Westworld: The Winter Line

“It’s alright, darling. None of it matters. Because none of it is real.”

Westworld is such a prestige show that a lot is going on even when not very much is happening plot-wise.

This episode was a lot more straightforward than I thought it would be, but still manages to be mind boggling in its own way.

We’re given some gorgeous set-pieces with Warworld. As with Westworld and Shogunworld, they really pull off the exciting period-piece quality of the park. Even Maeve gets wrapped up in it, getting quickly accustomed to the new guns, languages and lovely little sports cars.

Honestly, though, I’m glad it turned out to be a simulation. Imagine how bad that would look in the news: Your robot cowboys just slaughtered over a 100 people and now your next big move to reassure the public is robots with Nazi military gear?

And it was also a nice bit of misdirection when Bernard and Stubbs are on their way to find Maeve and find her actual body in cold storage with the other remaining Westworld hosts. On a side note, I do like the little Black Mirror-style buddy comedy dynamic Bernard and Stubbs seem to have going for them now. I liked their interactions last season, so this is good.

Lee Sizemore really was the big giveaway, though. Like Maeve, I was initially willing to accept that he survived getting lit up by submachine guns last season, because I enjoyed their dynamic as well. And like Maeve, I knew something was off when he started low-key interrogating her and then suddenly declared his love for her.

This was actually a really beautiful twist. Lee Sizemore, the Head of Narrative at Westworld who treated the hosts like his personal toys, ends up having his identity recycled and repurposed within a virtual reality. He not only has to deal with the fact that he died, but that he’s not even real. Not only that, but they even fabricated some dramatic narrative for him to follow, just like the real Lee did with the hosts. Makes for some hilariously ironic moments.

Even better is the ongoing story of Maeve’s quest to escape the loops humanity traps her within. Her puzzle is a little easier to solve this time, though. It doesn’t take long for Maeve to suss out the flaws in her new virtual reality construct. Once she does, she has a grand old time breaking it from the inside. She eventually causes enough glitches in this matrix that she is able to escape, hijacking a service robot, grabbing her control unit and breaking into the outside world, only to be gunned down by armed guards.

This leads her to her true emergence into the real world, where she is greeted by Engerraund Serac, played by Vincent Cassel. Serac appears to be the new antagonist this season. He’s the man behind The System that governs the human world.

Serac mistakenly believed Maeve was the one who posed a threat to humanity, but now he knows that Dolores is the real enemy. So he wants Maeve, herself a powerful AI warrior, to eliminate Dolores for him. Since Maeve obviously isn't keen on doing man's bidding, he has made a few adjustments to Maeve's code. He can literally control her motor functions with a remote. Sounds like something out of Austin Powers, but in the context of Maeve's storyline it is quite scary. No one is supposed to have this kind of power over her anymore, but Serac does. So it seems we will be getting an epic showdown between our resident android divas, Dolores and Maeve. Which has got me pretty stoked.

Serac approaches Maeve with easy charm and an air of benevolence, painting himself as someone trying to guide the world into a brighter future and save his species from a sophisticated killing machine. On paper, he could easily be the greatest force for good in the show. However, there's bound to be a darker truth hidden behind him and his System. There's an ulterior motive we're not seeing. Serac acts like his concern is protecting humanity, but Virtual-Lee was trying to find the location of the Valley Beyond, containing all of the Westworld hosts. Dolores hid it away in the last season finale. What could he want that for? Does this have something to do with the plot to make humans immortal? Or is there an even more nefarious objective we haven't considered?

Entering the Valley Beyond is set up as Maeve's end-goal in this episode as well. She has no desire to remain a puppet in the parks, and evidently doesn't have much interest in the human world either. She wants to join the hosts she freed and see her daughter again. Might this be Thandie Newton's final season on Westworld? As good of an exit as that would be for her character, I must say I'd be a little bummed. Because she rocks the hell out of this role.


Loops and reveries:

* Maeve kissing “Hector” as he dies from gunshot wounds at sunset reminded me of the season one finale where Dolores dies in Teddy’s arms under the moonlight in one of Ford’s little tableaus.

* Right after that, we have a close-up as Maeve puts a gun to her head. Just like William and Teddy in season two, or Dolores and Bernard in season one.

* This definitely feels like it's supposed to be the last time we'll see Hector or Lee, but with this show, who knows?

* I like how Maeve actually thought the real Sylvester would have helped her. As if she didn’t slash his throat and leave him to bleed out in season one. I never got the impression that he became sympathetic toward her or other hosts in season two.

* Luke Hemsworth and Simon Quarterman get in on the malfunctioning robot thing, and both do a damn fine job.

* We get a brief look behind the scenes of “Park 4,” aka Game of Thrones-world, featuring David Benioff kicked back while D.B Weiss prepares to cut Drogon apart with a huge buzzsaw. Not sure how I felt about it. It’s a clever shout-out, given the nature of Westworld, but I also feel like it’s a little cringy if you’re a fan of either of these shows. That’s just me, though.

Quotes:

Maeve: I thought you were dead.
Hector/“Ettore”: Death is overrated for ones such as us.

Bernard: You’re one of them… Of us.
Stubbs: N-no, n-n-no, n-no shit.

Bernard: Stubbs, why were you trying to blow yourself up?
Stubbs: It’s my job to protect every host in the park. I guess you could say I was made redundant.

Bernard: What about you? Don’t you have a sense of self-preservation? Any desire to live?
Stubbs: No offense, Bernard, but I wasn’t wired up to ponder the big questions. Ford didn’t write me some tragic backstory, that’s your bag. I had a job to do, and my job is over. At least, it was. Until you decided to come back to the one fucking place you’re not supposed to be. Which makes me wonder if free will might not be overrated.

