Westworld S01E05 “Contrapasso” REVIEW
Essential Plot Points:
- Ford is having a drink with old Wild Bill Hickok and tells him a horribly gruesome story about a pet greyhound who kills a cat and then has an existential crisis because it doesn’t know what to do with the rest of its life. Yup, we’ve all been there.
- Dolores is hearing voices again. She’s distracted all the way through this episode, in fact, seeing doubles of herself.
- She, Will, Logan and their guide arrive at the town of Pariah. “There she is. Pariah. City of outcasts, delinquents, thieves, whores and murderers,” says Logan. In other words: “A wretched hive of scum and villainy.” Come on, we all thought it.
- Logan reveals that the further away from Sweetwater you go, the grander things get, but there are rumours the cost of all this is too much for the park to sustain. Logan’s company is considering buying them out.
- The gang enter Pariah and we’re introduced to the Army of New Virginia, Confederate soldiers who are still fighting the war even though it’s over. They want to rekindle the tensions and kill Union soldiers.
- The Man In Black realises he needs to save Teddy’s life in order to track down Wyatt, so he cold-heartedly strings up poor Lawrence and drains his blood to give to Teddy. (Luckily hosts don’t seem to have to worry about all that pesky “blood type” and “cross-matching” nonsense.)
- Maeve is back on the table, being fixed, while the two techs looking after her are bickering. One of them, Felix, seems freaked out by having to work on the host who woke up and scared him so much.
- Dolores has a chat with Ford, who asks her what she remembers of Arnold. She hasn’t seen him for 34 years and the last thing he said to her was that he wanted her to “destroy this place”. Ford doesn’t seem surprised at all. (Puts on conspiracy theory hat: did he kill Arnold when he heard he was going to dismantle the park?)
- Felix has been trying to revive a dead robot bird, but his workmate isn’t impressed. “You are a butcher and that’s all you’ll ever be,” he says. “Personality testing should’ve weeded you out in the embryo.” Er, what? Does this mean even the humans in the real world have been engineered in some way? Or is this just a turn of phrase?
- Dolores, Will and Logan meet up with their contact in Pariah: and it’s Lawrence, back from the dead. He tells them he wants to steal nitroglycerin off some soldiers and give it to the Army of New Virginia. It’s morally reprehensible, of course, but despite Will and Dolores having misgivings, Logan drags them out to hijack the wagon containing the explosives.
- After a fraught stand-off, the nitro is nabbed – but everybody died except for Will, Logan and Dolores. They take it back to Pariah and go to celebrate at the local brothel (which seems to have an inexhaustible supply of shiny body paint).
- Elsie bribes a tech to let her in to see the body of the stray that killed itself. She finds a laser-tracker in its arm and tells Bernard, “Someone’s been using our hosts to smuggle data out of the park!” (Bernard doesn’t seem surprised; did he know, or was Jeffrey Wright having a bit of a laid-back day on set?)
- There’s an enormous orgy. Logan and Will fight. Dolores runs off and finds a tarot reader, who then turns into her, and it’s all a bit surreal. Finally, Will and Dolores have a snog.
- They’re all double-crossed by Lawrence and there’s a gunfight. Will leaves Logan to his fate (although he’s not going to die, obviously, but the hosts still seem able to beat him up). Just as Will and Dolores think they’re out, they’re blocked by the Army.
- Dolores suddenly shoots them all dead like a total badass.
- The couple join Lawrence on a train, where he’s hightailing it out of there. An uneasy truce reigns.
- Ford meets up with the Man In Black and Teddy at a bar and they have a chat. Ford doesn’t really get why the Man In Black wants to reach the centre of the Maze, and is told it might contain “the moral of the story”. At this rate we suspect that’s: “Killing is bad, okay?”
- Felix, in the lab, manages to get the bird to fly. He’s thrilled to bits. Then he turns and finds it’s landed on Maeve’s finger – she’s awake! And surprisingly calm…
After a couple of episodes that didn’t really have much of a linear plot – something that’s bound to be an issue on a show like this – “Contrapasso” rewards us by sending us on a quest that involves double-dealings, a heist, more double-dealings and an extremely rewarding shootout.
