Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Westworld 1x08 Trace Decay

By s. Tuesday, November 22, 2016

This week in Westworld things were a little less depressing than last week when we got the ultimate episode of doom and gloom. Unfortunately, the writing leaves a lot to be desired this week and I ain't talking about the two dumb technicians. Dumb is possible to explain. You know what is not possible to explain? Big ass maze showing up in the field for no reason with Ed Harris standing there probably looking at it (we're not even sure), mesmerized, also for no comprehensible reason. I gave it a chance assuming that it is me who is stupid but after asking on reddit and getting no satisfactory answer I'm gonna assume that what is stupid here is the writing for this one particular sequence.

But let's start with everything else:

Bernard is still living a hellish life of being Ford's bitch - Ford orders him to clean up after Theresa's murder and he himself tells Hale and Stubbs that she fell off a cliff or something. Hale is suspicious but she has no evidence against Ford. Oh and before Bernard's memory is wiped he has a flashback of killing Elsie so she is probably dead meat.
Dolores and William reach a town with the buried church. They find a barely alive guy who tells them that he was supposed to ambush them and Dolores wants to help him and goes to fetch water. When she comes back the guy dies and William is giving serious 'I put him out of his misery also he wanted to kill us' vibes.

The whole time they are there Dolores is tripping balls going through God knows how many loops in her memory. In one loop she sees herself during host training with Armistice and Angela also being there. Then Dolores sees the carnage and her own self putting a gun to her temple - an action she repeats in front of William who tells her that this place is not good for her and they should leave.
Maeve is still terrifying the dimwitted techs and makes them give her admin privileges. That results in a very amusing and fun sequence of Maeve being able to manipulate the hosts in her narrative to do what she wants. We also meet the replacement for Clementine played by Lili Simmons from last year's excellent western/horror Bone Tomahawk.

Maeve also slashes Sylvester's throat after he tries to get rid of her and shut her down but Felix patches him up. She also wants to recruit an army.

The Man in Black continues his journey with Teddy. They find a host - and it's Angela, the one who greeted William to the park. Man in Black recognizes her and tells her that he thought they retired her a long time ago. DUN DUN DUN.
Anyhow as Teddy and Angela are talking a gigantic dude in scary Minotaur-like outfit attacks MiB. As he is dragging the dude away Teddy has flashbacks to MiB dragging Dolores away. So Teddy, in all of his wisdom, punches MiB in the face.

Meanwhile, Charlotte Hale comes over to Lee's office who is not wasted and not pissing everywhere. She needs his help. They go to the cold storage and Hale wants to smuggle the host out of the park to protect the data from Ford - she wants to use the host as a memory drive. And the host she chooses?
Well it's daddy Abernathy.

I'm sure this plan won't backfire.

Meanwhile, our geniuses Dolores and William are wandering alone, in the dark, in the forest. And there they meet Logan, hell bent on revenge. If the promo for next episode is anything to go by things will be very, very unpleasant. It really seems that whatever happens causes William to totally lose it - at this point I almost pray they simply kill Dolores and that's he snaps but I'm sure what actually happens will be so much more terrible than this.
We then see MiB again and we finally get to hear his back story. Or at least, what I'm hoping is just the beginning of it because it's insanely vague to the point where even someone of Harris' talent and charisma cannot make the gigantic 'WHAT?' go away with his performance.

It goes like this - MiB has had a wife for 30 years and they had a daughter Emily. A year ago MiB's wife took some pills and died and Emily thinks she did it on purpose and blames MiB for it. So MiB returned to the park and decided to see if he is really evil (he insists he never hurt his family but his daughter says living with him was 'sheer terror'). Apparently he thinks that what will decide if he is evil is killing a robot. OK. Let's just take a leap and assume that if you kill an innocent looking robot you don't think is sentient (he doesn't at that point or most likely any point) you are truly evil. So after his wife dies he finds Maeve and her kid and stabs Maeve and then shoots the kid and he says he felt nothing. Then Maeve slashes at his throat and grabs the kid and runs away and MiB describes this as miraculous and says the maze revealed himself to him. And we see Maeve and her dead kid lying in the middle of the actual maze.
  As I was watching this I could almost imagine Ed Harris flying around next to bookshelves in space - it was Interstellar level of ridiculous.The whole maze deal, MiB's quest for it and reasons for that are some of the most important things in this series. And Nolan goes 'oh well...he gives off creepy vibe". What?