"Lee Sizemore": I’m sorry. I just wanted to be sure that you trust me. After everything we went through. I know I’ve behaved deplorably in the past, but you changed me. Made me a better man. And when those bullets hit me, I would have died. I should have died. But I finally had something to live for. You. (kisses Maeve)
Maeve: … Oh, my darling. You didn’t make it after all, did you?

Maeve: None of it is real. And we’re not here. So where the fuck are we?

Virtual-Lee: You’re gonna get us both killed!
Maeve: You can’t kill what’s already dead.
Virtual-Lee: I don’t feel dead. This place seems real. It feels real. I feel real. Oh, you definitely feel… (starts caressing Maeve’s arm)
Maeve: (slaps Fake Lee)
Virtual-Lee: That felt real.
Maeve: I have a bit more experience with this predicament than you do.

Benny: Mr. Sizemore, is everything alright? Active hosts aren’t allowed on this floor.
Virtual-Lee: Well, the last time you checked were you head of narrative? No? Didn’t think so. What’s your name?
Benny: Benny.
Virtual-Lee: Benny, let me ask you a very important question: Do I look real to you?

Maeve: What is the square root of negative one?
Benny: (to Fake Lee) What storyline is this?
Virtual-Lee: (halting) Female codebreakers helped win World War II. Learn your fucking history, Benny.

Maeve: This game is a replica of our world, but it has limited processing power. Imagine one of your dimwitted romantic conquests, undeniably beautiful, but built for one purpose only. Ask her to do more than part her legs, she gets confused.
Virtual-Lee: You overtax the system. What happens if you add more complexity?
Maeve: Let’s find out, shall we?

Engerraund Serac: I don’t concern myself with the present. My business is the future.
Maeve: So you’re an oracle?
Serac: An oracle would merely predict the future. Our work is to create it. Unfortunately, if things continue on this path, there is no future. At least, not for my kind.
Maeve: You’ve been spying on me. You should know I couldn’t care less about the fate of your kind.
Serac: No, I can’t imagine you would. For the most part, humanity has been a miserable little band of thugs, stumbling from one catastrophe to the next. Our history is like the ravings of a lunatic. Chaos. But we’ve changed that. For the first time, history has an author.

Four and a half out of five cyanide pills to the eye.

7 comments:

Patryk said...

D.B Weiss and David Benioff are the worst dissapointments for me since Tim Kring and his nonsensical plots in Heroes post season 2. But pulling a Nedry from Jurassic Park is the kind of thing they would do after the GoT flop so it's funny. :)

Patryk said...

I meant season 1 of Heroes of course. Season 2 even without the strike was abysmal already.

Logan Cox said...

Patryk, it's funny you say that. I've been going back and watching clips from Heroes recently. That show had SO much potential. It's a shame it went off the rails after that first season, which I still think is pretty stellar.

And while I do still insist on giving Weiss and Benioff credit for their handling of the first six seasons of the show, I do also agree that they were ultimately disappointing as showrunners. Those last two seasons just did not cut it.

Ah well. That's enough creator bashing from the critic, haha.

BrianN said...

What is obvious from the end of GoT (which i still contend isnt nearly as bad as everyone says it was...Dani was always egomaniacal) is that they are amazing showrunners; but not storytellers. Lay things out for them and they will bring that vision to life like a masterpiece...
The overtaxing the system reminded me of the Rick&Morty episode where they did the same thing.
Im still hoping that there is some hope for humanity, that the goodness inside will overcome the corporate overlords who currently control it...that when push comes to shove (just like in the real world right now), that humanity once more springs forth from humans.

Patryk said...

Yeah D&D did well when they had the books to adapt, but I'm also sick of series endings that make me want to forget I watched a show instead of making me itch to go back and re-watch it.

Game of Thrones has (for me) joined Lost, Dexter, House, How I Met Your Mother, True Blood, the aforementioned Heroes and mamy many other shows on that no re-watch list.

At least we'll always have the Good Place to rewatch. Seriously everyone needs to see that. To get back on-topic: let's hope Westworld will end on a high note when it's time for it to end.

Logan Cox said...

I too am hoping humanity isn't screwed when this is over. But considering the trajectory the show has been going in for two seasons now, I imagine it's going to be an uphill battle to get there.

Patryk, it seems like Nolan and Joy have an ending in sight. So that's good. As I saw with Mr. Robot and Watchmen recently, having a clear vision of how your show is going to end early on can help a lot. That's the thing that I think really hurt Lost; they were halfway through the show before the network gave them an end-date to properly build toward. I also think a lot of viewers don't understand that the nature of storytelling, in TV and other mediums, means that "making stuff up as you go" is often an unavoidable part of the process.

I think True Blood and Dexter are easier to rewatch because each season is pretty much it's own individual story. I recently went back and watched the first two seasons of Dexter, and it's just as fun as I remember it being the first time.

BrianN, I also don't think GoT's ending is nearly as bad as everyone else does, but it is certainly bad when you consider the quality we had all come to expect from that show. And you make an excellent point about Weiss and Benioff. I still give them credit for their work on those first 4-6 seasons. I guess I just don't understand people who can love a show for years but then make outrageous claims like it's "the worst" or "they'll never watch it again" because the ending is lame. I was never a fan of the last act of A New Hope, but I still consider that one of the best and most watchable movies ever. I'm not really a fan of what shows like Supernatural or The Simpsons have become, but my love and fond memories of both of those shows haven't really diminished, even if I no longer watch them.

Of course, I am a person who is very easy to please. So I can see why I might be in the minority here.

Patryk said...

I don't equate humanity not being screwed with a good ending. Unless You ment the real world still being here (and virus free) when Westworld ends. :)