My notes at the end of this latest episode Westworld read as follows: “The Truman Show + Matrix?”
Can you blame me? Westworld has always paved its way by trying to be a 21st-century meditation on consciousness, free will, and technology (not to mention memory and alienation) that was fresh even though it started out as a remake of Michael Crichton’s 1973 film of the same name. Still, especially during that scene between Teddy (James Marsden) and Christina (Evan Rachel Wood) — you know it! – I couldn’t help but think of the two Y2K projects. After all, this 1998 Jim Carrey vehicle was premised on the premise that Truman’s world was all made up, a contrived story that protected him even as he saw more and more of his seams unravel, while key aspects of the Wachowski siblings’ iconic film hinged on the ability people to see beyond the reality that was created for them and learn how to bend it to their liking. Sound familiar?
Sure, our Christina is a lot more than Truman-meets-Neo, but if you were to describe her that way, you’d be painting exactly how her arc feels as the show’s fourth season lures the world when Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson, who has a prom this season ) built and the place Wood’s character occupies in it. Actually, this episode could have shown us the beginning of her narrative loop again (Christina wakes up in her bed, just like Dolores did in the first season), but overall it all felt like a conscious awakening this time. “Every day she wakes up, she sees more,” Christina says of the character she dreams of, who may or may not be herself, “that there’s something wrong with the world.” And yes, that was all before we met one heck of a last line that I was excited about.
But before we dive into this revelation, let’s step back and try to understand this new normal. As we learned last episode, we’re now squarely in the future where Charlotte has finally managed to turn the entire human race into her own plaything – with some outliers here and there. And these outliers, realizing they’re trapped in a story written by someone else, wreak havoc on what Charlotte always imagined would be a temporary time before her kind transcended the physical realm. (To be honest, this was the part that tripped me up because I can always count on her Westworld to not talk down to his audience while leaving us hanging with some of the details surrounding his very extensive world building. Like, where was Bernard? On a transcendent plane that is beyond the flesh and blood of the reality of the people we meet in any given episode? Or is it somewhere else, and if Charlotte wants it so much, why is she still wandering the streets in this setting IRL? To make people… pay? Having fun like the god he knows he is?)
It’s one of those human outliers that kicks off one of the episode’s subplots, where William (Ed Harris) pursues a woman who has seen the light—or rather, “The Tower” and realized how fake the world around her is. And while she is eventually “rescued” (is that the word?) by the rebels that Bernard and Stubbs are now working with, it’s not before she manages to “infect” (could that be accurate?) William with a nagging question, which is long dominated Westworldphilosophy since its very first episode: “Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality?”
Similar to how I posed in itself first recap of this seasonIt is clear Westworld has long been fascinated by storytelling. And that’s where Christina’s story takes us, with Teddy finally formulating this very thought: “This world is a lie. It’s a story. Well said, but still a lie.” And of course she is the storyteller. She was the one who created stories for so many people around her – and like Maeve before her, she has now found a way to use that power in a way that allows her (and us) to see behind the curtain of this gamified reality.
So where do we go from here? Perhaps we’re once again in for a battle of wills (and for the spirit of humanity) between the likes of Christina and Charlotte – with Maeve, Caleb, Bernard, Stubbs and William in one direction, respectively. another aligned with both or neither for various purposes of their own. We know Maeve is a weapon…but could she be used to destroy the world Charlotte created? Will Christina find a way to use her storytelling skills for good, whatever that means? She was told that she was the one who built “this” and she was the one who made “this” to her…so is she incarcerated or incarcerated?
- “This world has beauty. Order. So we like to believe,” William tells us at the beginning and end of this episode. And I kept thinking that Charlotte clearly believes they are one and the same :There beauty is in order and in beauty there is order. But people like William – and even Christina/Dolores feel differently. Or find at least some comfort in the cracks, in the gaps between them. This was what first led Dolores to her first break from her narrative. ANDThis may be what prompted William to try what he can learn from OG William.
- I can’t be the only one who, when the episode opened with Ed Harris and Angela Sarafyan walking into a bloody crime scene, half expected to get CSI: Westworld species episode. No? Just me? Good.
- We went from Westworld to be a theme park filled with looping stories into a world that was designed as a game. The difference may seem minor, but I wonder if it will play a role (pun intended) in the coming episodes.
- I’m not saying you can’t have a good (let alone a great) episode Westworld without Thandiwe Newton. But boy you end up with a show lacking a lot if you let Maeve sit out any episode. Namely, you miss her sly humor and her cracking action-stellar behavior. (Also, this episode may have revealed some cracks even in solids Westworld the episode that pops up whenever the series stretches itself trying to be too many things at once – sci-fi spectacle, dystopian narrative, philosophical parable, character study…the list goes on. Sometimes it can weave the many threads into a fascinating whole, and other times it can really leave you wanting.)
- Watching Tessa Thompson’s Charlotte organize a dance flash mob in the streets for her sole benefit (“There should be dancing!”) and then have three women make a chair for her? Iconic behavior. See also: Charlotte’s deliciously passive aggressive encounter with her “friend” Christina. Just the right amount of silent hostility masquerading as concern the entire interaction a joy to watch.
- I will say it’s lovely to have Teddy James Marsden, although now I’m wondering if we’ll get an explanation as to why or how he came back? And whose side is he on? Any theories?
#Westworld #peeks #curtain #gamified #reality