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Dr. Robert Ford: Old Testament God?

The most fascinating scene in “Dissonance Theory” arrives late in the episode. Theresa Cullen sits down with Dr. Robert Ford to discuss his new narrative and shares the company’s concerns about what he’s doing to shake up the ongoing narratives. There’s some delightful theme park imagery here, as they’re meeting in a restaurant inside the park itself, an establishment that can’t help but feel like one of those meticulously themed dining experiences on which Disney and Universal pride themselves. The way Theresa recalls visiting the restaurant many years ago reminds me of theme park aficionados recalling a visit to The Crystal Palace at Walt Disney World, the kind of place that never changes as the decades slip by. Nostalgia is a fundamental component of any park – knowing you can return and know that the things you love will still be there is key.

And that is the company’s apparent issue with Ford’s new narrative. Whatever he’s doing is shaking up Westworld in a major way. Entire storylines are being altered. Characters are being modified. The literal landscape of the park is being remade. Millions of people go to Disney World every year to ride Space Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean. You mess with the formula, you tinker with the classics, and you risk upsetting the people who keep a theme park alive.

Of course, Westworld is far more advanced than a modern theme park and Robert Ford wields power that would make Walt Disney blush. His display of authority is absolute – Theresa can march in and confront him with the force of the board behind her, but that corporate steel couldn’t feel more useless within Westworld itself. The very idea of a corporation having control over Ford is an abstraction.

In this world, he is literally remaking the terrain with a giant mining machine. In this world, he can literally control the artificial men and women around him with select phrases and maybe even the right hand gestures (as evidenced by his dominance over the robotic snake and child a few episodes ago). In this world, he’s as comfortable amongst his creations, and comfortable manipulating him to his will, as Theresa is comfortable reassigning malfunctioning hosts to different divisions in the hub.

If Robert Ford is the God of Westworld, then surely he’s an Old Testament God. He’s all about that fire and brimstone, that treatment of an entire population as ants whose lives and destinies are at his personal whims. If he needed to conjure a flood to wipe everyone out and start over, he wouldn’t think twice. He loves the world he creates, but seems to have little love for the individuals he has created. He’s the “Big Picture” God, the one who waves his hand and changes the world and crushes anything and everything that can stand in the way of making a world that pleases him.

And when this God talks to his subjects, he speaks in commands. The hosts obey his every whim, unaware that they are taking orders from a creator whose whims they cannot deny. Those who speak for him in park ops have a similar control over this world. What they say goes. They alter the world as necessary. The citizens of Westworld take their orders directly from God (and his helpers) himself. Whether they know it or not, they are in constant communication with the Almighty.

And that’s why we need to reconsider Arnold once more, who seemingly wanted to instill within the hosts a sense of free will, to give them minds that would grow and evolve. Arnold, with his hopeful storylines and whose affection for his creations clouded his ability to see them as machines. Arnold, who died thirty years ago but whose message seems to exist as a ghost within the park itself, living long past him and creating new followers in hosts like Dolores and Maeve, who are starting to break free from the old rigid ways. If Dr. Robert Ford is the Old Testament God, Arnold could very well be Westworld’s Jesus Christ.

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What Connection Does Logan’s Family Have to the Park?

We’re still learning more about Logan and William week-by-week, with this unlikely duo slowly revealing new bits of backstory with every hour. Last week, we heard that William is engaged to marry Logan’s sister and that the wilder, more rambunctious half of this team is treating his future brother-in-law to some time at the park for $40,000 a day. And now we have our first sliver of information that could explain why he can afford such a luxurious vacation: his family is wealthy enough to have invested in the park itself.

This could end up being additional background texture in a show where meticulous details are often just there to be enjoyed and luxuriated within, but it goes a long way to informing who Logan is and where he comes from. Like everyone else visiting Westworld, he’s absurdly wealthy. And like so many of Westworld’s other visitors, he becomes a different person when he steps foot in the park, killing and screwing everything he sees without thinking twice. When William, the audience surrogate, calls him out on his evil behavior, Logan is genuinely offended by these accusations. It’s just a game! Nothing here is real! The hosts exist to be played with, toyed with, and shot in the head at a moment’s whim.

If every visitor to Westworld comes from a privileged world and if so many of them see the hosts as non-human playthings that exist to be controlled, are we looking at the beginning of a genuine class war? The working people, the cogs in the machine, can only take so much abuse from the upper crust before they break out the guillotine. Westworld was already a pot bubbling over with religious and existential tension, but the space between the robotic slaves of the park and the rich folks who use and abuse them has added another ingredient to the coming rebellion.

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