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Westworld: Well Enough Alone

“I’m what you’d call neurodivergent. And I’ve had some time to become comfortable with that.”

This week on Westworld, things make a bit more sense. Just a bit.

Or do they?

With "Hale" (or Hale-Dolores aka Halores) it's difficult to tell. The true villain makes her appearance here. She's back to finding creative ways of revenging herself upon mankind, the way Prime Dolores was in the second season. Really reveling in the role reversal. Now she's the one pulling the strings. To what extent, though?

Her plans are starting to come into focus, but we still haven't really gotten a look inside either her or the Man in Black host's minds. We've only seen them from the perspective of others, like the still-living original William, Maeve and Caleb or all these political and corporate elites getting completely blindsided.

I had thought the Man in Black's murderous power plays were for the sake of a Delos park; the show's trailers certainly hinted at a new one. It segues nicely with the extended sequence of Maeve and Caleb following the breadcrumbs to the grand opening of The Golden Age, a reimagining of 1920s Chicago. Likely built on top of the land in Nevada the MIB recently acquired.

Their whole introduction to the park directly mirrors our introduction to Westworld in the beginning, with Caleb in place of newcomer William and Maeve as the Logan type, being more self-assured and knowing what to expect already. I like that they're going in with eyes open, but, as Maeve said, this is clearly a trap. Halores wanted them to come. So these indepedent rebels might be in trouble either way.

The Golden Age park, as brought to us by Halores and the Man in Black, has obviously been built to ensnare humans. But I imagine it's not just the richest humans anymore. And I'll also bet that "declawing" humanity is not the only goal behind this new world, just like there was a hidden agenda to Westworld. Halores claims that she has plans for mankind, not wanting to replace us all or even wipe us out en masse. She wants her kind to evolve, but how does the human race factor into that?

We get a bit more elaboration on her new method of control: The flies. I get the impression that these things are some kind of nanotech. Flies have been prevalent in the show since the beginning, usually to signal the spread of a virus. In the beginning, it was the hosts’ emerging consciousness. In Season 2, Dolores tells the story of how her father’s livestock became infected with a disease carried by flies, using it to justify her murder and manipulation of her kind for the sake of survival; Halores refers to one of her victims as livestock in this episode. And revolutionary types are referred to as “flies in the ointment” by the villain of Season 3.

Now the flies are weaponized. They appear to turn their victims blood into black goo. Maybe once they’ve crawled inside, they don’t just get into our brains. Maybe they dissolve into our DNA, changing us on an even deeper level than it appears. In Season 2, Dr. Ford noted that humans want to be more like hosts, not the other way around. This could be another "careful what you wish for" angle by Halores. The sort of transhumanism we really weren't asking for.

"Hale" makes it seem like she's cast off the Dolores part of her identity, reinventing herself as some kind of corporate android superwoman, but she's clearly still clinging to her old life. If making a park and using it against the humans wasn't clue enough, the fact that she's keeping William alive so she can gloat to him occasionally definitely is.

And there's the fact that Christina is almost certainly one of her creations, made in the image of her former self.

Still carrying the scar from her encounter with the late Peter Myers, Christina has begun to question her reality. She is starting to see the omens that exist in her world, seeing signs of the tower and other strange irregularities. She finds out Peter made a donation to one "Hope Center for Mental Health" upon his death, but that the donation was made years ago... when Peter only died recently from Christina's perspective.

But that's not the only thing that's weird. When Christina skips work to go to New Jersey her boss Emmett calls her, casually revealing that he's tracking her movements; both Emmett and Christina's roommate Maya seem rather concerned when they find out Christina strayed away from home. Even weirder, we get more indication that Christina is not the normal human she seems to be. When she tries to speak with the homeless man raving about the tower, he doesn't seem to realize she's there. And when it looks like she's going to run into a crowd of people at the Hope Center, she absentmindedly whispers for them to "just go away" and they all immediately do. Peter did say that all the people in NYC do what she tells them to do; guess that extends to Jersey as well. She seems to be some kind of angel unaware. Someone who watches over and controls this world without even realizing it.

Beyond that, there's a lot of room to speculate. One thing that's still bugging me is the sense of time. Very hard to tell what is taking place when. In the first scene where the MIB finds and kills Clementine, he's trying to hunt down Maeve. So this must be taking place before he sent his goons after Maeve and Caleb in the last episode. I've seen some speculate that the MIB's grand opening ceremony of the Golden Age does not coincide with Maeve and Caleb's arrival, but that they actually arrive after; not sure about that one. Maeve and Caleb talk about their unseen war, mentioning a pivotal event at "the lighthouse," but it is unclear what exactly happened. What I am pretty sure of is that Christina's arc is probably taking place some time after the storylines involving Maeve and Caleb or Halores and the Man in Black.

A lot of setup in these first two episodes. I'm all ready for the games to begin.

