HBO’s Westworld hosts edged closer toward rebellion in episode 3, “The Stray,” which this week sidelined the Man in Black (and largely Maeve as well) to focus on Dolores’ evolution, William and Logan’s splintering bromance, and plenty of hinty-hint intrigue among the backstage team.
Once again we start with Dolores and Bernard during one of their top-secret chats. Dolores is fully clothed. Bernard hands her a copy of Alice in Wonderland, a title that at first seems like just a metaphor for her own journey down the rabbit hole of consciousness. Then the realization sets in: Long blonde hair, bit of curls, that baby blue peasant dress – her whole look is nearly identical to the traditional Alice costume.
Pony Express – Mail bag
The question of exactly what “being conscious” means – the elusive tip of that pyramid diagram drawn up by Ford’s old partner Arnold (more on him later) – remains a mystery, both in Westworld and in our real world. But this week’s episode suggested the ability to form memories, learn from them and consequently change/grow is fairly crucial.
As evidenced by her clandestine chats with grieving father Bernard, Dolores is currently doing all three of these things, and it’s clear that beneath her deceptively demure exterior – her scripted, constantly reset “self” – something pretty exciting is going on.
Dolores urged her lover Teddy (James Marsden) to run away with her. “Someday sounds an awful lot like the thing people say when they mean never,” she told him, a sense of real urgency underlying the wistfulness. Predictably enough, poor steady Teddy stayed true to his programming…but for Dolores, the usual pathways were no longer enough.
In his Godlike capacity as the creative director and visionary behind Westworld, Dr. Ford has been tinkering with the mental capacities of the park’s android hosts, like adding “reveries” that draw on memories of previous constructs. The guests will appreciate these subtle touches more than the canned story lines that lead them on bounty-hunting adventures or to rendezvous with painted ladies. And yet this week’s episode suggests that Ford still wants the hosts to operate within certain cognitive limits, for their own good and for the good of the park. He wants to force them into the paradoxical position of remembering and forgetting at the same time: remembering enough to bring depth and nuance to their behavior, but forgetting the routine horrors of their existence at the end of the night.
Later, Ford explains to Bernard that Arnold was his partner in developing the Westworld androids, but that Arnold wanted to create consciousness, building on a pyramid of memory, improvisation, self-interest, and at the top, the “voice” of the Creator. Arnold died in the park under dubious circumstances and Ford wants his fate to be a lesson for Bernard: “Don’t forget, the hosts are not real. They’re not conscious. You mustn’t make Arnold’s mistake.”
Guts & Glory
Inside the episode
We focused on many of the subplots in this episode but what we felt moreover that this episode of “The Stray” focused a lot on Bernard and Dolores and the bicameral mind theory. Though “The Stray” refers to a host gone wandering in the “wilderness” it’s leads to more of a foreshadowing of what’s to come.
Alice in Wonderland
In one of their “sessions” at first we were inclined to think something sinister a foot here, but in actuality I think it’s something a tad more melancholy. Bernard hands Dolores the book “Alice in Wonderland” and explains “people tend to read about things they want the most, and tend to experience the least.” Dolores internal narrative calls out to her for change, and yet she’s been stuck in a loop that hold her back.
It’s also good to note here that she looks somewhat like Alice in Wonderland. The dress, the hair. Also we find out a bit later in the episode Ford explains that the hosts don’t need to be clothed. They don’t get cold, and don’t feel ashamed, yet every time we see her with Bernard she is fully dressed. Why? This makes me think Dolores is functioning at a higher level than we originally interpreted. Possibly a higher consciousness that makes her more aware than the other hosts.
The Bernard-Dolores subplot in this episode recalls “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The idea behind the movie with Jim Carey is that the breakup of his girlfriend is almost too much too handle, so he enlists a company to erase his memories. However, those memories, whether good or bad are what make us who we are.
Asked if he ever wished to forget the loss of his son, Bernard replies, “This pain, it’s all I have left of him.” If the hosts in Westworld embody the genius and the scars of their creators, then it stands to reason that Dolores should carry her own pain around, too, along with the other memories she has accumulated as “the original” android in the park.
Bicameral Mind Theory
Who is Arnold is brought up in this episode. Elsie recognizes it in a dysfunctional host. Almost like the host is talking to himself, but then mutters the name “Arnold.” Bernard poses the question to Ford later exclaiming that all the hosts seem to have an inner monologue and are listening to one shared voice. Arnold’s.
Arnold, Ford’s mysterious business partner, wanted to create genuine sentience, Ford explains to Bernard. He “never got there. But he had a notion of what it might be. He based it on a theory of consciousness called the bicameral mind,”
(the philosophy of “two-chambered-ness”) is a hypothesis in psychology that argues that the human mind once assumed a state in which cognitive functions were divided between one part of the brain which appears to be “speaking”, and a second part which listens and obeys—a bicameral mind.
Ford continues. “Arnold built a version of their cognition in which the hosts heard their programming as an inner monologue with the hopes that in time their own voice would take over. It was a way to bootstrap consciousness.”
Ford reminds Bernard that the hosts are not real they are NOT conscious. “You mustn’t make Arnold’s mistake.” Then like magic, Bernard is quickly reminded of the death of his son Charlie and the grief that consumes him.
The word “pain” doesn’t even begin the describe the tragedies Dolores has endured day after day: the countless rapes and murders, the nightly ritual of watching outlaws torture and kill her parents in front of her eyes. But remembering those experiences has the potential to break her out of the loop and transform her into a more complex being, capable of love, revenge and self-determination.
Bernard is weary of his talks with Dolores, and thinks that he should return her to normal. But she “convinces” him otherwise.
For now, Bernard wants to “see where this path leads”
Beyond the Horizon
Bernard + Arnold = “Bernarold?”
Bernard is a host. I think the first Host that was created by both Ford and Arnold was in fact Bernard. But I think Ford and Arnold got into a fight, over what I don’t know yet. But Ford ordered Bernard to kill Arnold. Somewhat taking over Arnold’s duties and using him as an assistant to help develop the park and hosts. It’s always been unclear how long Bernard has been working at the park, but they keep pointing out, he’s been there longer than anyone, he’s familiar with the old computer systems and familiar with legacy programming. What has irked me since the first episode is how fixated Bernard was on a tick that Teresa’s gestured in a facial expression, it was so specific. I believe only a hosts would have such focus on such a minor detail.
Phil’s Ideas: I’m sticking with my theory that employees are also hosts who are completely sentient. We’re reminded that they’re there for extended “tours of duty” and therefore, that may be their loop. Also, the hosts may be gaining an understanding of the concept of a higher power…
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