A woman once named Jane now goes by Offred, living under the rule of an authoritarian, patriarchal nation-state ruled with an iron fist.
Harp faces the noose. Can he escape?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Declan Harp seeks allies
Lily finds herself all the way in Candle Cove, and Mike needs to get there, worse than ever.
FRONTIER begins with blood, war, and plenty of colonialism.
FOX’s The Exorcist
Season 1, Episode 6: “Star of the Morning”
Directed by Jennifer Phang
Written by Laura Marks
* For a review of Chapter Five, “Through My Most Grievous Fault” – click here
* For a review of Chapter Seven, “Father of Lies” – click here
After the longest break of my god damn life, The Exorcist returns after dropping the bomb that Angela Rance (Geena Davis) is in fact Regan MacNeil. We start on an old television show where young Regan and her mother are being interviewed about the whole Georgetown incident. She doesn’t remember much, though her mother insists she does. “The demon girl” obviously had to do some distancing to get away from her past since that show. I find it fascinating they did this, plot-wise, as the whole thing opens up a lot of great paths the show can take from here. Dig it wholeheartedly.
Chris MacNeil (Sharon Gless) has shown up on the Rances doorstep. She and Kat (Brianne Howey) try to do a little bonding, sort of, while Angela is decidedly unhappy about her mother showing up. Unfortunately there’s the whole cover-up asect to Angela’s marriage, Henry (Alan Ruck), very appropriately, is upset about what his wife has hidden. Can he blame her? She was exorcised, she saw several people die – albeit while possessed – and went through a terrifying ordeal. It’s sad that she couldn’t tell her husband at some point, however, I don’t blame her.
Everyone’s clearly worried for Casey (Hannah Kasulka), who is god knows where and doing who knows what. Right now Henry wants to take his chances with the mother-in-law. All to find his daughter; she’s now on the lam and people are left dead in her wake. I’m even more worried for Angela right now. Her old life is clawing back. She even hears strange noises in her head for just a moment. All the same, Father Marcus (Ben Daniels) feels pissed about not having all the facts before going into Casey’s room. “Possession is like a virus,” he tells the scared mother and makes painfully obvious what the consequences are if they can’t find her daughter in time. “Integration” – the next step – is a permanent destruction of the soul, when the girl’s soul will come inextricably linked to that of the demon. Father Tomas (Alfonso Herrera) feels that his counterpart is a bit harsh. They simply don’t have enough time to piss about.
A press conference is called, the Rances in attendance with famous grandma in tow. They’re the centre of a publicity carnival. But not everyone is so concerned with the Rance family. People were murdered – butchered, and brutally – recently and nobody seems too quick to seek out the answer on that. Meanwhile, we see some of the dastardly, wholesale nastiness of those that killed these victims, using the organs taken for sinister purposes. A woman at the press conference calls out the names of the victims, hoping for justice. Nobody there understands exactly the significance of those murders, not just yet.
The police are curious about Father Marcus, having been arrested after performing the exorcism. They want to shut the whole “possession” story down, so as not to confuse the public. Of course they show Angela and Henry the pictures of what happened during the ambulance ride Casey took. Upstairs, Chris tries to talk with Kat about what happened to her mother, formerly known as Regan. A media circus ensued, partly because Chris needed to keep her career alive. She talks about the Ouija board and “Captain Howdy.” Eerie fucking conversation, to say the least. Kat believes her grandmother is victim blaming a little by attributing it all to Regan not listening about the Ouija being no good, although Chris admits she failed her own daughter ultimately.
Father Bennett (Kurt Egyiawan) and Father Marcus are still getting a bit of help from Cherry and Lester Rego in their quest outside the reaches, and know, of the Church. And in a defiant statement, as per his bad ass usual, Marcus tells Bennett: “I don‘t care about God‘s will.” At the very same time something terribly ungodly calls Angela over the phone, taunting her about Casey. The demon produces a horrific image for the frantic mother. All a dream. Has Pazuzu returned for Regan?
Then there’s Jessica (Mouzam Makkar), she’s left her husband and found herself a new apartment. A place where there’s no “guilt” and no “shame” for neither she, nor Father Tomas. He still resists, even though he loves her. Deeply, too. His faith has been shaken in so many ways at once it’s likely he doesn’t know where to turn.
