Westworld: Trace Decay

Dear Westworld,

Hey, what’s up. Quick question for you, have you ever questioned the nature of your reality? Ha! Just kidding. Because that’s the….it’s how the park employees evaluate the …the robots. Anyway. Just want to let you know I’m still a big fan, now I say ‘still’ because what follows may seem like an outright complaint about the show but it’s not, just a polite request and some areas that I feel could benefit from a new approach. This week’s episode Trace Decay left me a little bit frustrated and I wasn’t sure why at first, it was definitely thrilling and continued to add thoughtful layers to the already dense seven layer dip that is HBO’s Westworld, I love it. I love having a show to watch that doesn’t pander or aim for the middle in terms of appeal, I really enjoy the deep conversations and esoteric references and all the little ways it subverts expectations and adds quirky little details to make the park itself seem both familiar and uncanny at the same time. The performances are also spectacular, the things that these actors and actresses have to do, Thandie Newton in particular, is on another plane as far as verisimilitude and depth, it’s almost a requirement to rewatch each episode in order to understand the emotional hurdles these characters are negotiating. And the cinematography? Wow, right? Just blows me away every episode. I could keep going with the praise but what I am getting at, actually, is that it would be really nice if like something, the fuck, would happen. You know?

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Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of the slow boiler. Take a show like Bloodline over on Netflix. Great show but it takes awhile and has liberal use of flashbacks (just like you!) to build to an emotional climax. The tension clearly ratchets up from episode to episode, you feel it even though you don’t know what’s going to happen and once it does it’s devastating. Really great drama. And I think that you’re there too, I totally believe in the confidence of the narrative, it’s just that after the most recent episode, the eighth out of ten, I still don’t know what the point is. What seemed to be a huge revelatory moment with the Man In Black more or less confirming he’s an older William, the fact that somehow murdering Mauve and her daughter is how he discovered the maze to begin with made absolutely no sense whatsoever. Visually, it was fascinating, seeing her laying in the middle of a massive drawing of the maze carved out in the ground but how could he have had a bird’s eye perspective and seen this? From the ground it just looked like a series of dirt rows. “And then something amazing happened. She refused to die.” Well, I’m no doctor but it looks like you stabbed her in the small intestine. Probably super painful but that’s not going to flip the switch right away, Mr. Philanthropist. Have you seen Reservoir Dogs? That guy bled like a stuck pig for almost an hour and a half. Anyway, this just felt a little bit rushed and uneven and again, I’m not saying it wasn’t fun to watch but even the spidery, fiercely intelligent Charlotte Hale knows the rule. “Show. Don’t tell, right? Isn’t that how you writers do it?” Except not in this episode. Unless….Wait.

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This whole ‘my wife died in the bathtub but it turns out she committed suicide because I go full Renegade while playing Mass Effect so I decided to come to Westworld‘ story. That sounds a lot like a character history. You wouldn’t be resurrecting some of the elements of the film, are you? Particularly my very first theory that was quickly disproved? Heh. Naw. Although that would be a spectacular way to zig when everyone on the internet is now aware of your intention to zag. I have commented on my dislike of the theory because of the way I relate to a young idealistic William, but this would be the best of both worlds. After all, Ford has had a Host operating behind the scenes of the park without anyone being the wiser, who’s to say he couldn’t have sent one out into the world to manipulate and control the board. I mean, I’m reaching here and don’t tell me if I’m right, of course. At this point I have two months invested and I’d rather find out in due course. But how great would it be to drop a bar of soap in the internet’s coffee? I’d love you forever if you did that.

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Another thing. Mauve. I, uh….still not tracking on this one. The only thing that I believe would validate this plotline is if Felix and Sylvester are Hosts who are incapable of resisting her commands but they aren’t aware of it. Or are they are simply hypnotized by boobs? I mean. I would be. Otherwise, she is actively fomenting a Host insurrection under the noses of, well, everyone and the only thing that stands in her way are these two ne’er-do-wells. They can’t possibly think there is still a promotion in here somewhere. More than that, Sylvester surviving having his jugular sliced open was huge cop-out, my friend, it speaks to the crux of this written objection. It’s bad enough that inside the park is basically an elaborate one-sided game of paintball but if things don’t stick in the real world I’m even less likely to feel any kind of suspense or stakes. Granted, someone might finally have figured out some of the shenanigans these three have been up to but then something might actually happen and we wouldn’t want that with only two episodes to go. Heaven forbid.

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Okay, this is an outright complaint. We are eight episodes in and Dolores is still having this cryptic nonsensical flashbacks that in no way illuminate what she’s seeing or why she’s seeing them. In fact, they are further obscuring what we already suspect as she discovers what she claims to be her home town and yet another timeline with Angela popping up as a cheerful local. I really liked Dolores in the beginning, I genuinely felt for her, especially how desperately she fought off the Man in Black, that was easy to want some sort of redemption or justice for her. But just like going out with someone who seems to be in need of some emotional support and a kind hand at first, after a few weeks you realize that you’re actually dating a basket case. I’m not trying to be cruel or lessen her struggle by any means but, as far as William goes…the man is on vacation. And I can think of a few things more relaxing than chasing Dolores around the desert while she shouts, “Are you real?! Is this real?!” like going to a party where I get a little drunk and start weeping where your significant other gets a little too drunk and locks themselves in the bathroom. I guess that’s what their story is starting to feel like. She’s tripping balls and he’s getting bored. And he is not alone.

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One more thing, what’s up with these monster men running around with Wyatt? They are pretty freaky from a distance and in large numbers but up close there’s no way this thing has a good range of motion.On the whole Westworld has felt largely grounded in reality, even for a show about realistic androids dressed up as cowboys but these cultists or whatever they are stretch the imagination. The show is often compared to a video game and I guess every game needs a heavy of some kind but unless they turn out to be a cameo by Gwar…meh. On the other hand, kudos to you for adding Lili Simmons to the cast. Not to be a super creep or anything but, uh, yeah, she’s a good. Anyway, like I said, you’re doing a great job and at least this week we can verify that you have more timelines going on than the entire Back to the Future Trilogy. How we’re going to sort them out at the end is 100 percent your problem but I feel like we’re in good hands. You seem to know what you’re doing even if no one else is sure, hahaha. I know I’ve postulated enough for a lifetime and, frankly, all I’m suggesting is that considering we may not get to return to you until 2018 I think we all deserve some real closure. Don’t let us down! Or end on an even more mysterious note! Or go another episode without any fucking consequences! Otherwise, I’ll probably lose my shit.

With Love and Violent Delights,
An Ardent Fan

 

Bonus: I normally post the original version of the player piano jams but I like the Westworld versions so much here they are. Makes you want to go out and start a revolution, politely.

 

 

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