Westworld: 1.03 The Stray
The sweet romance between farmgirl Delores and mysterious stranger Teddy was at the heart of this week's Westworld and it is a testament to the endearing performances from Evan Rachel Wood and James Marsden that this relationship is so engaging. The fact that it is all fake, every word, every mannerism, every kiss is scripted by Robert Ford and his team is almost inconsequential. The plight of these hosts and their journey to self awareness is as fascinating as the machinations of the human creators and the park itself.
For the third episode in a row, the show began with Delores in a lab talking with her creators. The comparison to Alice In Wonderland as she spoke with Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) was very apparent; she is Alice, passing through the looking glass. Lowe was on a journey of self discovery himself, studying the original hosts, the mystery of the upgrade and its impact on the synthetic creations. Cullen was worried about Ford's upgrade and as Lowe dug deeper he discovered, through Anthony Hopkins' Ford, the reason for the change; to correct the mistakes of Ford's dead partner Arnold.
Light was shed on the mystery of the accident thirty years ago as Ford recounted to Lowe how Arnold wanted to create real consciousness in the hosts. It is something that seems to be reasserting itself in characters like Delores and Maeve, who had a flash to Teddy and the other dismembered hosts in the lab from last week's chilling ending. Arnold strove too close to perfection and died but his code remained; Ford's upgrade has been designed to fix that mistake but Lowe saw in Delores at the episode's end that it wasn't working. Instead of resetting her, he allowed her new awareness to continue and I am intrigued to see where their relationship goes next.
Evan Rachel Wood's Delores might have been the heart of the story but this was also Jeffrey Wright's best episode yet. Not only did he get a chance to explore his fascination with self-aware hosts but we also got a glimpse of his tragic past and the death of his son. "This pain is all I have left of him." he told his wife (a guest starring Gina Torres on video coms) and perhaps we will see his attempt to recreate their lost child as the series progresses.
Anthony Hopkins became a less sympathetic character this week. He acts, walks and talks like a god; he might come across as a benevolent old man when he wants to but we saw his cold ruthlessness in the scene where he berated the engineer for covering old the naked host with a cloth and cut the host's face to prove a point. "They don't feel unless we tell them to." he asserted though the reality might be quite different. The de-aging of Hopkins in a flashback to the early days of the park was a great piece of CGI work too.
Perhaps his greatest mistake might be his latest narrative and the creation of a violent villain Wyatt. In reprogramming Teddy, Ford gave Marsden's character a purpose in the wider story; not only was he there to protect Delores, he was the only man to go up against the bloodthirsty villain and survive. His journey with new plucky sidekick Armistice (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal), Sheriff Pickett (Brian Howe) and a band of unfortunate guests lead to a terrifying and violent end, falling foul of a band of masked brutes with axes who hacked poor Teddy to pieces.
Elsie Hughes (Shannon Woodward) and Ashley Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) also found themselves on a mission into the wilderness to track a missing host. Through them we got another aspect in the discussion of what makes a host feel real. Stubbs argued that giving hosts backstories felt unnecessary but Hughes felt it kept them grounded and relatable to the guests. The question of how much real was too real continued to resonate throughout the show. Hughes and Stubbs came terrifying close to a real threat as they tried to rescue the missing host trapped in a crevice. It's assault on Stubbs as he tried to cut him loose at the head showed a host breaking free of his programming and it looked as if Hughes was going to meet a brutal end before the host turned a rock on itself and smashed its skull in. Did it do that to end the pain and misery? Did it know that it would be reset? It was a shocking conclusion to the episode that continued to raise more questions.
There was little of new guests William and Logan in this episode. After struggling with the use of violence, William had to shoot the host criminal as he held prostitute Clementine hostage. It certainly awakened the adventurer in him, though how much violence played its part remained an unnerving theme in this very disturbing world. Just as disturbing was Logan's praise for William 'popping his cherry' with his first kill, as if taking a life in Westworld truly made him a man.
There was no Man in black this week, save a flash in Delores's mind as she fought against her programming (disturbingly she was designed to be a victim and plaything of guests) and shot her would be rapist in another chilling reenactment of her father's murder from the opening episode. She might be the conduit through which the audience studies this place, but there was evidence aplenty that Ford's attempts to stop the self-awakening is happening all over Westworld. The rise of artificial intelligence is a solid sci fi tale told a 100 times but few are done quite as well as this show. And it still feels as if the best is still to come.