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Well, we know why Thandie Newton opted to sign onto Westworld now, don’t we? After weeks of being underused, we finally got a chance to see what Newton found compelling about Maeve. And, well, those moments were by far the highlights of an otherwise uneven episode.
As with all shows about robots gaining sentience, there has to be a watershed moment that allows the robot to move beyond their programming and become something else- for good or for ill. I particularly enjoyed that Maeve’s moment allowed her to have the complete upper hand in the situation. Yes, she has been growing and becoming more than what she should be for several weeks now, but I was glad this wasn’t a case of a robot begging humans to help her. Instead, it was a robot demanding changes be made. It served two important purposes. First, it showed that Maeve was already sentient. She had already moved beyond her programming, even before the final tweaks were made. Now, if that happened organically or through something else, we don’t yet know (my bet is Arnold has some hand in it). The other important element of those scenes? Showing us that, with the right motivation, hosts can hurt humans out in the real world (the fail safes within Westworld would, presumably, protect guests). And that is a very loaded piece of information.
It is widely believed that there’s at least one host working within the internal departments of Westworld (and the good money is on Bernard Lowe, whose name is actually an anagram for Arnold Weber). The thought that a host could be modified or sentient enough to rebel and attack humans outside of the the park? Well, that would certainly create a pretty horrific situation. And I suspect that might be in the cards at some point moving forward. After all, we’ve had enough clues that there was something particularly horrific that happened within the park 30 years ago (presumably a violent outburst from hosts that resulted in the death or injury of park guests). It’s not a huge leap to think that something similar could happen outside of the park. The attack on Elsie at the end of the episode could have been the first volley in the upcoming fight.
But here is my major issue with the series as a whole: so much of the success of its narrative depends on slowly doling out answers to mysteries that characters often get lost in the theories and overall narrative. We know so little about everyone within the show, that it is hard to find characters to latch onto and care about. Yes, the show has done good work with Dolores (absent for the first time this week) and now Maeve, but we don’t know much about the humans that populate the show’s canvass. And that is both curious and a problem. The lack of knowledge about the humans means they are just as much a mystery as the overall narratives. Any one of them could actually be a host, but now that we are past the halfway point in this first season, we need to know more about the people who populate this world. Even if it means unveiling some of the show’s closely guarded mysteries.
There’s a problem with having a show built on mystery in the age of the Internet. With a worldwide brain trust a click away, people can easily figure out major mysteries within a story far faster than many shows expect. Heck, I didn’t figure out the Bernard anagram myself, I saw it repeated in a number of reviews last week. Similarly, it’s been clear for weeks that there are two timelines at play within the Westworld scenes, yet the show continues to take steps to hide that fact (while dropping small clues, almost assuming we haven’t caught on when everyone has). While Westworld has excellent actors and compelling performances, it needs to spend more time building character and not mystery. Elsie seems like a nice person, but I’m not particularly angry that someone has kidnapped her because I don’t know anything about her beyond how good she is at her job. And that is a glaring issue with the series that it doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to remedy.
— We know now that Theresa has been messing around with the hosts. As has Ford. And, per Elsie, there’s someone else messing with them, presumably Bernard. All this interference cannot be good, and I suspect that this is what will lead to the cataclysmic event that will change things.
— I’m not sure if we are supposed to be creeped out that Arnold build Ford a host family. I guess it was kind, but at the same time, having hosts of people from your past? That would be pretty creepy to me.
— So we now have confirmation that Arnold is telling hosts to commit acts that go against their programming. That isn’t good.