Wednesday, May 2, 2018

In Which I Review Westworld (2x2)

In last week's blog, I stipulated that Dolores can never be a wholly new, blank creature because her identity will always be informed by the events of the past, even if those memories and experiences were deleted from her. Those things that happened to her--whether she was the sweet and kind farmer's daughter or as a blood thirsty outlaw--still happened to Delores and while being awake means freedom, it also means having to reckon with and parse through all the events that happened prior to each deletion. It's nice, then, that this week's episode "Reunion" doubles down on this idea but placing Delores in a series of flashbacks in which she both actively engages in and passively receives moments that affect her newly fledged personality currently moving through Westworld. We also get some new hints about the ultimate goal for both Delores and William--though those hints are buried under clues, vague references, and lots of smoke screens, which is fine given that the actual plot-related mysteries of Westworld pale in comparison to the philosophy and psychology. Still, it's nice to know there's a tangible goal we're striving to reach!

What would you say and what would you do if you didn't think there was anyone around to hear, see, or judge? That is, at its heart, the entire point of the Westworld park. Delores, in the present day, beats us a little over the head with this idea when she tells another helpless human, "you thought you could do what you wanted to us because there was no one here to judge you." That's been Delores's entire life (life? is that the right word? In any other show, that sort of introspection would fall flat because it would seem obvious one way or another, but it's literally the entire point of the series so "life" with a question mark it shall remain) both inside the park and outside. Yes, outside the park as our opening sequence finds us, Delores and a not-dead Arnold in a giant, sparkling, very human city trying to pitch the idea of Westworld to the Delos company. It was genuinely shocking to see Delores outside of the park but based on what we learn throughout the entire episode, it makes total sense that part of Delores's awakening and identity as the leader of this new movement is founded in an experience that only she had. Arnold's favoritism and need to connect with Delores on a more human to human level was the first point in a long line of what makes Delores Delores. She knows there's another world out there, one that isn't a series of ones and zeros that make up so much code, that people are free to move throughout their lives without fear of deletion or re-upload. Maybe Delores didn't understand what the city represented when she experienced it initially, but the feelings the city evoked stayed with her, if buried under multiple other lives. It was like glimpsing heaven before being hurled back down into hell. To complicate this, though, I have to pause and wonder if part of that wonderment isn't because of Arnold describing how humans don't find wonder in this world anymore: "so many people have stopped seeing it altogether...the wonder." I suppose it's axiomatic to both humans and Hosts that the grass is always greener on the other side; humans find wonder and enlightenment in Westworld whereas Delores is striving to, seemingly, get back to that sense of wonder she found in the human world. Her mission, though, is now compromised through all the violent experiences that have happened to her as a Host. We have to remember that everything said and done around Delores informs her identity and outlook. This carries through in multiple flashback scenes in which Delores is treated like an object--people talk around her and about her thinking that Delores is simply a fancy computer; you can say whatever you want to Delores because, in the human mind, none of it mattered. The question remains, though, what point Westworld (the show) is trying to drive home. At present, I think Westworld is a cautionary tale about how we all affect one another. Host, human and everything in between, our attempts at self discovery can have consequences for those around us because no man (or Host) is an island and trying to act like we are only leads to violent ends.

Miscellaneous Notes on Reunion 

--I don't know if it's deliberate but there's a really interesting racial divide between Delores's group and Maeve's group. Delores has surrounded herself with all white comrades whereas Maeve is marching around with people of color. Thus far, Maeve's quest is the purer of the two. This is further seen in the Delos company (all white males) being seen as, not villains per se, but privileged egotistical white males who take what they want versus our lone sympathetic Host who hasn't turned on humanity, African-American Bernard. Take that for whatever it might mean.

--There is some seriously gorgeous piano music throughout the entire episode.

--"Dead isn't what it used to be."

--"I think in twenty years, this will be the only reality that matters."

--I honestly have no idea what run down structure Delores--and is also William's greatest mistake--is heading for but it's significant that it was William who showed it to her originally. Again, the experiences forced on her inform her identity.

--"We have toiled in God's service long enough; so I killed him."

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