Three episodes in, ‘Westworld’ is slowly doling out answers (or at least clues) to some of its little mysteries, but I’m still troubled by a big one that I don’t think the writers have any plans to ever address.
This is also becoming a show with an almost unmanageable number of characters to keep track of. Several really important ones, including Maeve and the Man in Black, are barely seen at all this week. While I appreciate the creators’ ambition to make something as epic and involving as ‘Game of Thrones’, I’m still not yet certain that the subject matter can sustain it.
Elsie & Stubbs
Programmer Elsie (Shannon Woodward) continues to look into the matter of the supposed “glitch” causing some robots to behave erratically. She even suspects that the outlaw character who went screwy in the saloon may have somehow held a grudge against other characters that wronged him in previous storylines he should not have any memory of. In reviewing the footage of his breakdown, she notes that he seems to be having a conversation with someone named “Arnold” when there’s no one alive in the room. Other glitchy robots have also muttered that same name.
For the bulk of this week’s episode, Elsie teams up with head of security Ashley Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) to track down a so-called “stray” that has gone off-book and is wandering alone through the desert. As they search for him, they come across a camp of rustlers who’ve gotten stuck in a loop replaying the same campfire scene over and over again. Elsie freezes them in place and digs through their possessions until she finds some whittled carvings with patterns cut into them. She takes one with her. Stubbs identifies the pattern as the constellation Orion. Elsie is puzzled by this, as none of these characters are programmed to have any interest in the stars.
Eventually, they locate the stray. He’s fallen into a crevasse and is behaving like a raving loon, unable to get out. Elsie freezes him as Stubbs rappels down into the pit. Because he can’t lift the whole body out, Stubbs pulls out a saw and begins hacking away at the robot’s neck. Elsie really only needs the head to analyze; the rest of the body can be retrieved later. However, as its blood starts to spew, the robot somehow wakes up and attacks Stubbs. It then climbs out of the pit and advances toward Elsie, whose attempts to shut it down prove useless. The robot picks up a heavy rock and moves as if to smash Elsie with it, but then stops and bashes it down onto its own head repeatedly, sacrificing itself to prevent them from poking around in its brain.
Dolores & Teddy
Head programmer Bernard meets again with Dolores privately. He offers her the gift of a book: ‘Alice in Wonderland’. She’s particularly taken with a passage in which the heroine asks, “Who in the world am I?”
Dolores asks Bernard about his son. He puts her into analysis mode and commands her to explain why she said that. She claims that it was part of a programming routine to ask personal questions in order to enhance interaction with the guests. Bernard seems very suspicious of this. Later, we’ll learn that he had a young son who died. This broke apart his marriage, though he still occasionally talks to his ex-wife (Gina Torres).
Dolores is returned to the park. She’s still secretly hiding that pistol she found in a drawer and has more flashback memories of the Man in Black.
Dolores repeats her day again. She returns home to the ranch with Teddy (James Marsden), but stops on the way to ask if he’d ever considered running off with her and making a new life together somewhere else. Teddy brushes off the suggestion with a pre-programmed line about first needing to set things right regarding an undefined event from his past. When they get to the ranch, they find that bandits have murdered Dolores’ parents, and once again play through that storyline.
The next time they repeat the day, Teddy saves Dolores from some ruffians in the town. He then offers to teach her how to shoot a gun. She handles the weapon, but is unable to fire it, because she’s been programmed not to.
On this particular day, Teddy is followed around by a female guest named Marti who’s joining him on a bounty hunting adventure. Teddy has also had a brand new backstory uploaded to his memory by Dr. Ford (Anthony Hopkins), involving a former army commanding officer named Wyatt who turned into a crazed killer and cult leader. Now, that undefined event in Teddy’s past has a clear definition. When the town sheriff tells Teddy that Wyatt has been spotted in the area, Teddy and Marti join the posse to hunt him down. This means that Teddy won’t go to the ranch with Dolores today.
The sheriff’s posse comes across a group of mutilated corpses tied to a tree. Marti’s reaction signals how bad they smell. Do robot bodies rot? One of the victims is still alive and shocks them by opening its eyes. Suddenly, shots ring out. It’s an ambush. Strangely-dressed and masked men pick off members of the posse, including the sheriff. Teddy tells Marti to run back toward town while he provides cover. The attackers surround Teddy and don’t react when he shoots them. They then pounce on him in a group and kill him.
