Westworld Episode 5: Contrapasso recap.

Wibbly-Wobbly timey things going on in HBO’s new flagship show.

“I wouldn’t say friends, Dolores. I wouldn’t say that at all”

Robert Ford – Westworld, ‘Contrapasso’

Meditating on the revelations and reveries contained within the latest episode of HBO’s new flagship show, “Contrapasso” is probably one of the more meaningful in terms of plot progression so far, if even just in implied subtext.
What this means in Jonathan Nolan land is that we can be pretty sure now that the show isn’t taking a linear narrative structure and that in true Nolan brother circa Memento (2000) style, what we’re watching is a series of very cleverly edited directorial decisions, which some people on the internet have guessed are still being tinkered with. Either way, time is the key to pretty much understanding the narrative fragments of Westworld with any degree of prescience, and perhaps most obviously in Contrapasso during the first and last scenes featuring Dolores.

As her story line opens we see her standing alone in a cemetery, staring out to the horizon as a voice of presumably Arnold tells her “find me”, after which she’s joined from right of camera by William and Logan. It’s subtle, but it’s there. Also interestingly the Dolores narrative in Contrapasso is book ended by the same technique, with her and William facing off over a nitroglycerine laden corpse inside a coffin with the evermore present maze emblem, after which Dolores is seen sitting in the same spot but very much alone. From being alone to company, and from company to a singular journey, contrapasso contains the biggest clue yet as to what the show is doing with it’s narrative.westworld-contrapasso-image-33-600x400

We know that time skips a little bit from the point where Dolores first uses her gun on a would-be rapist, breaking her loop and instantly getting shot in the process, which immediately flashes back to her in the same stance, sans bullet wound. While these earlier snippets are a lot more obvious, there’s been nothing to say that the same hasn’t been going on throughout.
There’s a (west)world of speculation to get through as the show nears the mid-season mark, and with plenty of questions being raised each episode, we’re now getting more of a sense of being drip fed our gratification from perhaps not one, not two, but an indeterminate number of timelines. From William and Logan entering the park and meeting up with Lawrence “El Lazo” to Ed Harris’ MiB dragging Lawrence along in search of the maze, there’s almost enough now to back up the popular reddit theory that William is in fact, our MiB. So let’s take a look at that in a little more depth:

When Logan and William enter Pariah with Dolores in tow, he mentions that “We’re considering buying them out”, because of loss of money. during episode two Ashley Stubbs tells a staff member that “that gentleman gets whatever he wants”, and for a villain of the show this has always seemed a little off. Could it be that William and Logan work for DELOS in a past timeline, and following his first fateful visit to Westworld William keeps coming back, in order to find whatever it is lies at the center of the maze?


It would be a pretty big shift in trajectory from what we’ve seen so far, but there’s definitely a tipping point to almost every character of note during the 56 minute run time this week. William for example opens fire on an unarmed man to save Dolores, shooting a total of three soldiers, and after a fight with Logan leaves him to be punished at the hands of ex-confederates, all in order to help a newly self-analytical Dolores find, what exactly? For her narrative this is where it starts to get a little confusing. We know that Lowe has allowed her to embrace her “humanity” a little more than perhaps he should have, and that on top of hearing the voice of her creator Arnold now starts seeing images of herself, for example in the dia de los muertos style parade. The prominent theory here being that, like Maeve, she’s leaving clues for herself along her past, or that something in her programming intuitively tells her to follow a certain path, one to freedom perhaps? Which would kind of explain the voice of God / Arnold in her head, an element of pre-determinism influencing her search for freedom? Sounds like a very human struggle.

