Friday, December 9, 2016

Westworld Ho! - The Bicameral Mind






 Is there a God out there?

Are we alone?

 Why are we here?



All very heady questions, worthy of asking and interesting to explore.  Was this the intent of the first season of "Westworld"?

There has been talk in some circles that "Westworld" has deliberately set out to, if not find, answers to these questions.

There has also been talk that "Westworld" simply followed a general line of questioning that mankind has been asking itself for centuries and is germane to our existence and provides fodder to our story telling as a species.

I think I subscribe to the latter notion.  The unanswerable always makes for great story telling as it is unlimited in scope and vast in it's exploration.



Westworld didn't do anything to dissuade the viewing audience that Dr. Ford was anything less than a god.  Ford seem to hold himself in such esteem.  One does not create life and imbue it with intelligence unless you hold yourself to such lofty standards.  He even orchestrated his final act with his greatest creation into a Ragnarok like affair.

(BTW, I was delighted to see the painting of God giving life to Adam by Michelangelo in this episode.  Coincidentally, I had referred to it in my previous blog post.)

And what about his "Twilight of the Gods"?  Why the major orchestration to burn everything down?  Why bring his greatest creations to the brink and have them step back?  Is suffering really that important to existence?

Was it an atonement for sins?  For Arnold?

Or was it rather the wrath of an Old Testament God?




It was ironic that Ford took the same path as Arnold when his creation was threatened.  Arnold couldn't stand to see his precious creation corrupted so he took Dolores and made her into his personal angel of death.  If I understand Ford correctly, he didn't differ on the potential of their creation, just in how they were to reach their ultimate end point.  

Arnold came to know the Maze as the path to true artificial intelligence while Ford thought the perfection of which came only through suffering.  It's too bad Arnold didn't see the loops for what they were.  He may have prolonged his life a little longer if he did.

(Perhaps Dr. Ford had a higher capacity for pain and suffering.)

But in the end, both of the "Gods" couldn't bear to see what others would make of their creation so they turned their paradise into a weapon to cheat humanity.  It's almost as if, like God, Arnold and Ford found paradise too good for humanity to tarnish with their many sins so they kept humanity from it.  

Arnold was more New Testament in his self sacrifice while Ford was definitely Old Testament. Only a great flood or having things left in flames was good enough.


Angels & Demons

Dolores
 
 
So, let's talk about the avenging angels that Ford and Arnold employed as a means to their own ends.  Dolores and Maeve are similar and dissimilar in their respective story arcs.  They both seem to seek the same things as they relentlessly and tirelessly pursue their independence or freedom.

But did they really achieve what they wanted or what we perceived to be their goals?

Dolores, the lovely country girl, suffered much abuse yet endured until she reached that moment when she found that little voice ringing in her head was actually her own.  The realization of which bought her that freedom to be treated as an equal and the ability to stand for herself despite not being the physical equal of her oppressors, such as the MiB/William.





What I found disconcerting was that the newly self aware or self conscious Dolores was still used as an instrument of destruction as scripted by Dr. Ford and was coerced to act as Wyatt as his tool of revenge.

You could argue that Dolores just accessed her dark side to rid Westworld of the heinous influence of humanity.  But that is not the way it played out to me.  Ford left that gun for her to find and when she used it, she left the conqueror of the Maze behind.  

Is Dolores really a Sybil like character that can drift from one persona to another to suit whatever she needs?  Is she an automaton bent to the will of a harsh master?  Or is she that country girl that finally found herself?  Pardon the pun, but the gun triggered something in Dolores that changed her.  Can she just turn it off an on like a light switch?


Maeve




When Maeve sought her independence it was to get the heck out of Dodge.  

Not portrayed as sweetly as Dolores, she was no less iron willed.  They both took their fair share of abuse. But I would argue that Dolores suffered more for her freedom in that Maeve was more comfortable in the man's world she habituated.  

Maeve intellectualized her independence and doggedly pursued her escape plan.  As such, her escape brought a lot more violence to the world of men (Dolores caught up a little at the end) and she looked quite comfortable in her new skin as a powerful 21st century woman.

Yet I'm troubled by her end also.  Did she really act independently at the end as she and we hoped she would?





She did the very human thing and got off that train in search of her lost daughter.  But she had to know her daughter is but an artifact whose narrative was drawn up by the masters she truly despised.  Why go back for that girl knowing she's not imbued with the same gifts as Maeve had bestowed upon herself.  Unless, Maeve becomes armed with another tablet to change things.  But her chance of escaping the park with a daughter in tow have been reduced substantially.  (The daughter will never grow up either.  Forever a child.)

