westworld confederados

How Much Can the Hosts Hurt Guests?

Here’s a stray observation for everyone who likes picking apart the actual park operations of Westworld: how much can the hosts hurt the guests? This is worth noting because William and Logan both get awfully roughed up during the course of “Contrapasso,” with the latter even getting strangled by a Union soldier. No one appears to be pulling their punches. Everyone is actually getting hurt, even though the Hosts are programmed to be unable to kill a living thing.

There are two ways to look at this. First, we know that the further guests venture into the park, the crazier and more intense the storylines get. And since this particular narrative thread has taken Dolores, William, and Logan far from Sweetwater, it’s possible that the park has simply started playing rougher. However, if these scenes are taking place in the past, it’s also possible that the park has been toned down over the years. Remember how a bullet sent William flying to ground a few episodes ago? And remember how the Man in Black absorbed hits like they were nothing? Maybe all of Westworld has been nerfed over the decades, perhaps as a direct response that “incident” from the past…

westworld man in black

How Do the Man in Black and Robert Ford Know Each Other?

“If you’re looking for the moral of the story, ask.”

A lot goes down when the Man in Black and Dr. Robert Ford finally meet face to face in an isolated tequila bar somewhere in the fringes of Westworld. Their dialogue suggests a long history between the two of them. Past events are brought up and not explained. Personal vendettas are touched upon. Warnings are given. The “game” of Westworld is dissected. The Man in Black knows Westworld’s God well enough to refer to him by his first name. Dr. Ford knows the Man in Black well enough to discourage him from following his current path.

Both men speak in references that aren’t always understood, their history acting as a shorthand we cannot comprehend. And yet, it is quite possibly the most compelling scene in any episode of Westworld yet, a conversation between God and the Devil. The former rules his world through fire and brimstone, asking nothing less than total devotion of his subjects, as their every joy and sorrow is his to give or rescind. The latter, a respected humanitarian in the world beyond this one, has fallen to Westworld and has become a villain, his work defying “God” and defiling his creation. Their dynamic feels akin to Paradise Lost, where Lucifer leads a rebellion in heaven to overthrow a leader he views as tyrannical. The Man in Black, our Lucifer, is on the same mission as Dolores, a quest for the Maze that will unlock sentience for the hosts and free them from their bondage. But this mission could also result in chaos and disorder and the destruction of everything that makes Westworld function.

How this all works isn’t clear, but what is clear is that these western science fiction riffs on God and Satan don’t exist in black and white. The fallen hero, who has been remade as a villain in the eyes of the park, perpetrates great evil on a quest that he thinks will end in salvation for the individual. And God, who can literally control his world with the wave of his hand, sees security in total control of his creation. The hosts are his creation, his slaves, his servants. He will do as he pleases.

We could dig into each line of dialogue here and discuss the Man in Black’s decision to become the villain the park needs, the creation of Wyatt as a force to directly oppose the path to the Maze, and the indication that the Man in Black’s unrestricted time in the park is the result of something he did decades ago. But these are all questions without answers, hints at mysteries that have yet to be solved. What is clear is that we’re looking at the forces of control and free will, of security and freedom, butting heads. It’s science fiction so grand that it has transcended technology and has become downright biblical…even if it’s just two men chatting over shots of tequila.

And Ed Harris and Anthony Hopkins, sharing the screen for the first time in their illustrious careers, act the hell out of it.

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