Westworld: 1x03 The Stray.
Change. Bernard has given Dolores books to read that all contain a similar theme. Alice in Wonderland, a book about change, about someone waking up and wondering if she has changed in the night. He is wondering about her consciousness, well aware that the glitch is far more than just one simple error in the new update – that Dolores’ otherness goes far beyond a simple memory recall. And he knows that this knowledge, and where it leads, is dangerous enough to ask Dolores to keep their conversations a secret.
But it is hard to keep anything a secret in a place as inquisitive as Westworld. Everything is under constant observation, and it turns out that young Elsie is just as much of a detective as Bernard is, even if she isn’t as clued in to the power structures behind the park. She, too, has noticed that the glitches go far beyond memory flashes, and when she replays recordings of the milk killers, she notices their conversations with Arnold.
It is interesting that the memory of Arnold has been erased in much the same fashion in which the creators delete the memory of the hosts – sanctioned by corporate, Ford allowed all memories of his co-creator and partner to be deleted, so he could become the sole creator figure. Presumably they had different ideas about the purpose of Westworld – Ford says that in the first years, before there were guests, it was pure creation, they lived with the hosts, and Arnold, driven by tragedy in his personal life, became obsessed with the idea of consciousness. Consciousness, in Arnold’s conception of it, isn’t driven by memories and recollections, it is self-awareness. He tried to replicate a model of consciousness which theorises that primal men confused their own thought for the voice of god, and turned the host’s programming into a voice that they could hear – and traces of that programming, as much as it went wrong (Ford says, what the guests do to the hosts doesn’t go well with consciousness, and lunatics confuse their thought for the voice of god too) is still present in the hosts, explaining why they would still converse with Arnold in their heads. The voice command that the techs still use are a remnant of that original programming – everything is just layers upon layers.
Dolores: You said someday. Not today, or tomorrow, or next week. Just someday. Someday sounds a lot like the thing people say when they actually mean never. Let’s not go someday Teddy. Let’s go now.
Who in the world is Dolores? She understands these books and sees herself in them. She is smart enough, and aware enough, to question Teddy about his plans for the future, plans which are vague. Someday he will have become a better man, one deserving of Dolores, one day he will have atoned for his sins. Someday, they will move to a better, more peaceful place – except Dolores is aware that someday is the same as never in Westworld, that the only way change comes in the world is by making decisions now. The loop doesn’t really allow for an imaginary better later – all it leaves is weird traces, sketches, or guns in drawers that she can’t explain.
In fact, Dolores’ otherness becomes even more obvious when compared with Teddy’s obliviousness. He has been through trauma again and again, his sole role in Westworld is die over and over (Ford quotes Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar at him - it goes on, “death, a necessary end, will come when it will come”), and yet, narrative hasn’t even bothered to give him an actual backstory to explain all that guilt that he feels. He doesn’t even know what he has to atone for, exactly, until Ford incorporates his backstory into his new idea for the park.
There is a very interesting switch here, where everyone spends a lot of time and energy explaining how backstories aren’t just little anecdotes but the cornerstones of the host’s identities (Teddy’s idea of atoning and getting his happy ever after with Dolores, for example), and then Ford goes on to explain Bernard’s drive and obsession with explanations by mentioning that he lost a son. It could be that he is hinting at Bernard’s nature, his similarity to the hosts, or it could be that occasionally, humans can be explained the same way that the hosts are – after disaster and catastrophe, similarly driven by a unique idea or cause. It would be hard to comprehend Arnold’s singular drive without the idea that he was chasing his own ghosts in a way.
Teddy is incapable of overcoming the limitations placed on him. But Dolores, in an episode full with exposition about how security has limited gun privileges to only certain hosts, an episode that starts with William very reluctantly shooting his first host out of necessity and has an entire scene dedicated to Dolores’ horrifying physical inability to shoot a gun, finally manages to overcome that limitation. Faced with the same scenario, back in her loop, which endlessly ends in a night of horror, where here entire family is slaughtered and someone (in this case, one of the milk killers) drags her off , she has a memory of the Man in Black, and pulls the trigger, and breaks free of her loop to end up with William and Logan.
