Westworld | Season 1, Episode 2 review
The raptors are testing the fences for weaknesses, systematically. Or something.
If you haven't seen episode 2 of Westworld, ‘Chestnut', then spoilers abound, as we take a look at the key moments and attempt some mindless speculation.
“Are you real?”
“If you can't tell, does it matter?”
A provocative response for newcomer William (Jimmi Simpson), who reacts with some kind of reluctant intrigue as he takes in this fascinating faux world around him.
Westworld episode 2 sees a possibly key character in William make his entrance, and it also confirms that the robot rebellion is looming, albeit slowly.
William's emphatically highlighted morality looks like a set-up for something sinister; all the irresistible self-serve temptations, and his generally unpleasant co-worker Logan (Ben Barnes), will surely lead him down the dark path.
The assumption that the theme park's eye-catching attractions are safely held at the whim of Westworld's puppet masters will, of course, prove wide of the mark, and Williams' place in this must be key.
It's worth noting that he chose the white hat, whilst Logan went for black. Not particularly subtle, but with William clearly wanting to present himself as a man of moral fibre, the ease with which he becomes a ‘black hat' will make for intriguing viewing, if that is indeed what happens.
Here comes the Man in Black
The Man in Black continues to casually terrorise his way through the scenery, and is apparently allowed truly free reign over Westworld. His search for a maze, which one imagines holds great significance, does not appear to be of concern to those ‘in control'.
He also says that he is a long-term player of this game, with 30 years' experience, but his mention that he was “born” there raises a curious eyebrow.
He likely means his character, so perhaps the lines between reality and fantasy are well and truly blurred for this rampantly savage gentleman.
“These violent delights have violent ends”
Friar Lawrence's words from Romeo & Juliet clearly have some kind of trigger effect on the robots, as the smell of sabotage wafts through the air. Upon hearing the words, Maeve develops the first signs of self-awareness, and this leads to her recalling moments of terror buried in her past, culminating in a waking nightmare where she sees the Delos facility in all its grim glory.
Thandie Newton is excellent as her character moves from seasoned harlot, to switched-up machine, to terrified fugitive.
"You can't play God without being acquainted with a devil"
The words of Anthony Hopkins, perfectly cast as Ford, indicate that he knows full well the danger inherent to his chosen profession. He clearly rates his own genius fairly highly, and doesn't hold back from showing his powers to a gawking boy.
Westworld's aesthetics and cinematography deserve a special mention, with no question of the show's ambition and scope. The desert scenes look so impressive, both barren and beautiful, and it's also great to see Ford scouting for storylines inside his complex, intricately designed machine, whilst dabbling in a bit of light ‘God' play, just for fun.
There's also a nice dose of the postmodern, as Ford gives storywriter Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman) a colossal back-hand for suggesting they run with an ultra-violent, sex-laden narrative.
“They are here because they want a glimpse of who they could be,” says Ford to Sizemore.
“The only thing your story tells me, Mr. Sizemore, is who you are.”
Such sought-after elements of entertainment are not alien to HBO's shows, including Westworld. Apparently Ford hasn't heard of ratings.
However, none of that will matter when his creation goes full Jurassic Park, and Delores bites his head off.
Some general musings
I love the anachronistic pianola - Radiohead this week with ‘No Surprises'. Thom Yorke's lyrics favour the mundane (cynically or not), but this world of engineered indulgence is designed to inject paying customers with a serious shot of synthetic adrenalin.
Anthony Hopkins and Ed Harris must be cloned. We can't do without them.
James Marsden gets killed. A lot.
Are we looking at William's transition from ‘white hat' to ‘black hat'? The speculation has begun, and (super massive possible speculative spoiler alert) some think he could actually be The Man In Black during his maiden visit to Westworld. Plenty of holes in this one, but it would be a great twist.
WTF moment: Hopkins freezing a snake.
Star performer: Thandie Newton; a superb actress who owned this episode.
Westworld season 1, episode 3 can be seen by UK audiences on Sky Atlantic, Tuesday 18th October, at 9pm