[This article presents details from Westworld, season 1, episode 5 that contain SPOILERS.]
As far as advantages go, Westworld gave itself a pretty good one when designing the various players in the overarching narrative (whatever that may prove to be at this point) to also act as representations of those who work behind the scenes to make a TV series like Westworld function. While the meta-nature of the show makes for entertaining comparisons to schlocky writers, overbearing producers and moneymen, and, of course, self-indulgent filmmakers, it also allows the series to get away with some seriously stilted dialogue. Prior to 'Contrapasso' the most obvious example of this was Dr. Ford's explanation to Bernard of his own feelings and the tragedy that marked his past. The dialogue was so specific and artificial the seams in scene weren't just showing, they were practically coming undone. But because Westworld had gone on to function more as a puzzle box than a traditional narrative, Ford's affected dialogue served another purpose: It gave rise to some suspicions about the true nature of Bernard.
That sort of thing works when Anthony Hopkins and Jeffrey Wright are the ones delivering the questionable dialogue (inasmuch as its quality raises questions beyond dialogue QA), but it's another thing altogether when a pair of goofball technicians explain how the world works to one another for the benefit of the audience. The scene in question, when Sylvester and Felix – the two nincompoops who had the run-in with Maeve when she woke up during some routine maintenance – see their characters expanded beyond the role of bottom-rung deliverer of exposition, is ostensibly the same as Ford and Bernard's chat about the nature of the latter's potentially prescribed emotional disposition. But because of who the two are in the show's (and the park's) pecking order, the stiltedness is augmented to a much higher degree. And yet, again, despite the clumsiness of its delivery, there are vague nuggets of information that serve an important purpose, as the episode reveals itself to be more interested in world and narrative building than the four hours that have come before.
Even the world building of 'Contrapasso' is strange, though, as it's meant to present a clearer picture of the world outside Westworld than the one inside the park. In addition to Sylvester and Felix's conversation, Ford and the Man in Black engage in a tête-à-tête that underlines certain comments made by the good doctor in the series premiere about the extent to which humankind has progressed and what that means for the evolution of the species. While the Man in Black describes the world as one of "plenty" and essentially confirms Ford's belief that the zenith of human accomplishment has more or less been reached, it's the technicians' exchange that becomes the more illuminating of the two – at least in terms of establishing a dichotomy of experience for average workers in the still-hazy world that exists beyond the park's walls (or its atmosphere).
Is there a caste system in place within Delos and the World Outside the Park?
Sylvester and Felix may serve a greater purpose than to propel Maeve's story forward or to offer an example of how depraved the technicians – i.e., "butchers" – can be while dealing with the Hosts when they think no one is watching. Never mind the fact that their interactions with Maeve don't quite add up, since Elsie points out that another technician is a "necro-perv" by easily accessing a Host's memory and a recording of him doing necro-pervy things to her (so unless no one has bothered to look at Maeve's recent history there should be record of her running around the halls of the main compound wielding a scalpel). The two also afford another small glimpse into the world outside the park – or maybe a closer look at the social stratification inside the park.
When Felix is caught tinkering with a synthetic bird, resurrecting it via a console he swiped from another team, the moment isn't just to confirm HBO's love of seeing small winged creatures brought back to life in its programs. Instead, Sylvester's dialogue suggests that people are born into the roles they take on later in life. By telling Felix, "Personality testing should have weeded you out in the embryo." It sounds as though outside Westworld there is something of a caste system that determines where certain people are placed in the social pecking order. Sylvester and Lutz had the bad luck of being born into the lower echelons, which is further underlined by the fact that they are both named for cartoon cats.
Then again, perhaps the park also creates everyone who works at Westworld – at least in the lower rungs and on the service side of things. This would be in keeping with Angela – the Host who greeted William when he first entered the park – as she appeared somewhat self-aware, or at least aware enough that she could play coy about being a Host.