Poor Henry’s having a lot of trouble. With his recent head injury there are gaps in his memory. He says what held that together is his wife, his family. Most of what hurts him is the fact Angela couldn’t trust him enough to reveal her former life as Regan MacNeil. There are more problems for Angela, as well. She isn’t happy about her mother returning, dragging the media into their home all over again. “You used me,” Angela yells at Chris. Worse than any of that the coroner calls. They may have Casey.
Simultaneously, a report of wild dogs going mad in a neighbourhood prompts Father Tomas to text Marcus, which sets the renegade priest off to check it out.
At the party Maria Walters (Kirsten Fitzgerald) throws for the upcoming papal visit, Father Bennett comes across Dr. John Rexroth (Michael Patrick Thornton), whose talk of angels on Earth draws his attention. Bennett believes what the doctor is actually talking about are demons in our world trying to influence how it works.
At the coroner’s office everyone awaits the news of whether Casey is dead. In go Angela and Henry to make the identification. Gladly, their daughter is still alive. Yet surely in a great deal of existential agony. Finally, Chris and the girl formerly known as Regan embrace. Maybe those wounds can heal. Someday.
The real excitement is in the journey of Father Marcus into the underbelly of the city. He finds a tunnel filled with homeless, possibly possessed individuals. He searches for Casey, calling her name. One woman looks him dead in the eye, repeating: “Stop it, stop it, stop it, stop it.” All around him are the signs of evil at work. Then from nowhere Marcus is attacked. He commands them in the name of Christ, which holds them at bay temporarily. Behind him Casey crawls the walls and the floor doing the spider walk her mother did down the stairs all those years ago.
At the Walters party we come to discover that Dr. Rexroth, Maria herself, one of the priests, among others, are in fact working together in order to complete the vocare pulvere ritual. They even have the little bowl of ashes those killers filled with the ashes of the organs they’d stolen. Wow. I didn’t see this coming, at all. “Star of the morning” is a reference to Lucifer, The Morning Star. Brother Simon (Francis Guinan) leads the ceremony.
All of a sudden, HE IS COMING doesn’t only signal the coming of the Pope. And what’s worse is the fact there are so many influential people at that table, including the police superintendent. “Please take me” everyone around the table declares, as the priest at the table blows ashes into the air. It is in fact the superintendent who receives demonic power from the ashes, and something other takes over his body.
Everyone present looks very, very pleased. A delighted, evil laughter rises from the table. Maria doesn’t look particularly happy; she wanted to be chosen. How sad when the devil passes you over.
On the shore near the tunnel Father Marcus locates Casey feasting on a sea bird. He approaches her, reciting Christian incantation. Before the demon attacks him, trying its best to murder the priest. A perfect place, kinda. Marcus uses the water to in effect baptise Casey, releasing the demon. Then she returns, herself once more.
Except she tells Marcus: “He‘s coming back. Help me.”
This was the best episode yet! Creepiest, nastiest, wildest, most intriguing. So much going on. The preview for Chapter Seven “Father of Lies” looks insane. Seems Pazuzu is back for revenge against the girl able to survive his wrath. Excited to see what’s next.
The children go mad in Iron Hills
Season 1, Episode 5: “Contrapasso”
Directed by Jonny Campbell
Story by Dominic Mitchell & Lisa Joy
* For a review of the previous episode, “Dissonance Theory” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Adversary” – click here
Another chat between Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) and that cowboy, Old Bill (Michael Wincott), one of the oldest in the park, as the doctor tells him about the saddest thing he’d ever seen. A story about a dog and a cat, the latter being torn “to pieces” by the former. It’s really an allegory for humanity, or the pursuit of greatness by those who aren’t sure what they’ll do with it when they find it. They may just grab hold and hang on too hard until there’s nothing left.
Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood) gradually moves from the path of her narrative with each passing episode. She finds herself still with William (Jimmi Simpson) and his buddy Logan (Ben Barnes), though her mind wanders. They make it into a nearby town full of all degenerate sorts, apparently. Logan talks about their company and some of the stuff outside Sweetwater. For his part, William doesn’t dig this town: “Whoever designed this place, you get the feeling they don‘t think very much of people.” Mercenaries arrive, we discover this all a part of a bigger game of war. Hmm. Sinister, or exciting? Or both?
