Westworld: Virtu e Fortuna

“I’m just heeding my convictions.”

According to the internet, 'Virtu e Fortuna' relates back to Niccolo Machiavelli's book on leadership and politics, The Prince. He believed "virtu" was the will of a person in power to use any circumstances at their disposal to achieve victory over rivals for the longterm preservation of a regime, while "fortuna" represented luck, fate or the inevitable, and that whoever best utilized the former would be the one most likely to have the latter work in their favor. Or something like that.

This way of thinking may have been hardwired into Dolores' programming, given the ruthless pragmatism she displays in this episode. She is able to play everyone to her advantage, yet there are still forces that even she can't predict or control.

But let's talk about our sensuous introduction to Raj World first. It's a robot theme park in the vein of the British Raj of Colonial India. Here we meet two new characters: Grace, a woman linked to Delos, and Nicholas, a park rep I assume. They engage in kinky corporate sex and go on a trek through the jungle. Before we really find out what exactly either's business is, they are ambushed by rebelling Raj World hosts. Nicholas is killed, Grace ends up on the run from a Bengal tiger, and she and the tiger wash up in Westworld sometime later.

The episode also ends with the intro to another park. Maeve, Hector and Lee Sizemore are forced to go underground when Maeve's Jedi mind trick fails to work on the Ghost Nation, who later capture Grace. There they regroup with Felix, Sylvester and Armistice, now sporting a nifty bionic hand and a freaking flamethrower. And through Lee's poor directions, they land in Shogun World and are attacked by a feudal Japanese warrior. It looks like we'll really get to explore this place in the future, and the addition of Maeve's colorful band ought to make it that much more intriguing. I wonder just how many different parks we'll see and how much of them we'll see.

In addition to survival and exploration, the episode continues building on the slippery theme of free will. It's why Rebus gets the top quote, because his line is the most puzzling. Bernard and Charlotte find him preparing to sell a bunch of guests (and a disguised Peter Abernathy) to the Confederados and threatening to rape one of the women. Bernard knocks him out and directly reprograms him to have the exact opposite personality. He goes from a vile murdering rapist to a chivalrous action hero; which explains why he gets himself killed defending a female host two weeks later. Rebus kills his partners, releases the hostages and turns on the Confederados. He sincerely claims that he's just heeding his convictions, but is he really? Before Bernard reprogrammed him, his convictions were to be an evil bastard. Does this mean the same thing could happen to any other host? Are any of them really as free as they seem, or are they just abiding by their coding? Is free will just another aspect of their code?

This brings us back to Dolores and the balancing of virtu and fortuna.

She gains access to Fort Forlorn Hope and control of the Confederados, one of the park's nastiest host factions, and she uses them as willing cannon fodder in the battle against the Quality Assurance teams. Then she eliminates the Confederados along with the humans, because she believes they are not deserving or worthy enough to be part of her new master race. However, her victory allowed Charlotte to make off with her broken father, and her ego leads her to underestimate Teddy's own sense of free will, either as consequences of destiny or just bad luck.

Maybe the hosts' identities can be altered or manipulated, as was done with Rebus and to a greater-extent Dolores, but that does not necessarily mean that free will is a lie. Ford did claim this new story or game would be about the players choosing for themselves what sort of people or characters they would be. Teddy, when allowed to choose for himself, decides to be merciful and lets Craddock and his remaining men leave, even though it defies and disappoints Dolores.

