Each week, Brian Grubb and Keith Phipps will attempt to unpack the latest episode of the HBO series Westworld, a show about an amusement park populated by lifelike robots that’s also about… other stuff.
Keith: I guess we may as well start with the element of the show that gives this episode its title and talk about The Stray, the gone-rogue robot that drives a lot of this week’s action. But before that, let me just say that this episode played like the series was finding another gear. It’s not that the pilot and the second episode were slow-paced, exactly, but this one not only revealed new mysteries but new dangers and dumped out a truckload of backstory. A lot happened in this episode, Brian! Can we hope to make sense of it all?
At any rate, let’s talk about the poor stray, who wanders off and falls in a ditch and then things get really bad. But it seems that at least the notion of a stray isn’t that unusual. When Elsie shares it with Bernard it seems like, if not a big deal, at least something they’d seen before. Now, if I worked at an amusement park filled with human-like robots, one of them slipping out of its programming and wandering off would seem like a BFD. Here it seems like a 4 out of 10 on the Delos crisis scale. Did that strike you as odd?
Brian: Yeah, I think maybe a stray isn’t a big deal when things are running smooth, but at a time when glitches are running amok and brand new storylines are about to roll out, you’d think it would raise a red flag or two. And while the biggest development in all of this, long-term, is that one of the robots made a bunch of wood carvings of the constellations, fought back against a human rather than having his head chopped off, and then bashed himself to death with a rock, none of which seems “good” or “ideal” from a programming standpoint (“The only thing stopping hosts from hacking us to pieces is one line of code”), something else fascinated me more…
Those guys in the camp, the hosts the stray wandered off from, were stuck in a loop out there arguing for days about who would collect wood. Days! Going round and round bickering about chores. On second thought, wait. Maybe this isn’t that odd. I’ve been on camping trips that were essentially the same thing.
Keith: Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) is at the center of this episode in a couple of ways. First we get a long story about the origins of Westworld (which we’ll talk about in a bit), then we get some hints about what his big, new storyline will be. And it seems kind of crazy. Or, put another way, it brings an element of madness to Westworld we haven’t seen before. Teddy gets an antagonist in the form of Wyatt, a.k.a. “the face of true evil,” a soldier Teddy previously served with in the army who returned from some maneuvers claiming to hear the voice of God. By the time he shows up in the current timeline of the park, he seems to have morphed into a Col. Kurtz-like figure in charge of some oddly attired henchmen.
This is pretty weird stuff. I mean that literally. Where before the West of Westworld seemed pretty straightforward in its recreation of the Old West, Wyatt brings with him elements of old pulp horror stories. (It’s also the element that’s reminded me the most of Lost so far.)
Brian: So I have three questions about this Wyatt development, and a few subquestions within those questions.
QUESTION 1: Is Wyatt tied into the new storyline that Ford has been developing, and if so, do their weird masks and ritualistic-style murders have anything to do with the cross we saw at the end of episode two? Like, is this some sort of cult led by a wild murderous outlaw? And if you were a wild murderous outlaw cult leader whose followers wear creepy outfits and hang people all over trees after killing them, shouldn’t you have a cooler and more mysterious name than Wyatt? I am very disappointed in Ford for this. Although I suppose it’s better than, like, “Kyle.” So it could have been worse.
QUESTION 2: Were Teddy’s bullets just kind of bouncing off those masked men during the ambush? If they were, does that mean they were guests, or has Ford created a group of terrifying robots that roam the hills killing anyone who crosses their path, and who are killable only by guests, if even that?
QUESTION 3: Ford introduced Wyatt into Teddy’s storyline after talking to him about Dolores and how they always talk about running away together. The effect of all of this is that Teddy was elsewhere when Dolores got home and saw the murder scene at her house. Was… was this part of Ford’s plan? Ford is a strange cat, man.