Westworld Episode 3 – ‘The Stray’ Review

“When the legend becomes fact, you print the legend”.

Three episodes into Westworld we’re no closer to getting any real answers, but we are starting to understand certain things about the park and the way it’s self-realising hosts work. The robot malfunctions are now more prominent and, worryingly, even more violent. One particular bot goes AWOL (the ‘Stray’ of the title) which apparently is a normal enough occurrence in the land of Westworld. But after he lashes out at cynical security chief Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth), who is trying to discover the root of the host’s desire to wander out of his set narrative, he then proceeds to bash in his own head with a rock. Was the bot destroying the evidence of his burgeoning consciousness or was it a preventative measure to stop him hurting the parks human overseers? Dunno yet, but it does seem like we’re heading for a big moment when all of the hosts will finally break free of the parks control. Evan Rachel Wood’s Dolores is already heading that way after finding the ability to fire a gun at a fellow host. Whether she can override her programming and be able to hurt a guest at the park is another matter but her ability to even fire a gun is outside of her narrative. At the other end of the scale though is James Marsden’s Teddy Flood, the nice guy gunslinger with a habit of being killed (over 1000 times according to Ford) who hasn’t yet shown much sign of having a sense of self. Although his growing interaction with Anthony Hopkins’ Dr Ford shows this might not be the case for long.

The most interesting thing that happened in this episode though was what we learnt about Dr Ford and the origins of the park. It’s revealed there was a seldom mentioned business partner who created Westworld with Ford. This ‘Arnold’, who has been mentioned by some of the errant host’s in previous episodes, believed in giving consciousness to the hosts through bicameralism (allowing the hosts to hear their programming as an internal monologue). Ford argues you shouldn’t give the hosts consciousness saying it could lead to the host’s believing the voices in there heads was the command of God. Arnold was then killed in an accident (Ford doubts how accidental it was) and then presumably scrubbed from the records of Westworld. It’s a very interesting idea and it’s the perfect opportunity for great actors Jeffrey Wright and Anthony Hopkins to sink their teeth into some complex stuff. And with the characters no doubt both hiding a number of other secrets it’s a rewarding experience for the viewer as you watch this characters and try to figure them out.

westworld-episode-3-pic-2

As ‘The Stray’ is directed by Neil Marshall, the seasoned film maker behind some of the best Game of Thrones episodes (‘Blackwater’, ‘The Watchers on the Wall’) and the brilliant Dog Soldiers, the show once again looked awesome. There were once again some beautiful Western vistas and the action was as punchy and violent as you’ll have come to expect from Marshall. It’s a shame he didn’t get to direct more action to be honest, that is where his greatest talents lie. The episode didn’t need any more action than it already had, it was gripping enough already, but it does seem a slight waste to hire Neil Marshall and not give him a massive action set piece à la GoT’s Battle of the Blackwater. It’s a small nitpick though as this episode was brilliant regardless, and the action in it was still awesome (Teddy’s hammer fan against the approaching cultist guys was a particularly awesome moment).

The bottom line: The third episode of HBO’s Westworld was brilliant, as we’ve come to expect by now. The performances are all brilliant again especially Evan Rachel Wood and Jeffrey Wright. Shame at the lack of Ed Harris this time around but there was more than enough of everyone to make up for it. Again the show probably leaves you with more questions than answers but it definitely seems to be building to something big. Remember what Dolores said; “these violent delights have violent ends.” Of that, I think we can be certain.

Other Points:

  • I still reckon Jeffrey Wright’s Bernard Lowe is going to turn out to be a host. Notice in his memories of his dying son he’s wearing the same clothes he wears in Westworld? Although if this is true does this mean Gina Torres is in on it?
  • Another theory is that the Man in Black is Arnold, but I don’t buy that.
  • Young Anthony Hopkins fortunately landed on the right side of the uncanny valley; that was some great CGI.
  • Was that Arnold’s voice Dolores heard before she shot the would be rapist? She’s the oldest host around so it’d make sense that Arnold had direct contact with her.

Reviewed by Tom

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