Westworld Episode 4 – ‘Dissonance Theory’ Review

“So I will ask you nicely; please, don’t get in my way.”

‘Dissonance Theory,’ the fourth episode of HBO’s best new show Westworld, was another outstanding hour of television. The episode was thrilling, start to finish, and it achieved a balance between characters that other large ensemble shows like Game if Thrones sometimes struggle with. Once again it gave us a few more answers and a lot more questions as we steadily draw closer to unlocking one of the central mysteries of the show; what the hell ‘the maze’ is about.

If it was bicameralism last week, then it’s the theory of cognitive dissonance that makes up Westworld’s psychology lesson this week. In the broadest terms, cognitive dissonance is the theory that humans will try and ensure a consistency between their world and their thoughts. It’s explored the best through the character of Maeve, the local Sweetwater brothel madame, played wonderfully by Thandie Newton. Everything she knows about her world is thrown into question after she starts to recall things she shouldn’t, things that should have been wiped from her mind by the parks technicians. Her memory of one of the masked technician fixing her after she was killed during one of the parks many shootouts is the basis for her reality questioning. The scene where Maeve tries to hide a picture she drew of the creepy technician, only to find her secret storage space under the floorboards is already full of the same picture is extremely creepy. The fact that she’s drawn these pictures before and forgotten implies scary things about her life. She may not have figured out the exact nature of her cyclic existence (wake up -> do chosen scenario -> get mind wiped -> repeat), but she’s getting real close. Some of the other parks residents have also seen these technicians but their memories of them manifest in different ways, like the native American characters apparently having developed a religion around them. Hector is also aware of them, calling them ‘Shades’ and sums up the Hazmat Technician god as “The man walks between worlds.” The show doesn’t give any immediate answers but it’s very intriguing. It’s reminiscent of the ‘mystery box’ style Lost had, although hopefully Westworld won’t leave quite so many questions unanswered.

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The acting in the show is once again across-the-board fantastic. Thandie Newton as Maeve is probably the best this time around, managing to convey a sense of realisation, confusion, and fear often at the same time. Maeve being so far ahead of the other hosts is a worrying sign for the character though; we saw what happened to Abernathy once he started showing signs of his existential crisis. Anthony Hopkins has a very good short scene in the episode too, showing the quiet power Ford wields over everything in the park. Sidse Babett Knudsen as Theresa more than holds her own too, and her arrogance slowly turning to fear as Ford speaks is a beautiful moment, and shows how scary Ford us under that gentle old man guise. Ed Harris was spectacular, once again, as the The Man in Black. His prison escape was lots of fun and his back and forth with his reluctant sidekick Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr), is frequently hilarious. We also saw some of William and Logan’s adventure again this episode, now with Dolores tagging along. Ben Barnes’ Logan is quickly becoming the most enjoyable character in the show with his evil ‘black hat’ play style. He’s the bad guy to Jimmi Simpson’s William, who is a good guy through and through, but they are still the loosest of ‘friends’. But judging from their different views regarding Evan Rachel Wood’s Dolores a conflict could be on the cards very soon. And he might be doing an evil play through of Westworld, shooting or sleeping with every host he sees, but given the opportunity how many of us wouldn’t do the same?

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The bottom line: Westworld amazes again with another brilliant episode. As per usual for the show the direction (this time by Vincenzo Natali – frequent Hannibal director as well as the director of cult favourite horror film Cube) was beautiful and the cast were all superb, although special mention has to go the great performances by Thandie Newton and Anthony Hopkins. This must be one of the most consistent starts to a new series in recent memory, and it look as if the show can sustain that brilliance for a lot longer.

Reviewed by Tom

Other Points:

  • So that church in Dolores’ dream/flashback/vision – was that the buried one Ford saw? Or am I grasping at straws?
  • Ford’s “Be careful with Bernard…” line is more than just Ford letting on that he knows about Theresa and Bernard’s romance. I think it’s further proof that Bernard is a host created by Ford.
  • So how is Bernard talking to Dolores? I’m thinking this is another argument for Bernard being a robot and that he’s got some sort of robot telepathy going on with her. How else was he able get her and speak to her and get her back to the camp without Logan or William noticing?
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