As we headed into the 3rd episode of ‘Westworld,’ expectations were very high after the two first showings of the series, and while ‘The Stray’ ending very strongly, overall it felt a little bit slower than its predecessors. Was it a worse episode? I’m not entirely sure, I just think it was the first episode where the show took a moment to breath, re-estasblish the characters, the world, and also to focus a lot on one character (Dolores) in particular, and that might be why it felt a little bit slower than the initial entries in the series.
As stated above, the majority of the episode focused on Dolores, who we learn has been continuing her secret meetings with Bernard, who is fascinated by her emerging consciousness, and is encouraging her to improvise and speak with him “off-script.” Through an encounter Ford has with another programmer who drapes a towel over a host he is working on, we learn that Bernard is also breaking another rule by speaking to Delores while she is fully clothed, and it becomes clear over the course of the episode that Bernard has clearly become attached to the host as a kind of father figure, most likely because he lost his son some time before coming to the park, and Delores has been helping to fill that gap. Ford warns Bernard specifically about not doing that very thing however, as once there was another co-founder to the park named Arnold who also believed that the hosts could develop a true consciousness, and become real people, and he seems to have died tragically early in the life of Westworld, a story that still haunts Ford, and one I am sure will be delved into in greater detail as the series progresses. Anyways, Bernard continues his many sessions with Delores, telling her to keep them secret, and that she must continue her story loop, meaning that even if her memories of the horrific events in the park are erased each night, Bernard is letting her keep her memories of meeting with him, which must be confusing to her. And this could also help explain why she is starting to break out of her loop, inadvertantly of course, because she told Bernard that she would not break out of it, but she did break character first by questioning Teddy about why they always talk about leaving to be together “someday” and do not just leave right at that moment, then by having Teddy teach her to shoot and yet learning her passive programming prevents her from actually pulling the trigger of a gun, and then finally by breaking her programming by pulling the trigger and shooting an outlaw who was trying to rape her in the barn. (an outlaw who I think was a host, but could have been a guest)
The other storyline we follow this week is that of Teddy, who Ford informs us has always had a mysterious background, and carried a certain amount of guilt for that background. However, it has never been revealed, basically because, in Ford’s words, the writers never got around to writing anything for Teddy (poor sap). Luckily, Ford has some horrific things in mind, so he decides to write Teddy a story featuring his new “past” nemesis Wyatt, who has gone bat-shit crazy and is wearing human skins while murdering everyone around him and claiming the land for himself, a story which inevitablely Teddy gets sucked into as the sheriff recruits folks to take down Wyatt. And can you believe it? The sheriff’s whole gang is taken down by Wyatt and his thugs, and Teddy is killed. AGAIN. I’ve read another recapper mention it, and it is 100% true, Teddy is the Kenny of this show, and if you don’t understand that reference, let me explain. In the early seasons of ‘South Park’ there was a recurring joke where one character, Kenny, is killed in every single episode, followed immediately by someone saying “Oh my God, you killed Kenny!” And then the next episode he would be alive again and we would just be waiting for the next scenario that would kill off Kenny once more. Teddy has clearly fallen into the same fate.
The ‘stray’ referred to in the title of the episode refers to a host who goes missing in the wilderness that programmer Elsie and security officer Stubbs go after, learning that the host somehow glitched and wandered off wanting to see the stars, a conclusion they reach based on the carvings of Orion’s belt they found on his belongings. Stubbs continues to insist that security is needed, and Elsie is about to learn how right he is, as when they find the stray, he does not go down quietly. Elsie puts him into sleep mode, and Stubbs begins cutting off his head so they can take it back to the lab to see what went wrong. At that moment, the host exits sleep mode and attacks Stubbs, then seemingly goes after Elsie, who cannot control him from her tablet. The host grabs a large rock that we think he might use to smash Elsie’s head in with, and instead slams the boulder into his own head over and over again, shutting himself down, in what is one of the most disturbing moments of the night. Luckily for Stubbs and Elsie they both survive, but it is a chilling reminder of how vulnerable they are to the hosts, and I am sure will make Stubbs even more paranoid going forward.
Tonight we also saw good guy William get to play a “hero” by saving brothel woman Clementine from an outlaw, spurring him to convince Logan to go on a bounty-hunting mission out to the wilderness, which does not sound fun at all to Logan who prefers to stay in town with the booze and the brothel. Bernard takes a moment to Skype home from the media center, where we learn it is difficult to communicate with those inside Westworld, and that he has a wife, who probably would not be happy about him and Cullen sleeping together. And Cullen is pissed as she and the Board are suspicious that Bernard’s team is still inspecting hosts, and she thinks Bernard and company might be keeping something secret, namely that the glitches are not gone, and could cause some serious trouble when the board comes to visit the park (Which of course is when things will go to hell. Is that not how movies and TV work? when the dignitary/boss/in-law/ governor/ board of directors etc comes to visit, everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. Although I would actually be a little disappointed in this show is they did something that predictable). Also, most intriguing, we learn from Elsie and Bernard early in the episode that some of the glitching hosts seem to be having a conversation with an unknown entity that they are referring to as “Arnold,” which alarms Bernard once he speaks to Ford and learns who the original “Arnold” of the park was, though Ford seems pretty certain there is nothing to worry about, and seems to believe it is mere coincidence. But then again, we have no idea, what Ford is up to, as according to Cullen, he has staked out a huge portion of the park for his new storyline, as well as a good amount of hosts, and based on the Teddy/ Wyatt storyline which he said ties into the new storyline, whatever Ford is planning is going to be crazy, and potentially, very gruesome.
- How does Bernard’s son die? Is there some horrible disease sweeping the world outside of Westworld?
- The guy that Delores killed has to be another host, correct? For a moment I thought she hid her own gun in the hay and pulled it out to defend herself, and killed an actual guest, but I am really not sure. Why would another host want to rape her? But how would she know to hide the gun there, although she was remembering what happened in the barn with the Man in Black, so maybe she made preparations?
- Based on the communications room and the talk about how hard it is to speak to people on ‘Westworld,’ I’ve heard some fans talks about where the park actually is. Is it on Earth? The moon? Mars? Another planet entirely? Beneath the surface of the Earth? Does it matter?
- Could this Arnold still be alive, and sabotaging the park? Could he somehow still exist as a malignant code, activated by that phrase Delores’ father spoke to her?
- What is Ford up to? Last week I thought he might be on the side of the hosts, but this week he seems far too callous toward them, and pushes a very “they are not people, do not afford them any dignity” attitude. With that in mind, I don’t know if my “Ford thinks he is God” theory is valid any more.
So, as stated above, definitely an intriguing episode, but maybe because of how many of the story loops were repeated (Delores and that damn can for example) it felt like some things were starting to get a little old. However, I suspect this might be our last taste of the “status quo” of the park, given to us as a reminder of how things “should be” in Westworld as we plunge ever further down the rabbit hole (I did indeed enjoy Bernard giving Delores ‘Alice in Wonderland’ to read and what that represents. It was very ‘Lost’) Definitely looking forward to next week and getting some clarification on Ford’s storyline for the park, and finding out whether or not Delores actually killed a guest or not. See you back here next week!
Nick is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles, who belongs to the privileged few who enjoyed the ending to ‘Lost.’ For more of Nick’s thoughts and articles, follow him on Twitter (@starfro67)