Well, it’s all heating up now, isn’t it? The robots are starting to run wild, and old Anthony Hopkins is revealing himself to be less kindly godfather and more manipulative sociopath with a taste for fava beans and a nice chianti.
The Silence of the Lambs isn’t the only movie-esque allusion my brain connected to during this week’s episode.
Delores seems to be in some sort of Kill Bill-style church memory scenario, Thandie Newton appears to be Memento-ing her way through brothel life, and Ed Harris is searching for Snakes on a Plain.
Thank you. Thank you. Worked very hard on that one.
Let’s saddle up and Go West for another WestWorld recap.
S1 E4: Dissonance Theory
This recap has taken me a bit longer because to be frank, I’ve been in something of a nihilistic mood all week, like Matthew McConaughey from True Detective, only with fewer abs.
I’m not sure if it’s correlation or causation, because certainly in this episode of Westworld there were a few hang it all moments, not least of all poor Teddy strapped up to that tree.
However, I’ve been told I have something called “impossible standards”, in which I set the bar so high I will never reach it. Now, clearly as an uncoordinated person I was never going to clear any sort of high jump test without serious physical injury, but it’s more the intellectual slam dunks I never seem to make that really hurt.
My own personal mythology instructs me thus: by S1E4 of Game of Thrones, I was all in. The show had me, hook, line and sinker. Turn off the oven, this goose is cooked. I’d mixed my metaphors like a DJ with a cocktail shaker.
Now I’ve reached S1E4 of Westworld, and I don’t know what I am. I’m certainly finding it interesting with some of the characters very compelling, but I’m not obsessed like I was with Game of Thrones.
Maybe it’s because the accents are American, not British, and I’m a bit of a snob like that (certainly explains why Thandie Newton’s my fave so far). Maybe it’s because I’m forcing myself to recap from the very beginning, as opposed to GoT where I only started recapping in Season Two when I was already fully invested. Maybe because I want desperately to be a good writer, a worthy writer, and get so scared that if I can’t even pump out a half-decent recap, how the hell am I ever supposed to produce something *actually* literary and worthy, that I enter a sort of paralysis of fear and overeating.
Maybe I’ve just got a lot of stuff on, and so this hasn’t been a priority, and maybe that’s OK. Maybe I might decide at the end of this experiment that I don’t really like Westworld, and that’s…. maybe OK? I don’t know. I’ve kind of set myself up for a lot here, what with Season Two coming down the pipeline and all. I really want to be awesome at this. Game of Thrones is going to end next year and then everyone will leave and I’ll be all alone unless I come up with some plans.
Sigh. As I said, impossible standards.
All that was a long and self-indulgent way of saying “Sorry I’m so late with this one.”
Let’s start with Ed Harris, because he wasn’t much in last week’s episode and seems to have gained EVEN MORE FACIAL CRAGS in that time away. By jingoes that man’s face is like a Ron Mueck original. Somebody chuck him in a gallery toot suite.
He’s been chasing the blood arroyo, as foretold by the spooky Mexican girl in the village, which he believes heralds the entrance to the “maze” created by long-dead Westworld founder “Arnold”. Meanwhile I only just realised this episode that’s what the tattoo design thing on the scalp he’s been carrying around is. And there was me thinking it was a computer circuit like some sort of chump. I mean I guess it could be, but Occam’s Razor - as well as doing a fine job removing the scalp - would suggest it’s just a map of the maze.
I was somewhat puzzled by Ed Harris saying he’d found lots of snakes, but none of the egg-laying variety. A quick Google search reminded me that indeed, a number of snakes including rattlesnakes and vipers have live young. Perhaps I once saw this in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom? It’s been a fair while since I’ve seen that film; is that the one with Cate Blanchett as the Russian? (I kid, I kid, you should see your face).
But it turns out the snake thing was a METAPHOR, because ahhhhhhhh *nods knowingly*. Ed Harris realises the snake he’s been looking for is actually on the body of the blonde outlaw woman we saw riding with broody Mexican villain Hector in episode 1.
I don’t remember The Girl With The Snake Tattoo having a snake tattoo when she first turned up, but I went back and checked and it was definitely there, the most reptilian contour since that Silurian detective lizard lady in Doctor Who.
This time she’s got the whole boa constricting her delicate skin, still pasty white despite harsh sun exposure. She must get a sanding and re-painting every time she goes back into the shop there at Westworld HQ. Which raises a point - can the squidgy non-real reality stars get things like skin cancer? I suppose if their skin is some kind of polyurethane probs not.
