Westworld 1×04: “Dissonance Theory”

Previously on Westworld: Ford had a partner named Arnold who wanted to create consciousness; Ford’s working on a storyline about a white church; Teddy got a new storyline to explain his mysterious backstory; The Man In Black (Ed) kidnapped Lawrence to help him find the maze; Elsie found a man in the desert who smashed his own head with a rock; Maeve started to have memories; Dolores finally learned to shoot a gun, then collapsed in the arms of Gallant.

A pacing Bernard is reflected in Dolores’s dull eyes. She’s being interviewed in the lab yet again. Does Bernard even have a job anymore? He asks her what happened, and she starts to sob and say that her parents were hurt. Bernard asks her to limit her emotional affect, and she finishes her story, saying that everyone she loved is gone. Bernard asks her if she wants him to make the feeling go away, but she says the pain is all she has left of her family. (It’s a direct echo of what Bernard said to his ex-wife about his grief for their son.) After she says some other stuff about rooms opening up inside her heart, he asks her if they wrote that for her, but she says she adapted it from a scripted dialogue about love.

Bernard is clearly discomfited, so Dolores asks if there’s something wrong with her thoughts. (She’s fully clothed, by the way. Maybe HBO is listening to me.) Bernard sits heavily down next to her and says no. She asks if he can help her, and he asks what she wants. She doesn’t know, but she thinks there’s something wrong with this world—or something wrong with her. She’s afraid she’s losing her mind.

Bernard also finds this uncomfortable, since, you know, she doesn’t have a mind. But he tells her to try a game: the Maze. If she    can find the center of this Maze, she can be free. Dolores says she thinks she wants to be free.

She wakes up back at the camp ground with Goofus and Gallant. In her hand is the gun. Gallant is creepily watching her, just waiting to hand her a mug of coffee.

Meanwhile, back at the saloon, Maeve has a Reverie at the bar while the player piano tinkles merrily along. It’s very steampunk. Clementine joins her at the bar, and Maeve tries to talk about memories, but Clementine only wants to talk about penises. Maeve lightens up for a hot second, but then she suddenly hears echoes of living the exact same scene earlier—except that Clementine was shot in the head. She sees blood coming out of Clementine’s eye, and herself lying on the floor next to her, and lives through a whole past scene in eerie slow motion, all the way up through park workers coming in hazmat suits to pick up the bodies. Maeve touches her stomach, struck by the memory, while Clementine blathers on.

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Upstairs, she stares at herself in the mirror; her stomach is smooth, but there’s one drop of blood on her underpants. Sloppy work, lab techs! She pulls out a paper and draws the figure, which looks sort of like a robot. Ironically. Then she goes to hide it under a loose floorboard—only to find a whole stack of them already there, that she clearly doesn’t remember drawing.

Back at the lab, everyone’s flipping out about the host that smashed his own head with a rock. Elsie thinks maybe it was the “Samaritan reflex.” But Theresa turns it into another office politics thing: Behavior (Elsie) is being too proprietary about their fuckups, and from now on her team—QA—will handle incidents. Elsie argues that she could get something out of the smashed brain of the host, and that Theresa’s guy “couldn’t debug a balled-up napkin.” Heh. But Bernard crumples in the face of Theresa’s blue-eyed stare. He and Elsie leave, and Elsie complains about him caving. She says that there’s clearly a behavioral pattern, not just a glitch, and she doesn’t get why he doesn’t want her to tell anyone, and how come she’s the only one without a “fucking agenda”? I guess being in love with Clementine doesn’t count as an agenda. Bernard takes her aside for a paternal chat, explaining that it’s easy to forget when you’re new that the hosts aren’t people, and that the thing she thinks is Orion has four stars in its belt, not three like the actual Orion.

