Title: Westworld e02 – Chestnut
Director: Richard J. Lewis
Writers: based on a story by Michael Crichton, (created and written by) Johnathan Nolan, Lisa Joy Nolan
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
Episode one established the tone and texture of the series, and episode two does the same, plus more in terms of establishing the narrative going forward.
This week’s episode about the dark, disquieting Disneyland, Westworld, was released two days early by the network for unknown reasons, but i suspect they wanted to make sure viewers would know that the remaining episodes would not be as narrative stingy as the first one was.
Episode two had several revelations that made it more interesting than the premiere and also saw a couple of mysteries emerge as well as some new wrinkles regarding the show’s characters. The show started out with the same dark and somewhat gloomy and disquieting series of images as before, that serves to set the mood of the show and set us up for what follows. Once again, like in episode one, the show divided its time between what’s going on in the park with the guests and hosts, and what’s going on behind the scenes with the technicians, artists, and other staff.
The blood, bullets, boobs and butts that serve to entertain are the mere trappings of this show, I am more interested in the ideas the story is discussing as its basis. Ideas like the ambivalent nature of humanity, and at what point does a self aware being become a living thing deserving of the rights and respect we so fiercely, and jealously defend for ourselves?
Here’s a recap, laced with some comments (*warning, spoilers follow*)
The episode begins with a brief visit with Dolores lying in bed in the same nightgown we have seen her in before, when a voice is heard telling her to wake up, she gets out of bed and starts to walk away from the house alone in the middle of the night and the same voice says the word ‘remember’. This scene has a dreamlike quality like many others that follow.
Next we join the arrival of two guests, Logan (Ben Barnes), and William (Jimmi Simpson) on the sleek streamlined subway-like means of transportation provided, leading up to a depiction of the arrival process as they enter the futuristic sleek arrival area of the park.
We are provided with a thorough portrayal of what the initial arrival at the place is like. First, they are greeted by hosts who all look like models/comtemporary tv/movie actors, young and very attractive, dressed in white vinyl looking clothing that compliments the physical features of the wearer just enough to be suggestive.
Logan, who has been before, grabs the first couple of hosts he encounters, both male and female and looking happy walks off with them. He is the more darkly hedonistic and adventurous of the two, while William who is visiting for the first time, and seems a lot more reserved, (and maybe less inebriated) is greeted by a female host who takes him through the stages of getting ready to enter the park proper. He is presented with a choice of appropriate attire, including weapons and such, his host offers to help him get dressed and explains to him that the hosts are all there to give him what he wants, in a suggestive manner that indicates he could do anything he wants to her before even entering the actual park. He doesn’t take a gun. She tells him there is no orientation or instruction booklet, that he can do whatever he wants. Last is a choice of hats, both black and white, William chooses to wear a white one.
Next he’s seen entering through a door into what looks like a lounge and bar in the expected western style of the place and shortly after is joined by Logan, Just as he asks how they get to the park, the room they are in seamlessly transforms into a train car with windows showing vast vistas outside. The soon arrive in Sweetwater the town we were introduced to in the first episode.
The difference between the two visitors quickly becomes glaringly apparent as William stops to help an old timer host who falls off a wagon and Logan tries to steer him away explaining its all a ruse to get you caught up in in any number of fantasies available to choose from.
When the same old man approaches them later and starts his script about a thunt for treasure Logan is rude and finally resorts to stabbing the old man in the hand pinning it to their table. The profuse amount of blood that results seems way over what is called for, but I chalked that up to how the park’s creators want it to be, everything is slightly exaggerated for the entertainment of the guests. the exaggeration in this case was way over the top, there was a lot of blood.
Later the two guests are seen in their rooms, Logan having sex with several hosts at the same time and William declining the advances of the prostitute Clementine (Angela Sarafyan). William seems impervious to the charms of the many hosts available for his pleasure until he spots Dolores who is going through her routine of putting supplies in her saddlebag and dropping one tin. William is smitten, finally caught up in this fantasy to a degree, and picks it up and hands it to her. he is being kind and just smiles at her. He’s looking for a different kind of experience at Westworld.
The troubles with the hosts makes a reappearance pretty early on in this episode when Maeve Millay (Thandie Newton), the beautiful and sharp madam of Westworld, is shown malfunctioning when talking to a guest. She is experiencing the blending in of older memories with her new role as a madam She is brought in for diagnosis and the techs that check her out have the misguided notion they can fix the problem by boosting her aggressiveness levels, which results in her being creepy enough to freak out a female guest with her new more aggressive personality. What ever the problem is, it seems to be spreading like a virus. Maeve is hearing the voice telling her to remember too.
There is a brief scene depicting Lowe (Jefferey Wright) having a conversation with Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), and its a strange one, he asks her not to mention it to anyone else and asks her if anyone else has been messing with her mind. He means that literally, as in messing with her programming or adjusting her settings. He tells her she is different and interesting to him. She seems concerned she has done something wrong, and asks him if he did something wrong also, and her childlike innocence is charming and a little disturbing at the same time because it makes her seem so human. This conversation adds a very mysterious element to the show’s narrative, and I want to know more.
