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Westworld: Contrapasso

“I imagined a story where I didn’t have to be the damsel.”

Although this episode didn’t answer many of my questions from last week—especially when Dr. Ford told Dolores that they were in his dream!—it distracted me from them, since it was such a delight (a violent delight?) to see Maeve and Dolores kicking ass and taking names.

After years of playing the girl who exists only to generate competition between men, Dolores gained both awareness and a pair of pants this week. Her growing awareness, led by the voice in her head (“Find me” says the voice that might be Arnold; “Show me how” she responds) is a combination of childlike wonder and the sort of meta-awareness of how her reality works that even us regular humans don’t always manage.

That’s what allowed Dolores to completely override her programming and go all River Tam on the men attacking William. She realized she didn’t have to be the damsel. She could be the knight rescuing the befuddled newcomer. Actress Evan Rachel Wood described this as a key feminist moment: the realization that we aren’t trapped in traditional narrative structures. I really hope this is her realization and not just a part of Dr. Ford’s narrative; that would be so depressing.

Prior to that, Dolores’s reaction to the infamous orgy scene was perfectly deadpan; she and William seemed to bond over being the only two people who didn’t want to be at the party. Dolores and William kissing was wonderful. It never occurred to me to ship them, since that would be like shipping a human and a toaster, but now I think their relationship works, in no small part because William seems most attracted to her awareness and strength. Before, she was someone to rescue. Now, she’s someone to befriend.

At the expense of Logan. Talk about violent delights! Logan was so enthralled by the idea of going “black hat” that he didn’t seem to realize A) the stakes get higher the further out you go, and B) a true black hat would betray his future brother-in-law. He egged William into finding his dark side, and he reaped the consequences. That’s a contrapasso of sorts, I suppose. One I enjoyed watching.

Pariah itself was fascinating; the X-rated version of Tombstone. Filled with lawless characters, including some Confederate veterans who don’t admit the Civil War is over, the town is a combination of Las Vegas and Hell itself. El Lazo (Lawrence, resanguinated and spiffed up) presides over its more debauched aspects, but he seems to be playing a deeper narrative that involves nitroglycerin and a war “below the border.”

I’m not sure which war it could be—if we’re post-Civil War, it’s too late for the War of Independence—but I’m more interested in the language. Who says “below the border”? Doesn’t everyone say “south of the border”? From the other side, it’s el norte, not arriba. So is “below the border” code for the “deeper game”? I guess we’ll find out, probably around the time that the nitroglycerin fulfills its Chekhovian function.

Although I’m still not clear on exactly what is happening, I feel like I’m beginning to get a sense of the pieces on the board. That nitro, for instance. The Man in Black moving closer to his endgame. The way that his endgame might intersect with—or come in conflict with—whatever Dolores, possibly acting as Arnold’s proxy, is trying to do.

I’m not sure, though, how the satellite links fit into all of it. Someone has been inserting satellite links into the hosts; the obvious guess is the Man in Black (and that would explain what he did to Dolores in the opening episode in the barn—perhaps it wasn’t a rape after all). Elsie and Bernard assumed the links were to transmit data out of the park. Could it work the other way? Is someone trying to transmit data to the hosts from outside?

That might explain their behavior (which Dr. Ford’s new narrative may or may not be causing; I’m unsure at this point). It might explain Maeve’s behavior, because it’s not clear how her self-awareness ties into anything in the park. Her self-awareness, in other words, doesn’t impact any of the guests, and only mildly impacts the other hosts.

It sure scared the heck out of that tech, though. Although his attempts to resuscitate the bird are against company protocol, the look of pure delight on his face was a joy to see. Maeve chose the right man to help her; I’m curious to see what he does, and if her—presumably intentional—numerous deaths will pay off.


Contrapasso is the word Dante uses to describe the punishments inflicted on the residents of Hell, which echo their sins in the mortal world. It’s the punishment quid for their earthly quos.

• I know Logan can’t die in Pariah, but I wonder how badly he can be injured. “There are no such things as heroes or villains; it’s just a giant circle jerk” seems like something someone would say right before getting the crap kicked out of them. Hero that, dude.

• Logan said that his firm couldn’t find any info, not even a picture, on Arnold. Is he a fiction? Someone we’ve met? Dr. Ford himself? We assumed the boy Dr. Ford spoke with, whom we saw again in this episode, was Ford as a child. Could it also be Arnold?

• Although this was the episode that required a now-famous casting call for extras willing to participate in a group orgy, the scene that stuck with me the most was Teddy grabbing the MiB’s knife with his bare hand to protect his creator, Dr. Ford.

• Poor Teddy. He’s in such bad shape that I find myself wishing he could die and start anew, just like he usually does.

Three out of four pairs of symbolic pants.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)


  1. It took me a few minutes to recognize the music early in the episode as the Nine Inch Nails song "Something I Can Never Have". That CD is one of my favorites, but I only recently started to listen to NIN again on Pandora. That paid off. William telling Logan he wouldn't help him was pretty cool. I love the layers of this show. And, as already mentioned, Dolores going from victim to hero was great.

  2. I want to like this show -- I really do, but it's just not letting me connect to the characters. I start to care, but then the narrative takes me back to an analytical place and I lose the emotional connection. Maybe you're right and it's because everyone is a host. I'll keep watching, but this isn't really grabbing me, at least not yet. I'm hopeful that several of the arcs will get deeper and richer -- Dolores, Maeve and MiB hold the most promise.


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