Back at the camp site, Gallant gives Dolores his coat because she looks cold. Then he tells Goofus he wants to take her back to Sweetwater. Their (nameless, as usual) bounty hunter guide says their outlaw will evade them if they take off in the middle of the hunt, and Goofus is definitely not going to give up on a bounty even if he originally thought it was lame because it was Gallant’s idea. If Gallant wants to get Dolores back to Sweetwater, couldn’t they just shoot her in the head and have the park take her back? God, this guy is the worst. Gallant, who I respect less and less for having this guy as a friend in the first place, asks Goofus to stop trying to kill or fuck everything. Goofus could as easily do that as stop breathing. He also can’t stop being a dick. He says they probably sent Dolores here on purpose so that Gallant would actually get into the game. He gives her a sidelong look and straightens his cowboy hat.

Lawrence and Ed are walking along the desert. Ed tortures a snake. Lawrence complains that Ed killed his wife for a maze. Ed says he wants to know what this all means. Lawrence suggests that they go to “Pariah” where he has friends that could help. Gee, those are some subtle names. Anyway, they come across a woman bathing in a stream, covered in tattoos and otherwise naked. She turns towards them just enough to show a little nip, then keeps shampooing. But as Ed and Lawrence gawk, her ally sneaks up and gets a gun pointed at Lawrence. The woman comes up and gives Ed a little banter about how she’s going to kill him. He asks where her group is headed—turns out it’s more than just the one guy, it’s about four people altogether. Ed points out they’re short-handed, and shoots a few of them to make his point. The woman sort of waves her hand, like, “OK then. I guess we’re friends now.”

Stubbs is standing by the model of Westworld when a woman comes up to tell him that Dolores is far from her route. She blames it on Ford’s new storyline, which is disrupting everything. Stubbs has her flag it with Behavior. Shouldn’t it be QA?

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Dolores has arrived at a town with Goofus and Gallant. Thunder rumbles in the background. She bids good morning to Lawrence’s daughter, who’s staring down at the ground and when she doesn’t get an answer she bends down to ask the girl where she’sf rom. “Same as you. Don’t you remember?” she says. Dolores hears a man’s voice rumble, “REMEMBER” in her head and has a flash of the white church. Disturbed, she kneels down to see the pattern of the Maze that the girl has drawn on the ground. She’s interrupted by a man who puts a condescending hand on her shoulder and tells her that her father must be worried about her. Her face gets dark and she has another flashback of the white church, and then of herself kneeling by a grave. The guy looks like he’s about to pull her away by force, but as soon as she resists, it’s Gallant to the rescue. He comes over from a nearby Cantina and tells the guy that Dolores is with him. The guy gives up quickly enough, and Gallant offers to come back for her after they get Slim. “No, I think I need to keep going,” she says, and they go off together.

Lawrence, Ed, and tattoo lady’s crew are all lined up on the top of a hill watching tattoo lady slaughter a couple people after getting information from them about a “thing they’re looking for.” “Guess that’s the signal,” Ed says wryly, trying not to look disappointed that someone else got to commit wanton murder for once.

Gallant and Dolores are making camp, while the guide whistles and Goofus is nowhere to be seen. He asks where she’s going, and she says she doesn’t know, that she used to think there was a path for everyone but now she doesn’t. She used to worry over lost steer, and her father would tell him that they would find their way eventually—but “it never occurred to me that we were bringing them back to the slaughter.” He asks her how she’ll find her way now. She says she feels someone’s calling her to a place beyond all this where there’s a place for her. Behind her, he says he knows the feeling, but asks if she really doesn’t want to go back to her own life. Meanwhile, Dolores is having another bonkers reverie, staring up at the moon and then seeing herself, lying dead on her front lawn, with the workers in hazmat suits coming to get her. She faints and, once again, falls into Gallant’s arms. He puts his arm around her waist and guides her back to the fire.

