From Anthony Hopkins

Westworld – Season 1, Episode 10: “The Bicameral Mind”

HBO’s Westworld
Season 1, Episode 10: “The Bicameral Mind”
Directed by Jonathan Nolan
Written by Lisa Joy & Nolan

* For a review of the penultimate Season 1 episode, “The Well-Tempered Clavier” – click here
* For a recap & review of the Season 2 premiere, “Journey Into Night” – click here
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We begin as Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood) is put together. Her skin is attached to the robotic skeleton, Bernard Lowe a.k.a Arnold (Jeffrey Wright) assembling the pieces. She comes online, not full yet physically but mentally put together as a whole. “Welcome to the world.”
In the present, she shaves The Man in Black (Ed Harris) with the blade of a knife. He continues on about the centre of the maze, how she brought him there once. For a long while the town was buried, after which Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) resurrected it. She still sees Arnold, too. And off she goes after him, Black behind her following.
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William (Jimmi Simpson) continues on with former buddy Logan (Ben Barnes) tied up. He wants to find Dolores. He needs to find her. Now he’s looking for an army to help him: the Confederados and Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr) will do just fine.
Poor ole Teddy Flood (James Marsden), he wakes up after another day of being murdered only to start the whole Sweetwater experience over again. Except time starts slowing down. He sees corpses everywhere he turns, remnants of his former life. Then he sees Dolores in her blue dress, a wolf running past the dead. And then all returns to normal, as Teddy ends up in a quick draw with a stranger. Life carries on. But he’s intent on finding Dolores. Seems like all roads lead to her.
She finds Arnold kneeling in a pew of the church we see over and over. “I know where your maze is,” she tells him gladly. We switch back and forth between her with Arnold, and her with Black. She’s lost between the two spaces somewhere. At the church’s graveyard, she uncovers her own grave. A cross with her name on it. When she digs into the earth she finds a tin, and inside it is the maze’s pattern. Arnold tells her about the maze. It concerns consciousness. First, it started with a pyramid, then it became the maze: “Consciousness is not a journey upward, its a journey inward.” Arnold hasn’t been pushing her towards hearing his voice. He’s been pushing her to hear her own. But how does Dolores give Black his answers when she hasn’t quite figured them out for herself?
What we see more of is how Arnold wanted the hosts to be, versus what Ford wanted for his vision. Then there’s Arnold and his plan: he wanted Dolores to kill all the other hosts to prevent Ford from doing his will with the park. Is that why Teddy killed everybody in that town? Did she enlist his help?
Well we also come to find Black has bought Westworld. “This place feels more real than the real world,” he says, mocking the place for all its lies. He wants to make the place very real; “one true thing.” But she believes in William, that he’ll come to find her.


Ole Will. He and Lawrence are scoping out the next move ahead. This is going to involve a good deal of violence. More with each episode now, each scene almost, we see William is turning his back on that former nice guy persona. He’s really getting into the swing of things. Out in the real world, Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman) and Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) discuss her plans of nudging Dr. Ford away from Westworld. I just keep thinking everybody’s underestimating the old guy.
In other parts of the company, Maeve Millay (Thandie Newton) is taking things up a notch. She’s making adjustments to park security, as well as her “friends” such as Hector Escaton (Rodrigo Santoro) and Armistice (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal). Oh, this I can’t wait for!
Charlotte reveals to Ford the board has voted for his retirement. After he premieres his new narrative. Things are changing at Westworld.
The creepy lab tech who has sex with the hosts is tasked with taking care of Hector. This dude is a serious weirdo. He puts in some earbuds, ready to rock. Now you know something bad’s about to happen. One tech has to slip his hands in Armistice’s mouth, which gets him a digit bitten off. Meanwhile, rapey tech is greasing up for a session with Hector, and the other guy gets his finger fed to him. No longer can the techs contain the hosts. More people are about to die. “They dont look like gods,” says Armistice of the real people when Maeve arrives to round them up. The hosts then finds who revised them to be able to wake from their sleep manually: Arnold, or so it seems. It’s a lot of fun to see the humans frightened of the technology of whom they assumed to be masters.


Dolores takes a bad beating from The Man in Black, as Flood and William are both headed for her. Who’ll get there first? Right now, anybody would do. Or, can William actually find her? Black knows about William, and where his path actually took him. Is he really The Man in Black? IS HE? TELL US WESTWORLD! You’re sure teasing us well. I can dig it.
We see William, becoming more violent as time passes. Getting a taste for murder. Sure wouldn’t surprise me at this point if he and Black were one and the same. Then, we finally get to see him pick up that black hat. After so much speculation, here we are at a definitive identity. We watch as William went back to Sweetwater, searching for Dolores, as he couldn’t stop thinking of her for a second. And she didn’t remember a thing, not like the love that existed in him. He saw it for what it was: all a game.
And now Dolores sees nobody is coming for her. Not like she thought. Black wants to go further, to find what lies at the centre of the maze. Even better? Dolores needs no man, no one to save her. She has discovered herself. She’s heard her own voice, like Arnold hoped. Everything has changed. When Dolores takes a knife to the gut, she does get a little help from none other than Teddy; the one man in her life that won’t ever change.
Dolores: “Time undoes even the mightiest of creatures. Just look what its done to you.”
Outside in the Westworld facilities, Maeve and her band of merry hosts head for the basement, filled to the brim with inactive robots. Also where Arnold a.k.a Bernie lies in a pool of his own blood. And now he’s being brought back online, with intense purpose.


On the plains of Sweetwater, Ford and William meet. The doctor says there is nothing at the centre of the maze, not for the guests. It’s just a game. William needs more, to validate himself and his life’s meaning. “This is your petty little kingdom, Robert.”
What exactly will Ford’s newest narrative be? I feel like everyone’s in for a damn big surprise.
Someone altered Maeve’s storyline. She’s been tasked by somebody to escape. “These are my decisions, no one elses,” she claims. Someone has been controlling her. But WHO? WHO? Nevertheless, the hosts are rising up, they’re manipulating people and the system. Westworld’s soon going to have major trouble on their hands.
Dolores tells Teddy about being trapped in their world, forcibly, made to feel and think everything, made to do what their makers want. Then she dies in his arms. One of many deaths she’s already experienced, and surely will experience again. Unless the uprising changes all that for good.
Then we pause a moment. It’s all part of the new narrative “Journey Into Night” by Ford. A new beginning, for him, for the park. Charlotte, Lee, they all assume this is the end for Dr. Ford. I don’t see it. There’s something left up his sleeve. He has Teddy taken off to be cleaned up, but Dolores, she’s sent to the “old field lab.”
And just as the techs of Westworld track down their problems, the place locks tight. Security measures in full force. Maeve, Armistice, Hector, they head up to the higher floors. Their plan all but in full action. Men with guns show up, and that’s only the beginning of what’s sure to be a wild fight. With real guns in hand, there’s no telling what the hosts can accomplish. And they’re loving it. At a certain point Armistice stays behind to let the others go ahead, taking on armed men likely to gun her down. Hector gets left as well, as Maeve prefers to go it alone.
Oh, these violent delights indeed have violent ends.
Hector (to Armistice): “Die well.”

