June 24, 2018

Westworld S2E09 - Vanishing Point

I’m going right down to the wire, but I thought I should write something before the final episode of season 2.

I have a few thoughts about episode 9…

  • Holy cow! William killed his own daughter! Of all the violence in the tv show that might be the most messed up thing I have seen yet.
  • I am very confident that William is not a host. That would be lame from a storytelling perspective to have that shocking of a revelation right now. It would also downplay the importance of everything that has happened. I think he wishes he were a host, and that is why he is cutting his arm open at the end.
  • I don’t understand what “the forge” is. At the beginning of the season I was so excited for everyone to meet up at “the valley beyond” aka “the door”. Now that it is the forge I have somehow lost some interest in it.

Overall season 2 has been extremely uneven. I was so excited at first to see Westworld come back. I might have been clouded by my excitement, but I thought the first 4 episodes of the season were great. The back half of the season has been all over the place. There were these two artistic side-episodes that loosely connected with the rest of what was going on this season. There was a very strange siege on “The Mesa” that highlighted a lot of the weaknesses of how this season was laid out.

With all of its ups and downs I think this has been a solid 2nd season that really hinges on the finale. If the finale is terrible, I will likely think of the entire season as terrible. If the finale is great I will forget the nit-picks and think of this as a great season of television.

I’m not sure how the finale would fall to one side or the other. I don’t even really know what I am hoping to see. I just hope it is good, and it makes sense. There have been so many things in the season that just don’t quite make sense. I’m ready for those things to be resolved. I don’t want to have to call on any further suspension of disbelief to make the season make sense.

It is hard for me to compare the 1st & 2nd seasons from an enjoyment perspective. To its credit, season 2 has made me want to go back and watch the 1st season over again, and I think it would be more meaningful to me this time around. It will be nice to see Delores as we once knew her, and try to forget about the murderous nonsensical Delores that we have seen much of this season. I think I enjoyed season 1 better because it was a new concept with all new characters. At the end of the first season I had no clue how they were going to keep it going strong for a second season. I have been pleasantly surprised.

I’d classify Westworld as one of my favorite shows. It is one of the few shows that I’ve gotten completely invested in the mystery. I listen to a podcast every week to keep up with what the heck is going on. I’ll be sad to see it go after tonights episode is over, but I will be cautiously optimistic for a 3rd season.

June 17, 2018

Westworld S2E08 - Kiksuya

Much like “Akane no Mai”, this episode was an aside to the main events happening in this season of Westworld. The time we learn the back story of Akecheta the leader of the Ghost Nation… taking us all the way back to the day Delores shot Arnold. It was a very well-made episode. Unlike “Akane No Mai” this one tied into the backstory of the park and helped us understand several questions from season one. I like it… but at the same time it is frustrating to completely step away from the main storylines. It did highlight the Valley Beyond, where everybody seems to be heading this season.

The imagery of the “the maze” was a big mystery in season one. At the end of that first season I still felt unsatisfied with the explanation. I still don’t think they have clearly defined what the maze is, but they showed us just how it seemed to appear everywhere last season and why certain hosts might be carving it into random things around the park. I don’t completely understand the concept of putting it under the scalps, but I’m willing to let that slide.

This episode highlighted something I have been thinking about quite a bit this season. The “woke” hosts seem to identify with a true version of themselves. For Maeve it is her role as a mother on the homestead. That seems to be what she identifies as her “true” self. She spends all of her energy trying to get back to her daughter from that role. In this episode Akecheta seems to identify with the role where he was the husband of Kohana. Similar to Maeve, he has dedicated the rest of his life to finding a way to reconnect with her… hopefully when he finds “the door” and enters the “right” world for him.

For the hosts it is unclear how these roles resonate for them as they become awoken. For Maeve & Ake they connect to someone they were programmed to love, in such a way that it has become real love. For Delores she seems to have embraced the Wyatt character and is hellbent on bringing her wrath onto the world. The sweet rancher’s daughter was there, but the persona of the murderous Wyatt seems to have won out. I’m not sure why or how that all works, but it doesn’t seem to be extremely consistent.

I’ve been a little down on Westworld the last couple episodes. I’d say “Kiksuya” was a really great episode, and it got me back on board with the mythology of the show. I really can’t wait to find out what happens at the end of this season, but I am also tempering my expectations for a satisfying ending. With only two episodes left I really don’t know what we are going to get.

June 1, 2018

Westworld S2E06 - Phase Space

I failed my mission to post about every single episode of season 2 of Westworld. I was traveling for work and watched most of last week’s “Akane no Mai” sitting in an airport at 1am. I’m not sure if my negative impression of the episode was from the environment, or the fact that it was a complete side-track from the show we had been watching.

There were two main things we learned from the episode. Maeve was able to further her powers of control so that she didn’t even need to speak in order to make a host do whatever she wants. Delores turned Teddy into an aggressive murderous host that would do her bidding.

Season two has been building and getting better up through episode 4. Episode 5 was a strange one that didn’t fit in with the overall story very much. Episode 6 “Phase Space” was a regression for me. It felt like we were spinning our wheels. The season felt pretty tight and focused up to the last two episodes.

I didn’t like how Delores looks immediately regretful of creating evil Teddy, but he wasn’t doing anything that she wouldn’t have done a couple episodes ago. It feels like they are setting up a major betrayal that will lead to Teddy dead in the water. I just don’t think the storytelling has been very well done up to this point.

I keep waiting for the Maeve storyline to connect with me. I’ve tried to stay on board with the symbolism and meaning we are getting from Samuri World, but I am not sure how important it will be in the end. I hated out surprised Maeve was that “her daughter” had another mother at the homestead. What did she expect?!? Maeve is supposed to be smart. Didn’t she realize her robot daughter would have been programmed to love another? Maybe Maeve can use her powers of persuasion to bring the daughter back to her side.

I also feel conflicted about “the cradle”. This is a concept that we had no idea about before this episode. It is a game changer that allows them to do so many tricks with time and reality. It explains how Ford has still been able to have control over things, but it also feels unfair in some way. The introduction of this further-removed-from-reality copy of Westworld just seems like a bridge too far for my appreciation of the show. I’m not sure where I am willing to draw those lines, but it just does’t feel fair.

I do like the concept of Delores running the fidelity tests on Bernard/Arnold in the cradle. I am not how that came about or where that is going to go, but I feel like when Bernard disconnects from “the matrix” he is going to have an Arnold concisoness in his mind egg.

Anthony Hopkins playing Ford was my favorite thing about Westworld season 1. I enjoyed his philosophical ramblings. I feel his absence in this season. They need something to make the show feel more profound. Nobody else in the cast has been able to step into that role that Hopkins filled last year. I am excited to see him back. I don’t know how much of a role he will play in the rest of the season. Presumably “the cradle” gets destroyed somewhere in the next 4 episodes. I imagine it will play a big role in the next couple episodes anyway. Hopefully we get some of the Hopkins magic.

I think the last 3 episodes were the strongest of Westworld season 1. I am hoping for the same strong ending in season 2 as well.