In Review: Westworld “The Stray”

This series is the definition of methodical mayhem.

Synopsis: The programmers of Westworld delve further into the bizarre and startling behavior of the hosts. Elsie and Stubbs begin a search for an android who has broken away from his scripted existence. Meanwhile, Bernard continues his private rendezvous with the park’s oldest android (Dolores). Bernard hopes that through his clandestine meetings with Dolores, he will be able to understand and possibly correct the issues that now plague the updated androids.

Review: Westworld continues to astound viewers with its intricate storytelling. The most recent episode stands as no exception. Imagine watching an analog grandfather clock with all of its gears and springs exposed. When the clock is perfectly wound, its movements are smooth, and every moment is just as uniform as the last. However, once a defect or foreign element is introduced into the clockwork, aberrations begin to occur, and the once perfect mechanism starts to break down until it can no longer function. The entire contraption may grind to a slow halt, or it could experience a violent arrest. Westworld is the latter. (Forgive the long metaphor above, but it will come in handy.)

From the beginning, the viewer has been told that Westworld is the greatest sandbox experience mankind has ever created. This is a perfect world for guest to live out their wildest dreams and fantasies in seemingly open, but strictly controlled, environment. Everything from the androids to the items they and the guests interact with has a specific part in the narrative. Yet with the androids beginning to remember glimpses from their past narratives, the precision in which they used to move through their world has become off-balance. The stray host that Elsie and Stubbs search for is a perfect example of this disruption. A group of androids are found caught in a narrative loop around a nonexistent campfire because the wood chopping android has left. Due to new restrictions, none of the androids can chop the wood themselves, and none of them can move on to the next part of their story either. Thus, they are all stuck in this cycle. Once the malfunctioning host is found, a disturbing interaction takes place, and both Elsie and Stubbs are unnerved by it. This apprehension permeates other members of the operations team.

Bernard and Dr. Ford are both very controlled people who, for all intents and purposes, are the deities that bring life to Westworld (psst…they’re the Olympians). For all of their quirks, both characters are portrayed as detached from the brutality that guests of the park demonstrate on a daily basis. It is only when the grand clockwork starts to breakdown and these men are faced with variation within their design, that they themselves begin to show extreme behavior. Bernard secretly meets with Dolores in an attempt to explore her transformation, but it also serves as possibly cathartic experience for him. Dolores becomes a confidant to the lead programmer, but she also becomes somewhat of a surrogate child for the son Bernard has lost. Bernard’s perception of the host begins a fundamental shift towards a new understanding of the androids. This may play a critical role in the future. Dr. Ford, however, stands transfixed in his mindset.

Anthony Hopkins has such a commanding performance that sometimes easy to miss the nuances in his interactions. When he is with Bernard and the rest of his staff, he seems wise and gentle. Conversely, this episode highlights how this genius has begun to deal with the different perspectives that have begun to surface. There is a scene where a technician is working on a host, but they have covered the body with a blanket. Dr. Ford confronts this technician and inquires about the sheet and asks if the purpose was for modesty. In an unnerving display, Dr. Ford takes a scalpel and slowly mars the android’s face. He conveys that androids are unfeeling and non sentient pieces of machinery. Did he take this action because he has always believed this? Or was this an attempt to quell the disquiet that has begun since the update? Regardless of the motivating factors, it appears that when faced with how his once perfect world is now behaving, Dr. Ford himself is being transformed as well.

Westworld has an impressive size and scope, but once again, it is the little moments that have the biggest repercussions. The breakdown of the narratives and preconceived notions that help this world operate is a sight to behold. This series is the definition of methodical mayhem. And as it all continues to collapse, the spectacle shall be glorious.

Westworld - The Stray
  • Story
  • Acting
  • CGI
  • Incidental Music
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