Westworld - Chestnut | Review

Westworld – Chestnut (S01:E02)

Two new guests arrive at the park with differing expectations, Maeve’s nightmares come to life, and Dr. Ford starts his own quest.

Spoilers ahead

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I know you think you have a handle on what this is going to be.

The second Westworld episode follows down the predictable route of acting as a mini-pilot. I’m excited to see the underrated Jimmi Simpson (Liam McPoyle in It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, and the best part of one of my favourite lost pilots, Virtuality) given an extended run on a show as the audience proxy, William, but the idea of using the experiences of a new Guest as a way to learn about Westworld feels a little obvious for an HBO show of this magnitude. 

For all the swagger and polish on screen, doing over the pilot feels like a move driven by insecurity. I know this show needs to be a hit given the huge dump trucks full of money they’ve spent on making and developing it but on-demand streaming, DVRs, and torrenting mean that if you really want to watch from the start you can. I really don’t see the point in wasting time reminding the viewer of what the story is. Stop holding our hand and let us stumble about the park for a while.

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What is the point of it?

“These violent delights have violent ends” is a fantastically unsettling Manchurian Candidate-like phrase to act as the vector for the revolution but once it’s uttered, there’s not really any progression. Delores (Evan Rachel Wood) apparently triggers Maeve’s (Thandie Newton) storyline but it is just a rehash from last time – robot remembers the horrors the Guests have visited upon them. Most of the rest of the episode feels like padding (the role of the various departments in the care and maintenance of the Hosts) or interesting but inconsequential character development (taking a look at Bernard and Theresa’s personal lives).

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Stories are best left to the Guests.

The Man in Black’s (Ed Harris) rampage continues and it occurs to me that he is the only one actually playing the game. For all the time we spend hearing how the Annoying British Guy’s grand saga is going to blow the Guests’ socks off, it seems like everyone else is just fucking around in the sandbox. Logan is constantly breaking the façade of actually being in the Wild West, the frat-boy that shoots Teddy could just as easily be at a WWE match, and the ‘marks’ that we see Maeve trying to seduce are all acting like they’re back at their local in Brooklyn.
As much as we’re supposed to be revolted by the MIB’s brutish behaviour, at least he’s doing more than chaotically flailing and shooting his gun like a toddler hopped-up on too much chocolate cake at a cowboy themed birthday party. At some point he’s going to interact with another Guest and then, I guess, we’ll see just how much of a bad-ass he really is. What’s going to happen when the bully comes up against someone that can fight back?

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Isn’t there anything you like about it?

The Dr.Ford (Sir Anthony Hopkins) B-story was great. I was a bit worried before the show started that we’d only get occasional glimpses of Sir Tony throughout the series but it’s really exciting to see him getting out of the lab and stretching his feet. We get a masterclass in unhinged genius acting. The touching interaction with the (I’m assuming) younger version himself, his wonderful takedown of Shouty English Dude, and the nature trek with Bernard all took you a little bit further down the rabbit hole. It left me wondering how much Ford is actually in control. Has he just set off the android uprising to misdirect from his larger plan buried in the desert?

I hope that the mysterious final reveal is a sign that next week the showrunners will slacken the reins, give Westworld it’s head, and actually take us on the thrill ride teased in the pilot.

Random thoughts

  • Logan comes off sounding like a cult member at a number of points. Is the Man In Black going to start recruiting members to his gang?
  • I feel sorry for all the naked extras that have to sit around in the background of the lab scenes.
  • I love that choosing the colour of your hat is the last step in the character creation suite. 
  • Even as a huge Radiohead fan, the use of No Surprises left me a little ‘meh’.
  • Sidse Babett Knudsen’s accent has had the edges rounded off it so instead of being generic foreign, she now sounds generic American. Maybe she got an upgrade of her own between episodes?
  • I think a weekly, “Oh, they’re a Host as well?” reveal will eventually get a little boring but it was still entertaining.
  • Children suddenly saying prophetic things will never not be creepy.
  • Secret meetings between Bernard and Delores. Are they part of some longer game being played or therapy sessions for Bernard?
  • I do like they’re not afraid to assign main cast members like James Marsden walk-on roles rather than trying to shoehorn everyone onto the screen. 
  • Shannon Woodward is having almost too much fun as, Elsie, the sweary flesh rat
  • Interesting that Teddy and Dr. Ford are both black hats.
  • Fingers crossed that the steeple at the end isn’t like the hatch from Lost and we get a reveal that lives up to the hype.
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george

Author: George Langlands

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