Last night’s episode, “Contrapasso,” the episode marking the midway point of Westworld’s first season, was marred by a first half that continued the series tendency to force its way through symbolism over and over again. We get it. Dolores hear’s voices. Logan is a disgusting douche who seeks out violence against robots and sex with gold painted prostitutes in roman themed brothels. And everyone continues to speak in code about all these mysteries the show’s first season is centered around.
And there’s nothing wrong with mystery, symbolism, and repetition, especially in a show like Westworld. But at some point, all of it needs to pay off, and shows don’t need to expect us to wait until the last episode of the season to make everything work out.
Then, at some point in the last half of “Contrapasso,” the payoff arrived. The episode turned things up to a new level. All the voices and visions finally moved Dolores to action as her and William bailed on Logan. And Logan finally got his comeuppance as he’s left to be beaten by a couple of angry hosts. It was as if the episode woke up from a major acid trip and figured out what all the visions in that drugged stupor meant.
Being able to experience realization just as these various hosts and guests do is one of the strengths of the show. And though I struggled staying with the first half of the episode, it was that struggle that made the realization that in the second half so powerful.
Let’s kick off this recap with Dolores and William, who both set a new path for themselves in the game.
William and Dolores
Logan takes our favorite guest/host flirt fest to the most dangerous adventure in the park. It’s a Mexican town that centers itself around a criminal named Elatzo (not sure if that’s how you spell it, but as we know now, it doesn’t matter). And Elatzo has a mission for them. He wants William, Logan, and Dolores to steal nitroglycerin from Union soldiers to sell to the Confederados (former confederate soldiers). It’s on this mission that Dolores makes the much advertised wardrobe change from damsel to Annie Oakley, trading her long skirt for tight pants and the chance to use that gun she found several episodes back.
But Dolores is not the only one making discoveries. William is starting to notice how Dolores picks up on some of the real world conversations William and Logan are having. Phrases like “real world” shouldn’t register with her programming. But they’ve been starting deep conversations between her and William the last two episodes.
Of course, when William tries to explain this to Logan, he hears none of it. He’s too busy picking fights with hosts even after the nitroglycerin is secured.
One thing that is different about this part of the park is the threat the hosts pose to guests increases significantly. It’s like the expert level of Westworld and Logan was not ready for it. On two separate occasions, Logan was attacked by a host and unable to defend himself. The first time, William saved him by shooting the host as the host was choking Logan. No such help came the second time.
The long anticipated split between the two characters finally took place in Elatzo’s Roman themed brothel. The bizarre pagan imagery isn’t worth our time. But it was a great setting for William’s last straw with his “friend.” In an adventure where Logan as continued to push William in directions he does not want to go, William finally stood up and said no in the most vile place they’ve been so far. The two fight after William refuses to join a war with the Confederados while a weird glittery orgy takes place all around them.
While they fight, Dolores slips away and has the aha moment that’s been building all this season. First, she see’s a psychic who tells her to find the maze. The, she discovers Elatzo is a revolutionary (the ones fighting the Confederados) and means to betray them with the nitroglycerin he’s supposed to be selling to them.
Dolores runs to William and they make an immediate escape, leaving Logan behind as several hosts pummel him.
They hop on a train where Elatzo is waiting for them. Thankfully, we can call him Lawrence now (I thought I recognized him!!!) because I know how to spell that. A new, uneasy alliance surrounding a dead host filled with nitroglycerin is born.
Man in Black
Now, I’m not sure how Lawrence ended up dead in one location only to appear alive and well playing a totally different character in the next (or were they different?). All we know is the Man In Black bails on him tonight in favor of Teddy, who the MIB inspires with a story of Wyatt kidnapping Dolores.
A determined Teddy leads the MIB to a saloon, where none other than Westworld’s founder wants to have a conversation.
Dr. Robert Ford
Three highly informative conversations highlighted the evening for Westworld’s creator.
The first is with Wild Bill (the out of service host Ford wakes up when he needs to talk), and through the story of a greyhound Ford used to own, we infer that Ford is bored.
The second conversation is with Dolores. Now, once again, we don’t know if she’s been pulled from the park in the middle of her adventure with William or if this conversation has already happened.
We get our first hints that the voices Dolores hears are coming from the long deceased Arnold. Ford asks directly if Dolores has been speaking with Arnold. She says their last conversation was 34 years ago, the day Arnold died, and they discussed how Arnold wanted to use her to destroy the park. But after Ford leaves the room, Dolores tells someone, “He doesn’t know. I didn’t tell him anything.”
The third conversation was with the Man in Black. The chat these two have is a perfect example of what Westworld does so well: meaningful dialogue that moves things forward while keeping the deeper mysteries a secret.
We learn that Wyatt, the guy added to Teddy’s and to several hosts’ backstories, is a new creation of Ford’s. The MIB wonders if Ford finally created a worthy adversary for the MIB. The MIB also knows Ford and Arnold from when the park first opened. But while the MIB had to be prevented by Teddy from striking Ford, the Westworld creator does nothing to prevent the MIB from continuing his journey to the maze. If I’m the MIB, that would concern me.
Remember the two surgeons Maeve attacked a few weeks ago? Well, they’re still repairing the bodies of hosts. And central office unlikely saw a report on that incident. But one of them, Felix, wants a promotion. He wants to program, not just repair.
And he’s taken a bird from the park to practice when no one’s around. He gets the bird to fly only to find Maeve, whose body had been brought in earlier to work on, wakes up and catches the bird on her finger.
Maeve ends the episode for the second straight week, telling Felix, “It’s time you and I have a chat.”
-Felix is the perfect human for Maeve to work with. He’s been learning how to program, so he’ll probably love the practice. And more importantly, he’s really spooked by Maeve, so he’ll likely do everything she asks.
-Logan mentioned that the company he works for could be looking to buy out Westworld because, has he described it, the park is “hemorrhaging money” right now.
-We also picked up the tidbit that William is an Executive Vice President at the company Logan works for. Now, Logan says that position is meaningless, but I don’t know if Logan is much of an authority on perception or reality.
-The Man in Black told Teddy he loved the hosts in their original form before all the human emotions were added to them. I wonder at what point we get to see a flashback detailing this original form the MIB is talking about.
-The same boy the MIB ran into was the one Ford spoke with in a previous episode. I’m wonder if Ford sent the boy to track the MIB’s movements.
-“No I wouldn’t say friends, Dolores. I wouldn’t say that at all.” That was the revealing quote from Ford when he describe his thoughts on Dolores, but I’m sure that’s not worth remembering or anything.
-Elise Hughes screen time was limited once again. But whether you give the girl five minutes or half an episode, she’s going to make a major discovery. This week’s discovery was the satellite in the stray that tried to attack her two weeks ago. So someone’s been secretly collecting data in the park and linking it to the outside.
-Will Dolores and William be able to get away from Lawrence to seek out the maze? Or will Lawrence be journeying with them? And what happens if Dolores and William get to the maze the same time as the MIB and Teddy? Awkward would not begin to describe that encounter.
-How does Maeve intend for Felix to program her?
-What is the MIB’s relationship to the park’s history and how much of it does he have a direct involvement with?
-Does Ford know about Lowe’s chats with Dolores? If so, is he cool with it or does he just tolerate it?
-Whose collecting data about the park from the outside?
-When does Logan’s company intend on making their move to purchase the adult theme park?
-And is sex with sleeping hosts by surgeons a common problem in the labs of Westworld?
We’re halfway done with this first season. I imagine things are about to turn up to another level starting next week. I’ll see you then.