Westworld: Unanswered Questions for Season Two

December 9, 2016 Featured, Pop Culture, Science Fiction & Fantasy Comments (0) 342

** As you may have guessed, this post contains spoilers for Season One. **

I was reluctant even to begin watching Westworld when it debuted. With J.J. Abrams involved, I anticipated a Lost-style mess of unanswered questions and unresolved mysteries. Instead the show’s first season generally proved satisfying, even if it often traded pace and story for a big reveal.

The show’s biggest reveals, the true identities of Bernard Lowe and the Man in Black, were teased for so long and so frequently they hardly could have surprised anyone. The Maze, it turns out, was an elaborate metaphor. Wyatt, like Bernard, turned out to have the most obvious and unsatisfying true identity.

That said, the Westworld season finale fit the story so far, and didn’t fumble or cheapen the rest of the season like, say, True Detective‘s first season finale. With most of the major mysteries resolved, it’s hard to know exactly what to expect from the show’s second season, but some viewers may have overlooked unanswered questions.

1. What host did Robert Ford create in his secret lab?

Leading into the finale, the show made a point of lingering on a first-generation host printer, slowly assembling a new host. We first saw this Episode Seven, when Bernard kills Theresa, and many viewers expected to see a host Theresa turn up in Episode Eight. Instead, we got another shot of that printer still at work. In Episode Ten, we see in the background that the printer is empty, its work complete.

So who came out of that printer?

Considering that the mystery was not resolved in Season One, and the way clues were subtly-but-not-subtly worked into several episodes, the most obvious conclusion is that the Robert Ford who took Dolores’s bullet in the head was a host impersonator, and the real Ford is still somewhere in the park. Or, given Ford’s face turn to host liberator, perhaps he uploaded his mind into a host body, and shuffled off his mortal coil? That would fit, quite literally, with his stated desire to “become music.”

2. What is Delos’s Larger Plan?

In numerous conversations, Charlotte (Delos board member and exhibitionist) referred to some larger plan from Westworld’s parent company. We don’t know for sure, but since it wasn’t addressed we should assume Peter Abernethy, living thumb drive, made it out of the park with proprietary information. It appears the board will not be around to receive it, but the question remains: What exactly did Delos have in store?

Let’s hope it’s not the far-too-obvious and done-to-death “military application” for hosts. They’re hardly Terminators, anyway, when a single shot can bring one down. It seems more likely Delos is interested in immortality via host clone, which would fit nicely if Ford did indeed upload his own consciousness.

We know the same medical technology used to repair hosts can also fix human injuries (assuming Sylvester, the tech with a temporarily slit throat is not himself a host). It seems highly likely that technology already has applications outside the park, explaining the gratitude the Man in Black receives from strangers. If that element of the Westworld tech is already functioning outside the park, what more might Delos be after? What is it that could be smuggled out in the mind of a host?

I have my own theory, that I’m not quite ready to give up on. What if Ford’s software can be used to control an actual human brain?

3. What’s the relationship between humans and host duplicates?

We know the hosts are physically identical to biological humans in almost every way. We know this is a change from the early technology, and that it is, for some reason, “more cost effective.” We know that at least one person, Arnold Weber, lived a second life as a host–but we don’t know for certain, because we didn’t observe it, that Robert Ford built Bernard Lowe. We also know that Arnold, who was responsible for the core host software, was tormented by the death of his son.

What if Bernard is not a host clone of Arnold, but in fact Arnold himself, reanimated by Westworld’s medical tech and “reprogrammed” by its software? It’s not much of a leap to think this would be possible if a host brain, like the rest of its anatomy, is identical to the real deal. This might also explain why some hosts have memories of an earlier life they cannot shake–which would suggest an even deeper back-story for Maeve.

The flaw in this theory? We do see Maeve resurrected from whole cloth in the finale, after her body is destroyed by fire. So clearly the identity is not tied directly to the body, but it might still be that an actual human mind can be uploaded into a host–and that doing so might facilitate a backup that would enable future resurrection.

It might be a long-shot, but it would help answer another question I just can’t give up:

3. Why do Logan and Hector seem so similar?

This question has haunted me since early in the season, and I’m not the only one. I refuse to believe a show as detail-oriented as Westworld could accidentally hire two similar looking actors, allow them to keep their hair and beards almost identically groomed, dress them both all in black, and give them both minor villain roles. I still believe there must be some connection.

