Westworld – Contrapasso | Review

Westworld – Contrapasso | Review

Westworld – Contrapasso (S01:E05)

Spoilers ahead

You got any stories friend?

As Billy, Logan, and Dolores venture deeper into Westworld their arrival at Pariah unveils a whole new aesthetic. Gone is the Bonanza inspired Wild West Show we got in Sweetwater but we’re still not at a Deadwood level of grime and realism. It’s still a fantasy of what an Old West Gomorrah would have been like but it’s clear that the Guests have levelled up, and so, it seems, has the show.

Much has been made of the role of women, sex, and nudity in the series to date. “Worse than Game of Thrones!” has been the usual clickbait but, as always, the show seems to be one step ahead. At first glance the skin on display seemed to just be there to titillate but as it moves on you realise that the debauchery is shown in an appropriately distant, robotic fashion. Yes, if they want to the Guests can spend their entire holiday in Maeve’s brothel but that’s not the point and the story clearly looks down on Logan and his ilk that see the Hosts as disposable flesh.

I think this is reflected in the journey of Dolores from damsel to hero. It explicitly tells us that you can rewrite your story and learn how to pull the trigger despite what role you’ve been written into. At first glance, the park seems to confirm to the narrative that women are just there to either take advantage of or to save but that’s just the set up. The larger story seems to be one of evolution, empowerment, and self-determination. One thing I think we’ve learned about Westworld so far is that nothing should be taken at face value.

Dreams mean everything.

And our distrust for what we’re shown needs to extend to outside of the park as well. The intention of Ford’s conversation with Dolores seems to be to tell us that the voice in her head is Arnold but I’m still not on board with that. I think that’s what we’re supposed to believe but I believe it is her consciousness that we hear. The spark may have been put there by Arnold but I think the voice that Dolores hears is her own; the sound of free will.

It’s similar to the conversation between Dolores and Lawrence when we first meet El Lazo. It could be read that her insight and argument is supposed to be part of the “in game” narrative but I think it also speaks to the ghost voice of Arnold that Laurence and the other Hosts all hear. Is it the case that every Host is just one ‘Violent Delights’ whisper away from breaking out of their loop? We’ve seen technicians shut down Hosts with a word or two and Ford has said that the interactive voice commands are the only thing left from Arnold’s time so maybe the whole place is just a phrase away from full-on robo-revolution. Maybe I’m overthinking it but I really respect the layers and the thought that has been put in place with the plotting and the execution of the story. I’m just having the best time watching it all swirl about me like a beautifully choreographed ballet.

Must have been the wind.

So far the Man in Black has gone from villain to power-gamer but after his conversation with Ford he seems to change again, this time becoming some kind of pilgrim. He’s not simply been doing this for 30 years to collect all the stars – he’s looking for the art in the park. With games such as Gone Home and Myst there’s been arguments made that we should see video games as an emergent art form. With the fully immersive approach to storytelling you often get, and some of the stunning visuals you see on the current generation of consoles it’s hard to argue against. Westworld is just speculative fiction about how far we’re going to see this progress. The MIB has been playing in the park for long enough that he knows all the Hosts and can see the artistry. He wants to understand the intention of the creators and thus commune with the “true meaning” of the park.

This, “What’s it all about?” question is also present in Maeve. She’s just trying to make sense of this crazy world around her. I haven’t really cared about the Maeve sub-plot so far. It’s seemed a bit tacked on but with Thandie Newton’s mesmerising delivery of the final line in this episode I’m on board. There was such power there and I’m now really curious to see where she fits into all of this.

Which bring us back to the theme of choosing the role you play and not just taking the one that you’re given. Dolores finally donning a hat is not by chance. She is well and truly a Guest now. And if you’re playing the game then there’s always the chance that you can loose. Which, as the MIB told us, are the greatest stakes of all.

Random thoughts

  • Why is Old Bill drinking to the lady in the white shoes?
  • “Creepy-necro-perve” is my new favourite insult.
  • The tall Host butcher made reference to a VR Tank. I never want to have to clean one of those out.
  • I find it weird that the GPS tracker was a chip housed on the Host’s spine. Everything else seems to have a biological basis. 
  • The corporate espionage sub-plot seems to be a diversion. Assuming it’s someone we’ve met and not Elise, Bernard, or Ford, that only leaves Stubbs, Cullen or Shouty-British-Jerk. We haven’t seen SBJ in a couple of episodes so I really hope he’s the snake and we get to see some kind of frontier justice.
  • Watching Ed Harris and Sir Anthony Hopkins facing off was like the restaurant scene in Heat.
  • I really hope that the split timeline Jimmy/MIB rumour that has been swirling around is in the same category as the “Varys is a Merman” conspiracy. It seems to be gaining more and more evidence in the show but while it’s fun to think about, I think it’ll detract from the substance of the show if they unleash a twist like that at the end of the season. 
  • What did I tell you? Bullet shaped river of doom. So rewarding to see Dolores with her finger on the trigger.


Author: George Langlands

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