Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality?
That’s the first question Dolores Abernathy, the oldest host in the sadistic adult amusement park known as Westworld, is asked by Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright). As Lowe goes through a series of questions, we are introduced to the scenery of this fantasy world that is the setting for the new HBO drama that premiered last night.
As we learn later in the episode, that is a standard question all “hosts” (another name for the robots in this world) are asked when their behavior moves outside the programmed scripts. And I imagine many a hosts will be asked that question before the end of the debut season considering that the clear theme of the series premiere was all the various ways these hosts can possibly end up outside the script. But they aren’t able to kill “newcomers” (another name for humans), so everyone should be perfectly safe the rest of the season (wink wink).
So let’s try and sift through all the new characters and information thrown at us in the first ever hour of Westworld.
While Dolores is being questioned by Lowe, we see her wake up, walk down the stairs, and greet her father in the morning. A man named Teddy is also on a train at the start of this day as guests talk about the various adventures they are looking to experience in the park. Teddy sees the local sheriff asking for help in apprehending Hector Escaton, a wanted criminal. He visits the local saloon and gets propositioned by a prostitute before eyeing Dolores, whose just rode into town.
Dolores and Teddy are hosts programmed to be together. Well, not exactly be together, but to always chase each other (kind of heartbreaking ain’t it). They throw every movie western and romantic movie cliche they can before approaching Dolores’s house, when thinks get dark and twisted.
First, Dolores parents are killed by a man whom then dumps milk on their dead bodies (more on him later). Teddy rides up and takes out the man and his partner. Then, a man in black (Ed Harris) approaches Dolores. None of this made sense until the Man in Black explained to us what’s going on: he’s a guest. And he’s a frequent guest, recognizing Dolores and later Teddy when the male host tries to kill him. Here, we learn that hosts cannot kill guests. Their shots will fail every time. And the guests have free reign over the hosts, as the man in black shows by killing Teddy and dragging Dolores to a barn to rape her.
But as the sun rises, Dolores wakes up in her bed in the same position as the day before, and Teddy is on that same train riding into town.
As it turns out, everyday for these hosts starts the same way. They’ve been programmed with a series of scripted story lines and can only respond to those story lines. The robots are constructed and the park is monitored in a single lab where Lowe builds the hosts, Lee Sizemore writes their stories, and Teresa Cullen steps in when there are issues with the hosts. And I suspect Cullen will be staying busy throughout the first season.
Though next day in the park starts the same way as the previous, it takes a different direction as Teddy is cutoff by a group of guys before he can reach Dolores. And she’s greeted by the Man in Black, who informs her he won’t be spending anytime with him this evening.
In fact, neither story for Teddy or Dolores is particularly exciting this day. But a”newcomer” does take the offer of the sheriff to go find Hector. Unfortunately for the guests, the robot sheriff malfunctions when a fly lands on his cheek.
As it turns out, a recent update of the hosts is causing a glitch. And Mrs. Cullen is very concerned. But repairing the problem requires pulling about 200 hosts from the park, threatening to lessen the experience for guests (and we wouldn’t want those sin seeking freaks to be disappointed, now would we?). Cullen and Sizemore later discuss their issues with Lowe and Dr. Robert Ford (the guy who owns the place, played by Anthony Hopkins). I won’t recall their entire conversation here. But bottom line, be watching for a power struggle to develop between these four throughout the season.
The end of the second day is when the fears of all the staff at Westworld begin to show signs of happening. First, Dolores’s father finds a photo of a girl in modern day New York City. He is so thrown off by it that the next morning, he starts fidgeting, unable to continue with the usual scene he has with Dolores every morning. Then, the man in black kidnaps a card dealer in the saloon. He tells the robot that he hopes to reach “a deeper level in the game” as he cuts off the robots scalp, finding a circular maze underneath.
And lastly, the milk man comes back and starts shooting people randomly in town that are not a part of his script (so he wasn’t supposed to be at the Abernathy’s house the previous night). Security and quality control are forced to step in and follow through with the plan mentioned by Cullen earlier: to pull all updated hosts out of Westworld for inspection.