Over at another, slightly less romantic campfire, a couple guys from the tattoo lady crew come up to Ed to tell them how much they admire him, that his foundation saved his sister. “One more word and I’ll cut your throat,” says Ed. “This is my fucking vacation.” That’s a guy who really values his work-life balance. I hope there’s a “what happens in Westworld stays in Westworld” rule, otherwise I feel like when those guys get back and tweet about this, Ed’s gonna have a hard time getting more donations for his foundation.

Ed goes to sit by Lawrence, who’s not going to bug him about his boring charity work. Lawrence tells him the man they’re looking for is in a certain prison. Ed says he doesn’t have time for their color-by-numbers bullshit. In case you haven’t gotten this, Ed’s a badass. He tells tattoo lady he’s going to get her quarry out of prison for her, and the only price he wants is to find out the story behind her tattoos. Ed also, apparently, knows about Arnold. He says Arnold created a world where you could do anything except die, which means it’s still just a game. Except Arnold died, so Ed’s going to figure out his story, and he thinks the tattoo is the next piece of the puzzle. He just needs Lawrence, and one match, and he’ll get her quarry out of the prison. “One match, one pistol, and one idiot. I’ll take those odds,” she says.

The next morning, a wagon and team of horses pulls Lawrence and Ed towards, presumably, the prison. Lawrence does NOT look happy. He wishes he could have just died in peace. Ed, who’s used to everyone hating him, chuckles indulgently. He asks the man in the carriage with them for a light, and when the guy says there’s no smoking, Ed says that the cigar was “hand-rolled on the ample thighs of exotic women.” Could they have come up with a less appetizing way to remind us that men objectify women? Wasn’t the phallic cigar enough of a metaphor for toxic masculinity for one scene? The dude, who seems to be a police officer of some sort, confiscates the cigar, which Ed doesn’t seem super surprised by. Then he lectures Lawrence about how he’s blaming everything on Ed’s choices, but Lawrence himself has never made a choice. And Ed—he announces grinningly—is here to set him free. Lawrence doesn’t appear amused.

When the carriage halts, the man with them announces to a man that I’ll assume is the sheriff (he’s black, by the way—I guess we really are living in some sort of fantasy where racial oppression has been magically erased from the history of America so people can enjoy raping at will without having to feel like they’re racists) that the two prisoners are horse thieves. “Lawrence Pedro Maria Gonzalez,” the sheriff says, calling the officer from the carriage a fool for not knowing him. “I’m gonna fucking kill you,” Lawrence murmurs to Ed before he’s dragged away. “Maybe someday,” Ed agrees pleasantly. The sheriff orders Ed to be locked up with some other prisoner.

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Inside the cell, Ed’s greeted by Hector, who’s wearing a black cowboy hat. Ed tells him he’s his salvation. As the carriage drives away, the sheriff leads Lawrence to the stake.

Back in the cell, Hector asks Ed if they’ve met. Ed says they haven’t, because Hector’s more of a “market-tested kind of thing. Big gun, tasteful scar.” He thinks Hector’s like a dog chasing its tail. Hector responds that Ed sounds like a man who’s grown tired of wearing his guts on the inside. I do love a man who can be that suave while threatening to disembowel a new acquaintance. Ed changes the subject to Hector’s philosophy. Hector says that the brave can see that everything will end badly. This meets with Ed’s approval. Hector announces that it will be three days before his friends show up, and Ed says that it will be three days “normally” (he’s been researching Hector’s cycle) but he doesn’t have time for that. And he lights a match.

Back in the lab, a woman’s voice announces that she has a request for a small pyrotechnic effect. I find it very hard to believe that in a park this advanced, they have actual humans discussing and approving these things in real time. Couldn’t they have done one of those silly montages where you see, like, a log message printing out on a screen somewhere? “PYROTECHNIC EFFECT APPROVED.” That would have made WAY more sense. But no, Stubbs literally answers that it’s approved, and she authorizes it. Meanwhile this whole time Ed’s, like, hanging out by the lock. he sticks the match inside, then it explodes. Ed kicks the door open, and he and Hector leave. A couple guards confront them in the hallway, but one of them appears to suffer from a spontaneous head explosion, and Ed and Hector continue on their way with ease.

