westworld-ed-harris-and-evan-rachel-wood

Hi.  I’m William. Can I cut into your skull?  I think you might have a map inside there.

Season One has ended.  In many ways it was an engaging story with many interesting characters.  In others, it was a fucking hot mess.  It has been nearly a week since I watched the finale and I’ve read many opinions on it and the entire series.  I’ve read deconstructions of the story and of the production.  I wanted to LOVE this show.

But I can’t.  There’s enough that I’ll probably still be interested when it comes back on in 2018.  Maybe.  I don’t know if I’ll have the drive to actually watch Season One through again to reacquaint myself with the many tiny details that I’d need to make sense of the next phase, but who knows?  Maybe the concept will brighten in my mind over time.

One of the things I’ve noticed in scanning the media attention surrounding the show that bothers me:  The focus is on the miraculous journey of Dolores through this “maze” and Evan Rachel Wood’s performance.  While I agree Wood did a fantastic job throughout the series, I’m surprised by the quiet praise given Thandie Newton for her arc as Maeve.  No one sat naked-assed on a cold slab longer.  No one had more frequent and violent scenes of emotional complexity.  And SHE was the one who completed a journey from puppet to real girl in ten episodes (while Dolores is still trapped in her loop somewhere in time).  Granted, a lot of her story is problematic for me, but in terms of a performance, Newton was always on point and genuine in her ascent into consciousness.  There were some over-praised performances in this show but I enjoyed how Newton handled the material.

This was a prologue within a prologue.  To draw a comparison to the film, the season ended at the moment the Black Knight stabbed the guest and the Gunslinger drew on James Brolin’s character.  BUT IT TOOK TEN HOURS TO GET THERE.  Now we have to wait a year and change for the sequel to see hell break loose across the park…which is the conflict we ALL SIGNED UP TO SEE!

Ahem.

Yes, I know there were other things happening but all those things advanced in a slow, awkward way.  The timeline jumps made it confusing.  Some of these characters were necessary and others weren’t.  It’s like the show was designed to roll out in a slow burn but also to be binge watched to condense the pace.

But…I watched it.  I would continue watching it if it had more episodes.  It doesn’t suck.

Now.

Some random observations.

William held on to that hat for thirty years before returning to the park.  Also, the park does not allow guests to take home souvenirs.  Of course, the hat might be a replica, but that moment of donning the black hat was pretty significant – like Indiana Jones earning the hat from the bad guy significant.

So “The Maze” is a journey to sentience.  Dolores allegedly achieved it early on thanks to Arnold.  But was rewired after she killed Arnold at his insistence. Okay.  The park has been open for thirty years and Dolores has been regressed…or restored(?)…to a previous build to erase the sentience.

Maeve navigated a more literal maze on her journey to consciousness.  It is unclear if she is actually conscious or if this is an elaborate script as Bernard noted in her program log.  But then, what is our own decision making process except a biochemical script of sensory input and response, memory, and pre-preprogrammed actions?  Did her decision to leave the train signal a switch over to sentience?  Or was her mission to leave her bag (with company secrets?) on the train out of the park before embarking on her tertiary objective of finding her memory-daughter in “Park 1”?

And what happened to Wackadoodle Abernathy stealing secrets out of the park?

Why did a host have the symbol for the maze tattooed inside his scalp?  How did The MiB know it would be there?  Why did he need it as it appeared in other places before he took the scalp?  Why did he need to display the scalp on his horse the rest of his trip?  Yeah, it looked cool and gave the character some creep-cred, but there was no practical purpose for taking the poor host all the way up the mountain and then slicing open his head.

Apparently no one currently in the park or on the board knows what Arnold looked like or they might find Bernard’s appearance a bit of a giveaway.  At least it would be the subject of conversation and not a mystery.  Aren’t there photos of Arnold around?  I mean that humans can see?  There’s one on Ford’s desk.  Certainly there are photos and videos of the guy.  He didn’t just vanish after dying in the park, right?

How many times did we encounter a robot Ford versus the real one?  Is Ford even still alive?  If you watch Ford, he has different modes.  I don’t know if this is just Hopkins being Hopkins but particularly the final episode, he seemed stiff and unpolished.  His oratory was fine, but he seemed les… nuanced… in his manner and interactions than before.  Upon seeing that, I recall other scenes where he isn’t fully engaged.  I wonder if this is a way of “regenerating” Ford into a new, less expensive actor for next season.  His consciousness is in the machine now, I’m guessing, and maybe he’s been doing the commanding where we thought it was Arnold-ex-Machina.

Why did Ford have Bernard shoot himself knowing full well he was evidence AND that he could be fully restored with just a flick of a skin-mending device?  Why would anyone think shooting a host in the head an effective suicide tool?  A dead Bernard would just reveal himself to everyone as a robot.  A dead Bernard could be (and was) revived and able to explain the whole story.  Even a robot Ford would know this.

Park security is tight unless the story needs it to not be.  It can look down on guests and hosts from the sky, but it can’t detect when some hosts go rogue or off script (though it could in the case of head-smashing bot).  Ford and Bernard can kill a high-level staff member and establish a crime scene and no one even bothers to investigate.

AND, the biggest glitch, gaping hole – Maeve.  In the early stages with Felix and Sylvester they were bumbling idiots.  No one detected their activities.  There’s no movement detection in the labs.  No one can see Ford’s weird family dollhouse.  If the story requires secrecy it is abundant in the park.  When it wants to be intrusive or move the plot along, there’s always an implant or a camera or GPS or some line of code indicating what they need to know.

What the hell is up with our missing staff members?  Elsie was being sleeper-choked by Bernard in a flashback and Stubbs was tackled out of frame by a host.  Are they dead?  Do I care enough about either of them to wait until 2018 to find out?   In Elsie’s case, I got to know her a little better and she was likeable.  Stubbs was just a stock character with less depth than the idiot lab techs-goons for Maeve.

The device of omitting things that hosts cannot see from the camera shot.  Let’s talk about this because it is annoying.  Either POV or OTS shots are used when omitting something from the host.  Like Arnold from Bernard when Ford handed him the photo (why hand him a photo of someone he couldn’t see except to mislead him into thinking “dad” was Arnold?) or the missing door in Ford’s house when only Theresa could see it.  But then we have the missing audience from Episode 10’s climax.  They just show up.  How many other shots were omitting elements because the director or the script indicated so?  Are there rules in the cinematography to make these omissions consistent?  I don’t think so, but someone with sharper eyes can explain it to me.

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