Westworld Retrospective

Or, how Jonah is good at plot development but bad at character development

This is full of spoilers and assume that you’ve finished season 1 of Westworld. Bail now if that’s a problem.

This is also largely unstructured. Mostly just random musings, so don’t bother trying to follow any threads.

Ford

Ford’s change in the finale was probably the biggest surprise of the season. I wasn’t aware of anyone predicting this and I really liked the end state. I thought that Ford becoming an ally of the hosts was a great twist that I didn’t see coming. While the end state is good, I’ll have to rewatch the series to see if it actually makes sense. Ford’s change didn’t fully make sense and I’m not sure if that view of mine came from faulty assumptions or because the show really made it come off that way.

This old behavior that seems at odds with Ford’s final motivations are best expressed by his killing of Bernard. This was confusing at the time, why shoot him in the head? Can’t he just come back? Or did Ford know that Bernard would come back, and just wanted him out of the way for a bit. If that’s the case I don’t see how Ford could know that Maeve would go and revive him (assuming Maeve is working under Ford’s orders).

I was also left wondering fully what Arnold’s wishes were that Ford is finally carrying out. Whatever those wishes are, I found it beautiful that he was able to solve the problem his friend deemed impossible, and solved it for him.

Loops

I found the loops in the show that are present everywhere to be very beautiful. It’s also another way of just describing reference and patterns, but everything from the massager at Escalante to Ford and Arnold’s insight coming from loss are loops just like those shown so well in the first episode.

Character transformations

It seemed like there was a bunch of characters that flipped their earlier impression of being good or bad.

William was originally literally a white hat. His transformation to black hat is fairly obvious and characterizes a twist of the good character actually being bad.

You could say the same for sweet Delores, her inner demon of being Wyatt is such a reveal.

Conversely we see Ford go from an evil manipulator who’s only out for himself to be actually fighting for the Hosts and doing everything he does for their sake.

Logan, to me, also provides an example of a character’s impression being bad but who’s actually good. Yeah Logan is a bit of a bro’y asshole, but at his core he’s just trying to bond with his future brother-in-law who won’t ever let loose and have fun. Once William goes off the reservation he’s trying hard to bring him back and remind him of Juliette, his sister. He was ok with some fun in the park, but once stuff got serous he did all he could to bring William back for his sister. I hope he’s ok in the end.

Arnold

Arnold being littered throughout the season in the “now” timeline is intriguing to me and I don’t think answered. These questions were even further asked when Bernard asked if it was Arnold who actually added the reveries back in.

Other places that Arnold’s finger prints are:

1. The modern hosts that were for some reason talking to him. This seems relevant as well because they go insane, something that was stated that happened to a certain percent of the hosts Arnold originally programmed with his voice for narration.
2. The transmitter that Elsie found has Arnold’s name in the access log.
3. Maeve’s source code was supposedly edited by Arnold.

Were these actions by “Arnold” done by Arnold himself, Ford, Arnold living on as AI, Bernard, Bernard working for Ford, and/or Arnold working though Bernard?

Maeve

I never liked the Maeve storyline. I found it required the most logical leaps and was largely uninteresting. My biggest issue was with Felix’s (the asian tech) motivations. With a little better writing I think his motivation could have been explained, but as-is his motivation and growth was very confusing.

Her ability to make it as far as she did also didn’t make sense. There were so many obvious opportunities for the techs or others to stop her. The fact that she was never stopped was unbelievable and took me out of the story.

The only interesting part of her story is when Bernard told her that this wasn’t the first time she’s awoken and that even her current behavior was just a narrative. These things were very interesting and well revealed.

William (Billy)

William’s storyline was disappointing in the end. I thought he started off strong but fell to the same issues many others in the show had with sudden and unexplained character advancement.

I’m mainly speaking about his transition from Billy to The Man in Black. The height of the storyline was when William and Delores had sex. This was a height of his growth and his displaying his darker side.

Conversely, the confederate camp was the low point of the William storyline. His seeming overnight transformation into this crazed killer was unbelievable. With a little more effort placed in showing that every action William took was just to get Delores and that each action was slowly getting worse and worse, William’s transition would have been less sudden and made more sense.

It seemed as though most of the escapades William went on he did for himself rather than to find Delores. If his decent into villainy was slow and he gradually started to enjoy it, only to find that Delores wasn’t anything special at the end, William’s storyline would have been much more believable and sad.

A big hole for me with William is if he did all these terrible things to Logan, why would Juliette have married him? I could see him becoming a powerful corporate leader with his newfound confidence and worldview, but why would Logan’s father and sister trust him again after what he did to Logan?

Sentience

Some of the signaling in the show around Host sentience is confusing. On the one hand it’s implied that Maeve is sentient. Angela implies that Teddy is almost sentient and will be there in a loop or two. Does that statement mean that Angela is sentient? Is Papa Abernathy sentient?

On the other hand I think that sentience is a journey. The listed Hosts are close but not there. In fact no host was actually sentient until Delores became so at the very end. This is aided by the reveal that Maeve was actually programmed with a narrative to perform her jailbreak. Angela implies that sentience is a Journey when she tells Teddy that he may be there in the next loop.

Angela’s presence and statements make me wonder if Wyatt’s band are actually all Hosts that are close to sentience. Or maybe they were just commandeered by Ford to provide the first segment of an army to protect those who are sentient.

I think that the two triggers for Delores’ sentience were the realization that her hero William was actually the man who had repeatedly raped her and the discovery that she killed her father figure Arnold. All over the series we see that the more suffering a Host has gone though the closer to sentience they seem.

Wyatt

I appreciated the misdirection that implied that Wyatt was a sanctioned storyline in the park rather than something hidden in there by Ford. Having guests present for the first engagement with him really implied it was normal and not that the Wyatt troupe was a hidden part of Ford’s final narrative. Additional evidence for this is that the busy work Ford has Lee Sizemore do was in making a Wyatt host, something that must not have existed already.

There are a few pieces of evidence that the Wyatt troupe are really guardians of sentience have a lot to do with the statement by Angela to Teddy. When she said he’s not ready yet, I think that means he’s not sentient yet. To me this means that either Angela is sentient or programmed to know about sentience.

The fact that Teddy was tortured by Wyatt’s group also makes me think that they’re working towards sentience. If we follow that suffering is a key requisite to sentience, Wyatt’s troupe would be into torturing Hosts with the hope of helping them towards sentience.

Misc

Is Elsie ok? I think so and hope so. She’s probably got something to do with Stubbs. Some counter force to Ford’s new army? Maybe an AI version of Arnold is fighting Ford’s new plan.

Where is Papa Abernathy? Is his story done or does he have role left to play?

Like what you read? Give Tal Atlas a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.