Westworld S01E03 “The Stray” REVIEW
Essential Plot Points:
- Bernard gives Dolores a copy of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland. She mentions, “other books we’ve read”. He’s been spending a lot of time with her, then!
- She finds a gun in her drawer – and remembers the Man in Black with her in the barn. “Why don’t we reacquaint ourselves, Dolores,” he says, brandishing the kind of blade Crocodile Dundee would definitely call a knife. “Start at the beginning…”
- William spends his second day in Westworld, and gets caught in a gunfight. He saves the day and rescues Clementine, who offers him sexual favours to say thanks. He declines; still a nice, faithful fiancé, then.
- Theresa is unhappy because Ford has cordoned off a chunk of the park for a new project, and is interfering in other storylines. She complains to Bernard.
- Bernard, however, has other things on his mind: Walter, the bandit from the first episode who went awry, was recorded talking to himself back when he massacred everybody in the saloon. He’s talking to someone called “Arnold”… and all the hosts he killed had killed him in previous storylines. Is he remembering?
- There’s a stray host wandering off into the wilderness, so Elsie and Ashley go after him, bickering the entire time (she really seems to hate him, belittling him at every opportunity – why he doesn’t lodge a complaint about her professionalism is a mystery, but there you go. Our theory: they were married once).
- Teddy is in full-on hero gunslinger mode this week, shooting and killing a guy who enjoys, “tussling with workin’ women,” before heading inside the cathouse for a drink.
- Maeve takes one look at him and has a flashback to seeing him dead in the laboratory the night before…
- Teddy spies Dolores and heads outside. The two have their usual reconciliation and ride off to her ranch. She says she wants to see the world and he says, “some day”. She’s not happy with this: something is telling her she wants to leave that very day.
- He also says he’s, “got some reckoning to do before I deserve a woman like you”. That old chestnut. Anyway, nobody knows what that “reckoning” is, so Ford writes him a back story that involves a former soldier named Wyatt who is Teddy’s nemesis.
- Teddy rescues Dolores from a gang of ne’er do wells abusing her in the street, and then teaches her how to shoot – except she can’t seem to pull the trigger (we discover that only a few hosts are authorised to fire guns or do things like handle an axe).
- A posse turns up on the hunt for Wyatt, who’s been sighted. Teddy says goodbye to Dolores and rides off.
- Elsie has found some wooden carvings created by the host stray. One has the constellation of Orion carved on it, totally flummoxing her. Then she finds the host stranded in a hole and Ashley sets about getting him out.
- Teddy’s posse find bodies strung up by Wyatt – and then they are ambushed. Teddy eventually dies.
- Bernard goes to see Ford and asks who Arnold is. He was originally Ford’s partner as they built the hosts many years back, but he started to think he could give them consciousness and went off the rails.
- Bernard, after a chat with his wife about the fate of their dead son, Charlie, wonders if he’s starting to feel the same way himself about the hosts.
- The stray in the hole comes to life – even though Elsie has put him to sleep – and he attacks Ashley. The android climbs out of the hole and for a moment it looks as though he’s going to kill her, but instead it bashes its own brains out with a rock! Can hosts commit suicide? WTF?
- Bernard almost stops having his one-to-ones with Dolores, thinking about wiping her. But he changes his mind at the last moment.
- Dolores rides into her homestead as per usual once it gets dark and discovers her father dead at the hands of bandits. However, she has a flashback to her other father and it freaks her out. One of the attackers throws her in the barn and things are about to go their usual way when she shoots him – and the others, too. Then she rides off.
- William and Logan are camping under the stars and Logan is complaining about how boring their latest storyline is – and then Dolores stumbles out of the dark and collapses in William’s arms.
Alas, for the first time this week we see a flaw in the fundamental premise of Westworld (the show, that is, not the theme park itself), as it juggles the concept of storylines repeating over and over without (a) boring the audience or (b) confusing them. The jumps between scenes of Teddy and Dolores talking, Teddy saving Dolores, Teddy having gunfights, Dolores waking up and Dolores riding home in the dark become almost dizzying.
At the moment the writers and editors do have a handle on things; you can keep track of what’s happening and you still empathise with the characters, but there’s clearly a chance that at some point in the future – when perhaps the showrunners don’t quite have their hands on the tiller – all these cuts between days and storylines could become wearying. Fingers crossed it won’t happen, but there’s no denying that this week’s plot was, quite literally, all over the place.
