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Westworld: Metanoia

“We’re not here to transcend. We’re here to destroy.”

It’s the penultimate episode, already? Come on!

This season's gone by so damn fast. And I have a feeling this one is going to leave us with even more to chew on than the previous finale did. They've certainly expanded on all of that in a lot of unexpected ways.

'Metanoia' delves into a bit more of what I was expecting, yet they never let up with structuring their narratives so enigmatically. A lot of this episode feels as if it is simply setting things up for the next, but what happens is still pretty cool.

Bernard has been on a mission to save humankind for awhile now, yet all of that preparation he undertook in the Sublime has only shown him that his quest is doomed to failure. The end of the world is pretty much inevitable. According to him, all that can be done is to save "a small part of it."

I'm still going off the assumption that most everything Bernard says or does now is for the purpose of triggering certain events to achieve the most successful scenario. Which should mean that even things that seem kind of anti-climatic and pointless — like digging Maeve out of the desert and repairing her as some kind of weapon against Hale, only for her to get unceremoniously gunned down by the Man in Black — are probably just boxes he needed to check off. Even his own death was part of the plan.

This might truly be the death of Bernard. It's certainly framed that way. The MIB put a bullet in his pearl and his body was still in the Tower when it exploded. Of course, it's not like there couldn't be a copy of him waiting to be spun up. Same goes for Maeve and Hale.

Though she represents the opposite side, Hale-Dolores is another borderline omniscient character who is nevertheless doomed to fail. She's been using Caleb and Frankie/C's bond to lure the rebels into her clutches on the same day she decides to shut down the human cities and put what's left of mankind into cold storage. She hopes to compel her people to Transcend, but amazingly there aren't many hosts lining up to become a tall, armless, faceless shape of a thing.

She is blindsided by Maeve, who sees right through her icy subterfuge and nearly bests her in a fight. More crucially, though, she's blindsided by her own Man in Black, who dispatches her right after Maeve.
It figures that William would be the one to bring about the end of this world, just like he helped bring about the end of the one his kind built. The Man in Black is distressed over his mistress's plan to do away with "his world," and William provokes him into... well, being more like William. So in keeping with his persona, the Man in Black kills the part of himself he views as weak (human William) and fully embraces his dark alter ego. William smiles as he dies with the knowledge that part of him lives on in his replacement, and that part is going to burn everything down just like he wanted.

The Man in Black takes to heart something William said about cockroaches surviving atomic fallout. His game is "survival of the fittest," naturally. He kills anyone who gets in his way, uses the Tower to force all the infected humans across the world to fight each other and the hosts — as well as Caleb, Frankie and Stubbs — to the death, and then destroys the Tower so that what he's done can't be stopped. I guess the idea behind his actions is that only those who manage to survive his apocalyptic battle royale will be worthy of true evolution.

I think this is all still going according to Bernard's plan. Before the MIB kills him, he's seen completing the last in a series of video recordings. He makes sure to upload these files even after being shot. It's unclear who they're for, though. The obvious answer would be Frankie or Caleb. Is Christina too far-fetched?

Well, maybe that's putting it lightly. We return to her subplot as Teddy helps her come to grips with her mysterious nature and her descendance from Dolores. After a death-defying, baptismally-charged submersion in her bathtub, Christina begins to assert herself. She uses her power to force the Olympiad Entertainment writers to destroy their narratives and releases Caleb from his captivity. It's also around this point where we start to see the signs of the latest big twist. Christina is not even physically present in the real world. She's some kind of overlay, perhaps something ephemeral. While it does explain why most of the people in the cities never seem to notice her, it also raises loads of other questions. All of which I'm sure will be answered somewhat satisfactorily next time.

As with everything else, I think Christina will be part of the long con Bernard's pulling too. In the Sublime, he tells Akecheta that he will need help if he's to have a chance of prevailing. That might be how Teddy got involved in all of this.

