Season One, Episode Ten — “The Bicameral Mind”
By Brandy Dykhuizen. We now know, definitively, that the maze was meant for hosts, not guests. Is it possible to make a television series that’s not meant for viewers? Say what you will about Westworld, it has been a journey, one with truly unique methods of storytelling, whether they were meant as intentional or not.
On the one hand, we were given myriad symbols, visual cues piled high on top of visual cues, making sure we didn’t miss any necessary (or just plain fun) allusions. Certain episodes seemed more like paintings come to life (“Contrapasso” and “Trace Decay” come to mind, in which a painting quite literally manifests itself in the landscape). Others were super heavy on unrelenting metaphors (pick any episode – chances are there’s something in there about a greyhound or Through the Looking Glass).
Yet Westworld also brazenly dropped Psych or Phil 101 lectures in there at will, mostly through the capable intonations of Dr. Ford, who made for a dignified, albeit self-satisfied professor; one losing all interest in fellow faculty members as his retirement draws nigh. While both the visual and academic aspects make for a more interesting show overall, the center of that Venn diagram barely overlapped enough to enjoy a clean narrative. The entire series sometimes felt like more of a thought experiment of the producers than an actual program.
It’s hard to call it a cliffhanger when the writing has been on the wall since Episode One (or sooner, really, if you’re familiar with the original movie); we’ve been eagerly anticipating the host revolt for quite some time now. While we expected some sort of Ford-induced host mayhem at the board meeting, I certainly wasn’t counting on Dr. Ford programming Dolores to shoot him in the back of the head. It felt final this time. Rarely has a character died in Westworld where we didn’t half expect them to come back (where are Elsie and Stubbs, anyways?), but I would be truly shocked to see Dr. Ford’s face again (besides, I’m guessing Sir Hopkins has better things to do). So where is the series headed?
Well, it’s plunging into chaos, according to Jonathan Nolan. Chaos has a more promising ring to it, and one which the creators and writers seem more suitable to cultivate. It took 10 hours for Westworld to deliberate over its timelines and the William/Man in Black connection, something that was all but sealed since the second episode. The halted gait allowed for a few truly fantastic performances per episode, but such a stellar cast deserves more fluidity and a wider range of characters with whom to share the screen. Chaos could be a step in the right direction for a fun series that never truly took off to its full potential.
That being said, if those samurais show up in Sweetwater, I’m out.
“Consciousness isn’t a journey upwards, but a journey inwards.” – Arnold, to Dolores
“Another fucking riddle.” – Old William. Indeed.
“You never really gave a shit about the girl, did you? She was just an excuse.” – Logan, to Young William.
“Oh for fuck’s sake. You’re not one of us.” – Maeve, to poor, confused, questioning Felix.
“The gods are pussies.” – Armistice seems rather disgusted by this revelation.
“Oh, Felix. You really do make a terrible human being. And I mean that as a compliment.” – Maeve has a soft spot for her doting lapdog.
BEST MOMENT: Armistice made things way too much fun in the upstairs massacre. I’ve spent all season wishing this character would get significant screen time, and was happy to see more of her quirky sadism last night. Between kissing the glass on the other side of fear-frozen Sylvester to the pure, unbridled joy on her face after shooting an automatic gun for the first time (not to mention that explosive, “fuck yeah!” laugh) to cutting off her own arm to continue the fray, she was just a bundle of unpredictable delight punctuating a storyline prone to predicting itself every second beat.
EPISODE’S MVP: At the end of multiple storylines, everyone is important to a certain extent, but a few things about Maeve’s performance struck a chord outside the player piano’s tired loops. Given all her parading around and blatant rewriting of the rules and her own script, it was pretty likely that Ford was aware of her power and was encouraging it for the sake of his own schemes. It would be a careful and smart choice for Ford to convince such a stubborn and headstrong character that staying in the park was her own decision. It made sense for her to jump off the train and head back “home,” so she would maintain a feeling of control.
The moment that stuck out most, though, was when she was alone in the elevator with Felix. Host versus Human sentiment was high, and there was some momentary palpable tension (or perhaps just fear from Felix). Maeve did nothing to increase her empathy settings, but she seems to have a genuine soft spot for Felix, beyond needing him up until this point. Ford may have scripted her revolt, but she may be nearing consciousness on her own as well.
DOWN THE BARREL:
– I’m pretty sure Sylvester (Ptolemy Slocum) is the patriarch of the Slocum Family of recent Swiffer Wet-Jet fame.
– I guess Peter Abernathy’s moment in the sun will come around next season. He was one of the best parts of the show early on, so hopefully he’ll have a bigger role now that shit has hit the fan.
– Samurai World???
– What exactly does Dolores mean when she tells Bernarnold the maze ends “in a place I’ve never been… in a thing I’ll never do?” Is she referring to true death or true consciousness? I’m willing to bet she’s on her way to both, eventually.
– A little disappointed in Dolores for telling Old William that her one true love will come back and kill him. I thought she didn’t want to be the damsel anymore?
– And speaking of Old William, Ed Harris somehow never really ages yet has always looked old. He looked more or less the same in Glengarry Glen Ross.
– Adios, clanky, charmingly out of tune versions of already played-out Radiohead songs!
7 out of 10
Season One Score: 6.5 out of 10
Before: “The Well Tempered Clavier,” here.