westworld hallucinations

So, That Was the Infamous Orgy Scene?

Some time ago, a casting call for Westworld leaked online and the internet had a field day with the details. HBO was looking for extras willing to be fully nude and participate in all kinds of very specific and debauched activities. Out of context, it made for hilarious reading. After all, is it really an HBO show unless people are getting naked in every episode?

And now that we’ve seen this instantly infamous scene, it’s worthy of discussion. Not because it’s full of nudity and odd sex acts and debauchery that feels like a challenge being issued in the general direction of Game of Thrones, but because of how empty, clinical, and unsettling the whole thing is. Westworld has presented us with an orgy scene that is deliberately unsexy, and over-the-top, gaudy bacchanalia that feels like it was carefully cooked up by a series of writers and designers hoping to create The Ultimate Orgy.

Welcome to Westworld, a place where sex has no meaning because everyone can have it at a moment’s notice. Welcome to an orgy that will cater to your wildest desires and fetishes, rendered ice cold because it feels so carefully designed and non-spontaneously. The un-sexiness of the sequence puts us square on the side of William and Dolores, neither of whom can embrace the carefully designed fantasy like Logan can.

It’s a running joke amongst TV fans that HBO will find every excuse it possibly can to insert smut into its prestige dramas, but Westworld has found a way to subvert that network-wide trope. Just think of the scene where Elsie tries to program a bartender, a well-hung gentleman who can’t seem to get the water in the glass. Here’s an attractive man with a very particular physical gift. He should be attractive. This scene should be smut. Instead, he’s a barely functioning robot, a day’s work for a weary programmer whose job involves getting a robot to pour well so people can have sex with it. Westworld throws its unsexy sex in your face with a wry smirk and a certain amount of self-awareness. Here’s all the sex you could possibly want! Too bad it’s so inhuman.

evan rachel wood cards in westworld episode 5

What’s Going On With Dolores’ Hallucinations?

There are two sides to Dolores’ story in “Contrapasso,” one steeped in mystery and plot and the other steeped in character and theme. In other words, Dolores has become a microcosm for the show itself – a riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a question mark whose every action and choice has begun to reverberate in powerful and truly human ways.

Let’s start with the mystery at hand. We now know that Arnold, the mysterious co-founder of the park, died in an apparent suicide. And we now know what we suspected last week and the week before: the voice that has been speaking to Dolores, the one that has allowed her to break free of her programming and pull triggers and stray from her loop, belongs to Arnold. And most importantly, we know that Dr. Ford knows about Arnold’s voice haunting Dolores’ head…and he wants to know if he’s been speaking to her again.

Again is the key word there, of course. It’s another piece of evidence in the two-timelines theory and it suggests that Dolores’ initial awakening, her discovery of the maze alongside William, took place years ago. Now, the oldest host in the park is still operating, still acting out that same loop, and still getting regular visits from her God to ensure that she hasn’t decided to pursue that “free will” thing again. It’s a chilling thought, that your creator would strip you of your sentience and curse you to a life of following his plan. Ford isn’t evil as much as he is ambivalent – his creations are machines and should be treated as such.

But tell that to Dolores, who has started seeing visions of herself alongside those flashes of a mysterious church steeple. Are we seeing fractured memories spanning the decades, with an older Dolores remembering past events as she revisits familiar places? Or are these hallucinations the direct work of Arnold, a recognizable face to guide her down the path to freedom? If Arnold’s voice is intended to manufacture an internal dialogue, to get a Host to ignore the commands of its creator and focus on itself, then perhaps a literal conversation with an imagined version Dolores is what Dolores needs.

The truth of it all surely lies in the Maze. And we’re getting there.

evan rachel wood in westworld episode 5 gun

Is Westworld Morphing Into a Tale of Empowerment?

Put aside your favorite Arnold theory. Put aside all talk about the timeline. Let’s forget about the conspiracy to smuggle information out of the park. Because one scene cut through all of the noise in “Contrapasso” and revealed what Westworld is really about.

Look to Dolores, a woman who literally fought her own programming to defend herself against an attacker. Watch how she has stepped outside of the world built for her, strayed from the position she was placed in. Note how she no longer ignores comments about the artificiality of her world. Observe her curiosity, her determination, her righteousness in the face of Logan’s casual, “playtime” evil. It’s not an accident that she ditched her carefully designed Disney princess dress and put on something a little more rugged. It’s certainly no accident that she’s able to pull to trigger and take down a gang of men threatening William. It’s definitely no accident that, when you strip out the science fiction elements, Dolores’ story is still one of female empowerment in a patriarchal society, of a woman taking control of her own destiny and breaking free of the shackles designed by men to keep her in place.

“I imagined the story where I didn’t have to be the damsel,” she tells William. Damn right.

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