Meanwhile, outside, Lawrence—now tied to the stake and blindfolded—asks the sheriff to get it over with. A row of men prepare their rifles and, at the sheriff’s signal, gunfire begins. But though Lawrence twitches in fear, he doesn’t get shot. Ed has conveniently shot all the dudes for him. “Motherfucker,” he says when Ed unties his blindfold.

Ed, Lawrence, and Hector arrive back at the camp, where tattoo lady is suitably impressed by Ed’s success. Hector says he owes Ed, but Ed brushes him off and tells him he just wants his payment from tattoo lady. He also tosses off a little warning to Hector that he’s not going to find what he wants in that safe.

Ed comes up to tattoo lady’s side and she starts in on her own tragic backstory. Masked men in devil’s horns came and slashed up her town, including her mom. She painted her mom’s blood on her to keep herself hidden, and now she’s tracked down all the men but one. Ed asks his name, and she says it’s Wyatt, which is followed by Dramatic Music even though that was OBVIOUSLY what she was going to say.

It’s sundown back in Sweetwater and some Native Americans are marching slowly through the square, observed by, among others, Maeve. She sees a doll fall to the ground, looking like the masked lab workers who picked her up before. She asks the little girl what it means, but a white guy tells her that it’s part of their “so-called religion” and no one’s going to tell her about it.

Back in the saloon, Maeve tries to drink away her worries while Clementine works on a couple potential customers. Clementine sends them off with one of the women. When she saunters proudly back to the bar, Maeve tells her they’re bandits who ride with Hector. Clementine asks if that’s the one who lives with the savages, and Maeve has a convenient flashback to that doll falling, in case you’d forgotten what happened literally forty-five seconds to make that highly interesting to Maeve.

Bernard and Theresa are hanging out in bed, and Theresa is getting dressed. Bernard says he just got there, and Theresa says he gave her what she needed. He asks about her stress, and she gives him an actual real smile and calls him the master of observation. He kisses her neck from behind her, and helps her with her zipper. She complains about Ford, who’s creating chaos in the park and is going to cause problems with the board. Bernard recommends that she stop crossing her arms, because it makes her look nervous and defensive, like a beast protecting its belly. He pulls her up straight and tells her that’s the posture she wants, and she actually seems amused, and kisses him, calling him charming. It’s moderately cute. I am starting to have doubts about my theory that Bernard is a host.

Ford is overseeing a giant construction pit when Theresa approaches him. She tries to concern troll him, saying that it’s obviously a huge endeavor and the board would be happy to give him more time. He sees right through that, remarking that they’d also be happy to delay him forever.

He brings her to a fancy-ass restaurant, overlooking the park. Waiters pour their wine and Theresa admits she’s concerned about his changes. But he accuses her of not liking the place. He can always tell which ones enjoy it and which don’t. She says she admires “the audacity of it,” which is… clearly not the same as liking it. Then she says that she came here once with her parents, and even sat here. But she knew she wouldn’t enjoy it when she came to work here.

There’s a tic that this show has, where one character will say something and the other will launch into a long, aggressively philosophical-sounding speech that’s not immediately relevant (and sometimes never becomes very relevant, though they always make an attempt). It’s getting kind of annoying, like instead of listening to each other they’re all just auditioning for a Shakespeare play. That’s what Ford does now, as a waiter comes up to refill their wine. He goes off about how in the beginning he thought the park would be balanced, but no one wanted the “hopeful” storylines. Arnold had always expected that. He preferred the hosts to the people, and didn’t want the “money men” to be brought into the park. But Ford said it would be OK because the money people didn’t know what they were paying for—a world, not just a park.

