Westworld S01E04 “Dissonance Theory” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on Sky Atlantic, Tuesdays
Writers: Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Nolan
Director: Vincenzo Natali
Essential Plot Points:
- Bernard continues his meetings with Dolores, who tells him: “I think there may be something wrong with this world.” Sister, you don’t know the half of it.
- He tells her to focus on playing a game: to find the centre of the Maze. So the Man In Black isn’t the only one who knows about this mysterious Maze, then…
- Dolores wakes up, not in her bed, but outside – in the campsite with Will and Logan. The engineers are curious that she’s diverted off her normal loop, but are happy to see it play out. Logan reckons they’ve sent Dolores along to join them on their bounty hunt because she’s given Will a sense of purpose.
- Will is certainly fascinated by her, getting thoroughly pissed off when Logan threatens to kill her, even challenging him (“Will you please stop trying to kill or fuck everything?”).
- Maeve is having visions of dying. She keeps checking her tummy, knowing something happened to it, but is unable to see the scar.
- She draws a picture of the hazmat-suited technician she saw in the lab. However, upon hiding it under a floorboard, she discovers a pile of the same pictures – she’s clearly been drawing them every day for weeks, and has no idea! Freaky.
- Elsie confronts Bernard about the stray from last week who bashed his own brains in. She wants to tell the higher-ups about some of the hosts’ behaviour, but he isn’t interested, saying she’s reading too much into it.
- The Man In Black drags Lawrence along with him to find the special snake – discovering it’s a tattoo worn by Hector’s partner, Armistice. He teams up with her to get Hector out of jail in exchange for information on the tattoo.
- The jailbreak is great fun, particularly the EXPLODING CIGAR. Didn’t see that one coming!
- Dolores meets a little girl and she seems to know about the Maze, then remembers the fact her father died and has a little freak-out.
- The Man In Black gets his answer from Armistice, and very inventive it is, too: the snake tattoo is coloured red from the blood of her enemies – the people who killed her loved ones – and she’s tracking the last of them to colour in its head. The name of this final quarry? Wyatt. She should team up with Teddy! (Although he’s having yet another bad day.)
- Ford and Theresa have a tension-filled meeting in which she tries to get him to toe the company line. However, his plans for the park are monumental and he won’t back down. He also proves that he’s not a man to be messed with…
- Hector rides into Sweetwater to steal the safe from Maeve’s saloon again. However, this time she invites him upstairs and tells him that something’s wrong – she knows there’s a bullet inside her, even though there’s no scar, and asks him to find out for sure.
- So he cuts it out. Seeing it, she realises that “none of this matters” and they die in a hail of bullets (until the next episode, anyway).
First off, an apology. Last week your trusty reviewer made a cock-up (gasp!), thinking that the Man In Black was in the photo Ford showed of his partner, Arnold, and therefore leaping to the conclusion that Arnold was the Man In Black. Wrong! Blame a squiffy pause button on the telly and some generic face-blindness. And in fact, this week we discover that the Man In Black has been looking for Arnold all along. Plus he has a life outside the theme park, as he’s recognised by a fellow tourist (and it seems he saved that guy’s sister somehow with his “foundation”, so is the most nasty guy in Westworld actually a saint in real life? Curiouser and curiouser…).
Anyway, now that apology is out of the way, let’s focus on the fact that this week’s episode feels different from those that have aired so far for one important reason: it’s expanded its horizons. While some action does take place in Sweetwater – plus the little Mexican-style town we’ve seen before – most of the story in “Dissonance Theory” is filmed in the jaw-dropping mesas, canyons and plains of the American West. And wow, you don’t actually realise how claustrophobic the action has felt over the past few weeks until you get away from that main street, the train and the endless shots of Dolores waking up in her familiar bedroom.
It’s also a wonderful way of channelling 70-odd years of Western history onto our television screens, from 1939’s Stagecoach (including an actual stagecoach – or a heavily-armoured version, anyway) to scenery you recognise from the backdrop of modern Westerns such as Thelma & Louise. With so much joy being expended on picking iconic locations, there’s a chance that in the long run, Westworld may well end up being the most Western-y Western of all time.
Aside from the locations (and, just as a random example, how gorgeous is the above shot?), we get the usual barrage of violence, both in the present and in flashbacks, with poor Maeve receiving the lion’s share of horror as she relives more than one death. The sight of a trigger-happy tourist rampaging through the saloon and laughing as he slaughters the patrons is chilling, as is Logan’s casual murder of the guide later on. To these visitors, this really is nothing more than a game, but as the weeks are passing and we’re identifying more and more with the hosts, their behaviour becomes abhorrent.
And yet we are, of course, just as guilty as these guys of callousness. How many viewers have gleefully killed and maimed in computer games without a second thought? What if those pixels were androids? What if they could feel? What if they… remembered? As technology develops, this could be a glimpse into the future for us all: not only “is it wrong to have sex with a machine if you’re already in a relationship” (as posited a few weeks ago), but also “is it wrong to destroy something so human”? Big themes…
- Logan being thrilled to have uncovered an Easter egg really does fit perfectly with the idea of this all being a game to him. It also makes us wonder: do people who’ve been to the park go on forums and discuss how to play it? Or are they signed to secrecy? There must be a thriving community of ex-Westworlders who keep in touch – not to mention jealous would-be customers who just can’t afford to go.
- Wow. An EXPLODING CIGAR. We can’t get over that. Also? Gross.
- Lawrence’s gobsmacked “Motherrrrfucker…” after being rescued by the Man In Black is just so beautifully delivered by Clifton Collins Jr. A round of applause for that man, please.
- Clementine offering punters a discount if they bathe before having sex is hilarious. But then, when you think about it for too long… ewwww.
- “Let’s go back to the fire, you’re probably exhausted,” Will tells Dolores after she almost faints. By Jiminy, how sweet is this guy?
- The scene in which all the hosts pause and then the ground quakes as the digger approaches is fascinating. It’s such a cunning power-play that suddenly Ford looks less “sweet old man” and more “demonic mastermind”.
- And Ford mentions that when the park opened, there were “hopeful” storylines. Nobody wanted them. Ain’t that human nature in a nutshell?
- There are just SO MANY QUESTIONS on this show! For example, what happened with Dolores after she arrived at Will’s campsite and collapsed in his arms? Did they all go to sleep, and then while they were snoozing the engineers arrived and took her to the lab to talk to Bernard? Did they place her back at the campsite without any of the humans waking up? How is that possible?! We really need to know the answers to some of these niggling issues because man, that niggling feeling is so… well… niggly!
- Here’s another question: how much of Westworld is fake? We know there are fake horses and certain other creatures, but what of the vulture sitting above Teddy’s bloody body? Is it there for effect, or did it really fly in from outside the theme park? Can the outside world get in, or is this place sealed? Hurry up and tell us, guys!
- The director of this episode is Vincenzo Natali, the man behind cult films Cube and Splice.
- Best Quote: Hector: “You sound like a man who’s grown tired of wearing his guts on the inside.”