To prepare for season two of HBO’s Westworld (by husband and wife team Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy), I’m very thoroughly watching the first season again… and taking careful notes!
By “thoroughly” I mean that I plan to watch each episode multiple times. I’ve just watched the first episode three times (twice in a row last night, once the night before), and I plan to watch it again so my buddy can see how absolutely stunning it looks on my new LG 65″ OLED TV in 4K HDR off the Blu-Rays I bought. (And it is truly stunning that way! I gasped when I first started watching.)
I’m transcribing my notes from last night here, in part, because my handwriting is so bad I just have to type them up, but also to share them for whatever they may be worth. Obviously: Serious Series Spoilers!
And speaking of spoilers, these notes assume the reader is familiar with the characters and events. No detours explaining anything!
¶ The title sequence features a partially constructed female gunslinger riding a horse. A question fans have raised is whether that is Dolores or, possibly, Armistice. I stared at the closeup of the face… and I’m not sure. I think it isn’t her exactly.
There is a DVD extra about the making of the title sequence, and originally that gunslinger was male, but they changed it to female to better represent the two female leads. Which all suggests that the gunslinger represents Dolores and Maeve, but isn’t either one.
Question: Is that gun the one Dolores finds and uses? (A gun which is believed to be the only real gun in the park.)
Just as the logo for the show (see above) references da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, that galloping horse references Sallie Gardner at a Gallop. Both are pretty neat references — the latter, in part, for its connection to motion pictures.
¶ The first scene has Dolores in the service area, nude and seemingly alone. The lights come on, and she hears Bernard’s (or Arnold’s?) voice asking her the same questions Stubbs asks her in a similar situation later in the episode.
The camera moves in to a closeup of her face, and we see a fly crawling on it (on to her eye! Ew!), and those flies seem important. We are led to understand that flies are the only living creature in Westworld, and they figure in multiple scenes during the episode.
¶ Day One. Dolores awakes. Blinks almost like a fluorescent light turning on. Seems to have a slight smile on her lips. Yawns and stretches. This scene is repeated three more times in the episode. Note white nightgown with pink ribbon trim.
Short conversation on porch with dad (Peter Abernathy).
¶ Piano roll. Teddy on the train. Locomotive #5.
There’s a couple we see behind Teddy as he steps off the train. I think it’s the same couple we see cowering in the cantina (or bar?) during the massacre scene the following evening.
¶ Teddy sees and meets Dolores. They clearly have a past, and she’s glad to see him (but her daddy won’t be, she says). She’s downright sassy and she invites him to hurry up and chase her.
They have a conversation on the way home about how Teddy is not a cowboy (city boy?) and doesn’t know about the Judas Steer (more commonly: Judas Goat). Dolores seems a lot more bold with Teddy than with others.
¶ Milk bandits, Rebus and Walter, at the ranch. Mom and dad killed. We never see mom’s face! Does she look like someone we might know? Another human? Another host?
Teddy kills the bandits. Man in Black suddenly appears (from where? he’s just suddenly there), kills Teddy (who empties his gun, six shots, at MiB with no effect).
Teddy seems unable to fire at the MiB at point-blank range. Is this a safety feature? Guns can’t kill guests, but maybe they’re dangerous at point-blank range? There does seem to be a muzzle blast. When MiB lifts Teddy’s gun to his forehead, Teddy sinks to his knees.
MiB: “Feels good to be back!” Apparently he’s been away a while. Where? (Because of his wife killing herself?)
As an aside, note that Dolores has been in this story loop for over 30 years! She’s in it when William meets her. One theory is that this is her punishment for the Wyatt massacre “over thirty years ago.”
What exactly happens in the barn? We assume rape and murder, but we never see it. Delicacy on Nolan’s part, or a clue that something else happens?
¶ Day Two. Piano roll. Dolores awakes. Blinks.
¶ Teddy on the train. Two women (presumed guests) reject him because he’s boring; they want “bad guys.”
How do they know he’s a host? Is there a way for guests to tell? Logan and William apparently can’t (in episode two). Were the women told about Teddy? Is his story loop known — a park attraction, so to speak?
¶ The Control Room (CR). Which has red walls. Allusion to Hell? (Any connection to what post-picture Peter says to Dolores about demons have left Hell?)
Does the control room show only Westworld? There is a green area in highlands above the river valley, but I believe this is part of Westworld.