Meanwhile, Theresa notices that the wine is overflowing from her glass. The waiter has frozen in the act of pouring it. And all the people working in the field below are frozen too. Alarmed, she refocuses on Ford. It’s a terrifically scary moment: this one woman, pragmatic and mostly bound to the mundane world of business and career, alone with this potentially insane old dude and a bunch of droids that he can control without her even noticing. Ford doesn’t reassure her, bragging that he was the god, and she was merely a guest. Looking annoyed, Theresa lights a cigarette—perhaps attempting to seem like she’s not scared. She asks what happened to Arnold. Ford says that he got confused, but he, Ford, won’t: he’s always seen things clearly.

Theresa realizes this is definitely the very table and chair she sat in when she visited with her parents. Ford assents that he knows everything about the guests and the employees. He asks her to be careful with Bernard, who has a sensitive disposition. Suddenly everyone unfreezes; the man apologizes for spilling on Theresa. And Ford says he’s asking her nicely, not to get in his way. Yeah, real nice. He’s a peach. Her fingers shaking, Theresa puts out her cigarette and says the board agrees with her. Ford corrects her, the board’s representative has already been sent. He sends the waiter away to go “join the others,” and the whole restaurant starts shaking. Theresa stares out at a giant cloud of dust being raised by some sort of crazy bulldozer (I don’t know trucks, OK?) while Ford promises her that his storyline will be completed on time.

Dolores and Gallant are staring at a settlement. Gallant wants to leave Dolores behind because Slim (the man they’re chasing) has a whole gang with him. Dolores says if they’re outnumbered, she should come help. Gallant explains to her that he can’t get hurt and she can, so she should stay here and be safe. This guy! Trying to protect someone who he still probably believes has no actual consciousness, and was created specifically to be a tempting target for would-be rapists. He’s actually just like Dolores–wanting to protect helpless creatures, even though he knows they are destined for the slaughter.

He joins Goofus, who threatens to bang Dolores by tomorrow if Gallant doesn’t. How touching. Then Goofus interrupts their guide as he tries to make a classic John Wayne speech about the son-of-a-bitch they’re chasing, and runs forward.

Inside a saloon of some sort, some guys are being dicks to a serving woman when Goofus and Gallant break in and start shooting everyone to bits. Goofus grabs a beer while they hide behind a cabinet, gloating to Gallant about how great this is. Then they get up and shoot more people. Goofus’s gun is out of bullets, so he bashes the last living guy in the head with it instead, and then takes his gun instead.

Ed and Lawrence are walking their horses through the desert while Lawrence complains that Wyatt has taken out everyone who’s come looking for him, and he’s going to get them killed. “I’m not gonna get myself killed,” Ed says. Har, har.

They come up by a tree where a bloodied man is tied, watched over by a buzzard. “Oh, Teddy. I should’ve guessed,” Ed says. Teddy begs Ed to let him out of his misery, but Ed just cuts him loose.

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Goofus, Gallant, Dolores and their guide are also riding through the desert, while a man squeals at them to let him out. Apparently the guy Goofus bashed on the head was the person they are bounty hunting. The guide says that it’s best to keep him alive, but Goofus wants to at least gag him. The guide dismounts to do so, but Slim start babbling that his boss, El Lazo, will pay them twice the reward if they cut him loose. The guide is in the process of refusing when Goofus shoots him in the face, too. God, Goofus is such an asshole. Gallant yells at him that he just shot an innocent man. “No, he’s a robot,” Goofus duhs back. “Just like her and just like Slim here.” He thinks El Lazo is their ticket to an Easter egg. He unties Slim, but Dolores comes up and announces tremulously that he’s not going to let Slim go. She looks brave, and Goofus is suitably impressed, but when he pulls out his gun she backs right off. He tells Gallant they can each have one [robot], and he won’t fuck his either. That was moderately funny, though Dolores deems it “disgusting.”

