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.

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Farewell, Jon Stewart. Thanks for keeping us sane.

August 6, 2015 In The News, Politics / Religion Comments (0) 256

Jon StewartI’m not one for celebrity worship. Frankly I get annoyed by the public competition that follows a celebrity’s death or retirement, as writers try to one-up each other with maudlin remembrance–often quoting words spoken in-character, written by someone else.

That said, I am going to take a minute today to talk about Jon Stewart, because Jon Stewart to me is more than just some celebrity.

It’s so cliche to say “this celebrity touched my life,” but Jon Stewart’s work on the Daily Show really does have personal significance for me. It might be exaggeration to say “the Daily Show kept me sane,” but then again it might not. I remember one day in particular, during the darkest days of the Bush regime, when I felt especially lost and hopeless. I don’t remember the reason–maybe it was another failure by Congress to repeal the Patriot Act, maybe something to do with Gitmo–but I remember going home from work feeling really despondent. I remember it was the Daily Show that night that turned me around, that made me laugh at the very thing that had felt so crushing, that shrunk it down and made it manageable. Continue Reading

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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.

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Now I’ll Never Get My Hug: Jon Stewart, The Daily Show, and America

February 11, 2015 In The News, Personal, Pop Culture Comments (0) 179

Obama_DailyShowI have a confession: I have long harbored a secret fantasy that I would one day be a guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. I knew exactly how I would approach it: I’d find a way to make it about him, to thank him for having the courage to take a silly little news parody show, a half-hour Weekend Update, and turn it into a substantive critique of governance, politics, and media culture. There was no way for him to know that formula would succeed–that people in their teens and 20’s and 30’s would not only take a sudden interest in policy, but come to view him as their most trusted name in news, but he did it anyway. I’d tell him why I think he is the one to thank for President Barack Obama (because he made politics cool) and then I’d ask for a hug. If there was any time left, I’d maybe talk about my book or whatever I was there to plug, but if I didn’t even get around to it that somehow felt better.

I knew it would never happen–even if I was somehow fortunate enough to write best-selling novels, Jon’s preference for door-stopping nonfiction is well established. But now there’s another reason it will never happen: The day has finally come, that tragic day we all knew was inevitable, and Jon Stewart is leaving The Daily Show. Continue Reading

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It’s About Time Someone Called Out “Blue Bloods”

January 2, 2015 In The News, Pop Culture Comments (60) 9445

Blue Bloods on CBS
A few years ago
, when I was still living in Philly, I slept most weekends at my parents’ house, visiting friends around the town where I grew up. I’d get home Friday evening and find my mom and dad tuned in to Blue Bloods a new CBS show starring Tom Selleck and Donnie Wahlberg as members of a multi-generational family of white New York City cops.

While I never watched an episode from beginning to end, it didn’t take long to pick up on the show’s dynamic: The heroes, white male police officers, spent each episode protecting society from criminals, who were almost always minorities. Not only that, but they were played by actors cast according to the most stereotypical ethnicity for their crime. Car thieves were invariably black or Latino; a mugger, drug dealer, or liquor store robber would be black; chop-shop owners might be Asian or Mexican. Continue Reading

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HBO’s Game of Thrones and the Purple Wedding

April 16, 2014 Pop Culture, Science Fiction & Fantasy Comments (0) 224

** Game of Thrones spoilers follow. If you’re caught up on the HBO series then you’re safe.

Olenna Tyrell, the Queen of Thorns

I watched Game of Thrones on Sunday night with a mix of delight and disappointment. Delight because since the debut of the HBO series I’d awaited the Purple Wedding almost as eagerly as I’d dreaded the Red Wedding; disappointment because, as the episode drew to a close, I was sure they show had cut out the most interesting part of the Purple Wedding. Specifically, the clues as to who really murdered the Mad Mini-King, Joffrey Baratheon.

In the books, you see (and this is not a spoiler because, well… keep reading) considerable time is given to the Queen of Thorns, Olenna Tyrell (one of my favorite characters, incidentally) and a jeweled hair-net she gives Sansa Stark to wear. After the wedding, Sansa notices one of the black stones missing, and it’s heavily implied–if not outright stated–that the jewel was in fact a fake, containing a deadly poison called The Strangler that someone snuck into Joffrey’s mug.

The book never outright says whose hand places the jewel in Joff’s wine; the plan may include one or more other Tyrells, or perhaps all of them. Olenna, however, is certainly the architect.

As Liz and I went to bed Sunday night, I laid out the whole scenario for her so she’d know what she was missing. I felt a little resentful, betrayed even, that the show runners had decided to present such a flat and unsubtle version of the Purple Wedding.

Then, on Monday, the Internet showed me the error of my ways.  Continue Reading

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The Society of Uncompromising Douchebags

March 30, 2014 Pop Culture Comments (0) 128

I really hate this commercial. It’s the Wiser’s whiskey spot with the guy holding his wife’s purse in the mall. If you haven’t seen it, I’m linking it below–but if you have seen it, I’m going to politely suggest they don’t need more traffic.

httpv://vimeo.com/30140142

Sure, the idea that a man holding his wife’s purse for even a few moments demeans his masculinity, that’s an old chestnut of the lazy cliché commercial. But in case that wasn’t misogynistic (and homophobic) enough, this guy drops the bag on the floor [“fuck your new iPhone, honey!”] and then picks it up with an inside-out plastic bag, the way a person cleans up dogshit. Continue Reading

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True Detective Finale / Will the Yellow King Return?

March 10, 2014 Pop Culture, Reviews Comments (1) 447

True Detective Opening

I made myself sleep on the True Detective finale before I decided how I felt about it. It sometimes takes me a while to absorb a work of art, and since I’m not bound by magazine deadlines I have the opportunity to ruminate before sharing my opinion. Where I come down is that I found the end of Season One enjoyable and well-executed, but ultimately unsatisfying.

Be warned: Spoilers abound if you haven’t seen all of Season One.

A lot of critics are praising the finale for redeeming the main characters, surprising us with a happy ending, and avoiding the “too-tidy” close in which all the mysteries are wrapped up. A number of fans, meanwhile, seem upset that their pet theories (and their carefully catalogued webwork of clues) were so far off. There were (arguably*) no Elder Gods or Great Old Ones, no heel turns from the leads, no Vietnamese restaurateurs. Subtle clues that appeared to tie Marty’s daughters to the crimes were either red herrings or coincidences. As Marty himself says in the very first episode, if you focus too hard on a certain narrative, you’ll start shaping the facts to fit it.

* There is always the possibility that the spinning wormhole/galaxy thing Rust sees just before he’s gutted is an avatar of Azathoth or Yog-Sothoth, and that everything from that point on is symptomatic of his madnessContinue Reading

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Richard Matheson, 1926-2013

June 24, 2013 In The News, Writing Comments (0) 167

TwilightZoneNightmare20000FeetRichard Matheson is to genre fiction what the Beatles are to music: Every artist working today is influenced by him, even if they don’t realize it. Matheson wrote a bunch of Twilight Zone episodes, including arguably the most famous episode, Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, wrote the novel on which I Am Legend and The Omega Man are both based, and wrote a slew of other stories that have been adapted many times and in many different forms.

Matheson’s Born of Man and Woman, his first published short story (when he was 24 years old), remains one of my favorites. I can’t remember how old I was the first time I wrote it, but he’s one of those authors whose work I’ve enjoyed for as long as I can remember.

He died today, aged 87, and leaves behind a family of writers.

 

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