Loops and reveries:

* The dead birds outside Christina’s workplace reminded me of Dark. And Signs. And Psycho, but there’s a lot of stuff in this show that reminds me of Psycho.

* The Vitruvian man in the intro is in the same cryogenic device William is trapped in; which looks very similar to Serac's version of cold storage for the Outliers in Season 3.

* That scene with the Man in Black and the Vice President of the United States on the golf course was so damn dynamic and unsettling. The VP gradually realizing how out of his league he is as the MIB casually sinks three holes in one, back to back. Also, not surprising that the U.S. government was aware of the kind of shit William was doing in Westworld, but gave him a pass because he was doing it overseas.

* Felt bad for Jim Navarro of the DOJ. As abrasive as he was, he was actually trying to prevent a catastrophe. Even if he didn't know exactly what kind. Also, assimilation by flies does not look fun. Like, at all.

* Jack Coleman and Saffron Burrows play the unfortunate Senator Whitney and his wife Anastasia… as well as their host replacements. Coleman played one of my favorite characters on Heroes, but I imagine more people will recognize him as “the Senator” from The Office; his role here feels like a mix of the two. Poor Saffron Burrows dies twice in the same episode, with host-Anastasia getting stabbed in the head while human-Anastasia gets shot in the head.

* Anastasia Whitney was humming to herself while she butchered her horses. The homeless man mentioned a “song with no sound.” Maybe an echo of S1, where the hosts are all compelled to violence by the “voice” of their creators influencing their internal code. Pretty sure we hear Christina’s roommate Maya humming when she first appears in this episode.

* Speaking of, the name Maya means “illusion” or “dream” in Sanskrit. Also, Mayan culture (or “the Maya”) gets touched upon in The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. That book makes much of the relationship between human intelligence and notions of god, including the idea that many ancient cultures seemed to form a concept of god around their great leaders, or kings. More specifically, the kings who died and were laid to rest in temples made in their honor.

* As formulaic as it seems, I kind of like the quippy buddy cop dynamic between Maeve and Caleb. Reminds me a bit of Bernard and Stubbs’s relationship in S3. Those two have not shown up yet, although it appears they will in the next episode.

* Temperance is a revamped version of the Sweetwater set from the first two seasons, now designed to fit the 1920s flapper vibe the Golden Age is going for. Very surreal. The shift in music to that old school, jazzy sound as Maeve and Caleb get off the train -- accompanied by the melancholic end credits score straight out of classic film noir -- was eerily exciting.


Maeve: "Your daughter. She’s lovely. A credit to your wife’s genetics, no doubt."
Caleb: "Yeah, she and her mother are the best thing that ever happened to me."
Maeve: "Well, to be fair, that bar was rather low, considering the life you’d lived prior."

Jim Navarro.: “I am here backed by the full power of the United States government.”
Clementine: “Yes. But do you have an appointment?”

Senator Whitney: “Happy wife, happy life. Isn’t that the saying?”
The Man in Black: “My wife’s dead.”

VP: “Now look, you had a good life, Bill. We don’t begrudge you for it. But you’re gonna see how quickly the sun sets on you if you bite the hand that feeds. What was it Fitzgerald said about second acts?”
The Man in Black: “Fitzgerald was an effete pussy. Same as you.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald allegedly said that “there are no second acts in American lives.”

The Man in Black: “I was always more of a Hemingway man. He and Fitzgerald were friends, in the way that the weak are drawn to the strong. Hemingway said, ‘The world breaks everyone. And it’s only afterwards that we grow strong in the broken places.’ And after I’ve broken you, you will grow. The same as I have.”

Maeve: “War is not an easy thing to put behind you.”
Caleb: “You seem pretty good at it.”
Maeve: “Well, I am an infinitely adaptable machine, darling. You are not the convivial drinking partner I was hoping for.”

Halores: “You wanted to see who’s pulling the strings? I can empathize. I spent most of my life being manipulated by people in the shadows. I thought I would at least do you the courtesy of looking you in the eye.”

Halores: (to William) “What’s that you used to say? ‘Winning doesn’t mean anything unless someone else loses.’ You’re just here… to be the loser.”

Sophia: “And before it was shut down, did you ever visit Westworld?"
Caleb: “Couldn’t afford it.”
Maeve: “I was what you might call a regular.”
Sophia: “Shall I assume, since you’re back, you had a positive experience?”
Maeve: “… It was certainly eye-opening.”

Caleb: “Never really been much of a hat guy.”

The Man in Black: “Good evening, and thank you all for coming tonight. I know some of you fear revisiting one of our company’s darkest chapters. But to those of you, I’d say that chapter may have been dark, but it was also extremely profitable. Nearly 150 years ago, this world had its first great war. The globe was torn apart by fighting, decimated by a pandemic, crushed by loss. It was our darkest hour, and yet we came roaring back. I think the public is ready to unleash their true selves once again. And so in the interest of giving the public what they want, we have broadened our horizons.”

Four out of five flies in the eyes.

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