westworld dissonance theory thandie newton angela sarafyan

How Did Westworld Develop Its Own Makeshift Religion?

“Dissonance Theory” ends with one hell of an image. Maeve, plagued with memories of past lives and countless deaths, convinces outlaw Hector Escaton (currently engaged in his programmed loop of robbing the saloon) to help cut her belly open. Her crazy request only goes to prove that she’s not crazy: despite not having a scar and despite no one else recalling it happening, there is most definitely a bullet left inside her body. Someone shot her. She died. And she came back to life.

We know more than she does, of course. We know that the bullet was left in her body because a Westworld technician got lazy and repaired her and returned her to the park without doing a thorough job. In any case, it’s a startling climax to one of Westworld‘s most unsettling subplots. Watching Maeve endure nightmares of these alien things (actually park techs in environmental suits) is upsetting stuff. Watching her sketch her nightmares, only to attempt to hide the sketch under a floorboard and discover a dozen other drawings of the same thing that she doesn’t remember drawing is haunting. It’s almost like Westworld decided to become an alien abduction story for a little while, with a character unsure if she’s simply going mad or if something or someone really has been making off with her body every night.

But there’s more going on here. There’s the Native American girl with the doll that also looks like one of those hooded Westworld technicians. There’s Hector describing the doll as being representative of a “Shade,” a god-like being prominent in native religion. By accident or design, men and women work at the park have bled into this artificial world, becoming a component of local mythology. Here’s what I’d like to know: is this a side effect of hosts having decades worth of forgotten encounters with Westworld employees? Is this the result of repetition on the host’s psyche, to create symbols and stories to account for the things they cannot explain? After all, that is the basis of so much mythology in the first place.

Or is this just an amusing easter egg inserted into the park by its designers, a slightly more twisted version of the Hidden Mickey?

Westworld Episode 5 Trailer

Can I Talk About Fallout 4 For a Second?

The video game Fallout 4 exists in a similar sandbox to Bethesda’s other open world video games. The world is a giant map where you can go anywhere, do just about anything, kill just about everyone, and tackle the narrative in the order you wish…or simply ignore the narrative altogether while you explore and/or pillage. The setting is the distant future in the post-apocalypse, and the game grants you the freedom to tell the story you want to tell.

I remember one mission where I found myself involved in a criminal plot. I had the option of walking away from the whole deal or engaging with some truly shady characters and the only barrier to latter was my own moral compass. Fallout 4 does not cast judgment on you for your in-game actions. You can do what you want.

And when the time came, I joined a crew of criminals. We ambushed a drug deal and killed members of a rival gang. And then, realizing that I could make more money if I didn’t have to split the haul, I executed my criminal companions and walked away with a small fortune. I wasn’t lacking for cash for the rest of my time with the game.

I’m aware that this sounds awful. I’m mindful of the fact that I’m describing the actions of a total sociopath, an unfeeling monster who murders for profit without blinking. And I’m aware that it makes me sound an awful lot like Logan in “Dissonance Theory,” who shoots a “white hat” host in the head when he realizes that they can make a lot more money if they go “black hat” and take the criminal they’ve apprehended back to his gang rather than to a jail cell. This kind of violent narrative flip is common in open world video games and games like Fallout 4 tend to be very flexible on this front. Shoot the wrong guy, and your in-game journal will note that an individual mission thread cannot be continued…but it may also open up a new thread with new options.

So when I watch Logan be an all-out bastard in Westworld, poking at the game and manipulating the narrative for personal profit and psychotic glee, I like to think that I’d stand with William and say that he’s being an evil son of a bitch working out his worst impulses. But I’d be a total hypocrite because I have totally pulled a Logan when I’ve played video games. Westworld, to its smart and savvy credit, has called me out on it.

Dolores kills a fly westworld

Who Was Trying to Force Dolores Back on Her Loop?

There were some fun park logistics on display in “Dissonance Theory,” so let’s run ’em down:

  • When the Man in Black attempts to use explosives as part of a prison break scenario, they have to be approved by park security back at the hub. Of course, we already know that they can’t say no to the Man in Black, who always gets what he wants.
  • When two guests join up with Hector’s gang and participate in wiping out a good portion of Sweetwater’s population, park ops decides to cut them off before they can throw off too many storylines and jam their guns from afar and call in reinforcements to arrest them. Of course, they also plant the seeds of a new narrative that will have keys to their jail cell delivered first thing in a morning, hidden in their breakfast. This is a fun reminder of just how micromanaged the park is and that even guns that look like they were manufactured in the 1880s are actually futuristic tech that can be manipulated from afar.
  • And finally, who is the cowboy that was sent to bring Dolores back to her loop? We know that he was sent by park ops, but was he a host diverted from his own narrative to bring her home or was he a human park employee working “undercover” (so to speak)? The fact that he absconded so quickly when confronted by William suggests the latter. A human employee would know that guest satisfaction would, in that moment, outrank Dolores being returned home.


Pages: Previous page 1 2 3 4

Cool Posts From Around the Web: