Did Westworld's Opening Scene Go Too Far?
It may have dragged down an otherwise good Episode Six.
BY Matt Miller | Nov 9, 2016 | Film & TV
Before we get into the wild wild Westworld—where Anthony Hopkins has a weird robot side family and all the employees are drunk, self-absorbed idiots—I need to address a major issue with this episode. In the opening scene, a man in Maeve's brothel strangles her during a violent sexual encounter. Maeve goes along with it—she practically coerces him to place his hands around her neck as they have sex—because she has figured out that a death and resurrection will give her more clues to what she really is. For the showrunners' purposes, the scene uses this violence to create empathy for the robots and to pose the question: Is it wrong for the guests to commit these sorts of atrocities against a host?
But it seems like the show's writers could have achieved these things—empathy for Maeve, and also her return to the Westworld headquarters—through different means. She could have, as in a previous episode, asked someone to stab her. She could have stabbed herself (we've seen other hosts kill themselves). But the sex scene pushed a boundary of discomfort that made it difficult for this week's episode to rally from another extreme, envelope-pushing depiction of sexual violence.
It's a tough scene to watch, and this opening scene hangs over what is otherwise a serviceable sixth episode of Westworld. For the next 50+ minutes, Westworld manages to balance the philosophical musings with corporate intrigue, Lost-level serial mystery, and rowdy revolver shootouts. Dolores and William are nowhere to be seen in this episode, and instead we begin with Bernard and Elsie investigating who's behind the robot espionage. Elsie uses some Mr. Robot hacking shit to track the source of the spying to a random dark storage room within the Westworld backstage. What she discovers is Theresa Cullen, the chain-smoking executive, is behind it all, aided by none other than Arnold, the mysterious and dead former co-founder of Westworld. Hacking from beyond the grave—not even Mr. Robot can do that one. Regardless, this Ghosthack™ (coming to CBS this spring) is what's rewriting all the hosts.
Now, maybe Arnold was never dead, or maybe he planned this all along and wrote this into all the early hosts' programming before he went nuts and killed himself in the park. Either way, what I like about this plot is that we finally have some structure and answers to who is doing what. We know Arnold, dead or otherwise, is somehow working with Theresa to send the hosts nuts. That's enough of a narrative backbone to give us some direction in this story.
Otherwise, when it comes to Westworld corporate politics, I could care less about the side plot with that obnoxious writer who pissed all over their cool mini park map. What I do care about down in that cold metallic Westworld basement is Maeve's awakening. Sadly, we had to get there with the aforementioned opening scene, but at least we can take some enjoyment in what happens next. Using the attributes built into her, Maeve manipulates Lutz (Leonardo Nam), a programmer of whose own fortitude must be at Level 1, to explain her own existence. She learns that everything she says and thinks is preprogrammed—a realization that most literally shuts her brain off. When she's back in action, we're treated to a beautiful and tragic scene of Maeve walking through the bloodstained, hospital-like glass chambers of the Westworld factory, where everything she's ever known, understood, or loved is manufactured by these idiot humans.
This, of course, is all set to a twangy string version of Radiohead's "Motion Picture Soundtrack," which is honestly an excellent choice to go with Westworld's perfect and ridiculous soundtrack. As a small bit of redemption, Maeve threatens another worker with a knife (can she actually hurt him?) and forces them to amp up all her stats to make her even more of a badass.
Meanwhile, back in actual Westworld, Anthony Hopkins' Dr Robert Ford continues to prove that he is just a sad, old, lonely man. Bernard stumbles across Ford's weirdo robot family in the woods, which is actually just a creepy recreation of him, his parents, and his brother in the past. You know, because anyone with the power to create any humanoid beings would choose to hang out with their adolescent self and alcoholic father.
Meanwhile, Teddy and the Man in Black are still chasing after Dolores and William. And even though their entire journey just serves as an excuse for gratuitous robot gore and action, we do learn that Teddy can use a machine gun Michael Bay-style. (Possibly a nod to Sam Peckinpah's classic anti-Western, The Wild Bunch?) Oh, and about this maze: It's some sort of old native myth, Teddy says. There was a man who could resurrect himself and built his house at the center of the maze. Sure, whatever Teddy, at least you didn't die this episode. The Teddy Death Count remains at four.
From: Esquire US