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In the lab Ford takes care of Dolores. He talks about her love of painting; Arnold encouraged it with a painting of “The Creation of Adam” by Michelangelo on the wall of the lab. Then Ford introduces the second coming of Arnold in Bernard. This rocks her world. We see a little more on Arnold, his maze. We see more of Ford and his argument with Arnold about the park, Arnold’s loading of the Wyatt narrative. So much to absorb, but incredibly written. This leads to Dolores killing Bernie a.k.a Arnold, and Teddy, as well. Before putting a gun to her own head. This was Arnold’s plan, although it didn’t work. The park still opened. Life went on. Fitting how Ford quotes Oppenheimer in this scene, worth mention.
Arnold: “The stakes must be real. Irreversible.”
Maeve goes on ahead, further into the real world. She further discovers her daughter is alive, in the park, of course. And out she goes, into the world of human beings, walking amongst them unknown. She boards a train and leaves Westworld, headed anywhere. Or will the desire to be with her daughter change that?
We find out more about Ford. He isn’t all bad. He encourages the hosts, particularly Dolores and Arnold/Bernie, to discover themselves. To escape. And then he too leaves the fake world behind. His narrative is the narrative he’s created to set the hosts free.
Dolores has discovered the voice inside herself, the guide. She is at the centre of the maze: consciousness, personhood, humanity. “Who I must become.” Who every host must become.


In the last moments, those numerous hosts from the basement of discarded people encroach on the people listening to Ford speak, coming out of the darkness. And in front of the crowd, Dolores shoots Dr. Ford in the head. Even William in his tux takes a bullet. And the hosts start their massacre of the onlooking crowd with their drinks and their fancy finger foods.
Thus ends the first season of an amazing series.
In a scene after the credits we watch Armistice cut her own arm off then attack a group of soldiers. Bad ass.
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Wow! I saw a lot of these things building, but holy shit. This was an impressive finale that held me from moment one. I really need Season 2 already. The story can lead so many places. What will Westworld become at the mercy of the hosts? Will we see them lead an army out of the park, or will they stake a claim for their world as their own? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Westworld – Season 1, Episode 9: “The Well-Tempered Clavier”

HBO’s Westworld
Season 1, Episode 9: “The Well-Tempered Clavier”
Directed by Michelle MacLaren
Written by Dan Dietz & Kath Lingenfelter

* For a review of the previous episode, “Trace Decay” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Bicameral Mind” – click here
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Maeve Millay (Thandie Newton) – where are you going, where have you been? Right now she’s back out in the lab. Fellow host Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) checks her out. He tells her about the “unscripted incident” that’s brought her there. Will she start to use her power of influence over Bernie? Oh, I’d love to see that. For now he discovers the changes in her code, finding it rather suspicious. He calls Dr. Ford (Anthony Hopkins) immediately, but Maeve reaches out. She recognises Bernie from somewhere before. And then, she freezes his motor functions stopping him dead. This is when he has to come to grips with the “hideous fiction” of their lives as hosts. What we’re seeing is the beginning of the robots rising up, coming together. Meanwhile, Maeve is headed back to Sweetwater, as Bernie stumbles back into motion confused yet enlightened all the same. Disturbing to watch him go through this whole ordeal.
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Logan (Ben Barnes) is in the desert with his captives William (Jimmi Simpson) and Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood). “There are more important things going on here than your war games,” William says. He tries explaining there’s something different about Dolores. And he wants to get her out of the park. But she starts wondering that if the world is so wonderful in reality, why do they die to get into Westworld? Such an amazing and perfect moment. So succinct, on the nose. Now I’m afraid Logan’s planning on killing Dolores.
In the meantime, Bernie goes to see the doctor. Ford is downstairs in the sea of washed up hosts, deactivated in the creepy warehouse. They talk about their relationship, as well as Arnold. What Bernie wants is access to all his memories, to find whether Arnold has another purpose for him, the other hosts. Ford beats around the bush.
Until a lobotomised Clementine (Angela Sarafyan) is brought in to point a gun on the ole doc; she’s been reset and she can actually do damage. Ah, tricky Bernie. Once Ford activates Lowe’s memories, they flood back heavy. He goes from past to present, everything in between. He sees his wife, his sick child, Theresa (Sidse Babett Knudsen). Is he losing his mind? Well, we do see that it was him who grabbed Elsie in the dark. Shit. The devious Dr. Ford and his “uncomfortable decisions.” What a rat bastard.

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Out in the desert, Logan taunts William over his wife at home, real life outside Westworld. He mocks William’s feelings for Dolores. Logan decides to give his friend a wake up call. He stabs her in the gut, ripping her flesh open to reveal the robotic insides. This not only sends her into shock, it deals William a devastating blow to the mind. Then Dolores fights back, she grabs a gun and start to fire on Logan and his men.
She takes off into the desert with the voice of Arnold in her head: “Remember.” And suddenly she’s okay, running on into the night.
In other parts, Hector Escaton (Rodrigo Santoro) and his crew bed down for the night when Maeve comes across their camp. She is by far my favourite character, not only bad ass but smart. Maeve is taking upon herself the task of changing the narrative, or trying to at least. She predicts what will happen next, so that when it does Hector understands completely, and then she steps in and blows away the only other person left. “I want you to see exactly what the gods have in store for you.” When she opens the safe the gang stole from Sweetwater, it’s empty. Like everything else in their little world. She’s bringing the other hosts over to her side, showing them the way. Hector starts seeing what’s been right before his eyes but what he’s been programmed not to see the entire time.
Poor Billy, Big Willy style. He’s confronting the hard truths of Westworld. Logan tries to show him how they’ve bonded, discovering things together. About life. About themselves. They share a drink and everything’s fine. Is it, though?
The Man in Black (Ed Harris) and Teddy Flood (James Marsden) are still tied in the desert. Things aren’t looking good. Not at all. Wyatt (Sorin Brouwers) isn’t around – he’s in Escalante, most likely. Where he and Teddy shot down their fellow soldiers in a vicious mutiny. “It was like the devil himself had taken control of me,” Teddy claims.  Or is that really the case? Looks more like he was a lawman and he took the place out single handed. Oh, god damn. Plus he gets stabbed in the guts by their captor. A brutal end to Teddy’s current storyline. As for Black, he’s knocked out cold. When he wakes in the morning, he’s left on his own, tied to a horse by the noose on his neck. Precarious, to say the least. That is a Western scene right there if I’ve ever seen one! Black manages to get the knife out of Teddy’s chest in time to cut the rope before the horse hangs him. Afterwards, Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) shows up to have a chat with Black about Theresa’s death, “the game” and all those things. We find out a little more about Black and his involvement in things behind the scenes, his role alongside Charlotte, et cetera.

