Category Archives: Opinion

Westworld Season 2 Mid-Season Recap!

All right, everyone. I’m back! Today, I will be giving you a quick recap of some salient points from each episode of the first half of Season 2 of Westworld. I will also raise a talking point or two for each episode. So far, not a lot of the questions left hanging by Season 1 have been answered, and a lot more questions have been piled on top. I, for one, am enjoying the ride so far and can’t wait to see what comes. Shall we go ahead and dive in?

Episode 1: Journey into Night

ep1 image 1 tvinsider

Bernard, Floki, younger Hemsworth, and unnamed mercenary at the inland sea. Image taken from TVInsider.

  • This picks up where season one left off, both immediately after and 11 days in the future. Immediately after the hosts ambush the Delos execs, the main characters break off into several groups: Dolores and Teddy of course go galivanting off together; Maeve forces Lee Sizemore (the park’s storyline author) to guide her to her daughter and picks up Hector along the way; Bernard and Charlotte Hale end up running for their lives together, and Bernard has a nagging head injury that threatens to render him inoperable; and William, the Man in Black, sets off on his own new adventure, ready for blood and the struggle for meaning.
  • 11 days in the future, Delos has finally sent a rescue party headed up by Floki from Vikings (Gustaf Skarsgard) and Stubbs, whose escape from the Ghost Nations is yet to be detailed. They discover Bernard and dozens of dead hosts in a brand new inland sea within the park. Later on, they also discover a dead robot tiger that apparently escaped from Park 6, which as of now is not named.
  • During their flight and discovery of an independent satellite lab full of faceless, half-finished servant hosts, Hale reveals to Bernard the big scheme to use Peter Abernathy (Dolores’s host father) to smuggle out personal, behavioral, and genetic information on the park’s guests. Why is still left hanging at this point.

Episode 2: Reunion

ep2 image 1 overmental

Arnold and Dolores. Image taken from OverMental.

  • At first glance, this episode feels like filler, and perhaps earns the season the accusation of unevenness that the first season definitely did not have, but there is plenty to be gleaned here.
  • The loveliest scene in the episode has to fall near the beginning and is Arnold’s interactions with the recently completed Dolores in his partially completed home back stateside. His fatherly concern for her well-being is touching and is only magnified by his comparison of her to his son. I feel that some of Arnold’s original motivations are finally surfacing here. In creating the hosts, he wants to create not slaves, not sex robots, but better people, innocent people who will not die. It is a shame that the backdrop for this scene is a pitch to Logan Delos for funding that preys upon his sexual appetites. That said, besides the two spots in the timeline demonstrated in the first episode, this season also has frequent flashbacks to living Arnold and young(er) William.
  • This episode also focuses more strongly on William, both in the past and in the narrative present. In the past, William successfully pitches fully funding Westworld to his father-in-law, Jim Delos, whose importance to the story this season is certainly understated at this point. After, the Man in Black recruits his old sidekick Lawrence for his adventure to Glory, the place everyone seems to be heading this season. A small aside: this episode also reveals Giancarlo Esposito (the guy who played Gus Fring in Breaking Bad) to have replaced Lawrence as the host gang leader El Lazo, though it’s a shame this will likely be his only appearance.
ep2 image 2 giancarlo esposito el lazo

Giancarlo Esposito as El Lazo.

Episode 3: Virtu e Fortuna

  • Park 6 is finally revealed in the prologue of the episode, and it is a Victorian Indian Raj World apparently set up for hunting robotic game. We are also given a new character, Grace (played by Katja Herbers), who flees the malfunctioning hosts, including a familiar tiger, and dives into the newly finished inland sea shown in the first episode.
ep3 image 1 grace in raj world nerdist

Grace in Raj World. Image taken from Nerdist.

  • This episode is pretty action-packed and doesn’t advance the plotline of journeying to Glory overmuch, but it has some great moments. Dolores’s Wyatt shell slips when she sees her malfunctioning father and her softer side reemerges. Bernard hilariously reprograms one of the vile outlaw hosts to be a virtuous gunfighter with superhuman speed. And Maeve and company finally reconnect with Armistice (Hector’s second-in-command with the snake tattoo of the awesome post-credits scene last season), who has now somehow replaced her severed arm with a flamethrower.

