Title: Westworld e03 – The Stray
Director: Neil Marshall
Writers: based on a story by Michael Crichton, (created by) Johnathan Nolan, Lisa Joy Nolan, written by Lisa Joy, Daniel T. Thomsen
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Jeffrey Wright, Evan Rachel Wood, Ed Harris, James Marsden, Thandie Newton, Tessa Thompson, Jimmi Simpson, Rodrigo Santoro, Shannon Woodward, Simon Quarterman, Louis Herthum, and more
Run Time: 60 minutes
The nightmare continues in an episode that teases what’s in store while introducing some new mysteries.
The Stray in the title refers to a host who has gone off script and wanders off into the more remote areas of the park on it’s own. This is just one example of the problems that seem to be on the rise in a manner that still hasn’t set off any alarms with the park’s staff, but is growing increasingly apparent to us the viewers. There are times i feel like i want to warn them about what’s coming and to pay more attention to what’s going on right under their noses.
The problems of old memories from past roles bleeding through into current ones continues to play havoc with the minds of the hosts, popping into their brains without warning and giving them reason to pause while going through their choreographed routines.
The episode this time around had a narrative that seemed less in the way of cause and effect, where point A leads to point B, but more closely resembled a series of events that on the surface seemed almost random and disconnected, but in actuality were a series of innuendos of what is yet to come.
The thing that connects all of these episodes events is evolution, the evolution of the hosts leading up to the birth of artificial intelligence. Its not going to be an easy birth, and its not going to be pretty.
Here’s a recap, laced with comments (*warning, spoilers follow*)
The Stray starts out with another conversation between Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), and Bernard (Jeffrey Wright),, the nature of this conversation seems surreal, but he is looking for something, something that explains the unique way Dolores’ brain works in comparison to the other androids in the place. The way Dolores keeps asking Bernard if she has done something wrong, or if she has made a mistake is disquieting, and goes a long way towards reenforcing her nature as being like a broken doll.
As for Dolores herself she is exhibiting more independence of thought and in one scene later in the episode even goes off script in a way that changes her role from being the victim to taking action and improvising an escape from a nasty situation, when makes use of the gun she dug up in her dream state and uses it on another host who is about to rape and kill her.
There is more about Bernard this time around, the fact that he has recently lost a young son is revealed which may explain his relationship with Dolores and the other androids
The episode continue to bring into focus the surreal nature of the lives of these hosts being on a loop and acting out the same tired routine each and every day. They are prisoners of their programming, but the dreams they experience and the voices they hear are beginning to change their lives and there is an awareness slowly emerging of how their existence is not normal by any standard.
The title refers to a host who wanders off on his own into the more remote areas of the park, going completely off script. Elsie (Shannon Woodward), and Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) head into the hills in pursuit of the missing host, and along the way she discovers something odd, The missing host had a hobby of carving things out of wood, and one thing he carved, a unfinished piece of sky chart that includes the constellation of Orion, is especially strange, and inexplicable, since that is definitely not part of his programming, and its puzzling how the concept of a constellation could even be conceived of by an android that shouldn’t even be aware they exist.
They encounter an unpleasant surprise when they finally catch up with their quarry, that brings into sharp focus the question of the wisdom of making these hosts so powerful and nearly indestructible. It easily overpowers them and comes close to crushing Elsie with a huge rock, but then strangely uses it on himself. The scene provides a glimpse into the reality that these dolls are powerful machines that in a one-on-one situation we wouldn’t stand a chance against. Something the park’s staff would do well not to forget
Teddy Flood (James Marsden), who normally plays a role as a romantic interest in the routine of Dolores’ life has been given a new role as a bounty hunter and gunslinger who depicted busy at his new career. he and his Winchester slinging female partner Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson), are shown at work in Sweetwater with deadly reults.
When Teddy and Dolores come to the part of their routine where she asks him where he’s been. She goes off script, and presses him about going away from there and exploring somewhere new, and he responds he will maybe take her someday, but that’s not a good enough of an answer for her. She wants to go now, or at least be given a specific time, but their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of a posse who are off to find a legendary criminal Wyatt who Teddy has been programmed to think of as his mortal enemy.
He and the others track deep into the hills where they encounter a new element that is introduced into the series for the first time, they encounter some shadowy figures who are stealthy and deadly. these figures make sounds like animals, and when the posse finds themselves surrounded by these mysterious figures, half of them flee outright, while Teddy stands his ground while helping Charlotte to escape. These new characters are reminiscent of the Reavers from Firefly and Serenity, seeming almost bestial in nature, although I suspect they are hosts.
It doesn’t look good for Teddy to survive. Who these mysterious creatures are and what they represent in the story going forward is is not explained. Add another mystery to the pile. I got the impression the show is introducing a hitherto unrevealed aspect of the situation in the show’s narrative, rogue androids, and I was reminded of another mystery introduced when the man in black was warned the maze was not for him. I have to wonder if the two events are connected.
All-in-all, The Stray was a strange, but oddly satisfying episode that might not have appealed to everyone because of the almost ethereal nature of its narrative, in an edition of the series that was far more talky than eventful. I trust the events that did occur were important to the seres going forward, and with a little patience how they fit in will be revealed.
The show is being patient, and almost stingy in developing its story leading up to some sort of payoff, I am beginning to suspect we won’t see until the end of this first season. In the meantime we are left to be satisfied with what we get while the show’s creators slowly, and subtly blend its many ingredients building up to bigger revelations about what’s going on, an what its leading up to.
I still give the show high marks for the satisfying dark and nightmarish qualities, and the many intriguing mysteries it seemingly effortlessly provides. This is an intelligent series that hasn’t so far overly indulged in the titilating and obvious in telling its provocative story, and has never bored me once since it began.