Dolores reaches the Forge. Bernard has more memories. And everyone meets in the Valley Beyond.
Season 1, Episode 6: “The Adversary”
Directed by Frederick E.O. Toye
Written by Halley Gross & Jonathan Nolan
* For a review of the previous episode, “Contrapasso” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Trompe L’Oeil” – click here
Maeve Millay (Thandie Newton) is honestly my favourite character in this entire series. He struggle comes as intense; this episode is no change. She walks through a day not noticing men shot around her, not noticing all the horror of Sweetwater. “Fake Plastic Trees” by Radiohead plays on the player piano in the saloon. Maeve and Clementine Pennyfeather (Angela Sarafyan) talk their dialogue, they drink their drinks, they go about the programmed day, as “newcomer” guests show up for their various adventures and paid storylines. When Maeve takes one of them upstairs for a romp in the sack, taunting him when he’s unable to please her. She puts his hand around her throat though, and it’s a different story. She welcomes it, wanting to die. All to wake up out on the table in the lab, the technician in front of her.
At the same time, Elsie Hughes (Shannon Woodward) talks with Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) about her recent discovery. The hosts at Westworld are being used for “industrial espionage” and now things are getting dicey. Seems that the host who went berserk on Elsie is an older model. However, this requires Bernie to head downstairs – Floor B82, strictly confidential with tight security. It’s a sketchy-looking place, shaking lights, old computer systems. Lowe gets into things comparing data to find an anomaly. Not only that, there are others. Hosts which “aren‘t registered with the new system.” So what exactly are they all doing? And how long until something worse than what happened with Elsie happens?
Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) freezes the little Mexican town, having a gawk at his real estate and planning for new, big things. A simple “carry on” and everything gets moving again; an entire world built on his command. He notices the carving of a maze on a table nearby. Cut to his office, full of host faces and all kinds of interesting little things. Ford has a sketchbook, containing lots of drawings, including one that looks to be who I assume is Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood), as well as a house, his church, so on.
But most importantly? The maze.
Elsewhere, The Man in Black (Ed Harris) rides with Teddy Flood (James Marsden). The latter tells his new buddy about the maze being a Native American myth, involving a man who can’t seem to die that eventually builds a maze only he can solve. Interesting; sound like somebody? Poor Teddy only wants to find Dolores.
The technician talks with Maeve about her character, what she was made to do as a host. He tells her there’s a distinction between being “born” and being “made” and that there’s also little recognisable difference between humans and hosts. Except hosts are terribly smart. When they’re controlled. What I dig is that Maeve seems outside of that control, somehow. The technician pairs his device with her to show the process of what she’s said, the way the program assigns her dialogue, shows her entire thought process and where improvisation happens. Then suddenly it overloads her mind and it looks like there is trouble. After a bit of programming he brings Maeve back. Problem is she wants to see what’s outside the lab. She witnesses the entire operation, the washing of the bloody host corpses, the moulds of the hosts being created and pumped full of blood, the skin coming alive; a truly gorgeous sequence yet sad in tone. Amazing stuff. We, alongside Maeve, get to see the animals created, life made at the hands of technicians and other robotics. Then further on are the simulations where hosts are programmed to their specific roles. What Maeve sees is her literal entire existence fabricated before her eyes. After she witnesses a commercial, seeing herself there onscreen, they head back downstairs. How will this ultimately affect her? Will she remember more? Well, right now she winds up taking hostage the other technician who shows up threatening to bring his colleague to QA. She… changes his mind.
Theresa Cullen (Sidse Babett Knudsen) brings Bernard to the attention of Dr. Ford knowing they’re together. She decides their “indiscretion” is finished. She accuses him of an inability of being impartial, with everybody including Ford. Sort of cold. Brings to mind the idea of the difference between human beings and the hosts: the hosts are a lot less cruel, even the worst of them, than the humans. I feel like Theresa is someone that’ll go off the rails soon enough. She feels highly reactionary as a person. We’ll have to wait and see. She goes to see Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman), who’s on leave, complaining about Dr. Ford and his latest work which has displaced hosts. There’s venom in Theresa, as she doesn’t make any better friends with anyone, continually fighting to stay at the top. What’s she going to do to stay there?
Back with Black and Teddy, they’re on the search to locate Wyatt. They use a couple soldier uniforms and pass through a camp, where Wyatt’s left his bloody mark. Along the way someone recognises Mr. Flood and pulls a gun. This turns into a nasty situation for the pair of gunslingers, even Black can’t hold off that many soldiers.
Lee lounges and meets a woman. After a bit of chat she questions him about “control” and he, in a drunken state, goes off about the whole thing being a “vanity project.” The bar cuts him off by request of Ms. Cullen. I feel like that lady at the bar will turn up again.