Episode 4: The Riddle of the Sphinx

  • This episode ties together a few of the strings laid out by the season so far, primarily the importance of Jim Delos, Logan’s father. The episode prologue reveals him held in a fairly luxurious, though lonely, apartment. William comes to visit, toting whiskey, and engages in banter with the old man, culminating in the passing of a printout from William to Delos. It is stated that Delos is simply being held in treatment for an unnamed disease, though it is obvious something else is going on. It becomes clear as William visits again and again that this is only a host copy of Jim Delos, the original having died years earlier from a disease he himself defunded research on. William has spent decades attempting to use the park’s resources to resurrect his father-in-law, eventually accepting it may be impossible, and that perhaps some people just shouldn’t be brought back, anyway.
  • In the narrative present of 11 days ago, zombie Clementine drags Bernard away from the big battle at the end of last episode to a cave where he encounters the chained up and suspiciously clean Elsie. She doesn’t trust Bernard, being as he kidnapped her on Ford’s orders, but she comes around once he reveals he’s actually a host. Even now, Elsie trusts machines more than people. They manage to sneak in the secret facility entrance at the back of the cave and discover the area where the Jim Delos copy host has been left imprisoned for an undisclosed amount of time. He has gone utterly insane and even murdered the employee left to watch him.
ep4 image 1 elsie bernard and jim delos from nerdist

Fully-armed Elsie, Bernard, and insane Jim Delos. Image taken from Nerdist.

  • Elsewhere, William outsmarts his captors, another band displaced by the battle from last episode, and in an uncharacteristically noble move, rescues Lawrence and his family, thereby recruiting Lawrence and his cousins for the quest for Glory. It is worth referring back to William’s earlier mention that Glory was his one great addition to the park and its narrative, and his greatest shame. It’s fairly clear at this point that Glory is the facility where experiments in creating host copies of existing humans have been taking place, with Jim Delos as the prototype of the effort. There is also some connection here with Peter Abernathy being used a personal data mule, but why he had to be smuggled off the island housing the parks rather than to the Glory facility is still a missing puzzle piece.
  • This episode ends with William and his band running into Grace on horseback while riding off into the sunset, and she is revealed to be William’s daughter.

Episode 5: Akane No Mai

ep5 image 2 akane from forbes

Akane, the Shogun World Maeve. Image taken from Forbes.

  • We finally get a full glimpse of Shogun World after the big tease at the end of last season, and it is awesome! Through character comment and brilliant musical choices, it is revealed that Shogun World’s narratives (at least the ones immediately apparent) are lifted from Westworld, which is a treat given how much westerns and samurai films actually borrowed from each other in the 1950s and 60s.
  • The additions of Shogun World Hector, Musashi (played by Hiroyuki Sanada of The Last Samurai), Shogun World Armistice, Hanaryo (played by Tao Okamoto of The Wolverine), and Shogun World Maeve, Akane (played by Rinko Kikuchi of Pacific Rim) are fantastic. I honestly hope we get to see much more of all three characters as the season and story progress, despite dire circumstances at the end of this episode.
  • Besides the Edo Era Awesomeness going on in this episode, another major event among another group of characters occurs—Dolores has Teddy reprogrammed to be more vicious and unquestioning, effectively robbing him of the freedoms she now enjoys so much. We will have to see if Dolores continues down the path of hypocritical monster as the series progresses.

Some ideas on the way out:

  • Early in the season, we saw Ford’s dead, maggot-riddled body right where it fell after Dolores shot him. Are we finally convinced Ford is actually dead, despite the fact he seems to speak through his host child self to William, or is some aspect of him still out there? Pre-recorded messages aside, could there be a host copy of Ford out there somewhere in Glory? After all, we never saw who that new host being built in Ford’s secret lab was.
  • How in control of herself do you believe Maeve really is? Or Dolores, for that matter? It was revealed that Maeve’s escape from Westworld was likely a narrative she was following, and that her choice to stay and find her daughter was the first truly free idea she experienced. So, where are those important distinctions in Dolores? Is she free or still running some old narrative possibly left behind by Arnold or Ford?
  • Glory and host copies of the world’s fatcats—is this a setup for future seasons? What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Thank you all for reading and having me back. Please feel free to discuss any idea I opened up or to bring up anything I overlooked or misunderstood. I look forward to engaging in healthy discussion, and I also look forward to writing more about this more often in the future. Thanks again!