Let's set aside what I really wanna write which is 'she is married to Ed Harris and offs herself?! No one would do that!" and focus on these issues:
1. If by his own admission MiB doesn't hurt his family, then what is that 'sheer terror'? Yes, I am well aware that people can be creepy enough for others to run away but I can sense what Nolan is doing here. He is trying to make it more complex than MiB simply being violent. You say he was violent, you say he comes to the park to be violent - all the problems with this scene go away. Nah, that's too easy - OK so we are gonna say he never actually hurt his family! Because his true nature only shows in the park! So people will just 'sense' things about him for no reason! Anything would be better! Hell, telling Harris to break a phone like he did on the set of The Rock in a flashback to his family life would be better than having this 'sheer terror' following 'never hurt my family' line.
2. Why did it take this long for his wife to snap and what caused it? Why can't Nolan just come out and say it so that we have one powerful scene instead of whenever and if we find out?
3. What exactly is so damn special about Maeve crying after her kid? We saw Dolores do the same for her dad. Am I supposed to believe than in 30 damn years MiB never saw a host crying for someone else or 'refusing to die'?
4. What is up with this gigantic maze in the grass? Was this an illustration of events for the audience benefit or was it actually there?
5. How did he come up with the connection of some chick dying to some maze? Did he see it? Did the park simultaneously changed to show a maze? WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?
OK. Let's try to give the writers the benefit of the doubt and assume that what mesmerized him so was Maeve refusing to die. But the maze? The wife of 30 years taking the pills all of the sudden?
I sincerely hope Nolan has something more to say about all of the above because otherwise this is not good. This is episode 8! It's hard to think that this isn't actual MiB's back story and just something he makes up to tell Teddy. I like the idea of MiB lying because Ford may be listening which one fan proposed as solution but it's probably not it.
But maybe there is more. Maybe, because Nolan is an extremely capable writer and we got another proof of that with this incredible exchange between Ford and Bernard:
- I wonder, what do you really feel? After all, in this moment, you are in a unique position. A programmer who knows intimately how the machines work and a machine who knows its own true nature.
- I understand what I'm made of, how I'm coded, but I do not understand the things that I feel. Are they real, the things I experienced? My wife? The loss of my son.
- Every host needs a backstory, Bernard. You know that. The self is a kind of fiction, for hosts and humans alike. It's a story we tell ourselves. And every story needs a beginning.
- Your imagined suffering makes you lifelike.
- Lifelike, but not alive? Pain only exists in the mind. It's always imagined. So what's the difference between my pain and yours? Between you and me?
- This was the very question that consumed Arnold, filled him with guilt, eventually drove him mad.The answer always seemed obvious to me. There is no threshold that makes us greater than the sum of our parts, no inflection point at which we become fully alive. We can't define consciousness because consciousness does not exist. Humans fancy that there's something special about the way we perceive the world, and yet we live in loops as tight and as closed as the hosts do, seldom questioning our choices, content, for the most part, to be told what to do next. No, my friend, you're not missing anything at all.
There are such provocative and quite depressing ideas here. They could have really expended on that somehow before we saw MiB shooting that little girl...I don't know, this whole thing involving the most intriguing character in the show was underwhelming, amazing performance aside.

Anyways after MiB is done with his story we see Maeve being taken to Ford who wants to wipe her memory so she doesn't remember her daughter's death. Maeve doesn't want him to do that, mentions how the pain is all that she has left and in a stunning act of defiance she kills herself. And then we see present Maeve - remembering MiB attacking her....and re-enacting the scene with her attacking and killing new Clementine. She then runs and the park employees are dispatched to get her.
The episode ends with Angela killing Teddy and a group of guys in scary costumes emerging from the woods and appearing before her and MiB. I have terrible feeling about all of this.


Next week it's Well-Tempered Clavier Maeve approaches Sweetwater's longtime outlaw Hector with a bold proposition. William tries to convince Logan to help liberate Dolores. Teddy and the Man in Black get closer to what they're looking for. Stubbs's suspicions are aroused. Ford cautions Bernard against seeking answers to questions best left unasked.
Previous recaps:
1x01 The Original 
1x02 Chestnut
1x03 The Stray
1x04 Dissonance Theory 
1x05 Contrapasso 
1x06 The Adversary 
1x07 Trompe L'Oeil


  1. I feel like if they answered all those questions you asked about MIB now, he wouldn't have much of a story moving forward. I don't even think they'll give us all of those answers in S1.