Before Ed Harris can add more texture to his tapestry of a face with a knowing grin, The Girl With The Snake Tattoo’s mates have bailed him up along with the still-roped Lawrence.
All he wants to know is why she got that tattoo, but The Girl With The Snake Tattoo is smarter than that. Until she is reunited with dat hot ass Hector, she ain’t giving up the information. Or to put it more poetically, her anaconda DON’T WANT NONE unless you GOT BUNS, HON.
Ed Harris prompty “fires” (hur hur hur) a few gunslingers to create vacant positions on her Hector-hunting team. There you go, dole bludgers, stop sleeping until midday and getting stoned on my tax dollars, get out and murder yourself a job. Anything less is UNNA-STRAYAN.
Ed maintains he only needs poor old Lawrence and one match to rescue Hector, and before you know it we see the pair in some sort of carriage - perhaps a mail service? Either way, things go postal very quickly and Ed Harris conveniently gets them both captured. It turns out Lawrence is very much a wanted man, and having slipped the noose courtesy of Ed Harris’ wet work a day, finds himself up before a firing squad.
Ed, however, finds himself locked up with Hector, who’s just chilling in what can only be soaring heat, waiting for The Girl With The Snake Tattoo to show up in three days’ time. But Ed ain’t got time for that, and proceeds to blow up the lock in a manner very reminiscent of that time my mate Simon, aka “the fiend”, roped about 100 sparklers together in a bit of active scientific experimentation at a backyard party back in ‘00. Mind you the fiend didn’t need permission from a Hemsworth to light those suckers up, he just proceeded according to his conscience and the cheers of goon-soaked onlookers. It’s just another reminder that Ed Harris is a “special guest” in Westworld, and my mate Simon, while very special, may have just been too easily affected by nitrous bulbs.
Hector seems happy enough to go along with Ed Harris, possibly because he sees no meaning in his life of brutish violence and is attracted to Ed’s conviction that there is something deeper, but mostly because it gets him out of jail early.
The pair then rescue Lawrence from the firing squad, in what was probably the funniest moment of the episode. Once again blindfolded and awaiting death’s sweet embrace, he is again saved by Ed Harris’ and Hector’s speedy gun work, a tactic to hence be known as a “cock ‘n’ block”.
The trio ride back to camp, where Ed Harris again requests the story behind The Girl With The Snake Tattoo’s snake tattoo. Good lord man, do you know what you’re asking? Better get some ethically sourced kopi luwak to stay awake for the impending slog of an explanation from the latest hipster with a super cool original body adornment.
I know, I’m sorry, I’m being harsh on the tattoo-lovers, which is pretty much everyone these days. Let’s just say I’m jealous because I don’t have anything in my life I’m passionate about enough to want it permanently marked on my body, except of course for cat scratches from the jerks I foster.
Anyhoo, she explains that the tattoo’s red ink is literally the blood of the men who pillaged her village when she was younger, killing her mother in the process. The head of the snake, on her cheek, remains sparse, to be filled in when she eventually tracks down the main villain - Wyatt.
Well, cut off my head and call me Sir Walter Raleigh, because that was a very quick upgrade, wasn’t it? Wyatt wasn’t around in the first episode when we saw her with her tattoo, but now he’s the reason for it.
Ed Harris and Lawrence saddle up again to go off in search of Wyatt, but all they find is Teddy aka Bicylops. He really is just a whipping boy in this show. I’m finding it very difficult to feel much more than pity for him, to be honest. I know it’s not him, it’s his programming, but still GET BETTER TEDDY.
Let’s briefly cover off Delores’ adventures with the White Hat/Black Hat duo, because quite frankly I watched this episode twice before recapping and am struggling to recall much more than a) White Hat was kind to Delores, b) Black Hat was a general douche all round and c) gunfight. I think they were on their mission to capture an outlaw, and Black Hat kept breaking the rules to shoot and/or root stuff.
The only interesting thing happened was when they rocked up to the same Mexican village to get information, and Lawrence’s daughter seemed to trigger flashbacks in Delores. She had even etched that same maze shape in the sand with a stick. The whole encounter left Delores shaken with memories of being in a church, possibly attacked, lots of slow motion, you know the drill.
A kindly-looking man attempted to help her by saying she should return to the Abernathy ranch, but once she said she was not going back because her family was all dead they got into a very sturdy arm wrestle indeed. Only White Hat saved the day with his relentless good cheer and basic decency.
