The following is from my weekly reviews of Westworld for Culture Fly
It is about damn time Westworld started being about something again. After two weeks where the show’s devotion to ambiguity has stopped it from saying anything interesting, ‘Contrapasso’ gets back to the good stuff and handles humanity’s biggest mystery: nature vs nurture.
The episode starts with a story about a dog. The dog has chased, caught and killed a cat. Society is shocked that the dog has followed its natural programming and doesn’t know how to handle it. Delivered by Anthony Hopkins’s chillingly clipped diction, the story’s allegory is clear: we hide who we are because of the expectations society places on us and breaking out of our loops is shocking but inevitable.
Basically, ‘Contrapasso’ expands on what we’ve already seen — guests go to the park to do sadistic things — and turns it into an intricate yarn that has ramifications for the rest of the season.
Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) has broken free of her ranchers-daughter loop and has become a bandit with William (Jimmi Simpson) and Logan (Ben Barnes). The trio embarks on a new storyline that sours the dynamic. Logan is every bad male trait wrapped up into one living entity. If you took the worst “fuckboy” and multiplied him by 10, you still wouldn’t reach Logan’s douche levels. Barnes makes him repulsive and his talk of war reinforce the whole nature vs nurture debate.
Logan wants to join to spark a war because war is the breakdown of society and is the only time “civilised” men can acceptably do uncivilised things. Atrocities are forgiven and Westworld successfully makes the argument that deep down we are cruel and want to reject our inflicted programming to follow our natural instincts. We want to break free of society’s lead so we can chase and kill the cat.
There is now no doubt that a war is coming. Maeve (Thandie Newton) now seems to be aware of her situation, and Dolores has no problem destroying the patriarchy – she’s fed up of being the damsel. The robots are now aware and as they’re talking to the mysterious Arnold it is clear they want to destroy the park.
Who can blame them? The robots, especially the female robots, are playthings controlled by a megalomaniac company. They are Ford’s (Hopkins) way of satisfying his need to play god. But, what exactly are they destroying? In its efforts to bloviate about themes, the show has failed to establish the parameters and muddles its world. It is left unclear just how much damage the hosts can inflict on the guests or whereabouts every character is in relation to each other. Smart writing should be able to communicate complicated ideas in a clear, concise and engaging manner. Westworld fails to do this and is a dumb show masquerading as a smart one.
Nowhere is this clearer than with the dialogue. By trying too hard to create ambiguity and set up future mysteries, the dialogue barely informs us about character. When it does it is so asinine. In an anticipated scene, Ford decides to talk with the Man in Black (Ed Harris). This clash of characters and actors should have been arresting but the dialogue is so basic that not even Hopkins and Harris can save it. The characters just talk in questions without giving answers.
Westworld is a frustrating show. It is too interested in being philosophical that it forgets to double-check what it is saying. But, it has this weird verve that makes it insanely watchable.