The night is dark and full of spoilers!
First of all, holy crap. I guess we know why this season of GoT took so much time and money to film—the epic destruction of King’s Landing is unlike anything we’ve seen from this show so far, even the Battle of Winterfell two episodes ago.
However, like many fans, I came away feeling unsatisfied by Daenerys Targaryen’s heel turn. While plenty of people predicted she might be on a path toward villainy, the moment itself felt unearned and out of character. Already, dozens of essays explain how this is a betrayal of the fans of Game of Thrones, a betrayal of Dany, a betrayal of feminism…the list goes on. In the end, I think there were subtle failures on the parts of the writers that left viewers unprepared, and more importantly a real betrayal of trust between the show runners and Emilia Clarke, who portrays Dany on screen, that sabotaged her ability as an actor to fully present her character. Continue Reading
** 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.
I’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
I 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