Elsie wants Bernie to keep helping her with heading off the espionage happening with the hosts. She wants to use the whole thing to get herself ahead. I feel for Lowe. He seems to be consistently stuck between a rock and a hard place. He heads in to a place labelled Sector 17, full of trees and fields. He soon tracks down a house where he sees a man picking up a pile of wood from out front. Inside, he comes across a man and his family. He can’t seem to control these robots, either. They only respond to Dr. Ford, who shows up quickly. “Survivors of the wreck of time,” he tells Bernie; they are “first generation hosts“. Ford gives his friend a tour around the robotics, which is pretty damn awesome visually. This was a vision built by Arnold, one from the memories of Ford’s childhood. Something the doctor worked on over the years. And all of it makes Lowe wonder. But can’t he understand? Surely he can, someone in a way seeking methods to reignite the past. Maybe seeing those things in another person makes him realise how foolish and possibly dangerous they can become. This all sends Lowe on a quest to find out the names of first generation hosts out there.
Teddy’s about to get branded. He remembers himself walking through a town with Wyatt, killing everyone in sight. Then he and Black make their escape. Teddy ends up on the machine gun, again killing everyone in sight. He makes The Man in Black look like a kitten: “You think you know someone.”
There’s espionage going on from within. Elsie reports to Lowe, and he starts worrying about her safety. Uh oh. I like her a lot, she’s smart. That probably means nothing good, for her. Looks as if the high tech futuristic technology can be undercut by older, less traceable technology from previous systems. And who’s the culprit? Is Theresa behind it, or somebody else entirely? Elsie traces a signal to find a relay setup by whoever’s doing the spying. It takes her to a musty old room filled with artefacts from other stories Westworld likely tried once upon a time. There she manages to open a box where the relay provides her – hopefully – good information.
Bernard goes to see Theresa about some of the things he’s stumbled upon. He tells her about his doubts re: Ford. He gets a call from Elsie, confirming Theresa as the spy. Ah, I fucking knew it! I knew it! But I’m concerned for Bernard.
With the technicians, Maeve tries to make a couple changes to her character makeup. The greasy technician tries talking her out of it, but she’s aware of other options due to her new relationship with the other technician. She does get her “alterations” and I’m quite interested in what’s about to happen next. The technicians see there’s somebody else already making changes to Maeve. Someone higher up. Nevertheless she convinces the technicians to make her more perceptive, less receptive to pain. Oh, my.
More info from Elsie. It isn’t only Theresa. Someone else is retasking hosts, old models specifically. Big time modifications to “prime directives” that could possibly allow violence from hosts against guest. Who does she believe did it all? Arnold. Motherfucking Arnold. How’s that possible?
In a lab Ford has the young boy from his host fantasy world answering questions. It’s, in fact as I’d imagined, a young version of himself. Little Robert. He killed an animal, which disturbs the older version. “A voice” told him to do it. It was Arnold.
Just as I suspected, Elsie finds further and probably damning evidence. Yet someone’s lurking in the shadows, now they’ve got her.
This was another solid episode. Plenty of intrigue that I find exciting, plus they’re never giving up too much. Bits and pieces with every chapter. Next is titled “Trompe L’Oeil” and it’ll be of interest to see particularly what goes down when Maeve heads back into Sweetwater all pumped up. Yowzahs.
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
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)
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.
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.
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 world‘s 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 you‘re suffering, that‘s when you‘re most real.”
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 that‘s a fuckin‘ vacation,” 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.
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?
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.
Memento. 2000. Directed & Written by Christopher Nolan; based on the short story “Memento Mori” by Jonathan Nolan.
Starring Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano, Mark Boone Junior, Russ Fega, Jorja Fox, Stephen Tobolowsky, Harriet Sansom Harris, Thomas Lennon, & Callum Keith Rennie. Newmarket Capital Group/Team Todd/I Remember Productions.
Rated 14A. 113 minutes.
Christopher Nolan has moved on to bigger blockbuster-type movies. Once his reiteration of the classic Batman character hit theatres, nothing was ever the same for his career. Much as I’m a fan of his Batman trilogy, even a big Batman fan before him, the Nolan I prefer most is the one who did Following, remade Insomnia, and of course the one responsible for this cinematic gem, Memento.
Right at the turn of the 21st century, Nolan gave us an interesting mystery film that defies the expectations of the genre. It’s a thriller that works backward through the chronological order, instead of forward, and in a way is anticlimactic. However, for all its different techniques the movie never feels too much like a try-hard indie, hoping to break the mould with a script that’s beyond quirky. There’s every bit of the independent film spirit within this piece of work. Although, Nolan never goes for the cheap thrill. This is a cerebral thriller, stained with blood and mystery and the shattered frame of a brain’s memories. Guy Pearce puts in a whopping performance in a tough role that effectively put him up there with the best actors of his generation. Every scene is interesting because it not only looks good, they all force you to think forward, backward, every which way. The structure of the movie lends a hand to the plot, the focus on memories and a backward sequence of trying to retrace one’s steps (literally one’s memories). A powerful revenge story that’s fuelled by heart, though ultimately a story that never resolves itself fully. And that’s part of the point, as we take the journey with the main character Leonard (Pearce) discovering there’s no way to fully resolve his situation. At the bottom of it all, there’s the question of revenge itself, and if it would make a difference to Leonard.
