Westworld Season 1 Episode 2 Recap. ‘Chestnut’.

Machinations and machines, a fantastic follow up that gives nothing away.



“This place is the answer to that question you’ve been asking yourself… Who you really are.”

– Logan, Westworld Episode 2, Chestnut

Originally expected to be included in an elongated pilot, much of Westworld 1.2 ‘Chestnut’, is an expansion of the premises built on in ‘The Original’. With heavy literary and theological connotations throughout, the show is already proving to be one to baffle its audiences episodically, never revealing too much, always leaving us desperate for more.

For a show that loves its Shakespearean quotes, we should probably first ask; What’s in a name? Well, in the case of Dolores Abernathy, arguably Westworld’s central character, possibly quite a lot. The name comes from the Latin ‘Dolor’ meaning pain, Dolores itself meaning ‘Mary of sorrows’, Mary being the biblical mother in the new testament. I.e – mother of sorrows. It’s a sentiment quite at odds with the facade she displays after being re-set every night, in that “some people choose to see the ugliness in this world, the disarray, I choose to see the…” but what is it that our guileful heroine chooses to see, exactly? How much is she allowed to see, how much of real life is indeed choice of any kind? … reigning it in for a second, we know that the show loves to steep itself in the ideology of creation, as this is literally the premise after all, but another similarity to the name Dolores is especially interesting. It is the name of the Greek spirit Dolos, a master of deception and cunning, a trickster spirit. There’s been enough foreshadowing so far to know that her blankly perplexed and curious smile hides a lot more than she’s letting on.

[Note, the Delos corporation that owns the Westworld sites in the film and in the series also has it’s roots in Greek mythology as the home of Apollo; god of knowledge, and the sanctuary of Zeus himself.]

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With the ambiguity sparked in the Abernathy household by the events of last week, one thing Westworld does is never quite let us in on who knows what, or even who is what (we’ll get to that). So many scenes speak with an incredible amount of depth that it’s meant to leave you guessing, scrambling to disseminate intent from the actions of the characters involved. It doesn’t help that many of the creations are machines able to hide their emotions and true intent, and others are A.I. beings created by Dr. Ford…

We already know Dolores remembers what she shouldn’t, but how far does this reach? From the opening sequence when she opens her eyes and walks into her garden to Bernard Lowe in over-narration asking “do you remember?” we know that as time skips to and from her narrative we’re going to have to pay close attention to what happens and when. After introducing Jimmi Simpsons character, William (who we’ll return to also), the moment the narrative picks back up with Dolores, we flash from her shock of recognition at an unwanted memory to her looking menacing and repeating the words her father used last episode; “these violent delights have violent ends”.

The Shakespeare quote appears to be a trigger phrase of some kind, as it leads Maeve to start remembering her own past lives. If this is true, and it is a trigger of some kind, it stands to reason that it was intentionally put in there as code by, who? Ford? Lowe? (Probably Ford). If this is true then it almost certainly has something to do with the “reveries” of last episode. A mistake by Ford? A man who has in essence played God and won, thus far? It seems unlikely, especially considering the introduction of another minor character this week. The little boy that follows Ford out to the far reaches of the park. At first assumed (just as James Marsden was last week) to be human, after Hopkins’ time with the boy is up he utters a trigger that suspends him. Could this be the nihilism of a finite God who wants to test the “humanity” and morality of his subjects? Bringing them to a point in the game where they have the potential to gain infinite knowledge of the world around them, maybe even escape the garden? Watch this space.

lvwestworld11fIn fact, between Ford and Lowe we’re never entirely sure which is the more Machiavellian and which ends each one serves, and that’s part of the beauty of Westworld. Is the child the shell of a lost relative of Ford? Possibly, but it’s something that’s already been hinted at with Lowe, what was it with gazing at that picture of the young boy? We know he doesn’t currently have children, but that’s not to say he didn’t at some point. With the resurrection speech Hopkins gives during the pilot, could it be that one or more of them has ulterior motives in trying to give their creations true life? Lowe, in my opinion, either wants to or has created a close facsimile of his dead son using his and Fords futuristic tech.

Which brings us back to Dolores. When she catches herself in the reflection and we skip back to the lab, after her conversation with Lowe he knows that something isn’t right, but insists later to Sidse Babett Knudsen’s character Theresa Cullen that “all the hosts are back to normal”. When he tells Dolores during that interview to erase all memory of their conversation, does she actually do it? Almost definitely not. This is the old trickster Dolos, remember I mentioned that guy earlier, up to know good; and she’s the key to it all.

westworld1More on the twenty first century nihilism of the show, in the speech that Ed Harris’ Man in Black gives to Laurence right before mercilessly blowing away his wife, he mentions that “you know why this world beats the real world, Laurence? The real world’s just chaos. An accident. But in here, every detail adds up to something.” – it’s a great framing of character and for the show itself, living in a largely secular age and approaching a show who’s main driving force is the argument for design has got to be a tricky feat. What we’re looking at is a microcosm of the design argument, as Ford puts it “In here we create life itself out of chaos”, he then goes on to add that “I’ve been coming here thirty years, since I… hell I was born here”. This could mean (and this has been a source of contention for many people as far as theories go), either his literal birth here as one of the creations in the park, pre the last big meltdown, thirty years ago, or this is where he was made the man he is today. What we now know is that the inside of the scalp he carries is indeed a map, to a deeper level of the game which he thinks will allow him to never leave. There’s almost too many theories to point at with Ed Harris so far, but we’ve certainly seen what he’s willing to do to the creations he finds in Westworld. But is he a defective and lost host, A rogue member of the management team, or something else entirely?

Although I’ve looked and tried to find out which of the secondary characters is going to turn out to be A.I, because come on, it’s going to happen. So far Westworld is giving away none of that. Sizemore is at the top of my list for now, but don’t ask me why.

Interestingly though the conversation between Lowe and Cullen, lovers as it turns out, when they open up in dialogue to each other back at their residence. He tells her not to leave, and she stays. She then talks openly to him about the fact that his “creations never shut up”, to which he replies “they’re always trying to error correct, practicing.” her response; “Is that what you’re doing now? Practicing?” The whole dialogue between them is really well crafted to keep tinfoils and die hards guessing throughout. It’s one of the more understated sequences, nothing on the Philip K. Dickian nightmare that Maeve finds herself awake in, but as we’re learning from HBO’s new highbrow flagship offering, sometimes that’s exactly what catches you off guard.westworld

On the subject of William, apparently the ‘good guy’ we all thought Teddy would embody at the start of last episode, it appears that he and his buddy Logan embody more of the two leads from the movie Westworld, and it remains to be seen how much of this holds up within the current narrative. His character from the off though not only shines as one of the true moral fixtures of the show, but is the only scene in which ‘The Original’s concurrent theme of milk and blood makes an appearance this episode (picking up the can of pasteurised milk before handing it back to Dolores). There’s been a lot of speculation as to what the cinematic use of this is, that the walls of the lab and main centre are white but the walls of the security facility are red? That the two colours only meet when violence is afoot? Thematically, aside from the potential of a projected love interest between Dolores and William, could the two represent the unification of human and A.I. morality perhaps a season or two down the line? It’s obviously reaching a little, but this is HBO don’t forget. Real television. The truth is definitely all there, but like the world in which it resides, it is almost always hidden behind something deeper and darker.

Until next week.

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