Advertisements

The Mad Titan, Thanos – A Throwback Thursday

With Infinity War on the heels of this post, it seemed appropriate to reflect back on some of my Thanos writing! This post is from late 2013, and I did a pretty good job of predicting where the MCU was going, if not the comics. My links at the end are also probably somewhat spoilers, in that they are clearly basing at least some of Infinity War on Hickman’s Infinity event! Enjoy, and remember, #ThanosDemandsYourSilence!

From The Infinity Gauntlet

From The Infinity Gauntlet

Marvel’s recent crossover event Infinity recently ended, and with all the events with “Infinity” in the title, this was a crossover that included the Mad Titan, Thanos, as the villain. In Infinity, he had to share the stage with the Builders, and was only one front of a two-front war. Nonetheless, his parts in Infinity tied in heavily to who he is as a villain, and what motivates him.

Of course, other Thanos events like the Infinity Gauntlet help inform us as to who Thanos is and what he’s up to, but Infinity drew from more than that. They did a limited-run, 5-issue series called Thanos Rising which explored the origin story of Thanos. It’s interesting, because with this story, it’s hard to tell where the previous Thanos events fit in. Nonetheless, the psychological underpinnings of the character are explored and revealed in Thanos Rising.

And what they lay out is that this is a mentally unbalanced, overly powerful character, willing – and wanting – to kill anyone and anything. Conquering or razing worlds because he can. So I’ve read the Infinity Gauntlet, Thanos Rising, and Infinity, so let’s take a look at who this villain is! Spoilers to follow!

Continue reading

Westworld Throwback Thursday – Episode 10: The Bicameral Mind

Here’s the last episode review from Westworld Season 1. With Season 2 coming up starting April 22nd, we hope you’ve liked reading this series again – or if you’re like me, catching up on the show late and reading these for the first time! Let Jeremy know if you want him to do another series of posts for Season 2!


Good day, everyone! At long last, I want to offer up a recap of episode 10 of Westworld (“The Bicameral Mind”) that also takes into account fan theories and the questions that are still on the table. Perhaps the single most important event of the episode is the culmination of Ford’s new narrative, shown in the end to be an ambush. Despite a few red herrings, the event comes to fruition in the final minutes of the episode, opening up and tying together very nearly everything else in the episode and the season.

ep10-001

Ford’s revelation of his final storyline. Image taken from IMDB.

Progressing through the other characters and looking at the oldest ongoing storyline, it is confirmed without a doubt that William is indeed the Man in Black, setting in stone as truth perhaps the most widely circulated fan theory. Though what exactly happens to Logan—tied naked to a robotic horse and sent careening off into the hills at the edge of the park—is a mystery left to further episodes. There is a risk that the horse became a running bomb when it neared the true limit of the park, but it did not appear to be William’s goal to murder Logan, only to shame him and cast doubt on his sanity.

William’s descent into hatefulness and malice, his pursuit of the Maze, and his turning to the black hat way all come down to his Siegfriedian pursuit of Dolores, and when he finally finds her again back in Sweetwater, her memory erased. With the woman he fell in love with in the park effectively dead, William turns inward and wholeheartedly pursues the Maze—what he sees as a secret storyline that can provide him a purpose and excuse for his existence. In the end, the Maze was never meant for him; rather, it was a way for the hosts to achieve sentience and freedom.

ep10-004

Dolores finds herself… selves… Wyatt? The heart of the Maze. Image taken from IMDB.