He pulls Gallant aside for a tete-a-tete, asking him to “go black hat.” Gallant wants to know why Goofus is an evil prick. Goofus finds this hilarious. “It’s a fucking game, Billy.” He points out that Dolores doesn’t give a shit how he plays the game, and they’ll both be fine with a trip down the dark side. From Gallant sad, pathetic face it appears he is at the end of his very small amount of resistance.

In the lab, some workers watch one of the storylines on a surprisingly dinky little screen. It’s Hector, riding with some guests. They’re all hooded, and the Habanera from Carmen plays as they ride slowly, ominously through the town and the townspeople stare anxiously out the windows. Stubbs tells them to retask a few soldiers so that Hector will start shooting. Someone asks them to state their business, and Hector announces that it’s mayhem and shoots the dude. In slow-mo, he and all his friends whip out their guns and start shooting everything in sight.

Hector strides into the saloon, only to have Maeve point a gun at his head and say she wants to talk. She brings him upstairs, where he sees a safe—presumably the one he’s looking for. Maeve tells him as much, saying she “can always tell when a man wants something that’s not on the menu.” She’ll give him the combination in exchange for answers. He says he doesn’t have any answers because this world is madness, but she holds up one of her little drawings and says she wants to know about it.

Meanwhile, back in the lab, someone remarks that some families are heading into town, contrary to their itinerary, and it’s going to be a bloodbath. Stubbs tells her to send in the cavalry, to wrap things up. Their backup plan is to get Hector into lockup and have one of the prostitutes sneak them a key.

In Maeve’s room, Hector gets the first number in the combination by telling her the figure is a “shade.” Then he tells her that it’s a man who walks between worlds, and that they were sent from hell to oversee their world. Maeve gives him the next number: 47. (Oh, JJ!) She starts smoking some sort of gross-looking cigar and tells Hector she thought she was crazy, but she knows she got shot in the belly, even though there’s no wound, and then the shade stood over her. She wants him to cut her open, she says, taking another drag of the cigarette, which I’m going to assume is some sort of drug—opium or marijuana or something.

This is where things start to get intense. It’s one of the best sequences so far in the show.

Hector points his knife at her, but then balks. “Some big bad outlaw,” she complains. He says it’s a blessing from God to see the people who pull the strings. Maeve doesn’t find this convincing. Outside, the tattoo lady gets shot to bits. Inside, Hector stabs into Maeve, who screams. She tells him to go on, telling him she doesn’t usually have to ask men twice. He pulls her close and she screams even more. The vigilante posse arrives in the saloon and start banging on the door when they hear Maeve’s scream. After some really gross squishy sounds, Hector pulls a bullet out of Maeve’s torso. They stare at it in wonder. Hector asks what it means. “That I’m not crazy after all. And that none of this matters,” she says, pulling him close. She kisses him deeply, their hands smearing each other’s faces with her blood, as the posse shoots like crazy through the door—presumably, killing them both.

This was a really great episode, I think the best one we’ve seen so far. There are still some uneven qualities to the writing—it’s like everyone is anxious to prove that this is a High Quality Show, gratuitous boobies notwithstanding, by bringing up Themes every time there’s the least chance. Nevertheless, Dolores’s evolution into self-awareness, and her search for freedom, is incredibly compelling and, as always, beautifully acted by Evan Rachel Wood. Thandie Newton, who I’ve been rather gratuitously mean to, also did a fantastic job in that last scene, as did Rodrigo Santoro as Hector. (And Hector, with his mild-mannered nihilism and how closely attuned he is to the absurdity of his own existence, is an excellent character.) And as I mentioned before, I loved the scene where Ford, ever so subtly, threatens Theresa to try to scare her into getting out of his way. Overall, the stakes are rising: Ford’s got his new storyline, two hosts have realized that their world is more (or less) than it seems, and Ed is making his way to the center of the maze. And the clues about Arnold are creating a mystery that definitely intrigues me. Please excuse me while I go read the fan theories about all this, which apparently are numerous and which I have yet to read.

See you next week!

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