Westworld Ep. 3 “The Stray” Review

The opening of the episode shows Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) continuing their private conversations unbeknownst to anyone else – as far as we know. Bernard eventually hands her a gift, a copy of Alice in Wonderland. Dolores realizes that this story presents a pattern when compared to other books he’s given to her: change. 

Later on, Dolores awakens to go on her routined day, discovering a pistol in her dresser bringing about recollections of a memory from her previous interaction with the Man in Black, something the creators are sure as shit is impossible. She covers it up after a moment of thought and winding down of surprise only to lift the cover. It’s gone. Was it ever really there?

We see William (Jimmi Simpson) becoming entranced by the town and its hosts after attempting to save the whore that he turned down last episode, Clementine (Angela Sarafyan) from a hostage situation with one of the other hosts. As things heat up, William gets shot and falls to the ground. I thought guests couldn’t get shot? Logan (Ben Barnes) approaches as William is standing and dismayed. Apparently, it would be too easy if they couldn’t get hit at all.

Didn’t the Man in Black get shot, feeling nothing, only appearing to turn the bullets on impact into dust in the first episode?

We learn that Bernard’s son had died at a young age (although we aren’t told how) and Ford (Anthony Hopkins) senses that he’s trying to replace that void with the machines, possibly Dolores after Ford tells Bernard about the history of the park, with that of details about Ford’s as of yet unheard of partner, Arnold, who later committed suicide before the park was ready for the public. Bernard finds that some aberrant hosts have unscripted dialogue, appearing to speak to no one but themselves, outwardly reflecting upon their internal dialogues, mentioning the name Arnold.

The most interesting aspect of this story is Dolores attempting to fire a pistol with the chivalrous help of Teddy (James Marsden). She takes aim and finds herself unable to fire it. Teddy says some don’t have it in them, but it was presented in a way that it might not be in her programming. Eventually Dolores has a disconnect with her programming as Teddy is sent into a new storyline with backing by a newly written story of revenge, leaving Dolores to avenge her farm’s murder and robbing all by herself. At first she cannot shoot the outlaw (Steven Ogg – Trevor from GTA V!), but as he throws her in the barn just as the Man in Black did, we see gunfire.

Another small plot point that I’m sure adds to the idea of memory and change affecting these hosts is that of the stray, who they (a female creator and the head security guard – who have some aggressively flirty conversations as they search for this guy) have discovered has trapped himself in some sort of canal. This character’s story ends in him killing himself with an enormous rock, repeatedly bludgeoning himself until his head caves in.

This episode seems to be the culmination of what the show runners have taken deliberate time to unfold so that their story can be understood from here on out with little need for expository dialogue, of which there is a lot. That is my hope. I’m excited to see what’s next, but until then this is an odd show. Absolutely beautiful, with interesting ideas on trouble shooting machines (the scene about the campfire and its loop without a host programmed to chop firewood is great if brief), slow building character motivations, and enough intrigue and suspense to keep one guessing for the week to come, but I do hope that this is just the tip of the scale for the characters and their situations. If not, this highly ambitious drama, with its philosophical debates and social commentary, may lose attention quicker than a book with a 150 page prologue.

Don’t be that guy, Westworld. I believe in you.

Also, Kotaku has a quick rundown of some interesting theories about where the many arching narratives may lead to, so if you’re into that sort of thing read them here before the next episode reinforces or stomps all over them.

Sorry for the late review, I’ve been having some back problems and it interfered with the piece. Read 911 Check-up for details of my shame. 

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