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Westworld, Episode 2: Where are we going with this?

Warning: Contains spoiler alerts. Do not read if you have not watched Episode 2: Chestnut. This is not a full blow-by-blow recap but more of a highlight of events and what’s to come. Like everything, if there is enough interest, I will keep doing it. If not, maybe on occasion…

“Are you real?” “Well, if you can’t tell, does it matter?”

Westworld’s dynamic opener last week set a pretty high bar. Episode 2, Chestnut, did not quite reach that bar, but it was not bad.

If you are not familiar with the show, it is an HBO drama based on the 1973 movie of the same name, based on a futuristic amusement park where the rich can go and live out their darkest fantasies in an old West populated by lifelike robots. Sadists can have sex with the robots, kill them, do whatever they wish in their fantasies with no repercussions. The robots can not harm them.

But the robots are becoming self-aware, and as future trailers promise, this is “more than a glitch.”

The second episode splits its story line between the “hosts” (robots) and the guests. Two new guests — William and Logan — essentially exist to show us how the park works. Logan is the hedonistic, masochistic example of what the park is to most guests. William is on his first visit, and is more reserved and distant from the opportunities around him.

The other main guest is Ed Harris’ delightfully violent Man In Black. He has been coming to the park for decades, and appears to be staying this time in search of a deeper game within the game. He apparently has free reign to do so.

The most interesting host in this week’s episode is Mauve, who becomes glitched after a meeting with Dolores. Mauve is played brilliantly by Thandie Newton, who was terrific in Chronicles of Riddick.

She begins dreaming of a past story line, also involving the man in black. She also wakes up during maintenance and sees much of the inner workings of the real world. It is around these characters that the story line of Chestnut is built.

What we learn in this episode is that the robots playing roles are not much different in their predictability than the humans who run the park. Bernard and Ashley’s affair is predictable and dare we say, robotic. Anthony Hopkins is brilliant as Ford, but predictably eclectic. Lee Sizemore is the predictable creative a hole whom no one likes (his character is almost cartoonishly cliche, harkening to Richard Grant’s character in Hudson Hawk). The theme seems to be to make the robots as human as possible. But the underlying theme is the people making them are becoming more robotic themselves.

It is against this backdrop that Chestnut moves the story forward. Is the entire park designed for The Man in Black to discover the game within the game? Is Ford sabotaging the robots as part of his new story line? Are Logan and William key characters or merely just vehicles to describe the park? Logan seems to nail it when he says “I know you think that you have a handle on what this is gonna be: guns and tits and all that mindless sh– that I usually enjoy. You have no idea.” That seems to be the M.O. of each guest. One or the other. The conversation hints at something deeper. Everything in the show hints at something deeper.

Are the creators really robots, too? Is this all for the sole enjoyment of the Man in Black? Will the lines become so blurred we don’t know who is who?

“Are you real?” “Well, if you can’t tell, does it matter?”

The show could go a variety of directions from here, which is what this episode appears to be about — setting the course. I can see it becoming a brilliant, must watch every week type show. I could also see it falling off after a brilliant start, a la The Leftovers. Is there enough story line to keep it compelling longterm? That remains to be seen.

One thing that stood out was the great quotes throughout the show. Besides the two from above, some other memorable lines:

The Man in black: “The real world is chaos. It’s an accident.”

““It means when you’re suffering, that’s when you’re most real.”

And from Mauve: “The only thing wrong with the seven deadly sins is there are not more of them.”

And finally from Ford:

When asked by a kid if he is lost: “No, just strayed a bit too far from where I’m supposed to be.”

And when he shoots down Lee’s ridiculous story line: What is the point of it? You get a couple of cheap thrills, some surprises, but it’s not enough. It’s not about giving the guests what you think they want. That’s simple: titillation, elation, horror, their politics. The guests don’t return for the obvious things we do, the garish things. They come back because of the subtleties, the details. They come back because they discover something they imagine no one had ever noticed before. They’re not looking for a story that tells them who they are. The already know who they are. They’re here because they want a glimpse of who they could be.”

I basically heard his character in Meet Joe Black during that speech. But as viewers, who can we be? How do we see the violence, knowing the robots don’t really die and are patched up and back at it a day later? How do we judge ourselves from that reaction? Who are we really rooting for in this?

That, hopefully, will take shape in the coming weeks.

 

1 Comment on Westworld, Episode 2: Where are we going with this?

  1. Like you, I question if this story has the legs for a long episodic arc. My hope is they keep it to 1-2 seasons to force an expedited pace to the story.

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