¶ Service area; many workers, some in white cleanroom outfits, but others in black outfits. The ones in black outfits almost seem to be wearing a uniform — note the extreme high-heels for the women, and they also have close-cropped hair. Are these hosts or humans?
Bernard and Elsie examining Clementine, whom we saw on day one. What’s Clementine doing in the service area? Why was she pulled in? Just because Bernard noticed her finger-lip thing?
Bernard is wearing a white shirt. Note: Pay attention to this in future. Is a clue as to when we’re actually seeing Arnold.
Bernard gets an alert: “Livestock Warning” (due to Ford activating Old Bill?).
¶ Level B83. There’s a Delos logo in the elevator. The area is referred to as “cold storage” and that the cooling system is broken. Seems to result in a lot of water. So much that it continues to pour down to the next level in large amounts.
Some think this is a clue that Westworld is an underwater dome. Or is it just a shit-ton of ice melting? Sure is a lot of ice! And does “cooling” mean frozen ice? The modern hosts do seem at least partially organic so refrigeration might be required.
That level doesn’t look so much like a warehouse as an old reception area. Note the Delos globe and escalators. There is some resemblance to the modern reception area (which is also multi-level).
¶ Ford and “Old Bill” (second oldest host). Old Bill repeats his toast (Ford mentions old hosts had a problem with repetition); Ford uses the “deep and dreamless slumber” code phrase to pause him.
Later, Ford has Bill put himself away. Is it a coded phrase or the gesture Ford makes that’s the actual command? Bill remains paused until just after Ford speaks his name. Then Ford gestures. Theory: The name wakes him; the gesture is the command.
¶ Dolores and father on porch. We learn of her plan to go to town, paint (capture the beauty), and be back before dark.
Abernathy (referring to who he was before Dolores): “He vanished the day I became your father.” Literally. He was a cult leader and then a sheriff before he was assigned to be her father.
Which was when? Who played her father until then? Where is mom?
¶ The Sheriff, leading two guests, goes epileptic when a fly lands on his left cheek (audience right). His left eye (only!) seems to be trying to look at the fly. Is his problem that he wants to swat it, but isn’t allowed “to hurt a fly”? Is he going HAL due to a conflict between his human-like AI and his safety restrictions?
We see Bernard, Lee, and Theresa, examining him later in the service area, and the sheriff has a bloody face and seems scalped. Did they do that? We never see it or anything like it (except for the MiB and Kissy). WTF?
¶ We learn there are 200 updated hosts — ten percent — so there must be 2000 hosts in the park. We also learn there are 1400 guests. More than one host per guest!
¶ Dolores at the river painting. MiB picked up her can of milk, but “had other plans” for the night, and Teddy was engaged with guests, so she was free to go paint. (Note that this allows her, potentially, to be back at the ranch in time for the milk bandits.)
We learn that across the river things get too “adult” per the family that meets Dolores. Their kid tells Dolores she’s not real. Dolores doesn’t understand and seems to exit the area a bit abruptly.
¶ Peter Abernathy finds the picture. Surprising he does, since just one bit of it sticks above ground. Almost like he was programmed to find it.
¶ Theresa and Lee conversation up on the mesa. Lee asks when Theresa can “rotate home,” which suggests Westworld is isolated in some way (possibly by corporate fiat to protect secrets). One theory is alternate planet, but the show takes place in the near future, so that seems unlikely.
An oddball theory holds it is in an alternate universe that Delos has access to. More likely theories involve undersea domes. The environment does seem fully controlled, and very large, so some kind of dome seems necessary.
Another oddball theory holds that everything is a virtual reality!
Question: What is the Delos management’s real goal? Military robots? Immortality? Spying or political control through replacing people in government?
Lee mentions “rich assholes who want to play cowboy,” which suggests only Westworld is in operation (or that Lee has nothing to do with other parks).
¶ Night time. Piano roll. Maeve is feeling “out of sorts” — meaning what? A sign of her altered programming? Is she feeling the MRSA infection?
MiB slices Kissy’s throat and abducts him.
¶ Walter massacres a bunch of hosts at the cantina in Las Mudas. Note the two guests cowering in the restaurant — we saw them get off the train on day one.
Walter: “Ain’t gonna die this time, Arnold!” Arnold!