They've set the stage well for the grand finale. The Tower has fallen and the world is tearing itself apart. The Man in Black is back in costume, strolling forth to service the chaos he incited. Christina's powers are overriden by the Tower controls just in time for the next stage of her existential nightmare. Caleb, Frankie and Stubbs are still on the run, but it may already be too late for them. Bernard knew the world was doomed, but even then he and Maeve still believe it's important to fight for a better future. And that fight is going to take place at Hoover Dam, where the door to the Sublime has been opened again. I'm tentatively excited.
Loops and reveries:

* “Metanoia” can mean a few different things. It literally translates to “changing one’s mind” in Greek. In Christian theology, it indicates a spiritual conversion or reformation. In psychology, some use it to describe a major change in one’s life-orientation or even a psychotic breakdown in relation to a mid-life crisis. I think this could apply to several of the characters: Maeve, Hale, Caleb, Christina, The Man in Black.

* The opening scene featuring one of Bernard's simulations in the Sublime was interesting. It seems a lot of the simulation's accuracy is based on the simulator's knowledge. In the simulation, Bernard believed his projection of Maeve would choose to reunite with her daughter in the Sublime instead of sacrificing herself. In the end, Maeve does choose a selfless sacrifice. So it could be that not everything Bernard saw in the Sublime is so certain.

* Before they head to Host City, Odina tells Frankie that “They’re all on their way.” I’m assuming she means the rest of the rebels.

* Caleb and Frankie's reunion was freaky. He has to adjust to the fact that his six-year old daughter is now an almost thirty-year old freedom fighter. She has to adjust to her dad being exactly the same as he was when he left her, and probably hasn't even fully grasped that he has a host body. Someone online pointed out that their relationship has some Interstellar vibes, and I agree.

* Christina says “I don’t have it in me” upon reflecting on her true nature. After learning more about Dolores, she embraces her power and goes god-mode on Olympiad. William tells the Man in Black he doesn’t have it in him when he threatens him with a knife. Then William succeeds in convincing him they’re practically the same, prompting the MIB to stab him in the heart and then upend everything. Christina and the Man in Black are mirroring the actions of Dolores and William in Season Two.

* Slightly bemused by the last few minutes, where three of the show’s most prominent POC protagonists are all gunned down by the tyrannical old white guy. Of course, things like race and gender don’t mean that much to an AI that can perfectly imitate any human. The Man in Black host is truly neither white or old; he’s one of the newer models, in fact. And he does begin his murder spree by killing the actual old white guy he was based on, who certainly had it coming.

* There may be more to it that gets explored in the finale, but as it stands "Transcendence" means to become something like a new version of a Drone host. One that's taller and has no arms and a head that's hollowed out with an exposed pearl elevated in the middle. The only real logic behind it so far is Halores's obsession with cutting herself off from humanity. Long live the new flesh, and all that.

* Music: “The Man Who Sold the World” by David Bowie, as the Man in Black embarks on his quest to bring about the end of the world. Love it.

Quotes:

Sublime-Maeve: “So according to your calculations, we’re all doomed.”

Bernard: “We don’t die here… usually.”

Christina: “I still can’t believe I would do this. I don’t have it in me."
Teddy: “I told you there were many sides to you. You may have started out as a singular being, but there have been copies, permutations. Charlotte Hale is one of those permutations.”
Christina: “Why are you here?”
Teddy: “I’m here to tell you the truth of what we are.”
Christina: “What are we?”
Teddy: “We’re reflections of the people who made us.”

Stubbs: “I don’t make it? I waited 23 years for this.”

William: “If I could, I would pull the plug on this whole goddamn world. But I can’t, can I? Unless you want to set me free.”
The Man in Black: “You really believe I would do that?”
William: “No. I don’t. But it doesn’t matter. You have a piece of me inside of you. And it’s spreading like a cancer. You can feel it running through your veins, infecting your mind, why you want answers from me. There’s no version of me escaping this fucking rig, but I don’t have to because… you are me. And only one of us needs to do what must be done. Do you understand?”
The Man in Black: “… I do.”
William: “Then fucking do it.”

Christina: “This isn’t right. I don’t want it. I didn’t ask for it. This has to stop.”

Maeve: “There’s no saving this world. I see that now. But there’s hope for the next one.”

The Man in Black: “We’re finally living up to our full potential. It’s a shame you’re going to miss it.”

Four and a half out of five bullets to the pearl.

2 comments:

  1. That Bowie song was such a perfect choice.

    I wonder if the next episode is going to end with a twist that humanity winds up in a simulation...that is just our real world today!

    ReplyDelete
  2. You're probably not far off, Josie. Although, I think most of humanity is gonna be dead by the next episode.

    So it goes.

    ReplyDelete

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