However, that said: this is still a fine episode. If nothing else, Westworld is gorgeous to look at, and the writers are giving us a tonne to think about, too. There’s so much beautifully-considered quality on screen here, from the depths of the psychology being applied to these poor robots (the scene in which Ford demands an employee uncover a naked host is chilling in its inhumanity – the irony is strong with this one), to those incredible landscapes and vistas contrasting so deliciously with the bleak interiors of the base. It’s hard not to enjoy the visceral rushes of all those gunfights, too, with Teddy showing some pretty effing awesome shooting this week.
But of course we’re all here to see the hosts go bad (that’s the premise of the original film, after all, and we wouldn’t be watching unless the sh*t was about to hit the fan). Things are gearing up this week: Bernard acknowledges that the hosts are changing, even as Ford tries to pooh-pooh him, and we see lots of hosts having flashbacks or issues that should really have the park closing already. The “suicide by rock” at the end is utterly horrifying; if you worked somewhere with creatures that could do that, wouldn’t you try to get it shut down? Bet you dollars to doughnuts nobody listens to Elsie if she does, though.
It’s also good to get clarifications on a few things, such as what happens when a host shoots a human – basically it’s like paintball; you get a bruise and not much else (what if the host was aiming for the eyeballs, though? Is there a failsafe for that?). We discover that Logan is soon to be William’s brother-in-law – poor William, jeez – and the revelation about the Man In Black is just brilliant, as is Anthony Hopkins’ anti-ageing CGI.
No wonder in last week’s episode Ashley said that the Man In Black can do what he wants. That’s one mystery solved! Although we still need to know why Arnold is still so obsessed after all these years: is he trying to recreate a dead family (Ford mentions his life was filled with tragedy)? Does he want to live forever? The plot thickens…
- Evan Rachel Wood switching on/off as Dolores is very convincing.
- Teddy talking about how Wyatt would make his followers wear the flesh of their victims recalls the Reavers from Joss Whedon’s Firefly – which in itself cannibalised (pardon the pun) of crazed, skin-wearing Indians from Westerns. Which, of course, was mostly a myth in itself.
- Gina Torres makes a cameo as Bernard’s wife (although are they still married at this point? He’s certainly cheating on her with Theresa, if so). Hopefully she’ll pop up again.
- Ashley sawing the head off a host who then snaps awake is just stomach-churning.
- It’s great to see the Westworld writers have done their research about androids and their way of looking at the world: not only by mentioning the hosts having Turing Tests (a way of seeing if a computer can fool a human, first posited by genius Alan Turing in a paper written in 1950), and the bicameral mind theory, which you can read about here. Think Westworld is just a silly sci-fi show? Yeah, right. This stuff’s all about science, baby!
- The creation of the eyeball is one of the most dazzling examples of CGI we’ve ever seen on TV. We doff our hats to the FX team responsible.
- “You’ve died at least a thousand times,” Ford tells Teddy. Dear lord, this is horrific, isn’t it? The entire concept of this theme park is so unsettling.
- The final shot of William gazing into Dolores’s face is weirdly adorable. These guys, eh? We’re totally rooting for them and one of them isn’t even real. And they’ve both got partners!
- Imagine being an actor and doing your first scene with a legend like Anthony Hopkins. And you’re totally naked.
- While the gruesome storylines are great for us to watch, you have to wonder about the fact that this is the second time tourists have been so scared they’ve run away from the action. What’s the point of writing a storyline that paying customers are too terrified to see through to the end?
- Teddy and Dolores kiss a lot in this episode… And you can tell she’s a robot because she doesn’t get stubble rash. (Unless some engineer who hates stubble rash decided to make his bristles nice and soft…)
- The way the Westworld engineers stare down at the model of their little world is hugely reminiscent of the way the gods in classic Ray Harryhausen movies Jason And The Argonauts and Clash Of The Titans looked down on humanity, using humans as figures they could move around like toys. We’re sure the similarity is totally intentional, too.
- In the original Westworld movie it cost punters £1,000 per day to visit the park. Today it’s £40,000.
- Best Quote: Elsie: “You know, if you’d wanted to play cowboy you could always use your employee discount.”
Ashley (very sensibly, in our opinion): “The only thing stopping the hosts from hacking us to pieces is one line of your code.”