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Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) gets word about a signal from Elsie Hughes’ tablet from a sector that’s not been worked on for weeks. Very curious. I keep trying to figure out what Stubbs means in all this, because he seems like a genuine character. I’m wondering more and more if he’ll play a bigger role at some point, or if he’ll wind up dispatched by one of the out of control hosts. When he goes to check out the signal from Elsie, a tribe of Natives find him. And he can’t get any of the master controls working to stop them from tackling him.
In the desert, Logan wakes to find a massacre around him. Bodies all over. Arms and legs and appendages everywhere. At the middle is Billy Boy. He’s been having quite the morning. Are we seeing him become The Man in Black here? Is that what’s happening? He’s going full psycho on Logan, wanting to track down Dolores now. Uh oh. Or, is this a bit of red herring served up?
Other memories leak back to Bernard, he goes through a moment where he saw Maeve kill herself in an “empathic response” not usual for hosts. Ford chastises him for thinking of it too much. More memories of the past, then back to the present again. Furthermore, we see Bernie asking Ford about Arnold, as cuts take us back and forth to Dolores searching out the very same man. She finds a town, one she remembers. Ford keeps on telling Bernie about Arnold wanting to actually create consciousness.  But all Bernie wants is to “go back to the beginning” of his own memories. Ford returns him to the moment of his son’s death, the “cornerstone” around which his entire host identity is built. In effect, this returns him to a state of normalcy. Tabula rasa. Starting over at the moment of his conception when Ford crafts him in the likeness of Arnold.
On and on Dolores is called out to that familiar church, through its doors, where people sit in a state of mourning, crying and raving to themselves. In a confessional-type booth Dolores sits in a chair which takes her to a lower level. It’s like the dingy basement of an ageing hospital. Corpses lay about all over the place, as if it’s a downgraded version of the lab space they have in Westworld. But out of nowhere, Dolores is in her costume again. She sees hosts in rooms going through narratives. Then, a young Ford appears shouting at Arnold in the distance. She makes it to another basement where it looks like the modern Westworld lab. Dolores goes right back to that moment where she returns to Arnold, as they sit and converse together. Two hosts lost in a cyclone-like narrative, swirling around and around again. Are they able to break free? And who’ll break first? The way this sequence is filmed, with Dolores on her own and Bernard recounting his memories of being ‘born’ as it were, is downright fascinating. Proof that Westworld is dominating in the cinematography and creative areas of the writing together.


And when Dolores comes back from downstairs, to the surface, in walks The Man in Black to horrify her. Down in the Westworld lab Clementine still holds a gun to Ford. For his part, Bernie is piecing it all together. Then he orders Clementine to pull the trigger. Only there’s a “backdoor” built into the hosts, by Bernie himself. Shiiiiiet. Now Lowe is made to put a gun to his head while the doctor leaves him. Just as the true voice of Arnold comes out, for a second.
Ford leaves and we see Bernie in the other room, pulling the trigger.


Holy fuck. This episode was a god damn roller coaster! I can’t get over this series. I love it. Either way, finale is next up and it’s titled “The Bicameral Mind” and I’m way too excited for it, to see how HBO will wow us in the lead up to another hopefully fantastic season.

Westworld – Season 1, Episode 8: “Trace Decay”

HBO’s Westworld
Season 1, Episode 8: “Trace Decay”
Directed by Stephen Williams
Written by Lisa Joy & Charles Yu

* For a review of the previous episode, “Trompe L’Oeil” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Well-Tempered Clavier” – click here
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Poor Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright), having recently dispatched Theresa Cullen (Sidse Babett Knudsen) at the command of his maker, Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins). “The anguish, the horror, the pain; its remarkable. A thing of beauty,” Ford says watching on as his creation becomes the author of himself, in a twisted sense. There are no answers for the host that is Bernie. He only gets to help tell the new story Ford wishes to tell. He is at the command of the doctor. Nobody seems capable of stopping him, either. Not Arnold, not Bernard. Who’ll stop this man? Or, more importantly, where will he stop?
So Ford sets Lowe about deleting their ties to Theresa’s death. Once finished, the doctor will free Bernard of all his painful memories. His whole world has changed in an instant.
At the saloon, “The House of the Rising Sun” is on the player piano and Maeve Millay (Thandie Newton) starts another day. Clementine Pennyfeather is no longer who she was once, but another face on her, a new identity in the same old name. But everything is different for Maeve now, time nearly stands still and she remembers bits of another life, before the saloon and the prostitution and Sweetwater. The technicians try explaining to her that hosts are basically so perfected that they experience memories in full, rather than actual bits; they relive them. Maeve realises the memories are only just “a story” meant to enslave her. She’s determined to break out. Whether needing an army or not. She wants the technicians to give her power, to control other hosts: “Time to write my own fucking story.”
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On the plains of Westworld, William (Jimmi Simpson) and Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood) ride towards Sweetwater. They stop to find a massacre in the desert. Arrows puncturing bodies, bloody spilled everywhere. One man lays still alive, barely. He gives them information about the ambush earlier. Nearby in the water Dolores sees a vision of herself, and a voice saying: “Come find me.” Very spooky. Arnold, no?
Theresa’s corpse is located in a ravine. Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) figures it was a slip and fall accident. He believes she was transmitting evidence of some sort and fell. Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) is obviously not pleased to hear that, hiding her true feelings under the surface. And of course Dr. Ford plays it off. Hale brings up the “new narrative,” that Theresa believed they ought to delay the debut. But you know Ford is a master of words, of worlds, of all sorts of devious things. Once more Bernard is the Head of Behaviour, and everything is back in working order for the doctor’s manipulations. With all that commotion, the technicians shoo Maeve off from her latest learning spree, though she’s got things worked out well enough. Plus, she knows about Arnold, at least his name. From there who knows what else she’ll discover. If those technicians don’t watch out she’s bound to get the upper hand, more than she does already.
The Man in Black (Ed Harris) rides with Teddy Flood (James Marsen), talking about how “the game is rigged” and this triggers a memory in Flood; he remembers a previous chat with Black, on another storyline. Oh, how marvellous! I love all these little pieces, slowing coming together for the hosts. They’re becoming more aware all the time. Soon, Black and Teddy come upon a massacre courtesy of Wyatt (Sorin Brouwers). “He destroyed my world,” laments Flood to one living victim. From the forest comes a massive man dressed in a minotaur outfit, swinging a weapon at Black and Flood. Soon, they take him down. But again, Teddy has flashbacks to a time before with Black, seeing him haul Dolores screaming in the night. And this time Teddy turns on his new buddy, knocking him out. Oh, shit. Didn’t see that coming. Are we about to see The Man in Black in a precarious situation? Once the hosts become aware, it’s only a matter of time before they start actually start hurting people; for real.