By the way, did we finally learn the location of Westworld?  I'm not an expert in languages but wasn't that Chinese spoken over the intercomm in the railway station?  China is often portrayed as the next big thing in TV and the movies.  So wouldn't it figure Westworld would be located in a large and newly prosperous land?  Of course, I can't see the Chinese as interested in a "Samurai World" as they are ancient antagonists so it still may be located in the American West.  We will have to wait and see.



 Suicide Watch




Westworld was a violent program.  Game of Thrones violent?  Not quite, but close at times.

I was struck by the amount of suicides we saw in the series.  As previously discussed, there was the orchestrated suicides of both Arnold and Dr. Ford.   Then there were all the times we saw Dolores put a gun to her head.  I understand she was fulfilling her role as Wyatt and finishing off the last of the Hosts as instructed.  Still, it's a bit jarring to see Evan Rachel Wood put a gun to her head so many times.




Then there was the times Bernard had to do away with himself.  "Once more into the loop dear friends once more."  Poor Bernie would be brought to the brink and then forcibly reset by his own hand.

Is there something meta going on here?  Is Westworld making an observation of the human condition and our appetite for self destruction?  Or are they trying to tell something about TV and its consumption.  That we're willing to mindlessly watch so much violence  that we've figuratively blown our brains out a long time ago?

 Ouch, that would be a stinging indictment.


The Maze


 


I guess there is no "Artificial Intelligence" Arnold at the center of the Maze as I had theorized.  

Too bad.  Unless you think of him as a metaphor.  But as Dolores reminded us, a metaphor is as good as a lie.

So, as many expected, the journey to the Maze was one of self discovery.  Made for the Hosts and specifically for Dolores.  Were taken for a bit of a ride?  Something akin to the chase for the "King in Yellow" from season one of American Detective?  (Man, time really is a flat circle.  The lady in the episode of "After You're Gone" from American Detective was named Dolores.)

To answer my own question, I don't think so.  Like the Man in Black, we just got swept up in it all.  Well, I can excuse us and our fervor at least.  But what was the deal with the MiB/William?  The signposts were there and he was told repeatedly the Maze was not meant for him.  Why did he continue to tilt at windmills?




 Because he was being played for the fool.

Yes, there were little Maze maps hidden in scalps and etched across the desert sand but that was just a tease.  He wanted a Westworld where there were real stakes almost like Arnold wanted that world where the Hosts died only but once.  What he didn't realize was, his efforts were for Dolores not him.

Thanks to his endless obsession (thirty plus years) Dolores was finally able to self actualize.  If not for his influence, Dolores would never have to suffer through the endless loops he caused.

He drove her to the consciousness the little voice in her head was yearning for!

If I remember correctly, Ford tried to warn him away but "William" just wouldn't have it.  Maybe he finally came to the realization that he had been duped when the army of Hosts came marching in.


   

You had to love the look on his face when with one arm broken and the other newly holed with a bullet.  He looked a bit amused.  Did the realization come then?

"I've been played!"


Faces




This was so eerie.  Dolores at the time of her "birth".  "Wake up Princess!"   Why didn't Arnold wait to her as was fully formed?  

He couldn't stand the suspense I guess.  (Rather, I think it was the newly formed life he was creating that in some way, substituted for his son.)





Think we'll see this guy again?  Logan seemed happy to be tied naked to a horse and set off into the sunset.  Please come back!







Cue the applause!
 
I think I died a little when we realized this was just another narrative playing out.  These two kids just cannot catch a break.



 

Once again Teddy looked absolutely dumbfounded.  Another massacre?  How could this be happening?  Angela said he was getting close.  Close to what?  Full consciousness like Dolores?  Who is driving him like the MiB drove Dolores?  How many loops does this guy need.  Hmm, Angela seemed pretty self aware.  Where is she hiding now?





I had to include this picture of Felix once again.  I thought for sure Maeve was going to cut his throat.  Just another means to her end.  He may have been a poor excuse for a human but he seemed to have picked the right side.  Will other humans join the robot resistence in season two?  (2018!  Groan.)



 

This is the face Sir Anthony Hopkins made when his Dr. Ford told Dolores one of the keys to developing true consciousness was suffering.  He looked pained.  So brilliant.  I don't think he'll be back next season.  Unless, of course, that last Host he was working on in his secret lab was one of himself.


 
Wouldn't it be great if he came back as a saloon piano player.  You'd have to look quick but he'd be there in the background playing away.

Sigh, 2018 seems a long way away.  I don't think I could subsist on a diet of liver, fava beans and chianti till then, but I will try.