The fact this mission results in some huge character leaps is just gravy: Will’s argument with Logan, for instance, reveals a lot more about their relationship in the world outside, and as for Dolores suddenly discovering her inner Annie Oakley… hold on while we give that woman a round of applause! For all the criticism that can be levelled at Westworld for its treatment of women, it’s admirable that show only waited five episodes to have one of them declare that she doesn’t want to be the “damsel” any more, rather than dragging it out to the finale. Superb.
And speaking of strong female characters, how amazing is that final scene with Maeve? She’s clearly been figuring out the limits of her new discoveries and has zeroed in on skittish Felix as her oracle (he hardly seems a threat, does he?). We can’t wait to find out what happens next!
And just how much does she know? Has she been lying there listening to them while they’ve been operating on her? Has she somehow “switched off” her pain receptors? This can’t be possible, given the interesting nugget from the Man In Black earlier in the episode about how it was cheaper for the park to build hosts from flesh and blood, enabling them to feel pain. (Also, the moral ambiguities about building androids that suffer are just off the charts.)
Elsewhere we still have those wonderful landscapes – this surely is the prettiest show on television – although we have to admit that Pariah looked rather CGI-fake at times. Still, cities built for orgiastic fun tend to look like Las Vegas, so that would’ve been a bit out of place on Westworld. The one they’ve created instead will do nicely.
Also, did anybody else get Game Of Thrones vibes at that orgy? Surely Littlefinger was just off-screen…
- That ending. Maeve’s self-assuredness is both admirable and chilling.
- Elsie running rings around the rest of the staff at the base is great fun to watch.
- “I imagined a story where I didn’t have to be the damsel.” Don’t know about you, but there was a defiant fistpump in the air here when Dolores said this line.
- Will observing: “Whoever designed this place, you get the feeling they don’t think very much of people.” Nailed it, kid.
- Was the Day Of The Dead-style carnival a nod to the fact this episode aired around Halloween, or a complete coincidence? Either way, it was pretty cool.
- We’ve seen boobs and muffs galore on this show so far, with very few examples of male naughty bits. The rather large naughty bit belonging to the faulty bartender this week has gone a long way to make up for that (although we had second-hand embarrassment for the actor, of course, as we do with all the nudes on this show).
- Although, as Elsie would no doubt point out, the fact that well-endowed chap can’t even pour water into a glass doesn’t bode well for his bedroom skills…
- Love the well-placed hair in this shot of Ford and Dolores.
- If you have Anthony Hopkins in your television series, of course you’re going to want to make the most of his glorious talents for delivering a thrilling monologue – as seen in almost every episode so far. But this week you do get the sense that every time he appears, the action slows down. And the crumbs of information he’s feeding us are so incredibly tiny, it’s becoming rather frustrating. Saying that, the scene with Ford and the Man In Black is riveting, and the greyhound story that kicks off the episode is a real stomach-turner. Just… maybe have Ford do something in an episode that doesn’t involve being all poetical, eh?
- After the orgy scene, yet again we’re pitying the poor saps who have to clean up those hosts afterwards. Let’s hope they get paid well.
- Also, the orgy was rather reminiscent of Rome World from the original movie. And now we’re pouting because we still want to see that and Medieval World, assuming they exist here. (Perhaps this is all one big universe that includes Michael Crichton’s Jurassic World, too. If there was a catastrophic failure and dinosaurs walked into Sweetwater, we’d watch the hell out of that.)
- Our knowledge of birds isn’t that extensive, true, but the feathery Lazarus perched on Maeve’s finger looks very finch-like to us. Someone who was an expert on finches was, of course, Charles Darwin. And Maeve’s giant evolutionary leap occurring when she has a finch on her finger can’t be a coincidence, can it? (And okay, even if it’s a sparrow, the symbolism is still there.)
- Also, speaking of coincidences, check out this shot of Ben Barnes as Logan. He looks just like Hugh Jackman, doesn’t he? And Logan is Wolverine, of course. We’d give Barnes a metal-clawed franchise any day. In fact, this entire series could be his sneaky audition.
- Best Quote: Maeve: “Hello Felix, it’s time you and I had a chat.”
- Elsie: “I’m a creepy necro-perv.”