The Man in Black (Ed Harris) is busy still hauling Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr.) about, saying he’s on the hunt for the “big bad wolf.” He’s also got Teddy Flood (James Marsden) in tow, having saved him awhile back. Black mentions a friend of his, whomever that could possibly be, always say there’s a path for everybody; remember that, could be significant at some point, maybe. Meanwhile, the young boy who’d been talking to Dr. Ford at one time happens upon the group, being sent to fetch water for them. Because right now Lawrence is getting his throat slit. Not a nice sight for sweet English boys’ eyes. Considering Black drains Lawrence’s blood into his water pouch.
Outside, a couple technicians are checking out Maeve Millay (Thandie Newton) again after her recent shootout. They notice her incision, as somebody were looking for something specific. Will they catch on?
All that blood was a makeshift transfusion for Teddy, to bring him back up to speed. Then he talks about how the humanity of the hosts is “cost effective” and laments how things were once upon a time. He mentions Dolores, too. He says a few fellas made off with her, and that gets Teddy on his feet again.
And what of Dolores? She keeps having flashbacks, seeing those corpses littered everywhere around her. William keeps her mind off things, but I keep wondering how much longer until she starts making connections like Maeve. Right now she talks about hoping for her life to change. When he talks of the real world, it doesn’t just roll off Dolores. She notices, and it sort of shakes William a bit. When a Day of the Dead parade comes through town Dolores sees a vision of herself in its crowd. Before passing out. When she’s brought out by Dr. Ford “in a dream,” a.k.a in a lab, they have a short talk. He speaks of Arnold, the one who created her so many years ago. That’s the voice she keeps hearing in her little daydreams, calling to come find him. Turns out Arnold had wanted her to help bring Westworld down. But Ford tries to make sure Dolores’ world is only heroes and villains, a black-and-white dichotomy instead of anything too complex. In the dark though, she still speaks to somebody: is it Arnold?
One of the technicians who worked on Maeve is doing some kind of experiments with a bird. He wants to be a coder, but his partner tells him he’ll only ever be a “butcher.”
Back with William and Logan they come across a reincarnated Lawrence. Ahh, very interesting! Suddenly, Dolores starts making deals. She helps get Logan and William in with Lawrence on a job with the Confederados to get hold of some explosives. Regarding Lawrence, this doesn’t mean anything re: The Man in Black & William, because the timelines aren’t made positively clear. It’s suggestive, no doubt. Nothing definitive still. Anyways, the gang get their latest adventure kicked off, confronting a wagon. Things start off fine then get incredibly tense, a gunfight erupting with a bunch of hosts getting shot. They make out well, obviously, though William doesn’t seem to take much joy, if any, in killing. Regardless if it’s fake.
Elsie Hughes (Shannon Woodward) is working with a host who’s got more dick than brains. Literally. She happens to see the host that tried killing her being brought for disposal. Elsie ends up catching a technician on camera banging one of the hosts, like a “creepy necro perv,” so she uses that to get in to see her would-be killer host. She takes her findings to Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright): a laser-based satellite uplink. The hosts are being used to smuggle information out of the park.
At a freaky orgy party, Nine Inch Nails’ “Something I Can Never Have” plays on strings in the background. People fuck. Some are painted in gold. Logan, of course, loves it. William and Dolores sit on a couch, sort of equally repulsed in their own ways. Logan ends up in William’s face, they get very personal, especially the former. He digs into William, hard. At the same time Dolores wanders through the party, eventually coming upon a fortune teller with her Tarot cards. One of them laid in front of her is “the maze” – and a vision of herself reappears, telling her to follow it. She also grabs hold of a string in her forearm, pulling it bloody, her skin opening like latex. It isn’t real. But it scares her. Out in the street Lawrence is filling dead bodies in their coffins with explosives. He isn’t giving it over to the Confederados. Now, William is becoming wildly disillusioned with the creepiness of the whole game. There’s bigger problems, as the explosives turn out to be not explosive at all. And Logan takes the brunt of the fallout, being left behind by William. Dolores ends up shooting down a few men to save her new man. “I imagined a story where I didn’t have to be the damsel,” she tells William while they flee and catch a ride on a passing train. Landing right in the lap of Lawrence. This is actually the first time he introduces himself as such, since they’re all acquainted. And once more Dolores sees the mark of the maze on a coffin in the train: “I‘m coming,” she says. To whom? Arnold? God, I love the suspense.