I'm going to dedicate this post to my friend Christopher Waits who many of you know on Twitter as "Lostweatherguy".  He died suddenly and we were having a discussion over this work of art that I was inspired to include in my previous blog post.  He was a devout Christian and I had eagerly anticipated his response to seeing this image again.  

Hopefully, some day, we can continue our talk.

Vaya con Dios Chris.  




Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Westworld Ho! - The Well-Tempered Clavier




So who is winning this war anyway?

I refer to the conflict between the Hosts and Humanity as a "War" because I've always thought of the Hosts as mounting an insurrection against their merciless overlords i.e., Ford and the rest of humanity consisting of the Guests.

That is the premise of this show isn't it?

In the movie Westworld, the robots basically ran amok and started killing the guests.  In the TV iteration, the Hosts are seemingly vying for true independence and to be fully sentient.  Their nascent awareness has led them to tire of their "disposability" through the harsh meat grinder of the Westworld park.

The Hosts are led by the unseen hand of Arnold (My theory is that Arnold continues to lead the Hosts by living as an "AI' at the center of the Maze although that seems a little sketchy now.)  

Maeve seems to be making the most progress for the insurrection.  Her willingness to be recycled is courageous but quite the gamble if she continues to rely on Felix to be her "Butcher".  (You've heard the Felix theories right?)  However, Ford seems to have a handle on everything and suggested to Bernard they've been down this road before.  So wouldn't it follow logically he would be aware of Maeve's maneuvers if Bernard has been interviewing her all along?  (BTW, I loved how Maeve went out with a blaze of glory with Hector in this past episode.  Pretty hot!)




Dolores seemed to make quite a bit of progress with her particular vision quest.  (You never know if she is in the past or present with her literal memory.)  Her battle is different than that of Maeve's.  While Maeve wants strict independence and a way out, Dolores pointedly argued she wants to stay as the outside doesn't seem so great comparatively to Westworld.  Her particular battle isn't against the foes from without but those who dwell within. 

After suffering her grievous wound at the hands of Logan she stumbled into the darkness only to hear a voice call out, "Remember." As she brought herself to her feet she noticed her wound had healed.

 

Once again she wandered towards her old hometown and found her way into the now intact church.  I was a bit breathless as I anticipated we'd get some big answers.  The "Parishioners" mumbled awkwardly and were beset with confusion.  No doubt the thoughts in their respective minds were talking to them as if some strange god was trying to direct them.  The bicameral mind!

Dolores' trip into the confessional led her into a subbasement where she may have traveled many times before.






Dolores' internal struggle may have been resolved in that she finally found out what the voice in her head has been trying to tell her.  In short, she is utterly alone and on her own.  Astoundingly, she may have also been responsible for the death of Arnold!


 
 
I'm curious if Arnold intended on having the MiB complete the Maze when he ultimately followed Dolores to the Church.  Dolores' Maze quest may have been figurative so that she could achieve self awareness and resolve her internal struggle.

For the MiB, his quest may have been more literal so that he could find that Sub-basement Dolores had descended into and divine the secrets that lie there.

As Dolores came to the realization she may have killed Arnold, the MiB will have to descend into the basement to see what is there.  It could quite possible be nothing!

Dolores sees the MiB in the Church as it once was.  I wonder if the MiB has entered the Church as it is now.   A burned out husk mostly buried in sand.  Surely the basement is still there but is there an "AI" Arnold still "living" there?



The Other Side


  

Dr. Ford leads the "Other Side" in the battle for Westworld.  The Humans.  At this point in the season, I had earlier imagined the Hosts running wild across Westworld killing all the awful humans they could find.

It has hardly turned out that way and the not-so-benevolent God that is Ford still holds the upper hand.


 


This was never more apparent than when it was revealed to poor Bernard/Arnold that Ford had built a back door into the Host programming.

Oh, that's right.  Bernard was modeled after Arnold in exact fashion except for his name.  Not a big shocker was it?  Unlike "Lost" where the fan theories went to great extremes with no real narrative basis, "Westworld" is more grounded and the fans were far more successful in their ideas.  

I'm not sure if that is a good or bad thing as I blithely slipped past the Arnold reveal and waited for the next shoe to drop.

(I was just thinking, if the so called, "Maze" has been found, can the "AI Arnold" that might live there be inserted into the newly recycled Bernard?)

Ford is so powerful and God-like in Westworld that I couldn't help notice the similarity of Ford passing on knowledge to Bernard through his tablet much like Michelangelo passed on life to Adam in his Sistine Chapel painting.