Dolores is devastated when she hears the news that Teddy is dead. She returns home alone and this time has no one to help her when she runs into the bandits that have murdered her parents. Dolores sees the body of her new replacement father and has a flashback memory of her previous father in the same position. The skeevy head bandit grabs Dolores and drags her into the barn to rape her. Dolores manages to pull his gun from its holster and point it at him. Although she’s not supposed to be able to use a weapon, she hears a voice saying “Kill him” and sees the Man in Black standing before her. She pulls the trigger, killing the bandit. As she runs to escape, she’s shot in the stomach by another bandit… but then she’s not. That was just a memory of what happened a previous time. This time, she avoids the bullet, hops on a horse and rides away.
William & Logan
Thus far, park guest William (Jimmi Simpson) has avoided doing anything too exciting on his vacation. He passes over most of the adventure side quests, preferring to just soak up the atmosphere of the place. He also still refuses to indulge in the whores – very unlike his lascivious work buddy Logan, who we find out is soon to be William’s brother-in-law (which tells us that William has a fiancée back home).
However, as he’s walking down the town thoroughfare, William gets drawn into a hostage situation when an outlaw named Horace breaks out of jail and holds the whore Clementine captive. When William pulls his gun, Horace shoots him. Of course, robots can’t kill humans here. He survives with just a little welt on his chest, gets back up and guns down the criminal, saving Clementine. (Wouldn’t the fact that a man got shot in the chest and survived unharmed break the verisimilitude of the scene?)
This thrill gives William a big rush. He convinces Logan to join him on a bounty hunting adventure that sounds like fun. We next see the two of them huddled around a campfire in the middle of the night. Logan is bored. His only interests in this vacation are the booze and the whores. From out of the desert, a woman stumbles through the darkness towards them. It’s Dolores, who has just escaped the bandits at her ranch. She collapses before them.
Bernard & Dr. Ford
In the control center, park administrator Theresa complains to Bernard that Dr. Ford is nixing too many of the writers’ storylines and carving out a big chunk of the park for his own new storyline that he’s keeping secret. Bernard has a private meeting with Ford to discuss the how he thinks the latest software update may be responsible for so many robots exhibiting glitchy behavior. He tells him about the one who uttered the name Arnold.
Ford thinks that’s very strange, and reveals that his former partner in the early days of the park was a man named Arnold, who was obsessed with creating artificial consciousness. Because that goal was not in line with the company’s intention that Westworld would be a theme park attraction (you don’t want robots that will routinely get shot and maimed and murdered to understand what’s happening to them), Arnold’s role was marginalized. Ford claims that he died in the park. Officially, his death was ruled an accident, but Ford suspects suicide.
Bernard has another secret meeting with Dolores. He tells her that he wants her help in deciding what to do with her. He believes that something that may have started as a mistake in her code may have led to her evolving as a sentient being. Dolores says that she wants to know who she is. Bernard decides not to wipe her operating system. He’s curious to see what happens if he lets this play out. It seems that Dr. Ford isn’t the only one playing god.
I’ve talked about this in my previous recaps and I’ll try not to keep harping on it in the future, but I’m really bothered by the show’s confusing timeline. The fact that Dolores and Teddy keep repeating their day makes no sense to me. We’ve seen that guests stay in the park multiple days and, depending on what they choose to do, are bound to run into some characters over and over. (Logan barely left the saloon since arriving in town until William dragged him away.) Allowing them to witness some characters repeat their storylines in a daily loop would be a terrible break in the immersiveness of the place. Now that Dolores has stayed out all night and ran into William, what’s going to happen to her in the morning? Will she reset and have no memory of what happened the prior day? How will that play for William and Logan? This just seems like really poor planning on the park’s part.
I’m not sure that the show will be able to provide a satisfactory explanation for this. I feel like it’s something the writers have simply not thought all the way through. I hope to be proven wrong about that.
Otherwise, this is a pretty good episode. The mysteries are deepening and I’m invested in several of the characters. With luck, it will all add up to something in the end.