Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Westworld!
On the admirable hilarity of robots in improvisation
Memories have a way of worming themselves back into our conscious mind. Some we weed out as best we can by layering new life on top of them, or distracting ourselves from them. But the deep ones, they’re like bullets the surgeons decided were more trouble to remove than to leave, deep in the tissue, to scar up. Inevitably, they resurface. Inevitably, the wounds fester.
The process I have just described is, in essence, Westworld’s thesis. Forget the “Guests,” rich outsiders who come to act out that oldest of Ethics 101 questions: “How would you act if there were no consequences for your actions?” This is perhaps the dumbest aspect of the show, with scalpin’ Ed Harris representing the apogee of Hey It’s the Depraved Nature of Man Do You Get It? No, we here at The Shocker care about the robotic denizens of Westworld. This is especially true when they lose their ever-loving brain chips, as must happen in all Crichton screenplays.
The explanation for these sudden bouts of insanity that pop up around the park is a sort of layered memory. The robots remember who they were before, or recall sudden dramatic feelings, as a way of lending them emotional depth as they present themselves to the visitors. They often pass into “reveries,” wistful gazes, and they think on something they’re not really thinking on. Except apparently even digitized and controlled consciousnesses can’t work that way. Party robots, uh, find a way, in this case to remember the atrocities perpetrated on them by the Guests or by other bots. In this writer’s opinion, the best scene in the show thus far was an interview between Anthony Hopkins and a malfunctioning robot currently purposed as a ranch hand father, who recalls his previous role as a professor, and yet another role as a cannibal cultist. The confused machine shifts back and forth trying to reconcile all of these existences, expressing the emotion of one self through another’s voice and so on. It is in turns cute and awesome — in the old sense of the word. Another broken bot jumbles his role as a dairy farm robber and his role as a vengeful cowboy, force-feeding a dead machine milk, screaming, “You’re a growin’ boy!” Terrifying. Terrifying and way, way cool.
But, forgive me, isn’t this what memory is for all of us: trying to work through the painful messes of ourselves before, knitting our consciousness of a time before and now into one? Think about that player piano, blearily churning through “Black Hole Sun.” Who were you when you thought that song was important? Do you feel embarrassed by how quickly you recognized it? Go ahead, reconcile your being while you sit naked in this chair. Yes, I’m glad you asked, the chair is extremely cold.
In any case, enough pseudo-seriousness. Under normal circumstances we’d all be fidgeting for more robot antics, or we’d find ourselves on a subreddit, asking why expensive robot horses needed to be fabricated when you could probably find regular horses elsewhere for super cheap. To kill time, we here at The Shocker have a few suggestions for future droids gone wild, in case HBO needs help, with no real notes of clarification. Just ponder if you will:
- Nutritionist Bot
- SoxFan Bot
- BOT-chulinim Toxin
- A bot made of wood
- A robot named “desire”
- A robot named Lavoy Allen
Finally, I’m going to give you the twist to this whole show to save a bunch of time: Anthony Hopkins’ character actually died years ago, and he fed his consciousness into the most advanced form of machine he could create in order to create other machines like it, and to moan about how his work is under-appreciated. There, that’s like ten hours of your life you’ve got back. Use it wisely.
-Dave (@leaf_house on the Twitter)