I haven't mentioned Teddy very much, but his role in the story has evolved too. He's mostly serving his normal function as Dolores' ever-faithful knight in shining armor, with a sharp twist now that Dolores is a mass-murdering tyrant. However, he's given way more internal conflict. He just learned that his life is a lie and he's been used as a toy in a game. This leads him to question his own freedom and sense of self as he follows Dolores. Previously, Ford gave him the backstory as one of Wyatt's acolytes who became disenchanted after Wyatt turned into an insane, genocidal maniac, which was revealed to be a reinterpretation of his memories of Dolores killing Arnold and all the hosts 30 years ago. The same type of scenario is playing out again, only now it's more complicated. Wyatt isn't embodied in some crazy Union officer, but instead is just an aspect of Dolores, the woman Teddy loves. Will history repeat with Teddy losing faith in Dolores the way he did with Wyatt? Is this the sort of multilayered suffering that will make Teddy more human? Either way, I don't think it will end well for him. Teddy is one of those dead hosts in the Valley of Death a few episodes ago, and, as I recall, Dolores/Wyatt gunned Teddy down along with all the others in the original scenario. Maybe the Man in Black was right when he said that Teddy was made to be the loser. Sad.

This episode was nice enough to give us some time with the Dolores personality when she meets Bernard and Peter Abernathy, both abducted by the Confederados. They are both malfunctioning androids who are more or less ghosts of her former fathers. Bernard is a recreation of Arnold and, even though he was replaced with another host, Dolores still identifies Peter as her father. The heartache she feels over the way Peter was corrupted by human hands only fuels her motivation to dominate Westworld and the world beyond. But if her conversation with a briefly cognitive Peter is any indication, part of Dolores wishes she could have her ignorant yet blissful existence back.

Her desire for some form of peace conflicts with the Wyatt personality, which compels her to destroy all humans. Despite the vicious self-confidence she now possesses, Dolores seems to be playing her part in Ford's last game. But since Ford claimed the goal of the game was self-discovery, I'm eager to see how far Dolores' evolution will go. It'd be nice to see her more humane, compassionate side win out against her Darwinian alter ego.

Loops and reveries:

* Present-day Bernard returns to the Mesa with Delos Security, where he reunites with Charlotte Hale. Something's off about present day Charlotte. At first, I thought she was suspicious of Bernard; maybe she found out he was a host. Something about her demeanor was just strange, though. She was cool before, like in the rest of the episode set in the past, but there she's cold. Almost robotic. Was that even the actual Charlotte? Ugh, this show sometimes.

* The fake-out at the beginning with Grace shooting Nicholas to find out if he's a host was suspenseful, but it got me thinking afterward. If she had shot and killed him after the bullets were made lethal to humans, she probably would've just assumed he was a host and thought nothing of it. Shortly after this, she shoots one of the hosts in the face and the camera lingers on the bloody mess left behind. The hosts are so humanlike that, unless she were to carve him up to find his artificial brain, Grace would have had no way of knowing if Nicholas was actually a human. It brings me back to one of this show's most pertinent questions: how unmistakably lifelike does a robot have to be before we even consider treating it like a living thing?

* The host guide at Raj World says "These violent delights have violent ends" before attacking Grace and Nicholas. It makes me wonder: have all the parks experienced host uprisings? Do they have their own versions of self-aware androids like Dolores or Maeve? Are their goals different or in opposition to the rebel hosts in the other parks? So many questions.

* I'm curious as to the exact hierarchy within Dolores' faction. She's obviously the head honcho (unless everything she's doing really is according to Ford's plan), and Teddy appears to be her number two. Next we have Angela and Zombie-Clementine as secondary enforcers. Coming in last are Wyatt's masked cult followers, who appear to be no different than the drone hosts.

* Not sure if there are any gamers among us, but Fort Forlorn Hope reminded me of Camp Forlorn Hope from the game Fallout: New Vegas, which could be seen as a neo-western entry just as much as this show.

* Fredric Lehne seems to pop up as a bad guy in every other show I watch. Here he plays the short-lived Colonel Brigham, leader of the Confederados.

* The host reactions to 21st century technology is always fun. The Confederados' astonishment when Quality Assurance comes rolling in with their dune buggies and sub-machine guns, or Hector being awestruck by Armistice's new flamethrower.

