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.