While Leonard has no short term memory because of an attack on him and his wife, precipitating his seeking revenge, this is a way for Nolan to ask us: is revenge worth it, even if you could remember?
Part of Memento‘s interesting charm overall is the way Nolan challenges how we watch a film. In turn, this calls to mind how Leonard himself recalls memory. We come to like he does in the midst of his day, in places where he doesn’t exactly remember (unless they’re marked on one of his cue cards or tattooed on his body). The writing, the scenes and how they’re edited into one another like stitching, this all initiates us into the experience of Leonard and his memory issues.
So while it may feel like a gimmick to some Nolan employs the backward chronological order for a specific purpose, to replicate those ideas of memory while simultaneously playing with the format of film itself, as well as how the audience watches one. The clerk at the motel (played by the excellent Mark Boone Junior) says it best, that feeling like you’re waking up everyday – how Leonard describes his condition – must have everything feel backwards, literally describing the film and its structure: Leonard thinks he wants to do something, but he’s not sure about what he’s just done. The writing is truly genius. If you don’t admire Nolan’s filmmaking, another aspect in which he excels generally, how can you not find his writing compelling? This screenplay speaks volumes. At first there feels like an intricate-style, labyrinthine weaving to the plot. And to a degree there is. Yet the way Nolan presents it makes the difficulty wear off. Soon you find yourself along with Leonard for the ride, full stop. Something I dig is the fact that this backward order of scenes kind of prevents us from trying to think ahead, it takes away that element of jumping past the story and worrying more about “whodunit” than any of the best parts about the plot, the film as a final product, so on.A moment I love is the first real flashback we get from Leonard, concerning his wife. Because it starts out while he’s in the diner, then when he closes his eyes the sound design takes all that noise out – the other patrons, dishes clinking together, food frying, et cetera – and we fall inside his head with him. The cinematography throughout the entire film is spectacular. In this scene, there’s a beautiful, dreamy quality to the memories, the raw, genuine stuff Leonard can remember. This distinctly divides parts of the movie, as we get this nice sort of washed out look to the regular parts of the present, a sparkling beauty to the memories of his wife, a darkness to the night of her death, and then there are the black-and-white flashbacks to other portions of Leonard’s life, including his old job, Sammy (Stephen Tobolowsky), his conversation on the telephone in the motel room. Nolan seamlessly connects these looks to make a whole, a palette that stretches out over just a little under two solid hours. It’s a rich, interesting tapestry that will captivate any curious audience. The directorial choices from Nolan are what make his screenplay work, proving he’s a solid writer as much as he is a director.
The plot is what makes this movie so unique, yes. Pearce is the soul which drives the story. His voice-over narration is spot on. Moreover, he constantly embodies Leonard, keeping us confused along with him until the pieces fall together. The way Pearce plays Leonard makes us feel for him. At times, we might even get a bit frustrated; both for him and with him. In the more frantic moments Pearce truly wrings out the empathetic qualities, pleading with us to feel his pain, and most times it takes very few pleads. He makes Leonard charming, to the point, he’s an odd man due to his condition yet there is a friendly feel to him. This single performance is why I’ve kept an interest in Pearce, no matter the role he takes. A once in a lifetime performance in a strange, innovative bit of mystery cinema.
This is one of the first great movies of the 2000s, right as the new century came about. Memento takes you by the hand, down a bumpy road filled with unreliable characters, an unreliable narrator, and throws you down the corridor of revenge on a trail of broken memories. There aren’t any better films that relay the feeling of memory. Above all, Nolan’s writing and directing – aided by the incredible cinematography of Wally Pfister – takes us through the process of what it’s like to rebuild memory, to have to out of necessity for the revenge of a terrible event. Along the way we spend time with Leonard, who’s most certainly a classic film character that will go down with the greats, and Pearce flesh him out well to the point we’re caught up intricately with his dilemma right to the bitter end. Again, I do love Nolan’s later work – The Prestige is one of my favourites out of his catalogue – yet I can’t help returning to his earliest efforts, such as this treat. Over any plot or character developments, Memento gives us a masterclass in form, allowing the cinematic techniques Nolan brings to the screen to play the lead character even above Pearce. Don’t mistake it: this is not a movie, it’s a defining experience of film.