We see the men in hazmat suits. Why hazmat? What’s toxic? Maybe the blood (seems unlikely given how exposed guests are to it)?
¶ Ford and Bernard have a key conversation about mistakes. Bernard tries to avoid saying Ford made a mistake in the reveries. Ford talks about how evolution is based on mistakes. Implication: Ford’s mistakes are a deliberate aspect of his attempts to evolve the hosts.
Ford mentions humanity can “cure any disease” and suggests resurrection from death may someday be possible. Invokes Lazarus. (Hint that Ford will “arise” from the dead?)
¶ Day Three. MiB and Kissy. Why so far out-of-town? Why so high up?
MiB says he left Kissy “three liters” of blood, which will keep him alive. The MiB knows a lot! (Of course he does!)
¶ Dolores awakes. Her loop conversation with daddy doesn’t go as expected. Note her look when Peter doesn’t reply as expected.
Peter mentions a question “you’re not supposed to ask,” which leads to an answer. Is the question, “Is this world real?” He doesn’t say.
Peter tells Dolores to leave. He has the line about Hell being empty and all the demons are here. He seems to know what’s in store for Dolores.
As with the sheriff, is Peter going HAL? Is there a conflict between his awareness of events and his programmed loop? Is that why he goes nuts?
Dolores calls for her mom during this, but mom never shows up. Why? Why do we never meet the mom?
¶ Piano roll: Paint it Black. Saloon Bandits (led by Hector and Armistice). Big shootout.
Where are the guests? Every person on the street gets shot. Were the guests told about the shootout (so they could attend)? Did they flee after the first gunshot? Or are we seeing from the host’s point of view, and they can’t see the guests?
¶ Is Hector Maeve’s husband from the frontier storyline? (Is “Eve” in Maeve’s name a coincidence? As in Adam and?) They certainly seem to have a connection, and that connection grows in later episodes.
We see a bloody piano roll (we see another in the trailers for season two).
¶ Teddy gets shot saving Dolores. Uses the same line about “just trying to be chivalrous,” that he used when he picked up her can of sweet corn. (A tiny clue: the can’s label will be different when William picks it up.)
Dolores to Teddy: “My path is bound to yours.” Recapitulates earlier conversation where she tells Teddy about paths. Path=Loops.
¶ The man of the couple the Sheriff took hunting shoots Hector and then Armistice. He seems to appear suddenly. Do the hosts not see him? Armistice seems strangely discommoded before he shoots her.
¶ Suddenly it’s night, which is weird. The shootout was in the morning, wasn’t it? And yet, the couple who shot Hector and Armistice are just having their picture taken.
Elsie tells a weeping Dolores that this will all seem like a dream after a deep and dreamless slumber. “Dreamless slumber” in contrast with the host feeling of being in a dream. Why did Elsie wait so long before putting Dolores to sleep?
¶ Service area; examination of updated hosts. Theresa to Ford: “If it breached, he needs to be put down. That’s the policy.” Note the “it” and “he” contrast. Does “it” refer to the AI? What does “breached” mean, exactly? Are they aware that hosts sometimes gain sentience?
Is Ford’s use of the phrase “tell me” a command? The phrase “that’s enough” certainly is. Note: Watch for “tell me” in the future. Does he ever say it to Bernard?
Ford also uses the commands: “What are your desires?” and “What is your itinerary?” when interviewing Abernathy.
Peter Abernathy to Ford: “You don’t know where you are.” What does that mean exactly? We learn that Peter was The Professor in a storyline called The Dinner Party, which was a horror narrative, and that he quoted Shakespeare and others.
Abernathy says he’ll have revenge on you “both” (so he knows about BernArnold).
Peter is decommissioned. That’s Sylvester and Felix doing the work. Small world.
¶ Day Four. Dolores wakes. Does she not have quite the same smile? Her daddy is now the host who was the bar tender (whom Hector shot yesterday), and he seems a bit disdainful of her painting.
¶ We see Bernard (and company) escorting Peter and the Milk Bandit to cold storage. Bernard whispers something to Peter. It looks like he says, “Slot #5. Go now.” But I’m not sure, especially about the first sentence. Is that a tear in Abernathy’s eye?
¶ Teddy on the train. Seems to feel the fatal wound from yesterday. Unlike day two, after he was shot by the MiB on day one. He seemed fine then.
