Sun
Oct 9 2016 10:00pm

Westworld 1.02: “Chestnut” Episode Review

Dr. Robert Ford. 

Somehow this name didn’t quite register while watching the first episode. I mean I heard it, Anthony Hopkins plays Robert Ford, creator, or rather “God,” of Westworld. But what a choice of a name it happens to be … Bob Ford, the man who lives in infamy for shooting outlaw Jesse James in the back while James was hanging a picture in the family home.

Now, the Westworld park, we are told, is about people finding out exactly who they are and what they are capable of doing, and they can enjoy the freedom of that discovery without consequence—where you can be an outlaw like James or a treacherous ne’er-do-well like Ford. Maybe the show’s architects don’t have an agenda in mind with the moniker “Bob Ford,” but Western enthusiasts will certainly find it curious that the most disrespected individual, arguably, in Wild West history has the highest held position in Westworld … then again, I’d be willing to throw my chips on the table that it’s a tell-tale sign of what we’re going to find out about the park’s creator. 

A shy, kind-hearted newbie, William (Jimmi Simpson), and his contentious traveling companion—and coworker—Logan (Ben Barnes) are on their way to Westworld. Logan has been to the park plenty of times and is anxious to initiate his friend to the Wild West ways. While suiting up, William fittingly picks out a white hat. He walks through the dressing room door directly onto the train headed to Sweetwater. Logan strides up in a black hat for his current visit. 

Logan tells William that the amusement park will make you wonder “who you really are.” He beams in a vile, snake oil salesman manner. As the audience, it’s rightly assumed they are laying thick the good versus evil theme, and the distance between night and day is broadly painted. (When Bob Ford killed Jesse James, he mistakenly saw an easy life ahead and justified his dubious actions until he himself was gunned down.) I’m assuming things won’t be so clear cut in time, and there will be bountiful water troughs of gray ahead for William, who has a conscience.

Speaking of hats: the man in black (Ed Harris) is no longer a ghost in the machine from our perspective. In the debut, “The Original,” he appeared to move about untethered. Now, though, he is being monitored by security head Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth), who tells a subordinate to give the “gentleman” whatever he wants. That line disrupted my own circuits because when Stubbs says that, he’s looking at a handheld live feed of the gunslinger with Lawrence (Clifton Colllins Jr) as a hostage and a town full of fresh targets, including Lawrence’s wife and daughter. 

I’m fairly certain Stubbs meant the man in black because the subordinate mentions the number of victims “he” has executed and so far, we have seen the man in black is a killing machine bar none. Straightforward scene to you? Maybe I’m reading in too deep, expecting the writers to conjure up plot booby traps to trip me up later. Also the subordinate referred to the “gentleman” as a guest, which, up to this point, equates to human. (So far, best guest is that the man in black is a plant sent in to weed out any dissidents … or it is Lawrence.)

The man in black had saved Lawrence from a necktie party, but now demands that Lawrence tell him where the entrance to the “maze” is located. Only after the man’s wife is killed and the daughter is likely next, the girl steps forward saying, “The maze isn’t meant for you.” She proceeds to give the gunslinger some cryptic directions to the entrance. We last see the man in black leading Lawrence away, presumably as collateral, while looking for the hidden ingress. Who is the gunslinger ultimately working for, and is the maze he’s talking about Westworld or the real world beyond? Also, what is Stubbs up to and who is he working for?

This episode’s “didn’t see that coming moment” is when Theresa Cullen (Sidse Babett Knudsen) and Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) wind up in bed together, and apparently they’ve been seeing each other for some time. What a twisted ball of conflicts that should turn out to be. Bernard has given the impression of the loyal attendant to Dr. Ford, though we’re finding out that he’s operating on the side, questioning hosts like Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood) as a Freud to the robots. (Are Theresa and Bernard genuinely enjoying their rolls in the hay or is one, or both, pumping the other for information?) 

Dolores took a back seat in “Chestnut” but still had a pivotal scene, and it seems obvious she’s still our main focal point moving forward. Bernard brings her online, asking if she remembers their last conversation, and she informs him she hasn’t told anyone about their chats. Then, in a twist, she asks if he has done anything wrong. Bernard is aware there is something different about her and the way she cogitates is progressive.

He ends the session with him instructing her to turn off her event log and erase their interaction. Something tells me that she didn’t. Dolores has one more significant connection in “Chestnut”: before white-hat William departs Sweetwater for further adventures, he sees that can of food she’s continuously dropping on the ground. Being the chivalrous gent, he picks it up for her, and there appears to be an instant connection. (It’s amazing how someone is always there to pick up that can for her.)

Maeve (Thandie Newton) has been having horrific nightmares of being caught in an attack with a little girl and nearly being scalped. She mentally counts backward from three to wakeup but finds herself in a doozy because a tech (possibly?) forgot to put her in sleep mode. She finds herself in the lab on a surgical table being worked on—she’s been displaying some irregularities as well.

Out of confusion, she swipes a scalpel, holds the trembling techs at bay, and hobbles out of the building into another facility where batches of expired hosts are being hosed down. She’s subdued but obviously the damage is done because the techs are not going to admit to their huge blunder, and Maeve’s revelations will remain intact for future fodder.

Back to Dr. Ford, who spends this episode strolling in the park desert with a child host until he comes to a small black church in the middle of nowhere. Later, he brings Bernard to the spot, notifying him that he’s been working on something special.

Yep, that’s enough to hold me over. How about you?

See also: Westworld 1.01, Series Premiere: “The Original” Episode Review
 

David Cranmer is the publisher and editor of BEAT to a PULP. Latest books from this indie powerhouse include the alternate history novella Leviathan and sci-fi adventure Pale Mars. David lives in New York with his wife and daughter.
Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
4 comments
Charles Gramlich
1. cgramlic
I thought episode 2 was a bit stronger, sets up a longer term mystery. It's a bit problematic for me that the guests cannot be hurt by the hosts. This was true of the original story but the guns wouldn't fire in that movie. Here the guns fire and hit but don't cause any damage. Not sure how that is explained. I was also curious as to why the workers who were examining the madam were so afraid of the scalpel in her hand? Can the hosts hurt real people outside of the park? Can guests be hurt with sharp objects? Perhaps they'll explain as the series goes on.
Adam Wagner
2. AdamCWagner88
That's interesting. I never thought of that--now I can't not think about it. I'm genuinely trying to come up with a logical explanation for the violence between hosts and from guest to host and cannot come up with a way out of the paradox you presented...

Here's hoping they don't just gloss over it and actually explain it!
Charles Gramlich
3. cgramlic
AdamCWagner88, the only solution I can see for the guns is some kind of "smart bullet." That would not explain the sharp objects, though, or the damage that a chair would do or a rock.
David Cranmer
4. DavidCranmer
cgramlic, I’m guessing because she is developing aberrant behavior that is being added by some supercilious individual. And the workers that were threatened by the madam are not use to dealing (I’m just winging an answer here) with such a direct threat and human nature makes one recoil from an ‘attack’ whether she could carry through or not.
Post a comment