“The Adversary” sounds like it would be named for the mysterious Wyatt, or Ed Harris’s MIB, but the episode actually belongs to Maeve. The madam is lapping Dolores, our ostensible robut lead, in the self-awareness stakes, not least because I don’t think we’ve seen Dolores in the “present day” in several weeks. She commits suicide-by-randy-guest in order to get back to the sub-basement without raising suspicion, and once there has little trouble bending the hapless Felix and absurdly loutish Sylvester (he enters the episode shouting “what the fuck, ding-dong?”; I know not every show can have Sorkin-penned repartee going all the time, but come on) to her will.
Dolores’s line last week about not being the damsel anymore may have been pitched to the Grrrl Power cheap seats, but Maeve is making greater strides in breaking out of her programming. Dolores managed to shoot some other hosts, which is a bit outside her narrative loop but still ultimately functions within the basic bounds of host behavior (and to “save” a guest). Maeve is flat-out threatening to shiv humans until they let her reroll her stats, which violates the most fundamental host protocols, as well as a few Laws Of Robotics and AD&D core rulesets.
"What are you, trying to bat for the nerd cycle? Back in your locker!!"
Thandie Newton is fantastic in this more assertive role, and her job is not going to get easier now that the scripts have established her as playing a new character with a lowered sense of loyalty, a higher pain threshold, and advanced intelligence – beyond the power of any human mind, if Felix is to be believed. This is tricky territory; it’s sort of inherently impossible for human actors and writers to conceive and portray intelligence that is by definition beyond their own mental capability. On the other hand, as we have yet to encounter such a thing in the real world, that accuracy isn’t really a concern so long as you do something interesting with it. It also begs the question of how the humans have seemingly failed to consider the potential "humanity" of minds more advanced than their own so completely.
In any case, it’s a shame that the characters/performers in the basement aren’t on Newton’s level, because even with her acting conspicuous circles around the techs, that portion delivers the two best bits of the night. First, when Maeve studies her own vocalization program in real time and is shocked into silence – a moment that is creepy, illuminating, and clever. But the best is her tour through the upper levels, to a haunting instrumental of Radiohead’s (already plenty haunting) “Motion Picture Soundtrack”. For an episode that featured a gatling gun massacre, this sequence easily outshone everything and anything else.
|Of course, they stacked the deck by sidelining the real star of the show|
That includes Ford’s continued development of his grandiose new narrative, which includes an entire canyon being added in at the doorstep of Lawrence’s hometown. With the scale of the construction operation glimpsed earlier, I’m guessing we’re a week away from an overhead shot of his earthmovers finishing with carving the maze a mile deep into the landscape, with the town as the entrance. That will make a fine visual, I’m sure, but I’m getting a little tired of the tease. This week we “learn” that it was built by a man that has died many times and lives at the center, but we already know Arnold’s legacy is the treasure being hunted there, so big whoop.
Speaking of Arnold, god damn it. It’s looking more and more like Bernard is a robut and probably a robut clone of the mystery man. He’s been at the park “forever”, per repeated, winking dialogue, and when he meets Ford’s robo-family, the belligerent father asks “Whose Arnold? Who the hell are you?” Hardly conclusive evidence in a court of law, but circumstantial evidence carries a lot more weight when it’s a tricksy TV twist we’re talking about.
More fuel for that fire: the picture Ford showed Bernard of “Arnold” is apparently a robut modeled after Ford’s own father, which leaves the door open for Arnie to have been a 60sexy/40nerdy black guy. I’ve mentioned before that I do not like this possibility at all, and it’s not growing on me as it becomes more likely. The great material with Maeve this week just highlights that it is the inhuman aspects of the hosts that gives the concept its kick and drives the interesting developments. The more the robuts become not just human-like, but clones of actual humans with more-or-less perfect recreations of dead men’s brains, the less I understand why we’re bothering with the robut angle at all.
|Other than the obvious|
In any case, I’m getting kind of tired of griping on spec. So hopefully, with both Elsie and Ford coming to the realization that the hosts can lie to or perhaps hurt humans, some of these simmering conflicts are getting closer to a boil. And then maybe we can dispense with the more obvious twists and see what the next phase of Westworld’s evolution actually looks like.
|Hopefully a lot more like this|
- Radiohead’s (also haunting – it’s kind of their thing) “Fake Plastic Trees” also plays over Maeve’s walk to work in the morning. Still loving this musical conceit.
- Elsie gets grabbed by a mysterious attacker while searching for the transmitter in the Blade Runner Appreciation Wing of the HQ. This is, I suppose, technically an exciting cliffhanger, but I have this suspicion that it will just turn out to be hemsworth asking her what she’s up to.
- Sizemore is back! Yay? He’s still obnoxious, and at least on my TV his urine had an unhealthy orange tint to it to boot. So he’s either a robut himself, or dangerously, distractingly dehydrated.
- Full list of host attributes: Charm, Humor, Bulk Apperception (intelligence), Candor, Vivacity, Coordination, Meekness, Humility, Cruelty, Self-Preservation, Patience, Imagination, Curiosity, Aggression, Loyalty, Empathy, Tenacity, Courage, Sensuality. It’s hard to fathom how some of these work in concert (what would happen if you tried to crank Cruelty all the way up, but did the same for Empathy and Meekness?), but one can surmise that Dolores has high marks in Humility while Teddy bottoms out in Self-Preservation.