The technicians have Maeve up getting a few modifications. She needs to be shut down in order for them to update. Will the tech shut her down for good, or reformat her?
In other parts of the Westworld complex, Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman) works on a new cannibal motif. He and Hale have a talk about Theresa, the company, all types of things. Charlotte’s trying to drive wedges between anybody and Ford. She starts in on Lee. Tsk, tsk.
And finally, Maeve comes alive. Reformatted. She’s had some changes in her “core code” and this immediately involves the cutting the throat of the tech who didn’t help her; he gets it cauterised, so it’s all good. Things are getting very, very exciting.
“Back to Black” by Amy Winehouse plays on the piano, as Maeve goes back to work in Sweetwater. Only the memories come back stronger and stronger. She sees The Man in Black come for her and her daughter. He stabs her in the gut, which she all but literally feels in the present time. The memories are even physical. Maeve now can control other hosts, programming them on a whim, from the new Clementine to the barkeep. She makes the story flow, giving them each their purpose. This gets most interesting as Hector Escaton (Rodrigo Santoro) and the crew arrive for “mayhem” as usual. Maeve manipulates the Sheriff into stepping down from any violence, though he’s killed anyways. She turns the Marshals on one another, continuing to change the narrative with every step.
Dr. Ford meets with host Bernie, talking about their new trajectory of action concerning Hale and the recent developments. “Ever the student of human nature” Bernie knows Ford is under more strain. The saddest is seeing Lowe stuck halfway somewhere between human and host, unable to distinguish what exactly is real. Not understanding his “imagined suffering.” He doesn’t know the difference between man and machine. Ford reveals this is what drove Arnold to madness eventually. Regardless, Bernie is let free from his memories by the doctor.
Merciful, or tragic? Both.


Dolores makes it back home. Except everything feels odd, something is different. Then the bodies begin to drop. The memories of those streets filled with the dead again. She sees herself, gun in hand. Ready to shoot herself. But she cuts back to standing with William in the desert. “When are we?” she asks. Her mind’s nearly melting. She loses a grip on whatever reality she’d been programmed with in the beginning. Or perhaps she gets closer to understanding where Arnold is pushing her. But William and Dolores come across Logan, and he isn’t bringing any good cheer.


Among the basement, Hale and Lee search through the warehoused hosts. They come to Dolores’ father. Charlotte wants to upload a ton of data to the host and send him back in. Yikes. She doesn’t realise exactly which host she’s picked. And she leaves Lee to program him for re-entry.
Stubbs is happy to see Bernard back. He offers condolences on what happened to Theresa, because of how close they were, and when Bernie responds with no semblance of understanding this clearly piques Stubbs in his interest. Threads are starting to show.
Out in the desert, Teddy has Black all tied up for the night. I wonder what he’ll do. For the time being he’s going to beat the shit out of him. Black responds by mocking the host. Then revealing a bit about himself, that his wife killed herself in the bath, their life disappeared. His entire life fell apart. A brutally sad tale. He talks of finding Maeve as a homesteader, too. Murdering her and her daughter. All for the feeling. Maeve didn’t die, though. She ran off bleeding with her daughter in tow. The maze “revealed itself” to Black then and there. The quest to find Arnold’s game ahead of him now, all the time.
And while we see those memories, we see Maeve slit the new Clementine’s throat in front of the saloon. Out of control. She may have stronger powers, but she can’t escape those memories. Luckily, she can make other hosts do her bidding.

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We also see Maeve after losing her child, out in the lab with Dr. Ford and Lowe. Her “cognition is fragmented” until they go to work. She wants to keep the pain, but it’s erased and stricken from the mind. Later she would be programmed as the Madam of a whore house in the saloon.
Black must best Wyatt to figure out the maze, the final steps. No matter what. Will Teddy kill The Man in Black? Or help him? He can’t pull the trigger. Not to mention the woman they saved, she stabs Teddy and kills him. She’s a mole, for Wyatt himself who waits in the shadows.
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What a wild episode! Just a great follow-up to the last one. Excitement and tension is at an all-time high in the series. Looking forward to “The Well-Tempered Clavier” next. We’re getting close to Season 1’s finish.

Westworld – Season 1, Episode 3: “The Stray”

HBO’s Westworld
Season 1, Episode 3: “The Stray”
Directed by Neil Marshall
Written by Lisa Joy & Daniel T. Thomsen

* For a review of the previous episode, “Chestnut” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Dissonance Theory” – click here
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Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood) gets a gift from Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright): Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. She reads aloud a passage which speaks well to her life. Bernard talks a little about his son. By how he speaks, I assume his son is dead. She only understands personal questions as an “ingratiating scheme” and not actual bonding. We see how Lowe checks her, to see if she’s gotten the infection of her father, to see if she’s changing. “But if Im not the same, the next question iswho in the world am I?” she reads from Carroll’s words, as if they were her own.
And another day in Sweetwater begins. Although something’s strange. Dolores finds that pistol she’d dug up some time before when digging outside, now in her dresser. Likewise, she remembers The Man in Black (Ed Harris) and his heinous attack on her. So, maybe she’s changing after all?
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Lots of people say that William (Jimmi Simpson) is actually The Man in Black and that what we’re seeing is a different period of time. However, I’m not convinced. Either way, Billy has a look around Sweetwater, noticing all the idiosyncrasies and various touches to make the world oh so realistic – from WANTED posters everywhere to actual gunfights, people thrown through windows, and much more. He ends up in the middle of one such fight, having to pull the trigger on a man threatening Clementine Pennyfeather (Angela Sarafyan). He doesn’t right away, but changes his mind after taking a host bullet. This seems to start up a little journey, as another gunslinging cowboy named Holden (Chris Browning) asks him to join along on an expedition. When William seems concerned about Clementine, his buddy says: “Thats why they exist. So you can feel this.” Ah, now if that’s not some incredibly relevant social commentary about the role society forces on women, then I don’t know what is!
Outside in Westworld HQ things aren’t always running smoothly. Lowe feels the pressure from Theresa Cullen (Sidse Babett Knudsen), his superior and lover. The new narrative is causing lots of trouble, which Bernard is trying to iron out. There’s a big problem with Walter, the guy who malfunctioned in Episode 1, as if he’s “holding a grudge.” This troubles Elsie Hughes (Shannon Woodward), although Bernard seems to make it out to be no big deal. I feel like Lowe’s got things to hide.
Good ole Teddy Flood (James Marsden) is talking tough and pulling guns, as he and Armistice (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal) gun down a few WANTED men they’ll bring in for ransom. There’s trouble when Maeve (Thandi Newton) has memories of seeing Teddy inside Westworld HQ, laying lifeless in that windowed cell being hosed down. She remembers.
And Teddy, he’s got that eye for Dolores. They go for a ride in the countryside, professing feelings for one another. Yet all of a sudden, words sound different to Dolores. She’s deviating from the normal script, challenging Teddy to leave now instead of “someday” like it always sounds. But he can’t compute that, and this still leaves her struggling for change. When they get back to the Abernathy ranch, guns are blazing.

