Good day, everyone! It should go without saying at this point that this post contains spoilers for last week’s episode of Westworld entitled “The Stray.” From here on, I will do my best to offer some reminders and analysis of the previous episode to carry my readers into the next. Westworld is a complicated story, and a lot of mysteries are, as yet, not only unsolved, but also not fully developed. Let’s explore them together, shall we?
- The episode begins with more interactions between Bernard and Dolores, with Bernard sharing a copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, in which he points out a specific passage meant to make Dolores question her identity. These scenes are put in a somewhat different light later in the episode as Bernard’s past trauma of losing his young son is revealed, casting his growing relationship with Dolores to be fatherly. Again the intersection of trauma and memory remain at the core of Westworld’s overall narrative as Bernard tells his (ex?)wife that the pain he carries of his son’s memory is all that he has left of him.
- Following this initial conversation with Bernard, Dolores is then shown rediscovering the revolver she discovered buried in her yard in a daze last episode, a sign of a mysterious benefactor separate from Bernard who is pulling her strings and pushing her toward some sort of awakening. Further meetings with Bernard later in the episode make it clear that Dolores is growing free to retain and regain memories, and that she is beginning to act outside of her programming.
- Further, Dr. Ford’s new narrative is beginning to insinuate itself into the park, beginning with a definitive backstory for the character of Teddy, Dolores’s love interest. After his normal interactions with Dolores, Teddy sets off into the hills with a posse to hunt down a horrendous (and apparently barely human) villain from his past, rather than meet his standard end attempting to save Dolores’s family. Later, Teddy is captured in this pursuit and Dolores, learning from past incidents and discovering the revolver she apparently hid for herself in her family’s barn, rides off into the hills herself to rescue him and find herself, an interesting reversal of gender roles in these types of stories. Later that night, she stumbles into the campsite of William and Logan, who are off hunting bounties (to Logan’s oversexed chagrin), and who will presumably aid Dolores in the next phase of her journey.
- Perhaps one of the most important events of this episode is the pursuit of a stray host by programmer Elsie and head of security Stubbs. The host, a simple woodcutter, contains in his backstory a love of carving animals out of scraps of wood. While this is expected, Elsie and Stubbs also discover that the host has begun to develop a fascination with the constellation Orion and that his disappearance may simply be a desire to see the stars, which is unsettling to the handlers. Once they discover and deactivate the host, the host reactivates himself, fights off Stubbs, grabs a giant rock, and kills himself by crushing his own skull with it—with self-destruction being the ultimate expression of free will, some might say.
- One last note on something that stuck out to me—some of the scoundrel hosts, when cat-calling Dolores, make a vulgar comparison between her and a “freshwater clam,” a line and context that I recognized from the Clint Eastwood western Pale Rider, a film about a gunslinger returning from the dead to claim his vengeance on those who wronged him and to help others as he can. I honestly wonder at how this title—Pale Rider—may come to define Dolores in the episodes ahead, being as I believe the partially skeletal, black-clad rider atop the pale horse in the opening credits to be Dolores as she will eventually become when completely freed from her bonds.
What do you think? Do you think that Dolores will become some sort of Horseman of Death in the weeks ahead? Let me know in the comments below, and don’t forget to watch the next episode of Westworld tonight on HBO.