Westworld: The Stray review

Stray from the path and here there be dragons


Westworld continues to be one of the most intelligent shows on TV right now. In a way, it reminds me a little of Breaking Bad, thematically if not tonally. Each episode opens with a shot of Dolores lying in her bed looking up at the ceiling, just like the other Westworld hosts – trapped in their respective loops. Unlike the other hosts however, Dolores’ subtle changes in her demeanour as she wakes each time show that she is perhaps breaking from her loop.

This point is hammered home in this episode more than others with her “little chat” with Bernard. He gives her a copy of Alice in Wonderland and asks her to read the following passage. “Dear dear, how queer everything is today and yesterday things went on just as usual, I wonder I’ve been changed in the night. Was I the same when I got up this morning I almost think I can remember feeling a little different but if I’m not the same the next question is who in the world am I?” Sound familiar? It should, it perfectly describes the experiences Dolores is going through.

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The talks between the Bernard and Dolores have also become less sinister as the show continues.
At first I thought Bernard malevolent in his motivations for wanting Dolores to break from her programming. But having watched this episode, I feel he is more benevolent, he seems to have formed more of a fatherly attachment to Dolores and indulges her sometimes-childlike view on the world.
Dolores inquires about Bernard’s son and where he is “nowhere that you would understand” is Bernard’s reply. When asked why she pursued this line of questioning she replies, “I haven’t asked you a personal question, personal questions are an ingratiating scheme”. In just that one exchange we get to see both how much Dolores has learned and how much she has still to learn. She understands the niceties of conversation and human interaction but not necessarily the emotional reasoning behind such interactions…not yet anyway.

Speaking of malevolent forces, Ed Harris’ Man in Black was conspicuous by his absence. Instead of looking to the future with what plans are going to unfolding, this episode’s focus was on the past and very deliberately so. Backstory was the connective tissue for the theme of this weeks episode; as mentioned above, we see glimpses into possible motives for Bernard’s actions, his son, we also learn a little more about the history of Westworld itself and a few tantalising snippets of what went down 30 years ago. Ford talks about his partner, Arnold, who died in the park 30 years ago although he would not reveal how he died. Arnold was interested in giving the hosts actual consciousness, Ford didn’t, and now it seems that part of his programming is what’s gotten into some of the hosts and this is what’s causing all the glitches. As for who put that programming there thirty years later is yet to be seen.

If Bernard and Arnold are about freedom, Ford is about control. In a scene between Teddy and Ford, Ford explains that Teddy is not here to take Dolores away, he’s is there to keep her here, with all the violence and heartbreak she has to experience each and every time her loop plays out. Upon realising that keeping Dolores safe is his only drive, Ford reveals that Teddy does not have a back story, See, the past comes creeping up once again. Ford offers to give Teddy his backstory, his motivation for coming back to Westworld as it were.

The backstory changes teddy slightly he is no longer the lovable loser but we still get the “oh my god, they killed Teddy!” moment. He seems less dependant on being with Dolores when he is put back into the park and far less hopeless, his drives have changed and perhaps so has his loop.

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The special effects are very impressive in Westworld

All the while this is going on behind the scenes, in the park Stubbs and Elsie are looking for the titular stray host who seems to have broken away from his loop and got himself stuck. Stubbs has to go down into a crevice to get the host and quite predictably the host decides to attack. He doesn’t attack until Stubbs starts sawing through the hosts neck which was quite gruesome, even more gruesome was what followed, suicide by boulder. Hosts are slowly breaking away from their programming and the stray almost breaks the number one law, do not harm the guests.

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Of course it was Dolores who has the breakout moment in the episode, during the closing few scenes and the end of her loop where her house is being invaded she decides to fight back and shoot the bandits that come to her house, something she should of course be incapable of. She also seems to have prophetic moments throughout the episode which one can only assume are down to her remember previous times she has gone through this loop. From here on out it’s all uncharted territory for Dolores.


– Dan P

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