In my review of “The Stray” I said that “If Westworld upends our expectations in the next few episodes, we will look back at ‘The Stray’ as the moment when it should have been clear…the moment at which we began to understand just how deep and how complex it can be.” Do I get a prize?
Can it be a kitten?
In “The Stray,” Dr. Ford talked about the ease of implanting backstories in the hosts; it was the same episode in which we saw Bernard’s backstory. Content mirrored form. That led to my
Even watching this episode with knowledge that Bernard is a host (I had limited TV access and read reviews before I watched this episode), I was still struck by the grace of the reveal. We were reminded of the phrase “It doesn’t look like anything to me” earlier, as a sort of patch the hosts could use when faced with something that could, as Dr. Ford later explained, hurt them. So when Theresa showed Bernard the sketch of his prototype, the dramatic reveal was uttered in the dulcet avuncular tones of Jeffrey Wright: “It doesn’t look like anything to me.”
Sidse Babette Knudsen is to be commended, too: the subtle way her face changed as she looked at the sketch—before we even see it—is incredible. Watch the episode again. Watch her face communicate shock in an understated way. Shock, then more shock, compounded with fear, when she realizes she is in an unknown location with a host who, like all hosts, might be able to kill her.
And he does. Bernard follows Dr. Ford’s command—a line from Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” speech—and beats his former lover to death. Wow.
That’s not all that happened, though. Dolores and Billy’s relationship got even sweeter. Their conversation was a fascinating glimpse into the complexity in which Billy finds himself, as though he’s just on the cusp of choosing to forget the reality of the situation. My favorite part, thought, was the way the camera tastefully panned away from their lovemaking to avoid any sense of exploitation. That pan indicates we’re supposed to see their relationship as love, not creepy robot sex. It’s something to respect, not something to drool over.
That tastefulness contrasts with the following scene, in which a host beats up Clementine, and then Clementine beats him up. Meant as a demonstration of the bugginess of the hosts’ code, it was also a horrifying demonstration of violence. Violence bad enough to cause most of the observers to flinch and turn away, even though they knew, or thought they knew, that Clementine should be able to be repaired and reset, thanks to her programming.
But thanks to that programming—the reverie programming—she couldn’t, and had to be exterminated. We are on Clementine’s side in that scene, wincing in pain as she is hurt, cheering her for fighting back (that we don’t see the other host’s face makes it easy to pick Clementine as our favorite; it’s hard to root for a robot you can barely see and haven’t met). That scene is meant to make us, if we didn’t already, distrust both Charlotte the board member and the techs who support her mission of destruction.
Which is somehow different from Dr. Ford’s, and yet slightly less frightening.
• There’s a beautiful, subtle joke in the fact that the Man in Black described Hector’s appeal as having a “focused-group” feel a few episodes ago—and Charlotte the board member decided to use him as a sex puppet.
• Speaking of Charlotte, her interest in the code and data of Westworld—not the stories, not the hosts—reminds me of the way that Big Data is turning most of us, or at least our data, into products to be sold to corporations.
• This week, the player piano played the Westworld theme song with a jaunty flair.
• And Maeve shut it down, because she can pierce the veil of illusion now. The scene where the techs entered the brothel and only Maeve knew they were there was like a horror movie in which only the kids can see the ghosts.
• Lawrence: “Vaya con Dios, motherfuckers.” And then he blows up a horse to defeat the Confederados. I like Lawrence.
• I also really like the Gatling gun.
• If this episode didn’t convince you to take a roadtrip through the American Southwest, then nothing will. Some of those landscapes were incredibly gorgeous.
• Dolores: “I don’t want to be in a story. All I want is to not look forward or back.”
• Maeve: “At first I thought you and the others were gods. Now I know you are just men. And I know men. You think I’m scared of death? I’ve died a million times. I’m fucking great at it. How many times have you died?”
Four out of four blood sacrifices.
Josie Kafka reviews The Vampire Diaries, Game of Thrones, and various other things that take her fancy. She is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)