Again, the obvious answer is that Logan became Hector, by whatever process Arnold became Bernard. It’s notable that Hector never appears in the earlier timeline with William and Logan. The last time we see him, on horseback, he is seated and naked–exactly the way we have seen hosts throughout the series.

Coincidence? Maybe. There is one scene between Hector and the Man in Black, early in the series when they break out of of prison. I don’t recall any subtle nod to a shared backstory, or other indication that Hector meant more to the Man in Black than any other host. But again, I refuse to believe it’s coincidence.

To those who point out they are played by different actors, I will only point out that the show would have to hire similar actors if they wanted to keep the connection secret. To have the two characters played by the same actor would make it too obvious.

So did the Man in Black perhaps use his position as Delos majority shareholder to design a special torment for his villainous would-be brother-in-law? Or did Westworld accidentally cast Javier Bardem and Jeffrey Dean Morgan in the same show?

Hopefully Season Two will tell. We only have to wait two years to find out.

Continue Reading

Game of Thrones: Mother’s Mercy

June 15, 2015 Science Fiction & Fantasy Comments (2) 301

GOT510_121014_HS__DSC3421[1]

Read on and you may encounter spoilers from the show, the books, Winds of Winter sample chapters, and fan theories. You have been warned.

Okay, for starters: We can all agree that Season Five was a big steaming mess, right? I mean, it had its high points, but mostly it reaffirmed that the more the writing departs from the source material, the more it falls into repetition and cliche and rape. Lots and lots of rape.

We’re all in agreement? Good. With that out of the way, the Season Finale was at least a solid effort, getting the show back on track and hitting the right notes with the last two major plot points book readers have been waiting for. It also left us with a number of cliffhangers (semi-literally) so that the readers and non-readers can, for the first time, fall into speculation together. The books and the show are pretty much caught up at this point, other than a few points here or there, and we’re all in the same boat, wondering what will come in Season Six–and whether The Winds of Winter might manage to reach bookstores first.

Just a thought: Maybe the words of House Martin should be “The Winds of Winter is coming.” I’m sure no one has ever made that joke before.

As usual, I’m departing from a formal structure and just tossing out thoughts in bullet-form. I’d love if you contribute your own random thoughts in the comment section.

  • Sam asking to go to Oldtown was an odd change. With Jon having just confronted the Night King at Hardhome, and talking to Sam about that exact event, I fully expected him to say “We need to know everything we can about the White Walkers, go do research Sam.” Instead Sam asks to go primarily to protect Gilly and the baby, and him becoming a maester seems almost an afterthought. It’s a more human motivation for a TV character, sure, but it’s also a very strange motive for an order (of which Jon is Lord Commander) that’s sworn off sex. Then Jon figures out that Sam and Gilly did it, and he just smiles and pats Sam on the back. The show has come a long way from the reverence Sam and Jon showed before that Weirwood in Season One–now Jon’s all “Good job betraying your oath, Samwisewell.”
  • Has any scene on the show ever felt flatter than the throne room scene in Mereen? Even Dinklage couldn’t breathe life into that stinker–it was like watching a bad improv act. Maybe the other actors all conspired against Daario 2.0 and vowed not to bail out his boring ass in hopes they’ll get a 3.0.

Continue Reading

Continue Reading

HBO’s Game of Thrones: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken (S5E6)

May 18, 2015 Pop Culture, Reviews Comments (0) 329

sansa-thrones

As usual, I’m playing fast and loose with spoilers from the show, from all the books (including sample chapters, and even from interviews and apocryphal material. You have been warned.

The writers on HBO’s show have one, and they’re going to play it over and over again.

As a fan of the book series, one of the more difficult things to accept from the TV is the reduction, to the point of near-elimination, of magical elements. In the books, magic steadily grows as an influence as Dany’s dragons age, but on the show we get dragons and White Walkers, and that’s about it. Even where magical plotlines seem to be set up–Berrick Dondarion, for instance–the show shies away from the supernatural. There’s no Coldhands, no Horn of Joramun, no glass candles, no Quaithe or Azor Ahai or any other prophecies, no glamour, and no Lady Stoneheart. At least, not yet.

The show runners have talked about magic, and their sense that it takes away from the realism of the show; that asking viewers to accept an undead Caitlin Stark or a magical door through the Wall is asking them to go a step too far. Instead, we get rape, and more rape, and–oh yeah–just a little more rape.