This would possibly give us some idea as to the change in Ed Harris’ character from the mild mannered junior exec to the ruthlessly pragmatic sociopath in black. As the MiB says to Lawrence “ain’t a man alive take the tone with me that you do, in a past life maybe”. If the theory turns out to be true, something cataclysmic must have happened, perhaps involving one of the time lines Dolores now finds herself retracing? Maybe even to Logan. As we’re not sure what’s going to happen with him yet, but aside from being one of the most unlikable characters in the program also has lines mirrored by the MiB about certain things seeming “market tested”, lines that William is present for. It would certainly make an interesting transition from literal white hat to black hat, incorporating some of his friends mannerisms as a way of become the villain Ford needs, not against the other characters, but against the park itself. Or maybe he’s just finally found out what it takes to free Dolores (an obvious love interest for him) from her psychological prison cell. We never saw what exactly Ed Harris does to Evan Rachel Woods in the barn during the pilot, but we assume the worst. If this isn’t the case is Harris being used or working with Dolores to fulfill Arnold’s mission of Dolores, to “help him destroy this place”. It’s also interesting to note that if William and Logan are wandering around in a past narrative together, they can’t be doing so doing so when the park first opens, as the hosts look way too real, and has Dolores really been gaining sentience for thirty+ years?… So hell, there’s a chance Harris could not be William at all, damned if we know yet.1-px15zzc3xcyzo7i1ofqckw

Moving away from our tinfoil hat time for now, Contrapasso does like to give us little snippets of information as apparent asides to the main narrative. When Hughes is talking to the necrophiliac surgeon (nice) she informs him of her hosts logging all sexual encounters, which we’re sure will pop up again later (and could explain why Ford knows of Lowe and Cullen getting it on. Because one of them is most definitely a host. Calling that.) More surprisingly though we learn that someone is sneaking data our of the park via satellite, as when Hughes inspects the corpse of the host that attacked her she finds a device embedded in his arm. As yet we’re not sure what this could spell, and there’s not too much to go on speculation wise as yet, so we’ll see.

The most important scene by far this week is definitely the Dolores going full Terminator. Four shots, four bodies. She breaks yet another loop, not hurting real people yet, but with five bodies under her belt (and a fly), what her rescuing William signifies is that the potential for improvisation in hosts that here the voice of “god” is huge, and that Arnold was probably right in thinking that the Bicameral mind bootstrapping consciousness works. Dolores, in an instant and as a reaction to pain “Imagined a world where I didn’t have to be the damsel”. Now, we know that’s she’s never been anything quite so pedestrian, but in this instant she stops being scared, she realises it as well. We have to admit there was more than a little fist pumping when she suits up and holsters her gun. Evan Rachel Wood’s performance is nothing short of a powerhouse, and by far one of the finest casting choices HBO have made in years. She’s able to breath life into something that literally isn’t. Magnetism alone will apparently get the show everywhere, even if the rest of the program wasn’t still strong, not without fault, but deserving of it’s flagship status, she’d carry it with Hopkins and Harris and probably the most notable Femme Fatale since Ex Machina or the Neon Demon.

westworld1x05-1024x576One thing Westworld does like to play on a little too much so far is the Machiavellian nature of Ford, as it’s totally uncertain what it is he’s actually trying to achieve. It’s been hinted before that he seems kind of tired of his creation, a God who’s stepping back and letting his creation live in chaos. To this end, his conversation with the old host in lockup where he describes the confusion of his former greyhound after finding and destroying the thing he’s always wanted embodies a kind of resigned sadness, as if he’s almost willing people like Dolores and the MiB to insight unpredictability in his creation, to quote everyone’s favourite Nihilist Tyler Durden “let the chips fall where they may”. We’re hoping the show does something less formulaic than a typical good vs evil storyline, with Harris and the ghost in the machine Arnold seeking to break the shackles of a cruel and unforgiving God Hopkins. We’re hoping that the script for Westworld does much more than a market tested Sweetwater arc, as the potential for even further degrees of moral ambiguity are huge given this week’s episode’s little nuances and quirks. While Contrapasso hasn’t focused on plot progression as far as the larger story is concerned, it’s been your typical mid-season HBO expansive work, that usually pays off well for those looking for scope and span. Not overpowering in terms of content, but with more than enough to gorge on in terms of theme, next week we look forward to a little more time-skipping and reveal, if only so we can find our feet a little.

– Max Colbert



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.