This is a recap of the premiere episode of Westworld, ‘The Original.’ SPOILERS BELOW!
There is a player piano in the opening credits aka SYMBOLISM!
Westworld, a show about a robot uprising at an immersive cowboy theme park described as “a dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the future of sin,” starts off with a credit sequence full of 3D printers making milk-white horses punctuated with shots of an android playing a player-piano. A player-piano is a machine programmed to repeat back entertaining little ditties on command without deviation. SYMBOLISM!
Dolores explains to Teddy about the Judas Steer aka FORESHADOWING!
At this point we’re watching Teddy and Dolores have a sweet little romance, and we’re unsure if Teddy is a human visitor at the park wooing Dolores or if perhaps this is just a little narrative that two robots find themselves playing, but that doesn’t matter because it’s time for Dolores to explain to Teddy about the Judas Steer:
“See that one? That’s the Judas steer. The rest will follow wherever we make him go.”
I wonder if that foreshadows anything in a show about a robot uprising?
‘The Man In Black’ is the bad guy
Ed Harris appears as the Man in Black, a possible variation on the Gunslinger character played by Yul Brynner in the original 1973 film version of Westworld that the series is based on.
In this confrontation, we learn a lot of things:
* the Man in Black is a human/newcomer
* he has been paying to go to the theme park for 30 years
* Teddy is a robot/host
* robots/hosts cannot hurt humans/newcomers
* robots/hosts act out storylines written for them (much like a player-piano carrying out the song it’s been programmed to play, if you will)
According to show co-creator Jonathan Nolan, the Man in Black represents all the evil humans are capable of, while Teddy represents a perfect (but programmed) righteousness. This difference is highlighted when the robots wake up the next morning to do it all again, and we hear a new pair of visitors remark on Teddy:
- “Oh my God, they’re so lifelike. Look at that one: he’s perfect.”
- “Perfect is boring. I’m more interested in the bad guys.”
“Reveries” are the source of the bug
An update to the robot’s programming known as “reveries,” which allows them to be lost in thought as they access past memories (which are overwritten but not entirely lost somehow?), is introduced. We get the feeling that the Creator of Westworld (Dr. Ford, played by Anthony Hopkins) has been pushing his creations to be more and more lifelike for at least thirty years. Is there something about giving his creations the ability to reflect on their past experiences that pushed things too far?
Decommissioned robots are stored in a basement beneath the park, you know, just in case the robots ever want to unite, rebel and run amok
What the storage of wildfire under King’s Landing is to Game of Thrones, the decommissioned robot army in Sub Level B-83 is to Westworld.
The flies mean … the flies mean SOMETHING!
The episode starts with a fly crawling over Dolores’s eyeball. Man, that is hard to watch. Not as hard to watch as a razor-blade slitting open an eyeball, Un Chien Andalou style, but still pretty hard to watch.
Later, a fly lands on a robot’s face as its talking with a visitor while on a quest to find Hector the Bandit, and it seems to cause him to short-circuit. Back at HQ, the malfunction (“aberrant behavior” - why are the suits always calling the first signs of a robot uprising “aberrant behavior”, huh?) is blamed on the bundle of code that Dr. Ford installed to give the robots the ability to experience the reveries.
Lastly, the episode ends with Dolores slapping a fly that lands on her neck, shortly after she told a programmer that she would never hurt a living creature. Has something changed in Dolores since the beginning of the episode? Did she have a realization similar to the one her father had, but just keep her shit together better than he did?
It’s unclear if the fly is actually the mechanism by which some sort of virus is transmitted between the robots ( a computer virus, if you will), or if it is just being used to offer some thematic unity.
Perhaps flies will just be used as a sort of robot-or-human litmus test. Flies bother humans; flies do not bother robots.
Either way, keep an eye out for the flies in upcoming episodes.
These two have an argument about whose accent is better: over the top self-important British writer or emotionally restrained German boss lady?
We learn that this British guy writes the depraved storylines that the robots act out (a British playwright - like SHAKESPEARE who is later QUOTED in the EPISODE!) and that this German lady is some sort of boss. She tells the British writer guy that that Westworld means something different to three different groups: the visitors, the management, and the shareholders.
Presumably, the shareholders want to make money, the visitors want to act out their fantasies for entertainment, so we’re left wondering … what does management want? Besides, of course, to win the annoying accent contest, which they are clearly winning very hard.
The milk means … the milk means something, too. Just like the flies. Something IMPORTANT.
Milk appears at several key points in the episode, and is usually mixed with spilled blood. The milk is similar in appearance to the white 3D printing material used to make the robots, but otherwise I’m not completely sure other than Creation what role milk is serving in the show.
Dr. Ford gives a speech about mistakes
After top programmer Bernard tells Dr. Ford that the bug was in his reverie code bundle, Dr. Fords gives a little speech about humans are the result of evolution, a series of millions of mistakes and natural selection. But now we’ve reached an age where we can keep anyone alive with our technology, meaning that we’re at the end of the road evolutionarily, hence we’re as good as we’ll ever be.