Rape is the go-to peril for any female character on the show, and while in earlier seasons the threat of rape was used with some skill to create tension–between Joffrey and Sansa, Brienne and Locke, or later Tyrion and Sansa–it’s now deployed with little art to elevate Ramsey into top-villain position. I’m reminded of that Stephen King theory about terror, horror, and revulsion. The series has devolved into Hostel territory, and like many people I found myself watching that final scene and hoping for some unexpected twist that never came. Instead we got the horrifying yet dull scene we all expected, even if it didn’t make sense for any of the characters involved.

I don’t need to go on about why this is such a weak storytelling choice; for that I’d recommend you read Laura Hudson at Wired. Hudson is particularly dead-on about how regressive this feels as a storyline; we’ve been down this road with Sansa already, and it’s just tiresome to have the writers try to re-tread. Alyssa Rosenberg at the Washington Post is more forgiving of the choice, particularly the way it’s presented in contrast with the analogous scene from the novels; but I’d argue that if the best defense one can mount of this scene is “it could have been worse,” we’re not addressing the core problem. Specifically, that far too often when the show’s writers deviate from Martin’s source material, that deviation involves sexual violence against a woman.

If I’m honest, the writing on this show peaked with the Red Wedding, and hasn’t really been great since. Sure, there have been a few high points, but season four was basically clunky from beginning to end, and while some of the changes made in season six five are interesting and tighten up the narrative, the show is suddenly reliant on tropes and redundancies to drive the story. I know I don’t have the willpower to stop watching, from this point on I suspect I will be hate-watching.

Further thoughts are bullet-pointed: Continue Reading

Continue Reading

HBO’s Game of Thrones: “House of Black and White” (S5E2)

April 22, 2015 Pop Culture, Reviews, Science Fiction & Fantasy Comments (0) 212

house_of_black_and_whiteWARNING: As usual I play fast and loose with spoilers, so if you aren’t caught up on the TV series AND books (including the Winds of Winter sample chapters) you may want to sit this one out.

After a generally underwhelming season premiere immediately delivered on the showrunners’ promise to deviate from the books, the second episode really hammered that point home with significant changes to almost every character’s arc. As Varys remarks to Tyrion that their kind will never be allowed to rule, and Jon Snow finds himself suddenly in charge, everybody who’s actually holding power spends their time struggling with it. Episodes like this explain why HBO went with the title of the first novel, rather than the book series; the “Game of Thrones” is not only about who sits it, but what that person does while their butt is in the seat.

Continue Reading

Continue Reading

HBO’Game of Thrones: Some Surprises in WaPo’s Infographic

April 10, 2015 Pop Culture, Science Fiction & Fantasy Comments (0) 317

GoTThe Washington Post (specifically, Shelly Tan and Alberto Cuadra) put together an absolutely fantastic infographic that charts every on-screen death in the HBO series so far. It’s a great way to kill your productivity at work, but there are certainly a few surprises.

Continue Reading

Continue Reading

HBO’s Game of Thrones: Family, Honor, and Legacy in Westeros

June 23, 2014 Pop Culture, Science Fiction & Fantasy Comments (0) 912

“Your father grew up in these same halls. We hunted together many times. He was a good man.”
– Lord Yohn Royce, to Sansa Stark

“Your father was an honorable man…what would he have done?”
– Stannis Baratheon, to Jon Snow

stark-family

**SPOILER WARNING: If you haven’t caught up on the HBO series through the end of Season Four, be forewarned. There are no book spoilers past “A Storm of Swords.”

One of the most interesting things about HBO’s Game of Thrones adaptation has been seeing the cultural rules of Westeros at play. Life in a feudal medieval society is core to the book series, which George R. R. Martin meant to present something more grounded in reality than his beloved Tolkein, but seeing actual humans act out the same scenes shines a brighter spotlight on the way the people of Westeros must live, and how they choose to act within the confines of their society.

Family and reputation play heavily in all the lives of highborn Westerosi, and we’ve seen that throughout the series. Tyrion’s live is saved by his family’s wealth and reputation in Season One, just as Brienne is saved by her family’s (fabricated) wealth in Season Three. Family names and heraldry often stand in for individual identity–a Lannister becomes “a lion” in conversation, or a Stark “a wolf.” Questions of parentage and family allegiance loom large in the series–including one question many viewers don’t yet know they should be asking [I’ll say no more about that here, however].

In Season Four, the role of family and lineage became particularly interesting as it begins to turn some assumptions on its head. Specifically, what is the end result of Eddard Stark’s commitment to honor above all? Continue Reading

Continue Reading