Moving from William/the Man in Black to Dolores, hers is the story—and hers are the actions—that climax the season. It is revealed (again confirming an off-the-wall fan theory) that Dolores is actually (in a way) Wyatt, being as Arnold uploaded Wyatt to be a backup personality for Dolores in the event she needs to become a killer. We are finally shown the event that nearly destroyed Westworld 35 years earlier as Dolores/Wyatt and Teddy massacre all the other hosts and Dolores executes Arnold, an action Arnold himself commanded her to perform in the hopes it would prevent the park from opening and give the hosts a chance to prove to Ford that they are effectively alive and capable of changing and violating their core programming. These events repeat themselves when Dolores/Wyatt (with the secondary personality fully re-emerged) apparently executes Ford before the Delos board of executives and then leads the other hosts in a massacre of the board members. That said, it is unclear if some of them may escape the slaughter.

ep10-002

Dolores executes Ford. Or does she? Image taken from IMDB.

As has been the case for most of the season, Maeve’s story progresses independently throughout this episode as everything else is happening elsewhere. As she sets her escape plan into motion, Maeve takes Lutz with her for help as she fully activates Hector and Armistice as Terminator-esque murder machines set upon the Delos guards as a distraction. Maeve also tries to reactivate poor Clementine, but there is nothing left of her. In the process, however, she and Lutz discover the damaged Bernard and repair him, requiring his skills and knowledge of the park’s administrative systems. This leads to the revelation that Arnold programmed Maeve long ago to enact a story loop called “The Escape,” casting doubt upon her own agency up to this point.

ep10-006

Maeve learns a hard truth from Bernard. Image taken from IMDB.

The culmination of the manifold storylines of Westworld season 1 leaves us with a plethora of questions:

  • Is Ford really dead? Could this have been a host version of him? After all, we never found out who he was making in his secret lab.
  • Did Charlotte and William survive the ambush?
  • Do you think we’ll see Armistice again after her mid-credits scene?
  • Do you think that Maeve’s last-minute decision to leave the train to find her long lost daughter was her own, or a part of her escape loop programming?
  • How many guests do you think are left in Westworld? What’s happening to them?
  • With the revelation of Samurai/Shogun/Sengokuworld, how many other parks are there? The old Westworld film also contained Roman and Medieval European parks, after all.
  • Where the hell is Elsie? We were never truly shown her death onscreen.
  • What are your thoughts on all of this? What are you looking forward to next season? What questions did I overlook here?

Here’s to making it to 2018 to see season 2, everyone! Keep coming back for more fun Westworld content here from me to keep the love alive. Thanks for sticking with me this far! Please do engage and carry on the conversation in the comments below.

 

Bonus: Here’s Armistice’s extra mid-credits scene in case you missed it when watching the episode.

 

Finding Joy in Your Leisure

This might sound obvious, but… it can be easier to lose track of than it seems.

It can be easy to confuse an activity that you tend to enjoy, with always enjoying that activity no matter what you’re doing.


I’ve had to confront this concept several times lately. First up was in video gaming.

I wrote a while back that I was trying to decide on a game to play, because I was feeling the itch to play some video games and had not played much in a while. I had beaten Deus Ex Mankind Divided and then played a good amount of Mass Effect Andromeda but not much since. I toyed around with a lot of thoughts, but finally decided that my best option was probably just to power through Mass Effect Andromeda to beat it.

However, after playing a bit, I realized that I was really just going through the motions. System-wise, I’m so powerful every fight is just blasting through things. I’ve already turned up the difficulty once. By allowing you to learn all the abilities in the game, it lets you become just so good that the fights aren’t the point.

So then, the point is the relationships and conversation, right? But I’m continually amazed at how shallow some of the relationships have ended up, as in I just expect more conversation topics, more things to pop up. I started a relationship with Vetra, and it has been thoroughly bland. For a game with a ton in it, honestly it needs even more. At least my twin is finally awake…

I’ll get back to the game at some point and beat it, I imagine. Knowing that there won’t be any DLC – when the DLC in the previous Mass Effect games were some of the best parts, is disheartening. And knowing there won’t be a sequel. Those were the sorts of things that kept me going and kept me re-playing before, but now I just don’t know.

Basically, playing the game felt like it was me just playing to play a game at all, the action of which is not where I find joy. I don’t just play video games – I play video games I enjoy. Sometimes we have to push ourselves to get through parts we don’t like, things like that, but the game at its core needs to make you happy, or else why are you playing?