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But we cut to headquarters again where equipment is being worked on, eyes are sewn together and created out of bits and pieces. Doctor Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) chats with Teddy, wondering about his aspirations, if there’s a wish for something else, something more. We find out that Flood is merely a tool to keep Dolores in Sweetwater, for the guests, so that they can “best the stalwart gunslinger and have their way with his girl.” A truly sick storyline. Watching these ultra-human hosts be manipulated in such a God-like manner is very disturbing, an ethical view of what’s to come. Then Dr. Ford implants a memory for Teddy to remember: “It starts in a time of war, a world in flames, with a villain called Wyatt.”
Sweetwater’s new day commences. Greaser Rebus (Steven Ogg) and his boys accost Dolores in town, where they then run into Teddy. He drives them off, of course. The hero again! Later, he takes Dolores out and teaches her how to shoot a gun. When she tries to, she can’t pull the trigger. Is it an emotional aspect to her character, or is she specifically programmed not to be able to do so? Hmm. Well, things get interrupted when Teddy finds out Wyatt’s nearby, and he has a duty calling him. This leaves her all alone in Sweetwater against the brunt of the Wild West.
A stray ran off, so Elsie and Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) are out having a look at a camp in the woods where a bunch of hosts are stuck in a loop. In the stray’s tent is strange, filled with wood carvings. Elsie explains how backstories, such as this guy and his carvings, are used to “anchor” the host, in that they’re three-dimensional, not some simplistic robot. On one carving in the stray’s tent Stubbs notes the scratches look like a constellation.
Now Teddy is on the high plains, roaming about, explaining his history aside from bounty hunting. He tells people about Wyatt and prophetic messages he came back with, how he had “strange ideas.” Did Wyatt understand the nature of Sweetwater and Westworld? Did he find what The Man in Black is now looking for himself? On the road, Teddy and his gang take fire from the hills. They fire back and try to gain ground on Wyatt.
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Dr. Ford notices a technician covering a host while working on it. He whips the bib off him, feeling it’s foolish. Ultimately, he’s lost all sense of these hosts being sentient, he has no care for them. Like God, making his creations then casting us aside. The idea of an absent God, giving life to a world and later leaving it to its own devices. Yet there’s something else going on behind Ford. At the same time, he has to deal with Bernard bringing him news about the hosts and their supposed “cognitive dissonance.” When Lowe talks about the entity the hosts have been talking to being named Arnold, it strikes a small chord with Ford. Then he tells Bernard about the park’s beginnings, his partner Arnold; ah, the other God. Note: the flashback sequence uses amazing technology to put Hopkins’ face on a much younger actor; it isn’t too long and works great.
Most of all, Ford tells us about how Arnold wanted to actually create consciousness, not simply replicate the feeling of it for people. He wanted to “bootstrap consciousness,” which hasn’t panned out exactly perfectly. In a way, the hosts and their slip into Arnold’s old code is like an existential crisis the way a human questions their own existence in lamentation of its limits. “Just dont forget, the hosts are not real,” he warns Bernard. Something Ford’s obviously long forgotten. Perhaps he isn’t callous in the way he treats the hosts, unconcerned for their dignity, but rather it’s a mechanism of not allowing himself to get too close with them.
Seeing Lowe so close to a technology that can reincarnate a human being while simultaneously mourning the loss of a son, it’s heartbreaking. The temptation to want these hosts to be real was evident before. At this point the why has a face. Bernard’s personal tragedy may yet bleed further into his professional life. I only hope not to the detriment of himself, or those around him. “This pain, its all I have left of him.”

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Elsie keeps wondering why the stray carved the Orion constellation, as Stubbs only makes fun of the whole thing. But there are a incredibly real repercussions for how these hosts may start acting, depending on what they end up doing. When the pair come across the stray it’s stuck down in a crevasse, bloodied from trying to climb out. And this worries Elsie.
In the hills, Teddy and his gang creep up on Wyatt’s location. Only they come under siege of a vicious tribe. As Teddy sends Armistice off, he’s butchered alive.
Again, Dolores is out for maintenance. Poor Bernard is feeling strange about their talks and wants to put her back to normal. “This place you live in, its a terrible place for you,” he says. It might just be too late to reverse what Bernard’s started. No telling what that could do in the future. For now, he has someone to talk to his dead son about.
When she gets back to Sweetwater, Dolores discovers Teddy’s likely fate in the hills. With that she goes riding but finds gunshots again at her ranch. Her father’s dead and Rebus’ gang are having their fun. Out in the hay, though, Dolores finds that gun again. Can she pull it? She flashes back between The Man in Black and Rebus – and this allows her to put a hole right through Rebus, right in the neck. Things start going haywire, as she sees herself shot, but the script rewinds and she’s not, getting the jump on the man she imagined shooting her.
Around the canyon Elsie and Stubbs try getting the stray out. When Stubbs start sawing at its head, the stray comes alive and climbs out himself. He manages to get a rock, though instead of smashing Else to bits he crushes his own head in, blood everywhere, falling to the ground. Yikes.

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In the midst of the wilderness, William and his buddy sit by a fire like real Wild West cowboys, chatting, sipping drink. From nowhere comes Dolores, weary and falling over. She literally falls right into William’s arms by the fire. This is definitely not the last of their story together. I still don’t think the popular theory that he’s The Man in Black works. If so, they’re doing some mighty fine dodging in the plot. I think now, with Dolores having just come from her time with Lowe, we can almost definitively say there’s no timeline issues jumping from past to present. Don’t count it out, though. Others may have proof that I’ve yet to notice.
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Loved this episode, as usual. A great, great series all around, in writing and execution. Acting is phenomenal.
Next up is “Dissonance Theory” and I hope we’ll get lots more juicy bits!

Westworld – Season 1, Episode 2: “Chestnut”

HBO’s Westworld
Season 1, Episode 2: “Chestnut”
Directed by Richard J. Lewis
Written by Jonathan Nolan & Lisa Joy

* For a review of the premiere, “The Original” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Stray” – click here
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Poor old Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood). A voice tells her to wake up, asking: “Do you remember?”
Cut to William (Jimmi Simpson) on a futuristic-looking train. A friend of his makes a quip about his sister having rode her “share of cowboys” while at the resort. So William is headed for a nice vacation stay. Or will it be? A guide brings William through to get ready for his adventure. You can tell already that he’s got a slight problem with the place.
Elsie Hughes (Shannon Woodward) and Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) talk about Dolores’ father having an “existential crisis” and how they’re going to fix it. She wants to make sure this episode won’t spread to other robots. That it may be infectious, as it were.
Well, Dolores, she keeps on keeping on. Yet all of a sudden that voice again – “Remember” – and she stops. Dolores sees a vision of people read in the streets, everywhere, screams in the distance. A wolf runs through the middle of the road. Dolores once again quotes her father, and Shakespeare to a baffled Maeve Millay (Thandie Newton). Uh oh. Is that the phrase which triggers the illness in the hosts?
These violent delights have violent ends.” (Romeo & Juliet)
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Inside Westworld, William and his buddy Logan (Ben Barnes) start experiencing the immersive thrills. It seems like Logan’s got lots of love for the place. He believes the resort reveals your true self. So, who is William exactly?
On a ranch, a man named Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr.) is about to be hanged. Up turns The Man in Black (Ed Harris). He seems to not like the idea of a hanging today. A gunfight breaks out, naturally, and you know who comes out on top of that one. Bodies lay everywhere at his feet; is he the cause of all those bodies that Dolores saw? For now, The Man in Black tells Lawrence he’s going to help him discover the “deepest level of this game.” Although the bad dude enjoys killing, he’s there for something far bigger than murder.
Another great player piano cover: Radiohead’s “No Surprises” rolls on in the background. Maeve runs her sweet game on a client, telling tales of romantic intrigue. Then, the host in her glitches. She remembers a violent scene of Native Americans attacking people, blood, scalping. Quickly, the engineers have Maeve pulled out, callously talking about her like there’s nothing human inside. There is – there has to be – and still, they’re robots.