Bernard finally reveals why he has been conducting these secret interviews with Dolores. HE has been fascinated, but after Ford’s speech about Westworld, and how cruel it would be for the hosts to retain a memory of what is being done to them, he asks Dolores what she would want, giving her a choice between two options.
Dolores: You’re saying I’m changed?
Bernard: Imagine there are two versions of yourself. One that feels these things and asks these questions and one that’s safe. Which would you rather be?
Dolores: I’m sorry. I’m trying… but I still don’t understand.
Bernard: Of course not.
Dolores: There aren’t two versions of me. There is only one. And I think when I discover who I am, I’ll be free.
Which is very, very interesting. When Bernard asks her to go into analytical mode to find out what prompted that answer, she doesn’t know. It solves the quandary of how a cohesive identity can be forget from so many distinctive memories of different lives. She doesn’t hear her own thoughts as the voice of god, she recognises them as her own. It’s what Dolores thinks may be a mistake, what Ford called a mistake, but Bernard knows that this is also how evolution works. If this theory of bicameral mind is sound, and it is the first step towards host consciousness, then Dolores has already surpassed it. She no longer hears the voice of god, she is looking for her own voice. And Bernard will let her find it.
We do not really have a timeline here, but what are the odds that the catastrophic failure that keeps being referenced coincided with Arnold’s death in the park? If he cared about the hosts in that fashion, it is likely that he would have disagreed violently with what the guests are using them for.
Bernard is trying to distract Elsie but she seems like a keen detective, and the question of why the stray – the host that has gone off course and has comically left his group without someone to hack wood for their supper – would be obsessed with a stellar constellation, if he wasn’t programmed with that backstory, eats away at her.
A simple question: the maze and the function it presumably has fits in well with Arnold’s theory of consciousness (we do not know what is at the top of the pyramid, but maybe the maze was a way to find out). Ford, on the other hand, spends a lot of time in this episode convincing us and his lackeys that he very much doesn’t believe in consciousness (or perhaps, he doesn’t believe that Westworld allows for it?). I know that there are theories about either Arnold being Ford, or Bernard being Ford’s replacement for him, made in his image. Are the maze and Ford’s new storyline connected or in competition with each other? Not knowing how the timelines work out (or having any certainty that William and Logan’s timeline is the same one as the old Ford’s one), it’s hard to guess at the connections.
Ford mentions that the Wyatt storyline (a man who was good, but then came back with strange ideas, thinking he was hearing the voice of god, and started to slaughter) is based in reality.
There are a few theories out there about the constellation that returns again and again – I like the detail that this episode follows Ford’s monologue about small details, and has Elsie find just such a detail, that seems precisely created to catch her attention.
The scene in which Bernard walks in on Ford giving one of his techs a speech about how the hosts do not feel a single thing they are not told to feel is chilling – it almost feels like a very personal, existential threat to Bernard. Also, his conversation with his wife (Gina Torres!!) has a very odd, mysterious quality to it, much like an unfinished storyline with some holes would.
In Dolores’ memory, the Man in Black keep telling her to start at the beginning, which is both a reference to the loop she is stuck in, and perhaps a hint that what we see isn’t entirely chronological? (and yes, there is a different in the music choices that are played in the saloon, and the actual host playing a piano in Ford’s lab hints that there is an evolution of how that music was played in Westworld).
When Teddy shoots Wyatt’s men, it looks like they are immune to the shots – could it be that the storyline dictates they be alive, or are they something different entirely?
Perhaps worth a shot to read up on Bicameralism.
Really smitten by the fact that the lady’s ideal adventure was just shooting up misogynist assholes and creeps. Hope she stays around.
The Julius Caesar quote starts – “Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once.” There is a lot of death in this episode. Teddy is valiant without a question, but has died thousands of deaths, Bernard is haunted by the memory of his dead son Charlie, but these memories are all he has left of him (and he lives in a world that promises tabula rasa), and Arnold managed to die in a place where he should not be able to. But then, as Stubbs says, all that keeps the hosts from killing guests is a line in their code, so it’s always better to bring a gun.