first visit occurred long after the park opened. Right? Am I missing something?
Of course, the MiB could still be Logan.
Again though, I’d prefer this dual timeline business to be nothing more than a theory in part because I find it hard to believe the technology and the host models are the same across the thirty years or so between William and the MiB. But let’s say it’s correct, that the two men are the same – where does that leave everything happening in the William timeline? It would mean that every step forward Dolores takes, every inch of progress, is doomed to failure because in the MiB’s timeline not only did she not solve the maze but she’s also back to being raped and killed every night.
Or maybe that’s just her being punished for starting to think she had a purpose after all.
But, and, what…?
- “Do you remember the man I used to be?” Ford asks this of Dolores, and I can’t decide if it’s a throwaway line or an implication of some sort.
- Is Felix simply trying to impress his bosses with his bird diddling skills, or is there more going on there? I mean aside from Maeve waking up and knowing his name.
- Logan gets knocked around a lot this episode, and it looks like some serious physical abuse at times. He seems a bit surprised, but more curious is his brief smile as he’s left by William to be beaten and imprisoned.
- Two brief thoughts on this week’s heavy dose of sex/nudity. Elsie’s gag about the black male host’s large member is potentially problematic – white woman, black male sex slave – and while the flesh-filled orgy was excessive in many ways, it once again shows numerous graphic couplings, pile-ons, and girl on girl action without even a hint of two guys getting it on.
- Speaking of Elsie, her discovery of a satellite transmitter inside one of the hosts opens up some new subplots including possible corporate espionage from a competing park or even military interests.
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Related Topics: HBO