Four Letter Nerd

Westworld Season 1, Episode 2 Recap: Chestnut

There are two things I love about the first two episodes of Westworld. Not to say they’re the only two things, but they’re primary strengths that stand out to make HBO’s new hit drama such a high quality program so far.

The first is the seamless introduction of so many different characters. I’m not sure how, in just two hours of television, I know so much about the history of all these “hosts,” the motivations of their creators, and the driving force behind why their guests seek what they’re seeking in Westworld. There are at least 11 characters with whom we’ve been introduced to that we know better than any two hours of television should’ve been able to accomplish.

The second is the way the show has introduced us to its world through the three distinct perspectives (hosts, creators, guests) with which the park can be viewed. Though there is plenty we haven’t seen from this place, there’s already so much we know that two episodes should not be able to convey to us.

The strength of the foundation set by the creators of Westworld rivals any show in broadcast history. Now let’s hope they build off that foundation just as effectively as they’ve built it.

As for this week’s episode, let’s start the recap with that third perspective we didn’t get to see last week: a guest arriving in Westworld for the first time.

William and the New Guest Experience

William is a first timer who represents the way most normal people would be when approaching Westworld. His buddy Logan, the man bringing him to the park, is a veteran who’d be a serial animal rapist if he didn’t get his kicks in Westworld (thank you Westworld for the service you provide).

Through the eyes of William, we see the experience guests have arriving in Westworld. A bullet train delivers them to a hosts who walks you through wardrobe and offers herself to you sexually. From there, guests enter the old west train we saw last week bringing guests into the park.

William keeps that same bewildered look the whole time as Logan walks him through the sites of the park. Logan points out to William (and to us for that matter) that every host is trying to pull you into an adventure, including that old man who falls in the mud that William helps up. That old man wants to pull William into a treasure hunt, a proposal he makes will the two friends are having dinner.

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William (left) and Logan (right) walking through the streets of Westworld.

 

Now, when a host is stabbed violently in the hand by an unhinged guest, do you blame the host, the guest, or the people who put both the story in the host and the knife in the hand of the guest? Deep thoughts to ponder, people.

Logan stabs the host in the hand because Logan a horrible person. Instead, he opts for the orgy story line with two girls and a guy (wonder if that was written into any of the intended scripts), while William just can’t bring himself to sleep with Clementine. William has somebody at home. And he just doesn’t think having sex with a robot is staying faithful.

But while William may try to stay faithful, he did have quite an eye for Dolores when she dropped that can all the guys love to pick up. We’ll have to keep an eye on those two in the coming weeks.

The Man in Black

On the opposite side of the spectrum from William is the Man in Black. The man whose been coming to Westworld for 30 years continued his quest seeking the “deeper levels of the game” by finding a host named Lawrence. Lawrence was about to be hanged before the MIB came to “save” him. Now is it really saving a host to replace death with constant torture? I mean, the host dies most everyday anyway doesn’t he? But instead of death, he gets dragged behind the MIB’s horse back to the Mexican town where Lawrence is from.

The MIB needs information and he’s going to do whatever he needs to do to get it. He shoots his way through all of Lawrence’s cousins. He then kills Lawrence’s wife and is about to kill Lawrence’s daughter before the girl steps up and provides the information the MIB needs.

Now, I go back and forth on whether the MIB is a really slick bad guy, or just a bully taking advantage of hosts who can’t hurt him. I currently lean towards the latter.

Lawrence’s daughter tells the MIB where the maze is (some mumbo jumbo I didn’t understand at all), but also says “The maze isn’t meant for you.” To which, the MIB says, “Oh, I never thought of it that way, wise robot girl. I shall end my mission now.”

Of course the MIB marches on, thinking himself invincible as he drags Lawrence away to the entrance of this “maze.”

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The Man in Black and Lawrence on their way to the start of the maze.

Headquarters

Meanwhile, back at headquarters, everyone’s still concerned with the affects of the update and what happened with Dolores’s father last episode. Could it happen to other hosts? Is it something that is isolated to Abernathy, or could it be contagious? And is someone purposely sabotaging these robots?

Bernard Lowe, the man building these robots, tells anyone who will listen there’s nothing to be concerned with. Everyone, except Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins). There conversations are far more frank and philosophical compared to the “everything’s fine” message Lowe has for everyone else.

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Ford (Hopkins) and Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) discuss the difficulties with “playing god” at Westworld.

As various people work through the issues with the hosts, Narrative Director Lee Sizemore is yelling at the girl creating robots for the next new story line. Our initial impression of this creative masterpiece is that it involves a whole bunch of Indians.

Maeve

One of those hosts that gives credence to the concerns about these issues with the robots being contagious is Maeve, the madam who runs the brothel within Westworld. She’s been having issues getting guests to join her in the bedroom, and a madam the guests aren’t interested in isn’t much of a madam at all. So the techs back in headquarters increase her aggression by ten percent (that won’t end poorly, I’m sure).

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Maeve Malloy struggling with old memories in her brothel.