All the pulled hosts means that Sizemore must do a slight rewrite. He moves Hector Escanton’s arrival in town a week earlier. And the criminal doesn’t ride alone. His entire gang helps him steal the safe in the saloon. And a female sharpshooter named Armistice (I only know that because I looked that up) takes out every host trying to stop Hector in an amazing display of marksmanship.
But just as Hector is about to give the town the big speech Sizemore had written, the guest who went to find Hector earlier shows up and shoots him in the neck.
Dolores, who was in town seeking medical help for her father, got caught in the crossfire with Teddy, who was shot and “killed.” But as Dolores is mourning the loss, the crew of Westworld shut things down and take the remaining updated hosts back to headquarters, where we finally get to see an important scene from the actor with the highest pedigree in the show.
Dr. Robert Ford
The biggest surprise for me about the premiere was how little Anthony Hopkins (Dr. Robert Ford, the creator of Westworld) was featured. Before this last scene, Dr. Ford had two short conversations with Bernard Lowe, revealing little about the man. Most of what we know came from the dialogue of the other higher ups at Westworld. But the issues with Peter Abernathy (Dolores’s father) were enough to get him personally involved.
Ford handles the questioning of the only updated host having any major issues. What Ford discovers is that Dolores’s dad is trying to help his daughter, and he’s angry with all the violence she endures because of Ford and Lowe. Bernie (as Lowe is called by several of the staff at Westworld) informs us that “none of this is programmed” as Peter Abernathy vows revenge (You mean you didn’t program the hosts with a desire to vow revenge against you for all the pain they must endure in Westworld? Thank you Captain Obvious).
Dolores’s father and the milk killer are taken out of commission, which means putting them in a room with a large number of hosts who’ve needed to be pulled from Westworld previously. Now, I’m sure that potential army of robots is nothing any human should be concerned about.
Dolores, on the other hand, answers every question she’s given as she’s supposed to and doesn’t seem to suspect a thing about her creation or her creators. Stubbs (the security guy played by the third Hemsworth brother) tells one of the scientists that Dolores is the oldest host in the park and that she’s always stays faithful to her story. She does reveal that her father whispered “These violent delights have violent builds.” Nobody, including myself, knows what that means yet. So we’ll just leave it at that for the future.
A new morning dawns and Teddy is alive, riding the same train he rides every morning. And Dolores wakes up in the same bed, walks down the same stairs, wears the same dress, and greets her father with the same greeting she says to him every day. Except, this time, it’s a different host playing the role. Dolores doesn’t notice as she looks off into the distance, killing a fly on her neck as the scene fades.
-The show established in the premiere a very steady pattern for day to day operations. So at least in the early going, we’re going to know when something is wrong based on the changes in that routine.
-So hosts can be programmed to play different characters? This provided a really easy alibi for Ford and Lowe to dismiss Peter Abernathy’s ramblings despite all the alarm bells that should have been going off in their heads.
-I hope a reason is given for why insubordinate robots are not just destroyed. It may be the creator not wanting to destroy his creation, but it really seems like a BAD idea to have all these rebellious robots in one room.
-This week’s saloon playlist included “Black Hole Sun” and “Paint in Black.” I hope modern music played in the saloon style is a regular feature every week.
-Will Dolores stay in her ignorant slumber about her true existence?
-What is this “deeper level” the Man in Black is aiming for?
-Will Teddy and Dolores ever just get to be happy (Well that’s rhetorical. Of course they won’t)?
-Will frustration continue to grow amongst the creative team at Westworld with Dr. Ford? And are we going to learn any more about the park’s creation and its creator in the coming episodes?
-Can each show just include five minutes of Armistice shooting and hitting everything in sight?
I was really impressed with the premiere of Westworld and I’m really looking forward to following the rest of the season. Also, expect these recaps to evolve over the coming weeks as I am still working to establish a format for them. See you next week.