¶ The MiB has Kissy’s scalp and we see the maze for the first time.
Why is the maze on Kissy’s scalp? WTF? Is it on every scalp or just Kissy’s? We never learn. We do learn the maze isn’t for guests, so again, WTF?
¶ Back to Dolores on porch. “I know things will work out the way they’re meant to.” In other words, all this is according to plan?
Then she kills the fly that lands on her!
Wow! Just wow!
When I wrote about Westworld just after season one had all aired (no spoilers; mini-spoilers; mega-spoilers; role of fiction), I rated it a strong Ah!
I must have been out of my mind. It’s so totally a hands-down, no qualifications, very, very strong Wow! (Or even a WOW!!)
The degree of thought and detail is just stunning. Very possibly the best SF television series I’ve ever seen.
I loved Star Trek, and I do mean that past tense. After 50+ years, I’m pretty much over it (and it’s changed beyond recognition now anyway).
I do love Doctor Who, which in most regards is superior to Star Trek. (I’m really looking forward to the new Doctor. At long last, a female incarnation!)
But Westworld blows them both out of the water. There is just so much going on, so many references, such amazing use of music, and such a very sneaky use of editing.
Having watched the first episode three times in 24 hours, I’m still looking forward to seeing it again with my buddy. It’s so rich and textured that, like a song or poem, it bears repeated viewing.
And, yes, this is very long, but I wrote it for me, not you. And, yes, another nine will follow, one per episode.
April 4th, 2018 at 7:22 pm
I certainly haven’t watched it carefully, but the virtual reality idea makes sense to me, though I couldn’t say why. It’s been a long time since I watched. Maybe it’ll turn out to be this: Al has already taken over, and the whole WW story is a virtual reality environment to entertain them (their victory over humans)? But there are so many reversals in this story that it’s hard to even guess what will happen.
April 6th, 2018 at 10:04 am
And I’m fairly convinced the trailers they’ve released for season two have deliberately misleading edits — separate bits of the season conflated to give a false impression.
A lot of interweb effort has gone into scrutinizing those trailers (dozens of YouTube videos); it’ll be interesting to see how many are even close in their guesses. (OTOH, “they” — mostly Reddit users, apparently — did guess a number of key plot points in season one. I just wonder if the trailers are as narratively twisted as the series.)
I’m hoping it’s not as simple as hosts versus humans. It might be hosts led by Dolores versus hosts led by Maeve. And Bernarnold figures in there somewhere… (And will we see any vestige of Ford?)
April 8th, 2018 at 11:56 pm
“It might be hosts led by Dolores versus hosts led by Maeve.”
I can see that. That would leave room for many, many more episodes, whereas the human/host battle would be boring and over very quickly (hopefully).
April 9th, 2018 at 10:01 am
Yep. There is some indication the story will focus on the robots and their conflicting factions. Which, as you say, would be much more fertile ground than a shoot-em-up. And far more worthy of Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy!
April 6th, 2018 at 10:32 am
The very first scene starts with Dolores sitting naked and alone in the (modern) service area. The lights come up, the camera focuses on Dolores’ face, and we hear Arnold’s voice asking questions:
There’s a lot packed into that dialog! And some stunning editing to juxtapose the text and images. Some thoughts:
¶ The term “newcomers” suggests the guest are newly come, which is a clue these conversations take place in the first timeline.
¶ Although, why is Dolores sitting alone in the modern service area? That seems to connect the scene with the later one where Stubbs interviews Dolores. (Which is “modern day.”)
April 10th, 2018 at 10:05 am
Compare the dialog between Arnold and Dolores (which we only hear other than seeing Dolores at first) with the one much later (which we see) between Stubbs and Dolores. In that scene Dolores is in the service area with Stubbs and a nondescript female worker (a worker host? they all seem strangely disaffected). Stubbs tells the worker to bring Dolores back online, upon with Dolores wakes up distraught…
Which, assuming the dialog with Arnold really does take place in the first (oldest) timeline, means this pattern of questions and responses has been in use for over 30 years!
The dialog diverges here as Stubbs interrogates Dolores about Peter Abernathy and recent events. He then asks two questions we didn’t hear from Arnold:
Which is the moment we see her swat the fly on her neck.
April 10th, 2018 at 10:40 am
The episode is called “The Original” which seems to be a reference to Dolores, the original host.