Westworld Episode 2 Recap: What Does The Man In Black Want?
If Westworld's premiere focused mainly on the hosts and their relationship with the world around them, then this episode gave us a glimpse into the guests' motivations. First-timer guests, Will (Jimmi Simpson) and his douchey friend Logan (Ben Barnes) — who has visited the park before — arrive at Westworld. Will, like us, is discovering what this place is all about. And through his gaze, we get to experience what it's like to enter Westworld as a guest.
Will and Logan arrive at what looks like a very modern train station via shuttle. They disembark, and are greeted by the most good-looking people I have ever seen. Will asks if there will be an orientation — he's like that kid who asked about extra credit at the end of class.
"The only limit here is your imagination," explains Angela, his very blonde tour guide. "You start in the center of the park, where it's safe. The further out you venture, the more intense your experience gets. How far you want to go, is entirely up to you."
Let's talk about Angela. She only appears briefly, but her presence is significant. She shows Will to the prop and costume room, where everything is bespoke and made to his exact measurements. Here, she says, is where he chooses what he wants to be. Here is also where he gets to ask the question we've all wanted to ask: is this perfect woman real? Her answer: "Well if you can't tell, does it matter?" And therein lies the crux of Westworld: Does it matter that these human-like androids are being used and abused for human enjoyment? Does it matter that Will's sleazy friend is here for thrills, no matter the cost? Does it matter that the hosts seem to be internalizing this trauma?
Eventually, Will picks a lewk, which leaves on final choice: white hat or black hat? (subtle.) Will, unsurprisingly, chooses white. His douchey friend settles on black.
Now, for the logistics: It seems guests enter the park through a door that takes them from the modern facility into a kind of limbo space that looks like a retro bar. They're dressed for the west, but not quite in that world yet. Suddenly though, the compartment reveals itself to be part of a moving train, the same one we saw in the first episode. (This makes me wonder if the reason we see Teddy arrive by train is because he's being repaired and sent back with the guests.)
We also learn that the park is far larger than just the town of Sweetwater. Logan for instance, has never reached the end. Will is all for taking it easy, but Logan has other plans. He's here to live his best life, not to buy into whatever pre-packaged adventure the hosts have to offer.
This, of course, involves violence, hookers, and a threesome. Not for Will, though — he turns down Clementine's advances, stating he has someone real back home. Although, that nod he gives Dolores towards the end of the episode seems to suggest he might be convinced to have a lapse of memory where his girlfriend is concerned.
Armed with a bloody scalp map, the Man in Black continues his quest for the deeper meaning of the game. He interrupts a hanging and kills a posse in order to get the information he needs from Lawrence, a host who we must assume was a partner in crime on one of his many visits. Lawrence, of course, has absolutely no memory of this.
(Side note: How is it that none of these hosts have qualms trying to shoot the Man in Black? Aren't they programmed not to harm humans? Sure, they can't kill him with bullets, but the intent is clearly there. There could be something to the theory that he's a host who has been self-aware for a while now.)
Believing that Lawrence has the key to "the maze" (so, THAT'S what was imprinted on the bloody scalp), the Man in Black leads him back to a village — Lawrence's home. Clearly , Westworld is huge. Turns out Lawrence has a secret family, otherwise known as leverage.
Because the Man in Black really wants to find this maze. In fact, he's willing to kill everyone in the town to do it. And he does, going as far as to shoot Lawrence's wife right in front of him. This doesn't go unnoticed by the control center, where someone asks Stubbs if they should "slow him down."
"That gentleman gets whatever he wants," Stubbs answer. So clearly, whoever runs Westworld is aware of the Man in Black. But do they know he's out to game the system?
It's been pretty clear thus far that the Man in Black's main motivation — aside from the maze — has been to inflict as much death and destruction as possible. But it hasn't been so obvious why, until now. Right before killing Lawrence's wife, he marvels at how real she looks when she's experiencing "base emotions." Humanity is as it's most obvious "when you're suffering," he says. If that's the case, could the real reason he's been on such a rampage just be that he's trying to make the hosts self-aware by making them feel emotional pain?
Eventually, violence wins out and the Man in Black gets his answer. Lawrence's little girl, somewhat reminiscent of a Matrix kid, speaks up, telling him the maze isn't meant for him. When he shrugs, explaining that he's "never going back" where he comes from, she gives him these cryptic instructions: "Follow the blood Aroyo, to the place where the snake lays its eggs."
Cool, I'll just enter that into Google Maps, thanks.
Maeve has a problem: No one wants to fuck her anymore.
This could have something to do with the Narrative programmers making her uber aggressive — not an attractive trait in a Madam. Or you know, it could be all those flashbacks she's been having about her former life. In any case, Maeve needs to get her shit together, or she'll be decommissioned.
She's not the only one having weird visions, though — Clementine has been having nightmares. "Sometimes they're real bad," she tells Maeve, who answers: "Do what I do — you find yourself in a bad dream, close your eyes, count backwards from 3, wake yourself right up."
This is truly horrifying, a fact Elsie points out as she's working on Maeve later in the episode. "Dreams are mainly memories. Can you imagine how fucked we'd be if these poor assholes remembered what the guests do to them?"
We do learn however, that the hosts have the concept of dreams, specifically nightmares. This is a contingency plan on the off-chance maintenance forgets to wipe their memories after a particularly violent interaction with a guest.
In her past life, Maeve has a daughter. They live in a pretty cottage out in the fields. They braid each other's hair. Until one dark day, their settlement gets raided by a group of Native American warriors. Maeve almost gets scalped, but manages to escape with her daughter and seek refuge in their house. She watches as one of the warriors circles the place, and enters — only it's not him. It's the Man in Black.
"3, 2, 1..."