And she proves herself too aggressive with a female guest. But those careless techs who thought aggression was the problem missed the primary issue: a scene Maeve is recalling and struggling with. In the scene, she was a different character who had a daughter in a wooden house in the country. But there was some sort of horrible Indian attack involved that we only get glimpses of in each scene we have with Maeve.

The discussion with Maeve amongst the higher ups at Westworld is whether Maeve needs to join the other decommissioned robots in that creepy room. But while they’re trying to fix her, the full memory comes to mind. We see all the images of Indians trying to scalp her, but the one trying to is shot, allowing Maeve to take her daughter into the house. But it’s in there that the man in black shows up, appearing in another story line he has no business being in. He approaches Maeve, but we don’t see what he does to her. Rape, murder, scalping, all three? I imagine it’s something horrible and Maeve wakes up on the surgery table an absolute mess.

Something about that memory causes Maeve to grab her stomach each time. And she does it on the operating table before grabbing a scalpel. One surgeon is pissed at the other for not putting her in sleep mode. But the other guy insists that he did. Maeve gets away, but is horrified at the images of all the robots bodies in headquarters. They look like they’ve been massacred as she falls to her knees before being neutralized by the recovering surgeons.

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Maeve and her daughter from a previous story line in Westworld.

Now who started Maeve down this road to that horrible memory and consistent malfunctions? Look no further than the oldest and most loyal host in the park.

Dolores

The fallout from her conversation with her father continue for the park’s oldest host. She does her usual routine of heading into town and saddling up her horse. But she struggles with image of all these hosts laying dead in the streets from the shootout she witnessed last episode. She also runs into Maeve and repeats the words her father told her last week (“These violent delights have violent ends.”). Those words sent Maeve on her spiral and seem to be the “contagious” part of the issues the park is having with their hosts.

Dolores’s scenes were shorter this week. But her impact was felt with each moment. Not only did she send Maeve on her spiral, she also met William (who might have found the only thing he likes about the park in her). And then there’s the gun she found buried outside her house. Now, whose gun was that buried out there in front of Dolores house? And why was it buried there?

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Dolores finding the gun buried outside her house.

Robert Ford

Though the show did it subtly, we finally got a real insight into the mind of Dr. Robert Ford, the creator of Westworld this week. The first thing we see is the man (at least at the moment) has complete control over his world. He can control the snakes and people built for his world with simple hand motions. He also carries on a conversation with a robot boy whose dressed very similar to Dr. Ford himself. But he also sends the boy away with a simple command and the host obeys without question.

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Dr. Robert Ford conversing with a boy host.

The second is the high expectations he has for his world. Lee Sizemore, the man behind the narrative stories at Westworld, had only criticized Ford up to this point. Sizemore thought Ford barely pays attention to the stories anymore.

But not only does Ford pay attention to what’s in those stories, he flat out rejects Sizemore’s latest narrative, only taking the shoes from one of the hosts with him the next time he walks into Westworld with Bernard Lowe. That’s when we see a church steeple standing by itself as Ford proclaims he’s ready to work on his next big idea.

Of Note

-I have to agree with Dr. Ford rejecting Sizemore’s idea. I mean, what about it was any different than anything else going on in the park right now?

-One of the real stars of the episode was Elsie Hughes, an employee in programming who first noticed that the issues with the hosts seemed to be contagious. Then, she had the quote of the night when studying Maeve and her recalling of memories: “If they remember everything we’ve done to them, we’re fucked.”

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Elsie Hughes, played by Shannon Woodard, is the prophetic voice of Westworld.

-We have our first office romance as it was revealed that Lowe and Cullen have been shacking up for awhile now. But apparently, they usually don’t talk much afterwards.

-From his conversation with Maeve, it sounds like Teddy is not always the idealistic cowboy he presents himself to Dolores when they meet up in a story line. One of the guys who used Teddy as his host last week hinted as much.

-After Teddy was shot by the random guest at the brothel, I expected Maeve to shout “Oh My God, You Killed Teddy!!!!” Then bartender would throw in for good measure a “You bastards!!!” The death count for Kenn…I mean Teddy is currently three in two episodes.

-So the man in black has been going to the park for thirty years. And the last major incident with rebel robots was 30 years ago.Are those two incidents connected?

-I also wondered last week if anybody noticed the free reign the MIT takes while walking through Westworld. As it turns out, they do. But he’s a guest, so he’s allowed free reign.

Questions

-What is Dr.Ford’s new creation going to involve? And did anybody else think that little boy Ford was talking to a host version of Dr. Ford as a kid?

-What do Teddy’s sinful adventures out in the wild look like?

-Was that gun Dolores found a part of a previous host she played? Or will it push her to pursue a new, more violent Dolores? And how far will William go in pursuing the whole dropped can story line that, as we found out this week, isn’t just for Teddy?

-Will Maeve join the decommissioned robot army? Or do the higher ups at Westworld dare put her back into the park?

-Will Ford’s complete control of the park be in jeopardy as more hosts pick up the urge to rebel?

-Just where the hell is the man in black heading and how is it all going to tie up to everything going in Westworld?

-And finally, is anybody purposely sabotaging the hosts at Westworld? And if so, who? See you next week.

 

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Jeff Merrick

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