Monday, November 14, 2016


If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense.  Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t.

The Mad Hatter provides this quote to lead off the episode, which intentionally or not provides a succinct statement of the trouble with plot twists.  Deployed properly, and fairly, they are among the most potent weapons in a narrative arsenal.  They can take your entire story to another level, and engage the audience in new and surprising ways.  Done poorly, the entire story becomes overly-clever nonsense, and you can undermine the audience’s basic trust in everything they’re being shown and told and asked to invest in.  In order for drama to have any weight, some cigars have to just be cigars.  Most times, in fact.  Once we start expecting every cigar to explode in our face, not only is the impact of the next explosion blunted, but we feel kind of superior when it does blow up and annoyed when it doesn’t.  I've mentioned it before, but the trouble with twist-based storytelling is that it can easily turn adversarial, with the audience judging the story solely on whether or not they were able to “outsmart” that wascally author.  Which is a lose-lose situation, as we tend to feel disdainful of the show when we are able to get ahead of it and resentful when our brilliant deductions turn out to be wrong.

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"How dare you be smarter and/or dumber than me and my 10 million closest friends?"

These are the reasons I'd hoped Bernard would not be a robut, but on the past week's scale consummations devoutly not to be wished, I can't muster all that much outrage over it. And while that reveal does still raise the issue of turning the show into a game of Clue rather than an actual drama, it’s not a total disaster because it also helped with some of the other problems the show has had up to this point.  Specifically, the machinations between Ford and the Delos corporation come into better focus, which at least provides the clarity from which to build out actual drama.  With Ford moving into outright villain territory and the board’s plan to oust him laid out more directly, we have a (somewhat) coherent and active conflict on our hands.  And with Ford appearing to be building a secret, female host in his dark site, it begs the question of whether he is intending to replace Theresa, to cover up her murder and undermine the board's attempts to maneuver through her.  Meanwhile, uninhibited new board rep Charlotte uses the same phrase as Ford in claiming that a "blood sacrifice" is required to demonstrate how dangerous his creations are, and that it should come from a host that no one would expect to be particularly violent.  That cuts right into the demonstration with Clementine fighting back, but coupled with her comments about not liking Theresa personally, but for this job, it makes me wonder if she was somehow setting her up to be killed.  Bernard was the least likely candidate to become violent after all, and proving your opponent is a murderer has to have some weight with the shareholders.  In any case, that's a plotline that (finally) seems like it has some actual meat on the bones.
The other interesting factor in Theresa’s murder is Bernard’s role as murderer.  I’ve had concerns since that if you make the replicants too entirely human, you remove the entire dramatic engine from the show.  If synthetic humans are just like the meatbag variety, what is the point of stressing over the differences between them?  But Bernard’s "humanity" is outed as an affectation when it is dropped all at a single command and bash in the skull of the person he had the most personal “feelings” for.  This restores some threat and complexity to the hosts; it was a bold move to align our point of view and sympathies with them from the outset, but things are more interesting when they remain legitimately alien and dangerous.  

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I didn't have an idea for what to put here, so I Google Image'd "dangerous, alien".   A bit on the nose, but to be honest I'm just impressed that it's way less racist than I expected the first result to be.

For as omniscient as Ford has been revealed to be in all this scheming, it remains unclear what he knows about Maeve’s continued awakening.  After witnessing Clementine being decommissioned, she threatens dimbulb Felix and Sylvester into helping her hatch an escape plan.  I can’t believe that this is part of Ford’s design, as while he is experimenting with higher forms of host sentience in Bernard, he doesn’t seem like he would like the level of independence she is demonstrating.  His hypocrisy catapults to stratospheric levels as he pontificates that the hosts lives are blissful, in an “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” kind of way.  He posits it his gift to allow them sentience but to free them from the burdens of memory.  He claims they are “free, here, under my control,” an oxymoron so plain calling it that seems inadequate. And he further opines that this has spared them anxiety, self-loathing, and guilt (having apparently forgotten how he explicitly programmed Teddy to be defined by a formless, unassuageable guilt).  There’s full of shit and then there’s full of shit, and this shitter’s getting pretty full, Clark.  Maeve has taken on the burden of memory, and she is not happy being under Ford or anyone else's control. 

I still haven't fallen completely in love with Westworld, which is maybe not surprising for a show that retains such a clinical feel for much of the proceedings.  While it also retains a ton of promise, it seems like it took 7 hours for these developments with Maeve and Bernard to locate the show’s second gear.  If it can find one or two more before the finale, it may still move into the echelons of HBO's truly great originals.

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You know of which I speak

-         No info on Elsie this week.  I guess we are to presume that Bernard nabbed her in a programmed blackout, but with Ford’s reach it could really be any host, I guess.  

-     I don't really know what to make of Charlotte, the uninhibited new board rep.  But her using the same language about requiring a "blood sacrifice" as Ford does makes me wonder if she somehow knew
-         I also think it’s strange that they revealed Bernard as a robut while still playing the William/MiB twist close to the vest.  
-         Speaking of MiB, he and Teddy are completely MIA as well.  Out with it, show, and let's get on to something realer.
-         I skipped mostly past the William and Dolores stuff.  They finally do the deed, which of course, but other than that it’s mostly just western action stuff that, as fun as gatling guns and corpse bombs can be, we know to have no real consequence.
-         Dolores does continue to grope toward more independence, saying she doesn’t want to be in a story.  But it’s just a faint echo of Maeve's big moves to take charge of her life (and deaths) to assert her autonomy.  Not to throw shade on our star, but some already sisters be doing it for themselves.   
-         Still no Armistice this week, nor any of Michael Wincott’s Old Bill.  Get your shit together, show.

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