Watching this scene, we don’t have to sniff too hard to smell that perhaps Creator Dr. Ford is a bit disillusioned with humans, and that perhaps he loves his robot creations a little more than humans, and that perhaps the “mistake” that is causing “aberrant behavior” in the robots wasn’t a mistake after all.
Dolores’s dad loses his damn mind after seeing a photograph of a woman in Times Square
As anyone who has been to Times Square can attest, this is a perfectly normal reaction to seeing that madness. It’s enough hectic insanity to cause anyone to question the basic realness of their reality.
Dolores’s dad whispers something inaudible into her ear, which Dolores later tells a programmer was a quote from Shakespeare: “these violent delights have violent ends.” The full quote is said by Friar Lawrence to Romeo as cautionary advice:
— Friar Lawrence, Romeo & Juliet
These violent delights have violent ends and in their triumph die, like fire and powder. Which, as they kiss, consume. The sweetest honey is loathsome in his own deliciousness. And in the taste confounds the appetite. Therefore love moderately. Long love doth so. Too swift arrives as tardy as too slow.
The Romeo & Juliet line also underscores the star-crossed fate of Dolores and Teddy, doomed to meet a tragic end because that’s the path their British writer wrote for them.
The Man in Black believes there is a deeper level to the game
And after finding a labyrinth etched on the inside of a robot’s scalp, it appears that he is right.
These dumb visitors kill Hector the Bandit before he can give his post bar robbery speech, and laugh like jackals at the murdering they did
The pleasure that humans are capable of taking in these “violent delights” is definitely a theme that this show is seeking to establish right from the start. Besides earlier in the episodes hearing the group of bros talking about how on a previous visit they went “straight bad guy” and it was the best time ever, we see this notion cemented by these two visitors laughing at the robots they’ve shot wriggling in pain on the ground.
Also, how about that orchestral version of the Rolling Stones “Paint it Black”:
Dolores must relive the pain of watching her beloved Teddy die day after day after day
The cruelty of the perfectly engineered hell of Dolores having to watch Teddy die in different ways every day is apparent. It’s like Groundhog’s Day meets Kenny dying repeatedly on South Park with a dash of amnesia from Memento (another Nolan joint).
This engineer has a major soft spot for the robots
After kissing a robot getting a system upgrade in the lab earlier in the episode in a display that was a mix of tender and creepy, we watch as this engineer shows some compassion for Dolores’s suffering, saying:
— Elsie Hughes, programmer with a heart
Soon this will all feel like a distant dream. Until then, may you rest in a deep and dreamless slumber.
Uttering this phrase appears to work as some sort of Sleep button that turns off the robots’ cognition.
The kindly ol’ farmer Peter Abernathy threatens revenge upon his Creator
When Dr. Ford asks Abernathy about his “drives” (which feels reminiscent of Isaac Asimov’s “three laws of robotics”), Abernathy’s circuits appear to get crossed and he begins bugging out again as he states that his final drive is to protect his daughter Dolores. He goes on to quote Shakespeare again, saying that by his “most mechanical and dirty hand” (also acknowledging that he is aware that he is a robot, perhaps?) he will take out his vengeance on his Creator.
Dr. Ford reveals that this particular robot used to play the role of a professor who quoted Shakespeare and led a cannibalistic cult out in the desert.
— Dr. Ford
“No cause for alarm, Bernard. Simply our old work coming back to haunt us.”
The next morning as Dolores again wakes up to relive her quotidian nightmare of being at the cruel whims of the human visitors to Westworld, we see that the role of her father is now being played by a new robot.
Later, we see that Bernard accompanies Abernathy as he is marched to the basement where the decommissioned hosts are kept and he whispers something inaudible to him. It’s possible that Abernathy tears up with emotion as he walks away, but that might just be us reading human emotions into his android face.
Bernard, Elsie Hughes and Dr. Ford each appear to be keeping secrets from their co-workers, and each appear to be sympathizing with the robots. Are they a part of a united conspiracy or each working their own angle?
Dolores is the oldest host and she might be capable of lying to her programmers
Towards the end of the episode, the head of security, Stubbs, interrogates Dolores to determine if she is a threat:
Stubbs: Answer my questions correctly, do you understand?
Stubbs. First, have you ever questioned your reality?
Stubbs: Have you ever lied to us?
Stubbs: Last question Dolores. Would you ever hurt a living thing?
Dolores: No, of course not.
The scene ends with Stubbs revealing that Dolores is the oldest host in the park, and has had her memory wiped so many times that she is practically brand new. But if it’s possible that with the reveries program update robots are somehow able to access their past experiences, it would mean that Dolores has experienced the most ugliness and disarray of any of the robots, and therefore would have the greatest cause to want to rebel against her Creator.
The episode ends with Dolores violently swatting a fly that lands on her neck, proving that she is capable of both violence and deception. More importantly, after demonstrating that earlier in the episode that Dolores and the other robots are capable of ignoring irritants like a fly, her now overriding her own programming (her “core code”) in order to avoid pain being inflicted upon her could indicate a step away from robotics and toward personhood.