Meanwhile the Man In Black (Ed Harris) arrives at a location where a posse is about to hang a criminal, Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr.), and he interrupts because he wants to talk to the host they are about to hang, this of course leads to a gunfight, and after ‘killing’ them all he shows Lawrence the scalp he took off the the host in episode one which has a crude diagram of a maze on the inside surface with a stick figure of a person in the center, when Lawrence says he doesn’t know anything about what he wants to know, the MIB drags him by the rope that nearly hanged him and they leave.
It turns out they are going to a town that serves as Lawrence’s home, and another example of the MIB’s sadistic nature, and the sudden explosion of violence I suppose we should get used to from this series, is portrayed as he kills a whole bunch of hosts that come to help his captive, and then also kills his wife right in from of him. It turns out the MIB is looking for a way into the deeper levels of the park. The child host that serves as Lawrence’s daughter, in a strange voice tells him the maze is not for you, but then adds something about ‘the place where the snake hesitates’ in where he might find what he is looking for. The MIB smiles, and taking Lawrence with him, leaves. It occurred to me , what if the MIB is not human but only thinks he is?
Meanwhile back behind the scenes we find Maeve getting the once over again, this time by Elsie Hughes (Shannon Woodward) the rising star in the programming division and she adjusts the host for the better, and Maeve is shown performing her role better for it, but it does not fix the problem entirely. Its also reveled that Lowe and Theresa Cullen (Sidse Babett Knudsen) are sleeping together, although this doesn’t seem to relate to anything else going on in the show. It may, in fact, be the most normal thing going on in this series.
They bring Maeve in for a full diagnostic as part of taking her out of service, but they don’t take the cause of her odd behavior into account. Even though she is shut down, she is dreaming, more specifically having a nightmare about a former life and going through a horrific experience of being killed and scalped by some indians. Oddly, just as an indian is about to enter a cabin she has taken shelter in with her daughter, the indian is suddenly transformed into the MIB.
She wakes up on the operating table with her gut split open by a couple of techs who are examining her. They freak out when she becomes awake. Her reaction is very human. She freaks out too, and grabs a scalpel to defend herself and escapes naked, she gets away long enough to explore part of the behind the scenes part of the park operations and witnesses a bunch of ‘dead’ hosts being thrown in a pile and hosed down. She collapses after seeing the nightmarish scene and is reacaptured by the techs she escaped from.
Lee Sizemore, Westworld’s narrative director, has concocted a brand new epically tasteless and garish scenario for the entertainment of the guests and presents it to Ford (Anthony Hopkins), who rejects it for not be being in his opinion what the guests return for. This scene serves to define his character as more than the doddering old man whose ideas gave birth to this place, but as also more like a spiritual guide for it who has the last say of what gets included and what doesn’t.
He is shown entering a remote area of the park alone by way of an elevator, and strolling around until he encounters a young boy who he invites along to walk with him and they wind up at a place where there is the framework of an old church steeple. He shows the boy a rattlesnake that he has the ability to control with a gesture of his hand, freezing it in mid air as its about to strike, and with another gesture causing it to slither away.
He is shown later taking a walk with Lowe (Jefferey Wright) in the same location, and talking about an idea he has for a new attraction at the park, this ends with shot of the cross on the old steeple in the middle of nowhere.
This indicates a couple of things to me. He has in mind a new sort of attraction that might appeal to people like William who are not looking so much for the sorts of sexual and violent fantasies that most people seem interested in indulging, but something kinder and gentler to experience, a more wholesome sort of experience in an idyllic little town in the old west where kindness and a more old fashioned sort of quieter experience might serve as an escape from the world.
There is also the firightening idea he means to introduce religion to the mix in some form as part of the hosts lives. Its scary to think what the introduction of Christianity could lead to in this place. the idea of some sort of android inquisition is one thing that springs to mind as a result of doing something like that. Not a good idea.
The episode ends with Dolores one again on her midnight stroll when she arrives at a place and utters the question ‘here?’ She begins to dig and digs up a gun. I have to wonder if this a real gun like the one the MIB has, or another of the park models that can’t hurt anyone its not supposed to. I suspect this is an actual working real gun. Where did it come from, and who exactly is pulling the strings in this bizarre puppet show here anyway? Of course this could all be a dream, a dream that could easily become a nightmare for someone soon.
I came away from episode two much more satisfied than I did after episode one. There was more for me to chew on after it ended. I love a good mystery and as any science fiction fan knows, the mysteries are a big part of what makes the genre enjoyable. The series continues to succeed at being a creepy, surreal, and disquieting show and the second episode succeeded in accomplishing that goal maybe even a little more than the first. This episode airs tonight at 10pm on HBO October 9th, 2016.