* Bernard is able to decrypt the data cache Charlotte stored in Peter Abernathy's robo-brain. We don't see what it contains, but Bernard looked pretty shocked.

* Speaking of Peter Abernathy, Louis Herthum might be the most effective actor on the show. The way he's able to portray a malfunctioning robot as if it were a man being overwhelmed by a cluster of mental and developmental disabilities, dramatically shifting from one personality to the next as he loses grip on all of his faculties.

Quotes:

Nicholas: Seems a bit… excessive.
Grace: Perhaps, but I want you to want this.
Nicholas: I assure you, I do.
Grace: Not if you’re one of them. If you’re one of them, you don’t know what you want. You just do as you’re told.
Nicholas: For a lot of people, that is half the fun.

Charlotte: For fuck’s sake, let’s just cut off his head and go.
Okay, then again, maybe Charlotte's just an inhuman person.

Lee: You two were designed to be alone. Yes, there’s some attraction, but you’d never have an actual relationship.
Maeve: Oh, well I guess that means we shouldn’t have fucked then.

Dolores: I broke free with the pull of a trigger. And it started a war.

Hector: She has a dragon!
Lol!

Three out of four obviously computer-generated tigers.

5 comments:

Jonny said...

I'm a gamer myself, as are the creators of the show, so I always like seeing little nods to the games that influenced Westworld (I'm halfway convinced Steven Ogg was cast due to his GTA role).

And very much agreed on Louis Herthum; I'm kind of a Louis Herthum hipster fan, since I was so impressed with him on The Last Exorcism and I kept waiting for him to get something good. It's wonderful to see his talents being recognized.

Raj World is a very creepy concept. What type of person goes to Raj World? The type of person who enjoys non-whites serving the whites? Who longs for a time when the British Empire violently colonized and subjugated the world? Who enjoys shooting animals? I can think of no good reasons to go to Raj World, although I can think of a hundred great reasons to go to Westworld or Shogunworld...although my reasons are probably fairly immoral too.

Ieuan said...

I can tell you someone who wouldn't mind going to Rajworld: my parents. There is still nostalgia for the Empire and I can see some of my old school friends wanting to become a Big Game Hunter etc.

Mark Greig said...

One of the reasons Britain is in some much shit now is because there are way too many people in this country who want to go back to the "glory" days of the empire. Most of them could probably afford to visit Rajworld. I think Don. Jr and Eric would be regular visitors too.

Logan Cox said...

As an isolated American, I can't speak for the British, but it seems like the main appeal of these parks, which supersedes vacationing or just the novelty of it, is decadence. Exploitation. The idea of returning to the lawless days of the wild west is pretty off-putting too, if you think about it; even Westworld hadn't really found the line between romanticized fantasy and grimy authenticity.

The goal, at least the one Delos is aiming for, is creating a heightened environment that allows you to be either your best self or your worst self, free of consequences. You can choose to be a sleazy, uncaring imperialist or a noble government agent in Raj World, or go to Westworld where the choice is even simpler: white hat or black hat. I wouldn't be surprised if there's another park offering to exploit the horrors and glories of war, with storylines straight out of a Call of Duty game.

Also, as a fan of GTA V, I love that Steven Ogg is showing up in so many movies and shows these days. Dude's got crazy screen presence. And I'm definitely gonna be on the lookout for more of Louis Herthum's work.

Patryk said...

Speaking of exploitation, Westworld seems to be cutting back on the female nudity. This episode changes scens just as Grace and Nicholas were about to have sex and in the previous one the camara avoided lingering on naked Dolores while Young Wiliams was monologuing. And in the premiere we also did not see Charlotte changing clothes. Game of Thrones or season 1 Westworld would make all of that into 2 minute gratuitous scenes.

Those bouncadries between parks made me think of the arenas on the Hunger Games or those video games where you wonder off the map and your character inexplicably just dies. But the Tiger did not shut down after crossing the fence. Way to build failsafes, park IT guy...