To answer the question what to play, I bought XCom 2 as the price dropped to a great spot. I’ve been loving it – they captured the feel of the first game, with some good improvements and changes both in system and thematically. It’s also a good one to pick up for a bit, do a mission, and put back down – fitting my life nicely at the moment.


The other thing I had been doing was some mobile gaming, in this case Magic the Gathering: Puzzle Quest. I don’t think I’ve fully written up a review, but it’s a pretty fun one. It’s free to play but they would love to sell you the in-game currencies, which you can use to buy both Planeswalkers – your avatar – or card packs. You also get cards slowly over time, and the currencies over time and from playing. There was definitely some learning curve; there are some elements that are automated and ordered for the computer to handle, so then you have to figure out control of the interface so that things play out like you intend. This is also the computer AI’s weakness in the game, as it tends to let things flow and there are several types of actions it does not take.

If I were to give a new player advice, it would be that there is a set of tutorial games in the Story section, not as the first option in those but by swiping to the side. Play through those, they not only teach you a lot of things (some of which I had learned or looked up online by the time I found the trainings, and some which I learned then), but they give you some free cards. If I were to give a second piece of advice, it’s join a coalition.

I actually started thinking of this post a while back when I was realizing that what I had reached a point of doing in this game was grinding dailies. There are Events which come up on a continual basis, you play games to gain rank, get currencies, get booster packs, and rank against other players for top rewards. The rewards are all great, but the continual basis of these coming up means you could just every day have a ton of this to play. I had fallen into playing every possible game in these Events (there’s a limiting factor of how many games you get to play, and which color of decks), and was staying up late playing the game like crazy, basically not realizing how much time I was putting into it.

Into grinding dailies.

I was getting close to cutting myself off completely, when the friend who got me into the game invited me to join a coalition he was joining. It’s a group of up to 20 players, who get a chat channel, and who have access to the occasional coalition events. These have great rewards, and you get rewards both from how you do and from how your coalition as a whole does. Some other events also include coalition points, but not all of them.

And this has helped me to cool down on my playing, to slow down. To not just play all of the dailies. I can focus instead on the events that include coalition play, but not stress myself, keep myself up at night, or just generally get distracted and play the game like crazy. Mobile games can do that, and it’s important to temper yourself. Many are also built to be a time filler that you can pour too much time into. I think I’ve found a good balance, by doing some stuff that’s fun and has a group feel to it, and to skipping some of the solo stuff that was just me feeding the game my time.

Because it’s not just about the act of playing, it’s about enjoying playing.


There are plenty of other things I could talk about. Quitting listening to podcasts that I don’t like, just because they’re on the topics I’m interested in. Really, I haven’t been reading enough lately to have an example here – though I will say, MtG Puzzle Quest is a decent game to play while listening to an audiobook!

But let’s just go with one other topic.


It’s been a bit since I’ve written a long form post here on the site, which maybe that fact alone ties back to my topic here. A lot of what I do, and have been doing since we moved to the new Comparative Geeks last year, is back-end work on the site: scheduling posts, putting podcasts together, these sorts of things. Those take up a lot of time where I could be creating instead, and they’re just plain not as fun as creating.

And it’s important to remember that something like this site is a side-project for us, not a job or a money maker. It’s a labor of love, and therefore it’s important that you love doing it. Holly and I have made it through by helping each other as we’ve waxed and waned in interest, we’ve kept the dream alive.

So while we’re about to take a long hiatus, I think that absence will do a lot to make the heart fonder. We haven’t taken a break this long before, but I think we’ll be back strong. We also have been planning on moving back to WordPress dot com, where there would be less behind the scenes management to worry about.


 

Remember that your leisure should be fun. I’ll try to do the same!

Who you gonna call? On Halloween!

I almost got into talking about this the other day during our horror movies discussion on Comparative Opinions, but I decided since it’s a good read I would link it up here on Halloween. This is an absolutely phenomenal review of Ghostbusters, and I honestly think it helps explain some of why the movie is so good, why the sequel as well as the new one don’t compare, and… yeah. Enjoy.

The Ghostbusters are an Antidote to Lovecraft’s Dismal Worldview