    He could have a violent temper, and not be psychically violent against his wife and kid. I'm sure 30 years will mean something that will be explained later on.

    MIB said that thing that surprised him the most about Mauve was because "just wouldn't die." I don't think it was her crying that did him in. It's the fact that she just didn't drop like all the other hosts did.

    Great recap! I'm still going to grasp at straws that Elsie is alive somewhere.

    1. Eh, it was just so badly written. A majority of problems would be fixed with either a line here or there or postponing this scene until we know more. Nolan used that moment where we learn more about character as mostly another moment to add mysteries and I hate such writing. There's too much of that already

      Do we even know if the other hosts just drop? No. It seems plausible they would fight and not want to die.

  2. This was an excellent episode thanks in part to Thandie Newton and that eerie monologue from Ed Harris. I don't know where I heard this as I think it's from Echoing the Sounds forum for NIN fans as we have a page devoted to the show. Someone said that it all takes place in different timelines as the MiB could be another character in another narrative.

    1. I think two time frames not timelines... and yes he is most likely William

  3. I feel like with this episode and last week's episode that this show is finally hitting its stride for me. I like totally get it now and think I know some of where it's going. I am almost certain that, as you said, MiB's backstory is only at its beginning phases. I even said to my wife, "I can't WAIT to see how his backstory fleshes out."

    As for the situation of him testing his "evil" skills, I think this episode made it clear that Maeve is an anomaly, even before she started getting the morons to start letting her tinker with herself. MiB said at one point that she displayed actual memory and emotion. Maybe that was how he felt he could use that situation as a "test" or whatever...

    As for the stuff with the maze, we can't possibly know enough from this episode alone what Nolan is trying to do here. It seemed odd to me, sure, but I am sure there will be further explanation as to how the maze was brought to MiB's mind beyond this. Also, this, like Interstellar, is high science fiction that is in no way meant to be logical. It's all theory. To call the bookshelf scene in Interstellar ridiculous is to say that you've never seen or read anything else that purports that there are dimensions beyond the three we know in our world, which I know is not the case. You know your cinema. Plenty of scientists believe that time and space can be manipulated, which is an idea that has been explored in countless works from 2001: A Space Odyssey all the way down to Interstellar and beyond. I just this past weekend saw a new movie that plays a variation on this as well. Sorry to go on and on about that...Anyway...

    If nothing else, it's all so much fun to think about. This show has finally grabbed me, and I like that. Really looking forward to where it goes now.

    Great stuff as usual!

    1. High science or no high science it didn't make for a good movie nor does this make for a good sequence.

      You're assuming that there is going to be more. This is a recap of stand alone episode. I cannot rate what I find to be far fetched and vague scene, ill-timed scene to be good.

      He didn't say that she displayed actual memory and emotion. You are just filling glaring gaps in writing which no one in the audience should be require to do. The show is grabbing me less and less because now with that idiotic manifestation of the maze where there is too little to come up with explanation other than 'i hope this character lied to Ford' it seems to be possible Nolan is sacrificing the story to be mysterious

      Nolan already asks people to just buy these technicians to be this dumb - and a lot of people don't - and now this? I hope the last two episode actually conclusively develop our characters because this is at best disappointing

  4. I don't know why, but I had the weirdest feeling MiB was going to announce himself as Arnold for a split second before he started that confusing story. I can't shrug the thought that the fact he doesn't yet have a name means something. I don't know!
    Maeve using her Jedi Mind Tricks on the other hosts was an absolute riot, and a nice distraction from those two idiots that are grinding on my nerves!
    I'm so glad I'm up to date now and can read all your WW posts!
    - Allie

    1. It does mean something but I won't share my theory because it's a very popular one and it is almost confirmed so I don't wanna spoil you! :)

      Thanks for reading my ramblings!

  5. We're definitely gonna binge on this later in December, Margaret. Then I can revisit your reviews and actually can contribute something :)

  6. It wasn't my favorite episode, but there were some good parts. Admittedly I tend to enjoy Maeve's scenes. I'm not sure if it's the cheekiness Thandie Newton brings to the character or the writing, or both, but at this point she's my favorite plot line. Delores' plot made absolutely no sense this week. I wish they would have done more with Bernard this week. The tech's are definitely dumb. I almost wish they would reveal that the techs were hosts too. That at least would make sense.

    1. I think Dolores is simply going mad from Arnold's code and having flashbacks of different loops. That is at least somewhat possible to explain at this moment in the show, that maze in the field however was not :D