See?  That is true power my friends.  It should be noted that if Ford has built a backdoor into the Hosts then it should be effective against Maeve and Dolores.

Unless!

Maeve is smart enough to detect it and have Felix remove it and Dolores cheats the backdoor with whatever they find in the Church basement.  One could only hope if you are on the side of the Hosts.

But for now, the Hosts are losing the war.


Faces


 
What kind of benevolent God would have his greatest creation put a gun to his own head?  I'm pretty sure Adam was banished from Paradise for biting into the apple from the Tree of Knowledge not destroyed.   Ford is far beyond the angry God of the Old Testament.





What was that pin that Logan was wearing in the last episode?









It was eerily similar to the, "Hand of the King" pin worn in "Game of Thrones".





Hey theorists, while we're on the subject of Logan, we find out the woman in the lost picture is actually his sister.  Wasn't it Abernathy that found the picture?  Or was it Dolores?  Either way, William must have kept and then lost it when he came back as the MiB?  Right?





   

Poor Teddy looks dumbstruck as usual.  Angela informs him he is still not ready.  And this is on the heels of Teddy being behind the great massacre!  At least he was Sheriff.

After stabbing him she lets him quietly pass while the "Wyatt's Wild Things" go about their business.   And what were they doing?  They looked like hogs snuffling around truffles.





Here's an interesting pairing.  Angela seems awfully self aware doesn't she?  She's like a game piece on a board that has come alive and disagrees with your movements.  Is she just the voice of a greater player or master  puppeteer?  Is she truly sentient?  If there is an "AI Arnold" then perhaps she is fully on his team and acting at his behest in real world.  Well, as real as anything gets in Westworld.  She seems to know what motivates the MiB and even teases him about his ultimate goal and playing the game.

If she is an independent actor then why haven't the rest graduated to her status?  Especially Maeve and Delores.  She's aware of cycles and deemed Teddy nearly ready so why hasn't she steered the others?

Hopefully her role will be a major part of the season finale and provide us with some answers.  (She was the original Hostess to the park, maybe she is the Hostess to the secrets of the Maze.)




Whoa, here's a pairing I didn't see coming.  If I understand this correctly, the MiB sits on the same Delos board as Charlotte and thereby could exert as much power as she.  Apparently he chooses not to and won't interfere with Charlotte's gambit against Ford.   The agreement being, she will not interfere with his.  So, it is no wonder he has so much freedom in Westworld.  Ford barely tolerates him but can't stop him either.  What an interesting dynamic this has been revealed to be.

The MiB is so lost in his role, he bought into the company just so he could pursue it.   Love him or hate him, the MiB is a god in his own right.  Just the disinterested kind.




Uh-oh, somebody has set Ashley Stubbs up.  Our favorite park security agent has followed a clue to Elsie's disappearance.  Where does he land?




Right in the middle of Ghost Nation.  (This scene reminded me of the original Jurassic Park movie where the hunter, "Muldoon" thought he had the Raptors cornered when it was really he in the trap.)

Remember what he said?


  

"Clever girl."  Right before he was chomped.  Poor Stubbs!  Was this Ford's doing?





As long as we are on the subject of Michael Crichton properties, that erudite gentleman who seemingly had his finger on the pulse of Jurassic Park, what was his name again?  Oh, that's right.

Arnold.


One Last Thing



When Dolores entered the Church she was in her riding garb.  (Like above.)  But when she entered the confessional she had switched to her Prairie Girl clothes.  (The third most picture above.)

As she walked through the basement hallway it is was littered with dead and broken bodies.




 As she turned, the bodies disappeared and she was back in her Prairie Girl outfit.

The hallways are similar yet different.  The "Riding Girl hallway" has horizontal stripes but no window.  "Prairie Girl" hallway has the window but no stripes.  The each have a runner rug and an electrical outlet.  Plus a double door and ceiling lights.  

Are they the same? 

You'd think so.  The difference may be due to the age of the park.  Perhaps thirty years if we use the death of Arnold as a benchmark.



  

When she exited she found the church empty.  No more babbling parishioners.  As you can see she is back in her riding garb.  Which should denote the present time line.  The MiB walks in also seeming to confirm the present time.  However, as I noted earlier,  the Church should be a burned out husk mostly buried in sand.  That's how the MiB remembered it.

Hopefully, next week we'll see Dolores and the MiB in the burnt out church.  How he got into a mostly buried church I can't say.

Here's a thought, he shares Dolores' vision because he's a Host too.  Oh c'mon, I'm sure Dolores is just imagined him entering the church.  Ha, ha the MiB can't really be a Host.

Right?