Westworld is a theme park with real-life hosts, robots who seem almost too realistic. Ford creates new updates in the hosts that make them even more life-like, creating a chasm that opens in the hosts’ minds and that seems to usher in a new world.
In introducing the theme park of Westworld and its hosts, the people-like robots, Westworld Season 1 Episode 1 brings several themes are introduced, that being that the idea of reality is a concept that is able to be defined by those around him. Simultaneously, the premiere episode addresses the idea of creators and their creations, an idea of being able to meet one’s maker, and what a maker would be willing to do if a creation were to operate outside of its confines or learn something that could allow it to escape. Westworld presents these ideologies while still retaining a focus on the futuristic idea of a world where hosts, or robots, have the ability to become sentient and how we, as people, view others.
The Opening Credits
The opening credits are the first indicator to a show, the first glimpse into the world, and these credits bring to life an entirely different ideology of what this show could be. Rather than just encapsulating actors’ faces or obscure visuals, the choices are purposeful, choosing to show the construction of a half-designed face, a running horse as it is being designed, two skeletons having sex, Westworld’s landscape, to analyze the line between reality and this world, already calling attention to the differences. The beginning shots show a naked host, Dolores, the questions she’s being asked and the answers she’s providing indicating that she has difficulty in recognizing her own reality, and leaving the audience to wonder if she is in the right version.
As her questions continue and she declares her opinion on seeing the beauty in the world, the only interruption in her narrative is to showcase the guests, purposefully indicating that they are the ones paying. The distinction is important because it indicates that there is a very clear track, or path as Dolores calls it a scene later speaking to Teddy, for the hosts, all the while the people are able to choose. The path for the hosts is cyclical and predetermined, which is what the person asking questions of Dolores in the voiceover seemingly is intending to break her out of that routine. The questions that are being asked of Dolores are painfully purposeful, contrasting with the events transpiring as her father is killed and she is dragged off by a man who cannot be hurt by Teddy, whose only wish is to protect her. She reaffirms that she believes in the beauty and that every newcomer reminds her of that beauty is overheard as the door closes on an inevitable fate for her, one that is discernible as tragic.
Rather than existing in Westworld itself as a way to understand it, there is a fleshing out of the rules of the world when the focus is returned to the building blocks of Westworld itself, the people making the hosts and their surroundings. In a quick conversation, the audience is introduced to the inner workings of the hosts’ minds, as well as their builders’, illustrating the creator of the park as the man who cannot seem to let go of the world he has created and continues to intervene in the park’s attractions in order to create a different level to them to make them more life-like. As a contrast, viewing an older version of the hosts showcases the particular power in their design, as well as their rapid growth, their gestures and reveries making it more difficult to distinguish who is who, and again, which reality is the right one.
A New Day
By showing the difference between a day, using the same repetitive dialogue, but changing the way the hosts interact with one another depending upon if guests intervene in their’ lives, there is a deeper intensity to the meeting (again) of the Man in Black and Dolores, who is unable to recognize him and the horrible things that have transpired because of him. The ability to show the growth of the hosts in one scene and then to have one break down, in such a way that can be accurately described as grotesque, shows that, despite their immaculate design, they are a long way from being perfect, encapsulating the truest form of society and humanity as the strive to perfection grows ever stronger in real life.
By rooting them in memories, or reveries, Ford creates an entirely different narrative loop in the hosts, one that exposes them to real thought and emotion, befitting them of human characteristics. In a controlled environment, giving the subjects, the hosts, that kind of understanding poses a real threat because it can allow them to begin to think for themselves, to pull themselves out of the loops they have been subject to for so long and for them to remember what has been done to them. The questioning of Dolores can act as a catalyst, but the reveries or the ability to bookmark specific events, can elicit affectations of an emotional caliber, resulting in them acting more like people, responding to treatment from those that don’t see them that way.
The writer of the storylines understands the dangerous ramifications of the reveries, and the potentiality of Ford losing his mind in establishing them within the hosts. He calls into question people truly wanting to believe that the hosts are in fact real, and that Westworld is their reality, as he seems to believe it to be an imprisonment, the same way the hosts will inevitably feel if they start to remember or realize where they are.
The Updated Hosts
The updates to their cognition, the reveries added, allow for the hosts to move as if being held by the strings of an invisible puppeteer, which frightens the designers of Westworld. The shot of the host drinking milk, and it omitting from his stomach, shows a flaw in his body, a clear image of him no longer fitting into the Westworld reality, as he is no longer a functioning robot able to be mistaken for a real person, because he has his own memories and his own mind; he has become something that is operating outside of Westworld’s grasp and ideologies.
Revealed that it is the update that Ford designed, that the reveries were disturbing the hosts’ ability to process the world around them within their storylines, Bernard is the one to tell the man who made the hosts possible. Ford’s speech that humanity is compiled of mistakes and that seemingly humanity is done evolving seems to bookend Ford’s thoughts on humanity, not necessarily his hosts but the people who live around him in the real world, two dots that seem disconnected, but also that reflect his hosts themselves. Despite being made up of mistakes in the beginning, the hosts have evolved into these almost perfect beings, and despite that Ford believes humanity has stopped growing, it is easy to wonder that perhaps his hosts have not, something evident in Dolores’s father, who is unable to continue with his script because of the picture he found. Finding the picture may have been the catalyst, but he was able to quote Shakespeare and seemingly be unlike the cattle herder he was meant to be characterized as because of the reveries, the update allowing him to evolve and recall events of his past.
In a typical western, a villain is introduced, and that villain happens to be the one they have been hinting at: Hector the bandit. However, the visitors of the park are seemingly a different kind of villainy, especially because of how lifelike the hosts are, disgustingly able to laugh at a body wriggling on the ground after being shot.
Dolores is pulled into the labs in order to be assessed because of her father, whose memories are coming back to him, wanting to save Dolores because he realizes that she is trapped inside of Westworld. Accessing his own builds, or his old memories, Dolores’s father is able to quote Shakespeare and to tell Ford that he too is a prison but it is of his own sins. The conversation between Ford and Dolores’s father raises the question of meeting one’s maker, and if humanity was able to do it, what would we say to them? The idea of meeting one’s maker has the finality of a life ending, and Dolores’s father faces that same fate, except that his life has proven to be cyclical, raising an alarming parallel of if humanity’s fate is the same and we are just wiped after every cycle, unable to retain our last configurations.
The Fly of Westworld
The true testament to the show is in the intricacy of it, the wide breadth of talented actors, ranging in a variety of roles, with a script that has taken common characters, caricature-like western movie parts, and revitalized them with a new and fresh spotlight, one that shines on what it means to be human. As Dolores recounts the beauty she chooses to see in the world from someone else questioning her, Teddy remembers where he was shot, and the Man in Black goes on to find the bigger game he spoke of, one that seems to operate in the many layers of Westworld. And Dolores kills the fly.
The fly is the connecting symbol throughout the entire episode, triggering the sheriff into breaking down, appearing on Teddy’s face as the men he is with declare they can use him as target practice if they get bored, and finally, landing on Dolores’s neck to break her out of her code, to killing something and then being able to lie to the person asking her questions. The fly seems to indicate a new phase, a transformation of the hosts, and a transformation of Westworld itself, despite the park’s maintainers believing they have it under control. It seems a new era in Westworld has begun.
What did you think of Westworld Season 1 Episode 1? Does the Man in Black know about the memory-building within the hosts? Has Dolores known all along? Leave your comments in the thoughts below.
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