Thursday, October 20, 2016


NOTE:  While I don't truck with spoilers, and even avoid the Next Week On... teasers for that purpose, I do talk freely about the major fan theories I encounter out in the wild.  If such things bother you, tread lightly.

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Last time I "reviewed" the opening episodes of Westworld without talking much about the show itself, so this time let's dive right into the story.  The titular storyline of “The Stray” is the least interesting.   The protests-too-much hostility between Shannon Woodward and Least Hemsworth* feels a touch forced, and the robut glitching has some neat, creepy detail to it, but amounts to nothing more than a tease of the more serious uprising we know is coming.  I’m not enthusiastic about the prospect of dragging out that turn for an entire season; even those of us who haven’t seen the movie know that we signed on for a cowboy-robut on human-dude revolt.  I’m all for philosphizin’ about the nature of sentience and man’s creative hubris, but I’m really for philosophizin’ whilst there’s some proper blood n' guts action and legit menace going on.  All movie violence is fake by definition, but if it’s not even real to the fictional participants I check right the hell out.  

The stray story also teases the possibility of hemsworth being a host, with Woodward’s snide response about letting him carry a gun when he mentions doling out weapons privileges sparingly, and his own comment about a knowledge of constellations being in his “backstory”.  I am optimistic that this is not the case, but also worried that that's only because it’s a red herring for the reveal that Bernard is a robut.  Ford’s description of his mysterious partner Arnold - very careful, personal life marked by tragedy, preoccupation with pushing the hosts toward genuine consciousness – mirror Bernard’s behavior in his conversations with Dolores and ex(?)-wife Gina Torres(!).  The idea that he is a synthetic clone of some sort is supported in the latter, where we see glimpses of his son dying in the hospital, which are presented in similar, silent flashes to Teddy’s newly-implanted “backstory”.    

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Evidently, guests didn't find "Gossip was supposed to be my big break!" tragic enough
Again, I hope this is not the case, as I don’t want to turn every one of these things into a “who else is a new kind of robut” guessing gallery.  And it could very well be that the similarity between the flashbacks is only to underline the similarity between the hosts’ experience and us humans’.  But if they are introducing a special subclass of robut that operates differently than the regular hosts, that is the gateway to the type of navel-gazing crap that tends to drag down great genre shows.  What does it mean if this robut isn’t like the other robuts?  Well, genre writer, since you invented both types of robut, it means that you think toying around with the mythology you invented has become more interesting than the real-world themes that mythology was designed to probe.  

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Protip: the answer to what it MEANS that your fictional robut got fictionally pregnant in violation of
 the fictional biology you made up is that I don’t care because magical pregnancy isn’t real drama

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(same goes for vampires)

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(...and bullshit, gluten-free vampires)

Anyway, that’s enough fretting about things that may not even come to pass, let’s move on to the big fan theory, that William is in fact Ed Harris’s Man In Black on his first trip to the park, and the most interesting plotline, Teddy’s new backstory. I like how the show has trod lightly on the meta elements thus far, and the handlers' expousing the importance of backstory as the cornerstone of their host/characters' identities tickles this fancy without overdoing it.  It is key to making them feel real, even if, as with Teddy's fuzzy guilt, it is never strictly defined, and it is built on memory.  Memory is what the handlers' do not allow the hosts, which Ford frames as a gift (a recurrent motif in Jonathan Nolan's work going back to his story for Memento).  But Arnold saw, and Bernard increasingly sees, it as a curse, denying them the building blocks to create a true identity and consciousness.

Anyway, Teddy is given a fuller identity as part of Ford’s new narrative, which he promises “is rooted in truth,” and I believe holds the biggest clues to the backstory, mythology, and shape of future storylines.  It begins in “a time of war…a world in flames” - the incident 30 years ago, where Arnold presumably lost his life?  And it involves an army officer going out among the natives and coming back with some “strange ideas” that involve mass slaughter and talking to God.  Assuming that the theory is true, William’s time out on the range and encounter with Dolores could lead him to return to town with radicalized, bloody intent.   

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Or even worse, milky intent
Teddy further expounds that the followers of the desert prophet don’t feel pain or fear death, as they  “reckon they already died and gone to hell, and this is it” -  if hell doesn’t describe the hosts’ existence of perpetual victimization and torment, I don’t know what does.  The leader “claimed this land didn’t belong to the old natives or the new settlers.  That it belonged to something that had yet to come.  That it belonged to him.”  Which fits the MiB's presumed intent, if he is indeed trying to find the control center and usher in a new form of consciousness by “awakening” the hosts.  And as we’re seeing more glimpses of what he did to Dolores in the barn, it’s looking less like the rape it appeared to be in the pilot** and more like he was fiddling with her compubrain (arguably a different sort of rape in itself) to kickstart her increased capacity to remember her past “lives”. 

That wouldn’t address how Maeve the madam has also started remembering bits and pieces, or the how these malfunctions/evolutions have spread to the stray and milk bandit.  Hmm, maybe there are holes in my theorizing after all.  I hope so, because wasted typeface aside, the most exciting possibility at all is that I don’t have any idea where Westworld is going at all. 

Other Thoughts:
-  I propose a moratorium on including direct quotes/references to Alice In Wonderland in head-trippy sci-fi properties. 

 -  The score in this show is really, really great.  So great. 

-   The wranglers were awfully blasé about how the milk bandit seemed to ignore the “drop dead” directive after being riddled with multiple milk-holes last week.  I wonder if they will be more distressed at the stray’s ability to fight back against the hemsworth.  

-  How big of a wuss do you have to be, as a guest, to flee from confrontation with hosts you know are programmed not to hurt a hair on your head?  Yet we get a couple who do just that this week.

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*  *a nickname I did not create, but Schwartzblog has never been one to throw back a bitchy nickname on account of it being only mildly amusing

*** Looking back at that scene, it's not clear he was part of the initial attack on the house, and he only even shoots Teddy as an offhanded afterthought, to silence the distraction.  His encounter with her in the thoroughfare, where his wistfulness about not being able to see her that night seemed to be a creepy reflection of how much he loves raping, could also be read as regret that he can't spare her a similar ordeal while he's, scalping her fellow hosts.  Okay, so he has earned the change of hat to some degree.


  1. "Come for the hilarious captions, stay for the insightful critique!"

    I hate being the only poster here. Feels like I'm stalking you.

  2. Start with the best, then steadily lower your standards until you're begging for scraps, I always say.

  3. *Posts to make Jacob feel better*

    Also, because I love reading your reviews, Mr. Schwartz.