Westworld – Dissonance Theory (S01:E04) | Review

Westworld – Dissonance Theory (S01:E04) | Review

Dolores makes a choice and the Man In Black makes some enemies, while Maeve makes an confidant and Ford makes a statement.

Spoilers ahead

I think there may be something wrong with this world.

We begin, as always, with Dolores. She’s talking with Bernard and it’s a wonderfully twisting conversation about grief that beautifully mirrors the comments Bernard made last episode about the pain of losing his son. It’s a smart way of showing how the Monster is learning from Frankenstein but I couldn’t help but think that it could equally be an Easter egg showing us that Bernard is also a Host and they’re both improvising from the same script. Regardless of the larger meaning, the link between the two and the conclusion that grief is the price we pay for love is played with a tenderness and sorrow that should elicit both Wood and Wright nominations come awards season.

Her insight guides Bernard to invite/instruct Dolores to play a game. By starting her quest to find the maze, is this the moment Dolores stops being a Host and becomes a Guest? I suspect Bernard thinks of it as another way for him to test for the presence of free will but you can’t help but wonder whether there’s some inevitability here. Given the omniscience displayed by Ford later on in the episode, has he set this whole thing up in the knowledge that Dolores and Bernard will support one another in their journey? It’s a show that can easily lead you to fall down a rabbit hole of “what if’s?” but then that’s half the fun. 

Westworld 02.jpg
No need to get testy, I’m just interested in your world view. 

Which leads us nicely into the other major theme that emerges this episode, “Where does morality lie?” We find out that the Man in Black outside of the park is a white hat (I assume that he runs an altruistic foundation) and his ‘vacation’ is playing the role of the bad guy. If he really believes that the Hosts are just robots there for his gaming pleasure then how is what he does any different to playing Call of Duty multiple times? Sure, he curses at a couple of fanboys but otherwise he’s not hurting anyone. The MIB is just a completionist looking to collect every last achievement and only then will he be able to put the controller down.

I think the real Big Bad, of at least the first season, is Hopkins despite his caring grandparent demeanour. We saw bits of it in the last couple of episodes but during Ford’s lunch with Cullen the curtain is really pulled back. He is, after all, the equivalent of a god in this world and if we’ve learnt nothing else from pop culture, we all know that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Ford is either wilfully ignoring or flat out doesn’t care about the emerging consciousness that we see growing in Dolores, Maeve, and the other Hosts. The MIB is morally on safe ground because he is just playing the game (the same approach that we see in Logan but a lot less gauche) while Ford is a monster because he doesn’t care what happens to the Hosts as long as he gets to tell his story.

It’s almost as if it’s not all as simple as deciding which colour hat to wear. 

I admire it. The audacity of it.

This is the episode I’ve been waiting for. I suppose after three bites of the apple, you’re either on board or you’re not so the show runners can take a step back from trying to please everyone and just get on with making the show they want to. There’s plenty going on and every scene seems to be taking us on the same journey regardless of which players we’re watching at any given time. Gone is the needless exposition, the now obligatory HBO nudity, and the on-going compulsion to tease the viewer with “fascinating” glimpses of mysterious goings on.
In Dissonance Theory they get on and tell the story of the park. This alone, to me, is worth the price of admission.

Random thoughts

  • Was the “Previously on Westworld” intro just an excuse to show off the young Anthony Hopkins effect again?
  • Clifton Collins Jr. is a wonderful character actor and he’s playing a lovely foil to Ed Harris in this episode. I love the motif of Laurence having the relic of his last execution attempt hanging around his neck. My favourite line from the episode is, “Keep talking and I’ll take the horse back.”
  • Yay Stubbs for following protocol and reporting the rogue woodcutter to Cullen. Praise the lord for giving us a sensible head of security.
  • Having Ed Brubaker as part of the writing staff is such a smart move. He’s a comic book writer that I’ve been a fan of for a long time (if you want a starting point, take a look at Sleeper). He’s got an ear for dialogue and builds wonderful anti-heroes so I feel like he’s got a lot to do with what’s great with this episode.
  • Oh Teddy!


Author: George Langlands

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