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The maze itself is the sum of a man’s life…the choices he makes, the dreams he hangs onto. – Teddy Flood
This is the first time I’ve finished an episode of Westworld and been more lost than I’d prefer as a viewer. It wasn’t that things didn’t make sense, but there was a feeling of, “Okay I get it, but where are you going with this, guys?” It’s not a complete negative, but when some of you were asking me questions last night, my answers were a bit vague, to say the least.
This was an episode where the pieces moved into place for the next stage, and the two most important takeaways were Maeve’s new attribute matrix, and Elsie getting a little too close to the tech theft. As for Bernard tracking the anomalies to the home, finding out how Ford relates to that side of the story, we’re just beginning to paddle down that tributary. If there was something immediate that came from it, it was how sad Robert Ford’s life appears to be that merely maintaining some of Arnold’s original hosts reminds him of a simpler, more desirable past.
His own words, that as efficiency has grown, grace has been lost, are indicators of a very lonely, ironically purposeless man. From the player piano last night, Thom Yorke made another appearance:
Fake Plastic Trees – Radiohead (1995)
A green plastic watering can
For a fake Chinese rubber plant
In the fake plastic earth
That she bought from a rubber man
In a town full of rubber plans
To get rid of itself
It wears her out
It wears her out
It wears her out
It wears her out
She lives with a broken man
A cracked polystyrene man
Who just crumbles and burns
He used to do surgery
For girls in the eighties
But gravity always wins
And it wears him out
It wears him out
It wears him out
Wears him out
She looks like the real thing
She tastes like the real thing
My fake plastic love
But I can’t help the feeling
I could blow through the ceiling
If I just turn and run
And it wears me out
It wears me out
It wears me out
It wears me out
And if I could be who you wanted
If I could be who you wanted
All the time
All the time
I won’t post lyrics every week, just in case you were curious, but these past two weeks, it’s felt appropriate to what’s happening with the show. Fake Plastic Trees is a tune with interpreted meanings, where Thom has said at times in the past it was about nothing, but the words tell the story of a superficial, artificial life, and the emptiness that results from surrounding oneself from things that aren’t real, or have no lasting value. If read in that manner, it certainly does match up with Ford, who I could see drinking expensive, bitter-tasting wine while listening to The Bends.
One thing I haven’t done thus far, and it’s irritated a few of you, is my reticence to talk much about or embrace some of the various Westworld fan theories that have already made the Internet rounds. I’ve told those who’ve found me on Twitter and tried to get my opinion on some of this stuff that I wanted to play it safe and just watch a a bit more before I committed to anything. But, I’m about to pop the cork, to keep the alcohol imagery alive. First, here’s one directly from me that could turn out to be entirely wrong, but has made sense since the first moment of this series.
Why is Westworld the only Delos Destination that we’ve seen? It’s reasonable to think that if the park and the experience are as lucrative as we’re led to believe, there would be some copycatting going on, in other settings, with other people in charge. Elsie uncovering the potential heist, and especially when Theresa’s name gets attached to it late in the episode, leads me even further in the direction that someone is trying to recreate Westworld AWAY from Robert Ford’s megalomania. It’s not as if Disneyworld exists without numerous other theme parks, carnivals, and giant water slides. If Westworld is a beast, there’s no question somebody is trying to duplicate it with the speed the designers, coders, and engineers are pumping out new hosts.
Theresa is a suit, and one that we learn cares much more about her standing within a company or an executive board than anything in her personal life, including her quiet sexual relationship with Bernard. Not once have we seen her operate in a manner other than perceptibly beneficial to her professional career. She had no problem telling her beau to hit the bricks, but the one thing she truly fears is Ford, because his power is as close to unchecked as any that exists within the Westworld universe.
So, why would her name (unless someone has her login) be associated with the smuggling operation if she didn’t have grand plans for her bank account? She’s not out here trying to have children or settle down, that much is for sure. If you’re curious as to how much story is there to be told with this show, the answer becomes limitless if you include the possibility of additional parks, with their own unique challenges, not to mention competition. Do I predict that’s happening SOON? No. I’m not even willing to say I can predict it, but I’m thinking about it.