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Bernard and Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) talk about Dolores’ father and his glitch. Lowe believes something else must’ve gone wrong other than him looking at that picture. The doctor tries assuaging his fears. A little cryptically. He also relays the idea that they essentially dabble in witchcraft. That if they did these things hundreds of years ago, they’d be burned at the stake.
Finally arriving in town, Logan and William see the sights, as the latter gets acquainted with things in Sweetwater. They briefly encounter Clementine Pennyfeather (Angela Sarafyan), a drunk, and Logan explains how it’s all part of the game. Every host has an adventure or story to sell you.
Out for a bit of maintenance, Dolores speaks with Lowe. He analyses her, asking specific questions to see if there’s been any tampering. He keeps telling her that they ought to keep their little chats between them. “Have you done something wrong?” Dolores asks. Lowe swiftly erases their conversation on the log and ends their conversation. Hmm.
Maeve is back in business, no glitches or problems like before. She’s up and running just fine. Except Clementine, she also complains about having bad dreams, trouble sleeping. The head mistress makes sure Clementine goes back to work, but Maeve keeps on having those visions. To the point Teddy Flood (James Marsden) notices nearby. Now it looks as if Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) and his team outside have marked Maeve for decommissioning. That’s really sad.
Meanwhile, Lowe chats with Theresa Cullen (Sides Babett Knudsen) about the goings on at the company. She’s had an especially rough day. They get on about updates, upcoming events. He says things are “back to normal” yet I’m not so sure. Even worse, Theresa refers to their customers as coming in to “rape and pillage.” Yikes. Know your market, I guess.
During dinner that evening William gets a visit from the drunk he’d helped in the street earlier. Logan gets pissed off, no time for fucking around with their game, and puts a fork into the old guy’s hand. The sight of the blood alone is enough to turn William off from it all. Logan’s more interested in having some weird sex with the host prostitutes. William isn’t so thrilled about all that, he has a lady at home.

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Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman) is in the workshop getting a new narrative ready. He’s a bit of a psycho, too. Uptight and genius-like. Cullen tries to make sure he’s on budget, though it seems he likes doing things his own way. Whatever works.
We find out that Dr. Ford of course has his own little elevator into the Westworld interior. He heads through the desert and comes across a young boy, one who could almost be him years and years ago. They head off for a walk together.
Back to The Man in Black, stringing Lawrence along through the desert. He’s brought him to a little Mexican cantina. Turns out Lawrence’s family is there, a wife and a daughter. “The real worlds just chaos, an accident. But in here every detail adds up to something,” The Man in Black explains. He wants to find the entrance to “the maze.” That labyrinth from the scalp tattoo. Soon, the violence erupts. Outside we see Stubbs make a remark about The Man in Black getting whatever he wants. Afterwards, the bad, bad dude takes out a gang of Mexican men hoping to help Lawrence. No such luck. Things get a lot worse for Lawrence before they get any better. And now se know that The Man in Black is in this trip for the long run.
Side note: Ed Harris is a god damn bad ass, which I knew before, but GOOD LORD! Westworld is bringing out his quality acting, as well as his nasty nature. Dig it.


The Man in Black: “When youre suffering, thats when youre most real.”
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Out on the desert plain, Ford and the boy come across a rattlesnake. The doctor stops it in mid movement, commanding its movements. Control over every aspect of his created world. In the distance is an odd structure with a cross on it. A church? Or something far different?
Lowe heads back to his futuristic, cosy little apartment. Awhile later Cullen comes to his door to apologise for their bit of an argument. Oh, and they’re lovers. I actually hadn’t seen that coming already. They don’t do much talking, more lying in bed and such.
In the maintenance room, Elsie takes a look at Maeve. She works on the madame’s qualities, to make her more emotionally perceptive. We find out that the hosts are given “the concept of dreams,” which often comes in the form of nightmares. Elsie believes she’s got Maeve fixed up. Back to the whorehouse floor with her! A tragic life. She recites her lines, this time with more emotion than hardness. Everything in its right place. She winds up talking to Teddy along the bar, who sees right through her act. Oh, the life of the hosts. Teddy then gets murdered at the bar viciously: “Now thats a fuckinvacation,” yells the guest.
This takes Maeve back to memories, dreams of another life. She sees herself on a farm with a little girl, her daughter. They run and play, as if they were actually happy. Only those moments bleed into those of the Native Americans attacking, nearly scalping her. A terrifying massacre, ending with The Man in Black walking through her door, impervious to her gun’s bullets. She wakes before any further bloodshed.
Some surgeons work on Maeve’s inside parts, removing bad bits. Except she comes to while being worked on, pulling a blade on the men. They try calming her back onto the table. Not good enough. She escapes into the darkened halls of the Westworld facility, trying to find somewhere to go. She sees other hosts being taken apart, hosed down. It’s too much for her. The surgeons catch up and put her into sleep mode. But will any damage linger? Maybe they’ll just take her out of commission altogether now.

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In the night Dolores wakes. She goes outside and finds a gun hidden in the dirt. What will she do with it?
Inside the facility, Lee is unveiling his latest narrative – the “apex” of the park’s attractions. He’s a very confident man. His new program is called Odyssey on Red River, an immersive experience to help people understand themselves better through a new Wild West journey. But Dr. Ford doesn’t believe it’s any good. He knows the true idea of the park, and that Lee’s narrative only reveals his personality, nothing about the guests.
So into the desert go Ford and Lowe. The doctor has something brewing – “something quite original” – and it has to do with that structure out there, with the cross on top. Almost looks like an old oil well structure combined with a church. Either way, it looks intriguing. And what does Dr. Ford have up his sleeve?

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Loved this episode! Amazing follow-up to the premiere. Next is “The Stray” – really glad HBO served this up early before the Presidential Debate on Sunday. A true treat for us fans that were going to perish before then.

Westworld – Season 1, Episode 1: “The Original”

HBO’s Westworld
Season 1, Episode 1: “The Original”
Directed by Jonathan Nolan
Written by Jonathan & Lisa Joy Nolan

* For a review of the next episode, “Chestnut” – click here
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First of all, dig the opening sequence and title song. Very eerie in a sci-fi sense, yet also beautiful, too. Excellent tune.
Someone talks to Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood). She’s in “a dream.” He’s testing the equipment so to speak. He asks general questions about whether she’s ever questioned the truth of reality. More specifically, her reality. She lives in a gorgeous vision of the old West in America. We meet the “newcomers” such as Teddy Flood (James Marsden). He comes in on a train to where Abby lives in her town. Everybody’s there to enjoy a bit of the old life.
The place: Westworld. Outwardly, it appears as a real slice out of time. Everyone talks the talk. Teddy goes for a drink and checks out the local landscape. He meets a young lady named Clementine Pennyfeather (Angela Sarafyan) and Maeve Millay (Thandie Newton) – ladies of the night. He’s more interested in Abby after he catches a glimpse of her through the saloon window. They’ve clearly had some kind of relationship already. They continue it together, gallop through the picturesque America West. Later in the night, Flood comes across a dirty bastard named Rebus (Steven Ogg) and his partner, who he guns down; they’ve killed the Abernathy family. The Man in Black (Ed Harris) turns up cryptically taunting Dolores about not knowing him. He stands toe to toe with Flood, who shoots away and does nothing to the Man in Black.
That’s because Teddy isn’t real.