If this is the case, then it raises a lot of questions about the level of awareness given to the park's creations. It also adds to the notion that the show is dealing with two separate timelines. Perhaps the park made Angela, Sylvester, and Felix and their semi self-awareness is part of its near-unraveling 30 years prior to Bernard mentioning it in the premiere. Then again, maybe they're just a pair of doofuses who exist to make the audience laugh.
Who is Stealing Data From Westworld?
The woodcutter was definitely up to something more than just breaking his loop when Elsie and Stubbs chased him down during 'The Stray.' The funny thing about these Hosts – especially the ones that veer off their prescribed loops – is that they're being monitored for internal malfunctions more than they are external influences on their behavior. Whatever reason it was that the woodcutter went wandering off and later smashed his own head, both events are clearly related to the satellite uplink that Elsie found in his arm. The question now is whether or not this is an act of corporate espionage, or if there exits some other reason someone would want data from the park.
First off, what sort of data are they smuggling? The scenario is reminiscent of Wayne Knight's Nedry in Jurassic Park, suggesting that there's an unhappy employee who is high enough up the ranks that he or she can surreptitiously slip a rather large communications device into a Host's arm. Is there a corporation interested in competing with Delos in terms of creating expensive, immersive, ultra-violent, and hedonistic theme parks? If so, the world outside the park really is a world of plenty.
But perhaps the data is meant for some other purpose, like, say, bringing the dead back to life. If Bernard isn't actually a Host, and his private discussions with Dolores are meant for a larger purpose than his scientific curiosity toward the concept of consciousness, then maybe Bernard has designs to use Westworld technology and what he's learned from the park's oldest Host to bring his dead son Charlie back to life.
Does El Lazo confirm the dual timelines?
What are the chances that El Lazo is the same Lawrence that the Man in Black strung up and drained of his bodily essence to save Teddy's life? Yes, he's the same guy, but what are the chances it's the same Lawrence after having been found by whoever picked him up after the Man in Black was done with him? Or is this El Lazo the Lawrence of 30 years ago, a more violent man with plans for some nitroglycerin that may or may not play a part in the massive Game of War going on in the lands well outside Sweetwater?
If it's the latter, then it goes a long way in confirming the notion that William and the Man in Black are in two separate timelines. If it's not, then it would seem Lawrence, like the micro-Ford that the Man in Black sent to fetch some water, are all part of a much larger game being controlled to the smallest detail by Ford for some unknown purpose. Regardless of when El Lazo is, he's definitely involved in the maze and will almost certainly play a part in getting Dolores to its entrance.
Is Dr. Ford Arnold – or did Arnold create him?
Something doesn't add up when it comes to Arnold and Dr. Ford. Well, something doesn't add up when it comes to Dr. Ford and the entire park. Needless to say, the circumstances of Arnold's death remain a mystery. Some say he died in an accident, while Ford believes it was a suicide. Given the level of omniscience Ford has exhibited over the last five episodes, it's worth it to believe him when he says something contrary to common belief. But he's clearly obfuscating several details about the nature of his relationship with Arnold and Arnold's relationship with the park.
What if Arnold cooked up the idea of Dr. Ford as a Walt Disney-like character, an enigmatic genius who "imagineered" automatons for the enjoyment of the park's visitors? It might make sense, then, that a different kind of robot rebellion began and ended with Ford, when he achieved the consciousness Arnold was seeking to create and orchestrated his creator's death – effectively becoming the god in the machine, and controlling everything that's happened in the park since. Perhaps, then, Arnold's latent influence is a security measure and that's what's driving Dolores.
The other option, then, is that Dr. Ford is Arnold – which would be in keeping with the Man in Black's discussion on past lives – and he simply took up the mantle of Ford after an event in the past required a name and personality change. Whatever the truth, there's a good chance the truth Arnold will fundamentally alter how we see Ford.
Westworld continues next Sunday with 'The Adversary' @9pm on HBO.
Photos: John P. Johnson/HBO