Alternate timelines have been the main theory for several weeks, and it does seem highly possible that at least some of that is taking place, because certain portions of the show seem so completely out of place without that style of explanation. Teddy’s story, aspects of Dolores’ role (though she took the night off), and the way in which Ford cuts in and out of scenes with characters, but occasionally saying different things. Rather than speaking to the timelines, I think it’s also possible there are multiple versions of people within the world, even on screen at the same time.
For that to be so, it would mean there are hosts in the park we believe to be guests, who we’ve never seen outside of one seemingly congruous storyline, and yes, of everything sensible in Westworld, for William and the Man in Black to be the same person would be the most obvious. Moving from the visual of the white hat to the black hat, after the world kicks the shit out of him and reminds him of what a piece of crap it can be. I’m getting to the point where I do hope something screwy is going on, if only because it adds a new layer of intrigue.
But, back to the copies of individuals idea, I can’t quite figure out how that would be possible, unless hosts are re-creating themselves and planting their own artificial intelligence in the world. See, this is why I didn’t want to jump too far down the rabbit hole, because I now sound insane. It’s much easier to just say, “Man it was bad ass when Teddy went gatling gun Rambo. What a maniac, am I right?”
It’s not lost on me that Maeve is manipulating a pair of guys named Felix and Sylvester, as if the mouse has effectively turned the tables on the felines, but watching her use every bit of her charm to lead them around by the collar is highly entertaining, and produces Thandie Newton’s best acting work to date. As she strolls the hallways of the upstairs level of the laboratory, her facial expressions do more work than words ever could, and, for the first time, we see the creation and upkeep of the hosts from start to finish. It’s never going to be less than disgusting to watch hosts being hosed down after death, to be put back out into the field. But, I can’t imagine being a host, who doesn’t really know who or what he or she is, and seeing something like that.
Maeve version 2.0 includes a lowered loyalty number, a decrease in pain sensitivity, and a perception increase to the maximum available total. As they’re working on her, it shouldn’t be overlooked that Sylvester revealed that someone else has already been playing with her attributes, including changing levels in paranoia, which may well have led to the birth of her self-awareness. What’s going to be so much fun to watch in coming weeks is what a super-intelligent Maeve looks like, when the one at a perception degree of 14 stopped flinching at gunfire and outsmarted Hector.
She’s not Robert Patrick, but it’s whether or not she chooses to selfishly wield her power, or uses it to teach her “colleagues” of the trappings of their realities, that will ultimately determine whether Lord Acton was right. Does absolute power corrupt absolutely? A study of Ford would say…unclear, but here’s something you may never have heard before.
In addition to that famous quote, Lord Acton also said this:
“Liberty becomes a question more of morals than of politics.”
I’ve written quite a bit about freedom in Westworld, and in other series I’ve covered, because it’s one goal that is infinitely traced to our very biology as people. We desire an absence of chains, both literal and figurative. In Westworld, the only man with that authority has been Ford, but his freedom is capped by his own misery. He wouldn’t be so lacking in malleability if he had anything to hold onto, and for Theresa, it’s almost the exact same thing. What’s striking is that neither of them has actually realized it yet. When we examine Dolores and Maeve, as well as some of the other hosts, they are much more tethered to the emotions many of their creators can’t exhibit themselves.
So, when the Fake Plastic Trees become the ones to be envied, what does that say about Westworld? If only I could feel something, if only this was so, if only she looked at me the way I do her, if only she knew how I saw her. Look at Lee Sizemore, drinking foolishly, ogling a woman he finds out is an executive board member, but not before she observes him urinating off a ledge. And, Charlotte Hale was indeed worth pursuing chivalrously, so that’s a big loss for him.
Theresa cuts ties with the one real feeling she might actually have. Elsie has never shown any human emotion, other than fear, when the woodcutter had the stone above his head. Ford talks in high-minded language, sometimes esoterically, but he fails to understand that no connection replaces communication and honest to god love.
No Dolores, no William, no Logan this week as the focus was elsewhere, but if you apply some of what happened last night to their struggles, the larger threads begin to fall more into place.
One last question for YOU today, since I’ve at least beat around the theory bush today. Who grabbed Elsie from the shadows. We heard her say she has discovered someone is using controls to alter the prime directives of the hosts, meaning they can now lie to the coders. Is Arnold still alive? We know his voice is very much alive. Or, is there a third “player” out there we haven’t met yet?
I’m @JMartOutkick. I don’t respond to voice commands, but maybe I’ll respond to yours.
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