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See, Westworld isn’t real. It’s a futuristic getaway where people can experience life as it was during the frontier days when America was still gaining its proper legs. People like Dolores and Teddy, they’re park products. They’ve been engineered to provide services for those willing to pay a ton of money. And some of those people, like the Man in Black, are absolutely horrifying. Dolores, she goes on thinking about “how beautiful this world can be.” It starts all over again each damn day. She and Teddy wake up, then go on about their predetermined routes. Sad, right? They’re merely little pawns on a massive scale of operations. Outside Westworld is the real world, where a company makes and designs robots to serve as people, horses, whatever they need. What a gorgeously eerie sequence, as director Jonathan Nolan takes us through the toyshop of Westworld’s company.
Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) is checking some of the robotics, such as gestures on Clementine the prostitute. He talks about Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) and the “tiny things” that Ford does to make the robots feel real for the customers. A genius, it seems. Called up to the operating floor, there’s talk of “critical failure.” So Lowe heads out to do some maintenance. Down in the lower levels, he goes with a team of armed men into a storage facility filled with naked “hosts.” They come across Dr. Ford with a cowboy, drinking and having a chat. The cowboy’s Bill, one of the first hosts ever built. Looks to me as if Ford is starting to get sick of what he’s done. Who knows.
But still, things go on as they always did inside Westworld. Dolores and her family wake up, they go about their business like usual. The Man in Black, he’s living it up in his sick dream every day, over and over.

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The visitors get to experience all aspects of life in the old West, from prostitutes and saloons and riding on horseback through treacherous territories. When one couple is out riding the Sheriff goes into a hard malfunction, scaring them a bit. In the real world, Lowe inspects the malfunctioning host. Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman), obviously in charge of the narratives in Westworld, is livid that Theresa Cullen (Sidse Babett Knudsen) might want to haul out a ton of hosts. What Lowe does is reassure there’s no threat of violence towards the guests. “If theres so much as an unscripted sneeze, I wanna know about it,” Cullen advises.
What I love is the focus on people going to Westworld, how they’re affected by being able to do what they want to these hosts. Some are there for the mere experience of a time in history they’ll obviously never get to experience otherwise. Some are sick fucks, like the Man in Black and others, who go there to rape, murder, do all kinds of awful things to the hosts. Things they can’t do in the real world. Then there are innocent little things, such as a visiting boy who asks Dolores to her face if she’s real. Will this cause a glitch? Or are they programmed to simply walk away, deflect if that happens?
Stranger still is when Dolores’ father finds a picture buried in his field. A photo from the future. It’s likely Times Square by the looks of things. This perplexes the man, although Dolores passes it off. Very curious how the real world might intersect with Westworld in different ways.
Theresa and the others stay, in shifts, on a huge sort of skyscraper set atop a mountain in Westworld. She and Lee debate a bit about Dr. Ford and his “demons.” Lee starts dropping suggestion that he knows the further reach of Westworld for those who manage it – the “bigger picture,” as Theresa puts it. But she is one bad ass woman. No mincing words with her.

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The player piano plays a version of “Black Hole Sun” by Soundgarden, as Westworld goes on and on into oblivion. Love, love, love that.
Things are getting quite serious in Westworld. The Man in Black isn’t only there to do in hosts. He kills one of the hosts he meets across a table playing cards, though there’s something more behind it.
In the meantime, there’s bad stuff happening elsewhere. One of the bandit hosts is going buckwild. So production is shut down, a couple terrified guests are assuaged, and Lowe tries to fix the situation. He determines it’s the latest update. Just needs some touching up. The “minor improvisation” here has turned into something more, and Theresa isn’t having that shit. They only need a good swerve for the narrative, to make things feel natural for any of the guests curious as to what’s happening.
Ford’s let in on the whole thing by Lowe. He doesn’t feel bothered by being alerted of his mistake. They talk about evolution, natural selection, all that fun stuff. Furthermore, Ford ruminates on how far they’ve come. “This is as good as were gonna get,” he laments. Something more is going on behind that man’s eyes. You can tell just through the way Hopkins plays him.
Out on the open plain, the Man in Black is bleeding his host friend dry. He’s got questions that need answering. I guess the perfect place to do some dirty work would be a place like Westworld. Like, say, if you wanted to scalp somebody the way the Man in Black does. But why?

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The next day, Dolores finds her father still captivated by that picture. He’s been broken. He rambles to Dolores before going into a troubled state: “Hell is empty, and all the devils are here.” This sets Dolores’ world on fire. She rides to find a doctor, only to find Teddy. He goes with her to try and help. At that moment, cloaked strangers on horses head into town. Out in the real world, Lee talks about a man named Hector Escaton (Rodrigo Santoro) arriving. In the background, a rendition of The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black” plays while Hector begins his assault on the Westworld town. Oh, he’s a bad dude. Nasty. A massacre begins, as he and his crew lay siege to everybody in sight. In the crossfire Teddy is shot and dies in the arms of Dolores. Then one of the guests steps out to blow Hector away bloodily. Scary is how the guests rejoice at how real the murder feels, enjoying the sensation. Sick stuff.
Outside, the host recall is starting. They check everything thoroughly now to assess the damage. Lowe brings Theresa’s attention to Dolores. She’s malfunctioning a bit. We’re back at the beginning with her being questioned by maintenance man Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth), as the picture is pulled out from her father and he’s brought to be checked by Ford and Lowe. The father host rambles more, as Ford commands him to look into his configuration. He goes back to normal briefly, though continues stuttering into his rambling. He talks about “warning” her. He knows too much. And he wants to meet his maker. That’s some eerie stuff. He goes on about wanting to get revenge on them all – “terrors of the earth” and that type stuff. But eventually Ford determines it was the host being previously used in a horror gimmick, quoting Shakespeare. Case closed.

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These violent delights have violent ends,” is the whisper between Dolores and her father last she saw him (a Shakespeare quote!). She’s been put through all the questions from Stubbs, as her father gets a few readjustments and she’s cleared to go back home. We discover that Dolores is the oldest host in the park.
And she goes back to waking up every day, to the same old place, the same people, the same situations. Except now she’s got a new dad. Though she doesn’t notice. Her old one is herded into storage, along with the malfunctioning bandit. A sad end for the equipment of Westworld. Speaking of equipment, when Dolores begins her day all over again she does something the hosts aren’t meant to do: she kills a fly lingering on her face. She’s changing, even in the slightest.
Oh, and the Man in Black, he’s uncovering more secrets for himself. What’s his endgame? He has a scalp now. One with a labyrinth printed on the inside. Intriguing.

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An amazing premiere episode! Wow. Never expected such awesomeness right off the bat. Nolan is doing good stuff already. Excited for the next episode titled “Chestnut” and it’s directed by Richard J. Lewis.

