Westworld: 1.05 Contrapasso
Contrapasso was certainly an episode of revelation, delivering more clues than ever before to the mysteries behind Westworld while still dangling the answers just out reach. Logan and William's identities, the relationship between Robert Ford and the man in black and more details about that fateful event thirty four years ago which led to the the death of Ford's partner Arnold. The puzzle was one step closer to completion by the episode's end.
The maze Arnold created at the heart of Westworld continued to be the core focus of this week's story, as the key characters moved a closer to it. Ed Harris's man in black ended his entertaining partnership with Clifton Collins Jr's Lawrence by slitting his throat and stringing him up in the most brutal fashion. It's a partnership I was sad to see go but it did lead to the surprise twist that it was James Marsden's Teddy he needed, using Lawrence's blood to give poor Teddy a transfusion. Given the many comments the man in black made about Teddy's past, I suspect he is another host that has been part of the park for some time.
At least it wasn't the last we saw of Lawrence, who was quickly reimagined as the violent, powerful man in charge of Pariah, a frontier town full of death and debauchery. The set looked amazing, a mix of Spanish stone buildings, Day of the Dead carnivals, coffins, buzzards, a fountain of blood and elaborate courts filled with naked courtiers painted gold and a myriad of orgies. It was the last place you would expect Evan Rachel Wood's innocent farm girl Delores to appear, but here she was with Logan, William and bounty turned ally Slim Miller. The depth of this world is amazing and this latest setting was an evocative mix of classic westerns and decadent Roman villas; it might be hell (where the episode's name is inspired), but it was also the ultimate, extravagant example of embracing the darkest aspects of humanity.
Delores cast off her blue dress this week to join Slim, William and Logan on a heist; it was as much about her casting off her good, wholesome image as it was William's. Both killed this episode, protecting each other and Logan from harm, first as the raid went terribly wrong and then when the violent Confederates realised that the nitro they had stolen was fake. Contrapasso ended with Delores and William on the run and Logan captured and beaten...are the rules different this far out or is it a sign that with a guest attacked in such a brutal manner, controls are failing?
I wanted to touch upon the big theory that has been doing the rounds - that Jimmi Simpson's William and Ed Harris's man in black are one and the same, their stories in Westworld taking part in different time periods. William's gradual transformation into a killer, even if it is of hosts in a make believe world, could be the start of the events 34 years ago that led to the death of Arnold in an event that nearly destroyed Westworld. Delores being the original would certainly be a tragic figure if that were true; her growing self-awareness stripped away as she was returned to the repeating events we first saw in the pilot. But I am not sure that is true - as cool a twist as that would be. Perhaps I'm putting too much faith in the show but I think there is something we are completely unaware of about to happen. We did learn more about William's relationship to Logan though, the weakling brother in law and subordinate in their company...an executive vice president of whatever company is seeking to claim a stake in Westworld.
What was really fascinating was the conversation between Harris's man in black and Hopkins' Ford in the saloon. They have known each other a long time, evidence in the very familiar way in which Harris's character addresses him. It was a great meeting of two great actors, Harris and Hopkins delivering an mesmerising performance as Ford tried to deduce what the guest was looking for, the centre of the maze. I suspect Wyatt and his impact on the world might be an attempt by Ford to stop him reaching that centre. "I always felt this place was lacking a villain, hence my humble contribution." growled Harris, acknowledging his own ruthless and bloody acts as he cuts his way across Westworld. I wondered for a moment if Harris was playing Arnold, who the more I think about it, might be alive in some form, even if his consciousness is residing in a host.
Ford is certainly looking for his old partner, interrogating Delores, demanding to know if Arnold had made contact with her in the last 34 years. She knew enough to lie, telling whoever was watching her in the darkness that she hadn't told Ford anything. It's a mystery Shannon Woodward's Elsie Hughes may also be onto, studying the host that attacked her in the desert and discovering a secret laser-based satellite link embedded within it.
Like Delores, Maeve (Thandie Newton) has been getting ever closer to self-awareness, stumbling on half the truth during the dramatic shootout at the end of last week's episode. Throughout Contrapasso she lay naked and lifeless on the table while technician Felix attempted to resurrect the dead bird. Whatever signal he used to eventually wake it up worked on her too; throughout the episode I was just waiting for her to become conscious. "Hello Felix, it's time you and I had a chat." she said, sitting naked on the edge of the metal table, the bird on her knee. I suspect she knows everything now and I'm looking forward to seeing how that conversation goes next week.
There was less of the power politics at play behind the scenes and more of the dramatic events within Westworld this week but it was all fascinating to watch. Delores - and William's - slow transformation from weak victim and the ever deepening mystery of Ed Harris's man in black and Anthony Hopkins' Ford made their shared scene a highlight in this very strong episode. With the gruesome and dramatic splendour of Pariah and the mystery of Arnold and the 34-year old tragedy starting to unravel, I am more hooked than ever.