Now we know how dangerous Westworld really is
During one of his lengthy ruminations on the mortality of machines, Anthony Hopkins's Dr. Robert Ford quotes a passage from the second act of Julius Caesar to a deactivated Teddy Flood (James Marsden). "Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant never taste of death but once," Ford quotes to Teddy, before adding on his own commentary, "Of course, Shakespeare never met a man quite like you, Teddy. You've died at least 1,000 times, and yet it doesn't dull your courage."
And so, quoting a classic play in which a ruler is killed by those who serve him, Westworld delves into the idea of how one can show bravery when there's no fear of consequences. When guests flee firefights in fear, when William makes his first kill in town to save Clementine, are they experiencing actual feelings of heroism, of terror, are the hosts responding simply to their surroundings because their storylines have programmed them? If that's the case, are the humans in Westworld so different then the hosts?
Westworld's third episode is one of consequences. By now we know well that humans can't be harmed in Westworld—that's why The Gunslinger (who is absent from this episode) walks away unscathed from so many firefights. When William "popped his cherry," as his douchey friend puts it, he's hit by a bullet, revealing a small bruise on his chest. "It wouldn't be much of a game if they can't shoot back," his friend Logan says.
It's the first time we see that there actually is some sort of minor physical discomfort when a host shoots a human in Westworld. In another scene, while Elsie Hughes (Shannon Woodward) is searching for a rogue host with Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth), there's a group of men sitting around an unlit campfire waiting for the one machine with permission to touch the axe. In another, Dolores is unable to physically pull the trigger on a gun, we assume, because she isn't programmed to handle one.
But the show only establishes these ground rules to immediately break them. In this episode, we see the rogue host attack Stubbs, and we also see Dolores fire a weapon—defending herself from the repeated horrifying attack on her house, one that is evidently part of some sick story loop within the park. This, we can only assume, is a result of one of three things: 1) from this "bug" and manufacturer error that's allegedly causing the machines to have an existential crisis, or 2) the machines becoming sentient on their own, or 3) all of the above. As we've seen, both Ford and Jeffrey Wright's Bernard Lowe have become obsessed with watching their creations grow and learn and become more autonomously human.
To call back to Ford's Julius Caesar quote, this comment also shows one of the park's other horrors: its endless programmed storyline. We have a general idea of how old the park is (if created within Ford's lifetime, which we can assume it was built sometime within the last century). And during that time, Dolores (the oldest host in the park) and Teddy have been stuck on a near constant loop, like the machines in Pirates of the Caribbean (the annoying Disneyland ride, not the annoying Johnny Depp movie), which have been activated and reset every 15 minutes and 30 seconds since 1967.
Such is the Shakespearean tragedy of Dolores and Teddy's love. They're programmed to love each other and programmed never to be together.
How many times have we seen Dolores's house get attacked? How many times have we seen her drop that can? How many times have we seen her wake up? How many times have we seen Teddy die? (Teddy Death Count: 5.) Such is the Shakespearean tragedy of Dolores and Teddy's love. They're programmed to love each other and programmed never to be together. Teddy is waiting to resolve some mysterious past that the assholes back at Westworld HQ never bothered writing. Speaking of, Ford decided to write this backstory (which might have something to do with the quasi-religious story he's building), which sends Teddy into some horrific ambush in the mountains. And the culmination of these repeated horrors results in the hosts justifiably seeking revenge, as seen in Dolores shooting that bandit.
But this entire loop circles back to Ford. In this episode, he outlines some of his past in a really clunky conversation with Wright. He casually reveals that he had a partner in the beginning. This partner wanted to create consciousness. Oh, and this partner also died in the park. Oh, and it was also not an accident. Oh, and his name was Arnold, the very disembodied person all the crazed hosts are talking to while on murderous rampages. NBD, though—probably not pertinent information to share sooner. Anyway, it's a rather poorly excecuted scene with some key plot details. Oh, and another thing: it ends with this very realistic comment from Ford: "Forgive me, but I know the death of your son Charlie still weighs heavily on you." OK.... an odd comment and even odder way of introducing this part of the character. Cut to a scene of Wright discussing how heavily the death of his son Charlie is weighing on him with a woman who must be his wife (Gina Torres, who was in the western sci-fi series Firefly).
As you're likely picking up on, this entire theme park is one self-contained Shakespearean tragedy.
As you're likely picking up on, this entire theme park is one self-contained Shakespearean tragedy. Like Romeo and Juliet lying side by side at the end of the play after each performance for hundreds of years, Teddy and Dolores have been killed or brutalized within each performance of Westworld. But outside of these performances, real humans experience repercussions to their actions. And it seems like these hosts are pretty sick of dying on stage.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com.
Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.