Ridley Scott and His Flawed Yet Underrated Hannibal

Hannibal. 2001. Directed by Ridley Scott. Screenplay by David Mamet & Steven Zaillian; based on the novel of the same name by Thomas Harris.
Starring Julianne Moore, Anthony Hopkins, Gary Oldman, Ray Liotta, Frankie Faison, Giancarlo Giannini, Francesca Neri, Zeljko Ivanek, and Hazelle Goodman. MGM/Universal Pictures/Dino De Laurentiis Company. Rated R. 131 minutes. Crime/Drama/Thriller

★★★★Hannibal-0102Recently the Bryan Fuller helmed Hannibal series ended over at NBC, so I’ve been going back over the wonderful films to revisit the previous incarnations of Dr. Lecter in the movies.
While not everyone is a fan of the book Hannibal, nor are they keen on Ridley Scott’s adaptation penned by David Mamet/Steven Zaillian, I’m actually a fairly ardent fan of both. Something I always loved about the Thomas Harris novels was the fact they’re truly disturbing in a get-under-the-skin-and-crawl type of way; from Francis Dolarhyde in Red Dragon to Buffalo Bill out of The Silence of the Lambs, everything in those pages is pure dread and macabre storytelling.
When it comes to the film, it’s too bad most of Mamet’s adaptation was re-hauled completely by screenwriter Steven Zaillian; perhaps if more Mamet remained, the script would’ve appealed more to some of the detractors.
Either way, this is a pretty damn good adaptation regardless of the few flaws. An at times gory thriller, there is much darkness and disturbing subject matter within this Ridley Scott directed film. Though not all of Harris made it into the film, both because of Scott wishing to make changes and in the name of time (this is already over two hours), I do find the movie to be faithful in terms of how chilling much of the novel itself was, and I believe most of this did cross over.
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After the events of The Silence of the Lambs, Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) is on the run, making his way across the globe. Back in the United States, Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore) is still going strong in the FBI. Her most recent case has taken her into the way of danger, as a fellow agent puts everyone at risk. Of course, the rabid sexism of the patriarchal Federal Bureau of Investigations takes Starling for a ride. Disgraced and with almost every single back turned to her, Clarice does her best to get by. Though, it isn’t easy with people like Paul Krendler (Ray Liotta) on her back.
Then, a letter arrives from Europe, smelling of fine perfumes and other fragrances. It is addressed to Clarice. It is from Hannibal. Rushing to figure out where he might be, Clarice tries to navigate the choppy waters of her current job situation. But even worse than the chauvinist Krendler is the presence of an old victim of Lecter’s from his earliest macabre work: a terribly disfigured Mason Verger (Gary Oldman) whose lust for revenge, old money and government connections allow his reach to extend far and wide. In Europe, the sly Lecter tries to avoid arrest by a rogue lawman hoping to collect a big bounty, Inspector Rinaldo Pazzi (Giancarlo Giannini).
Only after the tables turn does Starling realize her only hope of surviving it all might be Hannibal.
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Even though many things from the original Thomas Harris novel didn’t make it into the final product of the film, there is a still grisly, nasty heart at the center of its being. Some things removed: the novel’s ending; Margot Verger the lesbian bodybuilding sister of Mason; plus, Mason’s predilection for molesting children and drinking their tears; the original death Mason endures and the harvesting of his sperm for Margot to use to have a child with her lover; and other things such as the absence of Jack Crawford.
While a few things can be forgiven, I don’t know why they chose to keep Crawford out of it, nor do I see how the ending of the film is any better than that of the Harris novel. First – Crawford is an important figure in the life of Clarice, almost like a part-time angel watching over her shoulder and even more at times, so his absence is a little strange to me; I understand there were time constraints, however, Jack could’ve easily been planted into the story at the beginning especially when Starling experienced blowback from the FBI. Second – the ending of the film is fun, but there’s such a tangled, creepy and unsettling aspect to the Harris ending: in his novel, Hannibal first tries to make Clarice into a living version of his sister Mischa, then at the end they run away together in a fit of madness and love. Now, I know some weren’t fans of the novel’s ending. Regardless I found it perfect, to end things in a strange, unexpected way. But is it really unexpected? Can you say there were no inklings or hints of a romance between Hannibal and Clarice? Even in SOTL, there is a strange connection between them, almost like a man lusting after a woman who doesn’t yet know she’ll fall for him down the road. Either way, I think it could’ve potentially set up another film if Harris were ever interested in exploring more of the story. And not to mention, it would’ve blown audiences away to see Clarice take off in the night with Lecter.
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Some things I loved.
Gary Oldman plays Mason Verger perfectly. If you didn’t know it was him by looking on IMDB or in the credits, there’s a high chance of walking away without ever knowing. Virtually unrecognizable under prosthetics and make-up, Oldman falls into an upper class accent mixed with disfigurement, religious fervour, as well as a great deal of charisma. There are times you want to like Verge. Others, you understand the nastiness in him while hating what it’s producing. Many times you’ll laugh at some of the bits of dialogue from Mason, though, not in a funny way – more so, it’s a macabre and dark comedy from his lips making us kind of root for him. Above all else, Verger is a conflicting character on moral grounds, which makes us lean back and forth. Similar to the character of Lecter.
Then of course, there’s Anthony Hopkins returning with vigour to the world of Hannibal. Giving us another go round with the naughty doctor, Hopkins is almost even quieter, more subdued, more sinister and unnerving than before. Much of the dialogue gives him a chance to twirl us around his finger, sucking each viewer into his evil nature and never once letting us go. Seeing Hannibal in Europe is impressive enough as it is. Add in a spectacular performance by Hopkins, you’ve got yourself an interesting ride along with one of the most well-known villains of the cinematic universe ever.
Aside from performances and characters, Hannibal is at times fairly vicious. Though, if Scott and screenwriter David Mamet were to have kept more of the original source material in the script, it could’ve fallen even deeper into horror than it did. But scenes like the impromptu dinner between Hannibal, Clarice and poor Paul Krendler, the brief flashbacks to when Lecter disfigured Mason, even a very short video of Lecter biting the nurse’s face (a scene only referenced in SOTL) – these are all great examples of horror in a non-horror film. Really, Hannibal is a crime thriller. Yet so many moments bring us into the horror of the Harris universe. I can’t fault Scott, nor Mamet, too much for excluding bits and pieces of the novel because it’s a thick book, lots of plot and plenty of dialogue. However, I would’ve definitely rated this movie even higher if Scott kept some things in. They didn’t have to be totally in tact. He could have only alluded to certain plot points, and so on. Alas, we’re missing some very meaty, properly hideous bits that augment the entire story, and the movie is lacking because of it.
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Despite my criticisms, I love Hannibal. It’s a 4 out of 5 star film, all the way. Many will not agree with me and say the movie is trash, an unnecessary sequel, or that it strays too far from the novel of Thomas Harris. I couldn’t care any less, I’ve always thought there was something special about this Ridley Scott film. He adds only a flair all his own, a style nobody else has, and it’s evident right from the opening moments. Again, it would’ve been amazing to see more of the Harris novel find its way into the script, but for what came out I think Scott did justice to SOTL and the character of Hannibal in general, even without a few key pieces. If you’ve never seen it, or are a newcomer to the Lecter universe, do yourself a favour. There is plenty to love and enjoy here. Lots of macabre nastiness from which to find a thrill.