Delores, of course, had begun the episode with another one of her chats with Barnard, although mysteriously no discussion about his son this time. He seems to have bottled up that particular Important Motivational Plot Point for the moment. Their discussion ended with Delores declaring that she thinks she wants to be free, but is that free of her loop in the park (which she later breaks by refusing to go back to the ranch) or free of being a park-based Iron Milkmaiden altogether?
Having re-repressed thoughts of his son, Barnard can now jump back into bed and service Sharply-Dressed Modern Business Woman (they didn’t show the pair in bed last ep while the lost child was a Plot Point). She’s all worried about Anthony Hopkins’ new storyline, and how the Board will react. Barnard gives her some pointers on non-defensive body language, and helps her do up her dress.
And here was possibly the most unbelievable moment of the episode - am I really supposed to believe that a woman that tightly wound DOESN’T wear a bra? Pfft, come on producers, the squidgy sexbots are way more plausible than a Serious Business Woman going commando.
Later, SDMBW turns up to see Ford exploding and digging and trenching and generally making a big mess in a quarry. SDMBW tries to offer him more time for his no doubt hugely complex incoming storyline. But Ford is insistent. He takes SDMBW for lunch on the balcony of his hacienda-style park getaway. It’s such a bullshit power move, particularly so when he somehow commands all the attendants and farm workers to freeze, leaving the impression they’re sitting in a really big Lego set.
It turns out Ford chose this location because it’s where SDMBW visited as a child with her parents, many years ago. “We know everything about our guests, don’t we?” he says with Lecter-like precision, also relishing in the revelation that he knows she's boinking Bernard.
He also declares himself to not be sentimental like Arthur, and isn’t attached to the things he creates. His new storyline is not a rehashing, but rather a re-smashing… and he has the giant landscape-munching machine to prove it.
While we’re on Arthur, the lost creator was also mentioned by Ed Harris this episode. He said that Arthur built a world in which you could do anything but die, but then broke his own rule. He also espoused himself as something of a Morpheus from The Matrix with lines like “What if I told you I am here to set you free?” and so forth. Hmm, maybe MRAs will start identifying themselves with Ed Harris and give poor old Lawrence Fishburne a break. Regardless, there’s definitely a link between Ed Harris and Anthony Hopkins. Perhaps they’re doing a switcheroo in terms of who the “villain” really is, perhaps they’re keeping us on our toes and going for that whole “shades of grey” morality thing that Game of Thrones does so well.
Finally, we see Hector, The Girl With The Snake Tattoo and their gang ride back into town to attempt once again to steal the safe, their programmed loop that was rushed up in Episode 1. Despite Ed Harris telling Hector he’s not going to find answers in the safe, he has to steal it anyway.
But this time he is interrupted by Thandie Newton. And apologies to all - it turns out I’ve been calling her the wrong thing this whole time. Her name is actually “Maeve” not “May”. I chalk this up to mild deafness brought on by nearly a decade of radio newsreading. If you had to listen to as many “HELLOOOOO! I’m FRANK WALKER from NATIONAL TILES!” ads I did while wearing headphones, you’d be aurally challenged as well.
Maeve’s flashbacks and impending sense of doom have both been growing since she woke up on the morgue table last ep. Earlier in this episode, she seems to have a conversation with Clementine interrupted by a hail of bullets, only to find them both standing back at the bar, right as rain, exchanging the same pleasantries about an enormous… er, “job”.
Maeve tries to sketch the figure she seems to see in her hallucinations, a red-and-white robotic looking creature with a square head and jug ears. She hides her drawing in the floorboard, only to discover a stack of other similar drawings, proving this is not her first turn at the memory rodeo. Maeve’s even more panicked when she sees a young Native American child’s doll, carved in the same red-and-white fashion. “It’s from their so-called religion,” dismisses one onlooker, but we know that clearly Maeve is not alone in having these flashbacks.
So when Hector turns up she thinks he can give her answers, in return for the code to the safe. When he is daunted at the prospect of carving into her stomach to see if a bullet really did penetrate her abdomen, she takes it upon herself, because THANDIE NEWTON IS A BADASS. Her screams when Hector plunges his hand into her wound attract the attention of the lawmen, who’ve been busy outside pumping lead into The Girl With The Snake Tattoo. As they approach the locked door, Hector retrieves a bullet, and Maeve, overjoyed in her agony, says it means she isn’t crazy, and “None of this matters”. She snogs Hector as a hail of bullets comes through the door.
I guess the question now is - how aware are the park operators of Maeve’s own growing level of awareness? Are they all too distracted by Ford’s new storyline to realise the replicants are self-actualising? Or has this been Ford’s plan all along?
Join me next time for Episode 5, hopefully sooner rather than later!