She wakes up. Only she's not in her bed. She's being operated on by the maintenance crew, who has found MRSA in her abdomen. (Yuck.)
Understandably alarmed, Maeve escapes, wandering through the facility. She comes across a room full of what seems like random bodies — until she recognizes one. It's Teddy, who was shot earlier by a guest looking for an adrenaline boost. Eventually, the maintenance crew catches up to her and injects her with a tranquilizer, but something tells me Maeve won't be forgetting this little trip anytime soon.
Finally, a short note about her speech. She repeats it throughout the episode, and while it can be applied to the guests and their "what happens in Vegas" attitude, it's also significant when thought of in the context of the hosts becoming more and more self-aware. Here it is in full:
You can hear it can't you? That little voice. The one that says 'Don't stare too long. Don't touch. Don't do anything you might regret.' I used to be the same. Whenever I wanted something, I could hear that voice telling me to stop. To be careful. To leave most of my life un-lived. You know the only place that voice left me alone? In my dreams. I was free. I could be as good, or as bad, as I felt like being. And if I wanted something, I could just reach out and take it. But then I would wake up, and the voice would start all over again. So I ran away, crossed the shining sea. And when I finally set foot back on solid ground, the first thing I heard was that goddamn voice. Do you know what it said? It said 'This is the new world, and in this world, you can be whoever the fuck you want."
What's Up With Dolores?
A voice is calling to Dolores in the night, asking her to "remember." That voice sounds an awful lot like Bernie's voiceover from the premiere.
Walking in the streets of Sweetwater, it happens again: the voice says "Remember," (it's unclear if it's in her head, or actually being projected into the park) and Dolores sees dead bodies on the ground, much like the saloon robbery scene which should have been erased from her memory.
Her little daydream is interrupted by Maeve's delightful snarkiness, but things get weird when Dolores repeats the fateful words her father whispered in her ear: "These violent delights have violent ends."
Maybe Elsie is right to want to examine her further. As she tells Bernie, "if this is not a dissonant episode, then whatever Abernathy had could be contagious."
But the policy at Westworld, it seems, is to let it lie. Perhaps Bernie's reluctance to investigate has something to do with the little private chats he's been having with Dolores.
Their latest meeting starts out rather benignly. Bernie asks how many interactions she's had since they last spoke ("138 encounters including this one."), and if anyone has altered her core heuristics in that time. That last one is interesting. Core heuristics refer to someone's ability to make expedient decisions. It seems like Bernie is aware that the hosts are learning to think for themselves, and is trying to track it.
Dolores is worried she's done something wrong. Bernie reassures her: "No. But there's something different about you. About the way you think. I find it fascinating but others may not think that way."
"Have you done something wrong?" she asks. It's a question that requires a certain amount of free thinking, and Bernie knows that. Class dismissed. He tells Dolores to erase their interaction and get back to her world.
Dolores' last scene bodes well for fans waiting for all hell to break loose. Once again, she wakes up in the middle of the night and wanders out in to the yard. This time however, she starts digging — much in the same way Peter Abernathy did when he found the Times Square photo — and unearths a gun. Was it left behind by a guest? Is it defective? Does this spell death for one of the guests?
Bernie's got other problems. Despite what he told Elsie, he knows that the Abernathy problem might be more serious than he originally thought. In a conversation with Ford, he explains that the photograph alone wouldn't have made Abernathy react like that — he actually took the time to go home and reflect, rather than lose it on the spot. The simplest explanation Bernie can come up with is that someone has been interfering with the hosts.
"Occam's Razor," Ford responds, referring to the theory that the simplest explanation is always the best. Bernie doesn't buy it.
"The problem with what you and I do is that it's so complicated. We practice witchcraft, we speak the right words, and we create life itself, out of chaos. William of Occam was a 13th century monk, he can't help us now, Bernard. He would have us burned at the stake."
Ford's cavalier attitude towards these glitches makes me think he knows more about them than he's letting on. It's almost as if he's waiting for Bernie to figure out for himself.
Dr. Ford Has Bigger Plans
Narrative guru Lee Sizemore has a new storyline in mind, which is why hosts like Maeve are being assessed for recall. He wants 50 new hosts to play with.
When he finally unveils his epic plan, snoozingly called "Oddyssey on Red River," Sizemore gets taken down a peg by Ford. Thanks but no thanks.
"What is the point of it?"Ford asks. "It's not about giving the guests what you think they want. That's simple."
Guests come back for the "subtleties, the details," he explains. Not the big, obvious things. (Read: your vulgar fantasies.) Unlike Sizemore, who believes guests come to Westworld looking for themselves, Ford believes they already know who they are. Rather, "they're here because they want a glimpse of who they could be."
Ford has another reason to turn down Sizemore's narrative. He has his own in mind. One, he tells Bernie he has been "working on for some time."
"Something quite original."
I, for one, cannot wait to experience it.
— Bernie and Theresa's fun sexy time: Until Bernie decides he wants to talk. After likening him to hosts who want to practice their humanity, Theresa bolts out of there faster than you can say "singularity."
— Theresa's lady boss attitude when Bernie calls her formidable: "You can just say 'bitch.' I hear it enough."
— When Ford takes a trip into Westworld (an elevator brings him to the surface, suggesting the control center is underground), he meets a kid who seems suspiciously similar to him in both personality and appearance. Could the "demons" that Sizemore hinted at literally be shadows of Ford, living in the park?
— What's with the abandoned church steeple that Ford keeps coming back to look at?
— The Man in Black has repeated that he's been coming to Westworld for 30 years so many times I hear it in my dreams. But speaking to Lawrence, he added a little something extra:"I've been coming here for 30 years. In a sense, I was born here." (Let's hear it for the robot theory! I didn't believe it after last week's premiere, but this episode has me pretty convinced.)
Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?