Taking a Trip
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
The Book of Job is one of the writings of the Hebrew Bible and the first poetic book in the Christian Old Testament. In the Book of Job, Satan isn’t depicted as the grand tempter, the being who dangles all of your deepest desires in front of you to ensure your servitude in his favor. Satan as an adversary is more of a trickster, trying to draw God into a loss through riddles and wagers of wit. It’s a fascinating subversion of how religious conflict between God and Satan is often depicted, a subversion that relies far more on a keen understanding of the complexities of beings. The conflict burgeoning forth between Ford and Arnold has the feeling of such a battle, each viewing the other as the titular adversary that needs to be laid to rest for the future to be built. What that future is, however, remains considerably murky. Ford can even be seen as his own adversary, a man who is at war between his self that wants to herald ideals of preservation and the self who wants to push for his creations to evolve through mistakes – up to a certain point, anyhow. That conflict is echoed further in the Gunslinger’s attempts to find the maze despite Ford’s obstacles, the greatest riddle that has taken him thirty years to get close to solving. But while Ford looks upon his adversary in the Gunslinger, he sees it as a smaller part of his adversarial relationship with Arnold, the relationship that is spilling over to their creations. The prologue to the Book of Job is one where God asks Satan about his thoughts on the piety of Job, a man whom at the time was blessed with wealth and children. Satan believed that if God took away Job’s material wealth and family, that Job would curse God for he had only embraced piety as he had been blessed. God allowed Satan to take all of Job’s wealth, murder his children and servants, and torment him with physical pain as if what had occurred was in any way lacking. Yet Job, even at the insistence of his wife (Biblical roles for women weren’t kind, to put it mildly), wouldn’t give up God. His faith was absolute and it’s that faith that Ford perhaps seeks from the creations.
Westworld showed little of its titular theme park this week, opting instead for an attempt at understanding the world that created it. That world, as per the design of the series, feels less humane than the park. The frigidity oozes from the chrome and platinum walls but it’s also the characters that inhabit that corporate cage that largely feel less thrilling, less fulfilled. The human characters, in a sense, lacked humanity to varying degrees and in spite of it’s seeming design, it made sense within the world the series is depicting and the characters they want us to feel empathy for. There’s nothing I expect from Lee Sizemore, for example, that would make him even remotely interesting as an individual. He’s a sleaze in every sense of the word and not nearly as intelligent as he believes himself to be. The self-entitlement combines with those character traits to create someone resoundingly unsavory. Sizemore’s return is one aspect of this episode that feels geared towards future plot development, but inserted here because it simply needed to happen at a certain point within the timeline of the series. The adversary theme works with him as well, however, with both Theresa and Delos board member Charlotte Hale stepping into that role seamlessly. So while characters like Sizemore create almost nothing in the way of character intrigue, the corporate puzzles themselves become more critical to the plot, with Elsie’s investigation yielding especially surprising results. Theresa, as noted, isn’t exactly feeling that her position at Westworld is one that she covets. Why she feels that way isn’t quite clear just yet, but one can safely assume that having Ford threaten her in no uncertain terms doesn’t help much. Why she’s smuggling information out of Delos in an act of corporate espionage isn’t quite clear, either, but it’s an intriguing character change towards her being a potential adversary for Bernard (that is assuming that the information Elsie found is accurate).
As Elsie finds herself grabbed by some presence in a lower level of Delos’s headquarters (in a scene that stretched credulity further than it needed to), Bernard makes a fascinating discovery of his own. As suspected, the young robot boy Dr. Ford had talked to on several occasions was a younger version of himself, a small family that he had garnered from Arnold. It’s a chink in Ford’s armor, his assertion that the hosts are nothing but hosts. They may come close to humanity, but they critically will stop before they could cross that threshold. Ford’s demeanor towards the hosts has become harsher as the season has progressed, but here he displays that sense of warmth, if not compassion, that has been missing from him since the pilot. It’s too early to tell if this family of his is his Achilles’s Heel or not, but they’re notable at the very least for the information they provide on the continuing mystery of Arnold. The man in the picture Bernard had assumed to be Arnold wasn’t ever Arnold to begin with, his appearance still remaining a mystery as that man is revealed to be a host modeled after Ford’s father. That father had been notably made into a drunker, more boorish man, another reflection of how Ford is in many ways his own adversary, stuck between what is and what he wants things to be. Ford’s earlier story about the greyhound comes back to bite him, however, in a circle that he couldn’t possibly have foreseen. He meets the young boy once more in the forest, asking him to bring forth the dog so he could play fetch with it. The boy stands there guiltily, slowing walking towards a place amidst the trees where the dog lies dead and bleeding. The boy initially lies to Ford by using Ford’s own greyhound story, but eventually acquiesces that Arnold had asked him to put the dog Ford loved so much out of its misery.
The most affecting sequence Westworld has depicted yet is centered around Maeve. The episode opens up with a shot similar to the opening shot on Dolores in the pilot, taking a sudden turn as Maeve has a guest choke the life out of her. She wakens in the operating room once more, pressuring Felix to temper with her programming before she has him take her on a tour of the world around her. Thandie Newton’s performance is astounding here, as Maeve slowly realizes how many segments of her existence were complete fabrications created for mass consumption. Her picking of Felix as her ally is a canny move. He feels like someone who is treated as a disposable object by Delos, a man locked into a position and expected to be grateful for it, even if he is capable of so much more. Maeve’s awakening is an opportunity for him to break the barriers around him, even though he slowly thinks to himself through each passing moment of Maeve’s journey that the risks are far too much. She looks through the glass windows with an increasing sense of despair and resilience, seeing the bloodies bodies of the hosts waiting to be washed, the programming of sexual behavior, and blood being transfused into a newly created host. Her journey takes her to the giant Westworld wall, where she sees a trailer for the park with her own eyes. She sees her and her daughter running through the open fields and a different black woman next to Clementine in Westworld’s brothel. Sylvester does his best to turn Felix in for his work on Maeve, but she shuts that down quickly. Sylvester, with all of the bravado but lacking Felix’s intelligence, quickly acquiesces to Maeve’s demands. With her managerial programming, Maeve knows what Sylvester wants is sex with her and she’s willing to use it in trade for maximum intelligence. Maeve gets what she wants and it seems quite evident for now that the forgiveness of Job, the exaltation through pain that Ford wants is going to find itself in equivalence to the dog lying still in the forest.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“I can’t afford to go to the park.”
+“The park is all the poison I can handle.”
+“You’re afraid you’ll lose control.”
+“The robots can go off script?”
+“‘Tortured artist’ only works for artists. Sober up and get back to work.”
+47 out of the original 82 hosts were built by Arnold
+Teddy and the machine gun
+“I’d like to make some changes.”
+Who was altering Maeve?
Episode Title: The Adversary
Written by: Halley Gross & Jonathan Nolan
Directed by: Frederick E.O. Toye
Source: The Book of Job, Vox (on the Book of Job)
Image Courtesy: Coming Soon