Westworld Season 1, Episode 4: “Dissonance Theory”

This week on Westworld, several characters are introduced to the mystery of the Maze and fan theories about Arthur, the Man in Black, and Bernard get some excellent fodder. This is the kind of debate I actually enjoy.

How detailed is Ford getting with his new narrative project and how soon will all of the hosts be as keyed in as poor Maeve, who is seriously losing her mind from the trauma?

The only way this show could make my head hurt more was if it had a crossover episode with The Walking Dead.

So I was pretty off with regards to my own Man in Black theory. I think having another guest recognize him from his work in the outside world confirms that he isn’t just a figment of the hosts’ imagination or bit of malware (or an alternate timeline). No, he is a real man, with a real foundation (maybe doing something with longevity?) who really has been coming to the park for thirty years and very likely wants to unshackle robot consciousness. It seems he is literally trying to follow in Arnold’s footsteps, for good or ill.

Call me crazy, but I don’t know that robot consciousness is a good thing, for all of the torture the hosts suffer in Westworld. Sure, creating artificial intelligence will be the closest to being god-like a human can ever get; some people like seeing themselves as gods. But Ford does and does not consider the hosts his children. He encourages natural evolution but also maintains that they are not owed even basic dignities. Being so powerful can quickly turn into being too powerful. Ford seems a bit mad, no? Not in the fun we-all-go-a-little-mad-sometimes way, but in the I-can-murder-you-with-my-mind evil scientist way. Ford was downright scary during his meeting with Cullen. “Don’t get in my way.” and “I’m not the sentimental type.” No one better to sell those lines than OG Hannibal Lecter.

armistice

The hosts respond to Ford’s voice commands; do they hear him in their heads as the voice of a god? The glitchy hosts hear Arnold in their heads and talk to him as if he were a god. Then, some of these hosts, like Dolores and Maeve, have memories or “bad dreams” of the Man in Black telling them to wake up and be free. Lastly, Dolores seems to be able to hear Bernard in her head, seen last week, and she remembered her time in the barn with the Man in Black.

All of these many gods of a small kingdom.

But what about Bernard? Dolores’ speech about her grief took bits almost verbatim from Bernard’s conversation with his wife about his dead son. I don’t know why I didn’t consider it before, but I am definitely wondering if Bernard is a host. It’s easy to plant memories and photographs and you can easily program a scripted Skype call. Damn you, Westworld, making me think deep thoughts on a Sunday night. It’d just be a little disappointing if the most obvious choice for an inside man at Delos turned out to be… the guy who talks like a host in perpetual analysis mode. And yet, it’s obvious Bernard is coaching Dolores into A.I.’s next great leap. But why?

Perhaps Bernard and the Man in Black are on the same team. But they don’t know it yet.

It’s really hard to wrap my head around what Delos does and does not know about park guests in general or the Man in Black in particular. According to the Westworld ARG, guests do undergo some kinds of background checks and psychological profiling before they are approved to enter the park. How can they let the Man in Black use a match when he wants, but they don’t see him scalping hosts? Westworld needs a better Seneca Crane than Lesser Hemsworth!

clifton-collins-jr-as-lawrence-and-ed-harris-as-man-in-black-credit-j

The next puzzle piece for the Man in Black is, like all good HBO dramas, found in a shapely naked lady. (Her name is Armistice. It might have been mentioned in the first episode, but did not come up again. Like last week’s female bounty hunter, she doesn’t really matter.) Like Teddy, Armistice’s nemesis is Wyatt, the crazed cult leader. But in order for the Man in Black to get some Arnold-related intel, he needs to go on a side quest. Man, this show really is like Red Dead Redemption. But using unlimited health cheats like all the park guests makes everything less exciting. So the Man in Black can kill a bunch of hosts who can’t fire back and break a convict out of prison with some fireworks, singlehanded? Fun to watch, but ultimately nothing revelatory. It truly is the longer game I’m interested in, too.

Man, I hope the Architect isn’t at the center of this maze or I’ll be super pissed.

Final reveries:

  • This episode was originally called “Six Impossible Things” on the press screeners. Not sure why. “Dissonance Theory” makes a lot more sense.
  • Dolores isn’t as compelling as Maeve. Dolores is so fragile and constantly being fawned over and protected by well-meaning men. We know she can handle herself. We know she is capable of great acts of independance with huge significance. And yet when she’s not in her analysis mode, she’s a damsel in distress. Her role reminds me of River from Firefly, and that’s not a good thing. It’s frustrating to watch. Meanwhile, Maeve is figuring all this out on her own with no help from Bernard.
  • So is Logan the board member already in the park?
  • Over-under on Discount Ellen Page surviving to the finale? She’s going to nose around too deep into Delos’ secrets and get her own head smashed in, methinks. What’s up with “not-Orion” constellation? Something so wrong about the stars being different in Westworld. Did someone at Delos make a mistake when they created the sky? We know the park is underground. Is all of that beautiful scenery Ed Harris is chewing fake? Hell, is Westworld even on Earth?!
  • Bernard’s observations are going to make me more mindful of my posture in business meetings. Good advice, Mr. Robot.
  • I’m far too busy to dig so deep into that above-mentioned Westworld ARG, but mosey over to Reddit for an amazing amount of internet detectiving and fan theories.
  • The anachronistic saloon piano played The Cure’s “A Forest.” Please do Joy Division next!
  • Next week: “Contrapasso.”

Westworld airs Sunday nights at 9PM E/PT on HBO.

Theresa DeLucci is a regular contributor to Tor.com covering TV, book reviews and sometimes games. She’s also gotten enthusiastic about television for Boing Boing, Wired.com’s Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast and Den of Geek. Reach her via pony express or on Twitter.

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