Back to the Man in Black – could he be William though? It’s intriguing – and Teddy. The pair drop by a bar. One where they run into Dr. Ford for a drink. This is a huge scene! Ford wonders exactly what Black is seeking. “I always felt like this place was missing a real villain, hence my humble contribution,” he tells the doctor. They talk about the working of the park, Black wonders if there’s anybody fit to stop him. We know for sure he’s headed for whatever happens to lie at the centre of that mysterious maze. What is it exactly? Does it represent a physical space, or could it be a component in the robots themselves? No telling. Yet. Either way, the Man in Black is dead set on finding the purpose, the truth behind it all. We also see that the hosts are quite protective of their maker, as well. So many mysteries in the artificial world of Westworld’s creations. So much to unravel.
Out in the lab the technician working on Maeve goes back to the bird. He calibrates a little then the bird flies around the room, like magic. Maeve, she’s up and about to greet the technician, Felix, and let the bird perch on her fingertip. She also wants to have a little chat with him. I wonder exactly what she’ll tell him. What sort of secrets could spill from her lips, and what is Felix getting himself into?
An interesting episode, I must say. Lots to think about, as usual. I can’t help but wonder more about those theories surrounding the Man in Black. Next episode is titled “The Adversary” and I’m sure we’ll see more on ole Black himself.
Season 1, Episode 8: “nước chảy đá mòn”
Directed by Greg Yaitanes
Written by Graham Gordy & Michael D. Fuller
* For a review of the penultimate episode, “Carnival of Souls” – click here
From what I can tell, the English translation of the Vietnamese title for this episode means “flowing water wears away stone” roughly. An interesting thing to think about in terms of all the water imagery, Mac Conway’s (Logan Marshall-Green) love of swimming, and so on.
We start ten months before the current season’s timeline. The choppers fly overhead of the Vietnamese jungle. Troops are at base camp, relaxed for the moment. Mac and Arthur (Jamie Hector) get a few orders from their platoon captain. Mac watches the river carefully as a boat floats by; always suspicious, never off his guard.
But in his present predicament Mac’s definitely off guard. Detective Tommy Olsen (Josh Randall) has him dead to rights, hoping to get more out of ole Quarry about Cliff’s death. That’s not long for this world; neither the conversation, nor Tommy. He gets his face shot off horrifically, as the carnival grounds around them come alive and bullets ring into the night. It’s Credence Mason (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson), of course. He gets his, too. Then Buddy (Damon Herriman) and Mac are left in a gunfight with some of Mason’s Dixie crew. They’re a pretty handy pair, though.
They make it back in one piece, appeasing The Broker (Peter Mullan), as well as leaving Karl (Edoardo Ballerini) with a new game of Pong to play. Things are looking pretty good for The Broker now, poised to take over the local scene. Only problem is that now Mac has walked himself into something far bigger than just killing bad dudes for money. Again, that’s the call of the wild animal in him, unleashed by the United States Army overseas.
Mac’s dad Lloyd (Skip Sudduth) has him and Joni (Jodi Balfour) over to his place. Seems Lloyd got a cash offer for the house. A small family wants to buy the place, especially excited over the pool. Out of the blue, Joni doesn’t want to sell. Not after her husband put the pool in himself, they made a home for themselves. Things don’t get any better when Lloyd’s wife drops two dirty words on Mac: “war criminal.” She thinks Mac and Joni only want money from them. A truly insulting moment. Moreover, people always assume they know exactly what happened, all because of how the media tells them and frames it for the people back home. They don’t consider how it really was for soldiers, they don’t take in all the factors. In a dirty war like Vietnam that was particularly true.
At least now Mac has the money, paid off by his stepmother to never come back, and he can pay The Broker off. Or is it that simple now? Oh, I don’t know about that. In the meantime, we flashback to Vietnam those ten months ago. Mac, Arthur, and the rest of their platoon wade through water to a spot further inland. They’re headed for Quan Thang, which we already understand is where the massacre went down, the one in which Mac and Arthur were heavily implicated to have done terrible things. Supposedly.
Poor Mac, he’s trying to find himself a job that doesn’t involve killing anybody, or guns in any way. He applies for a job selling pools. Luckily, the guy interviewing him doesn’t really pay attention to the news. I wonder how long it’ll last before discovering who Mac is, or at least who the media implies. He’s got the job, but I can’t help feeling there’s a gut punch coming down the line.
Ruth (Nikki Amuka-Bird) has Moses (Mustafa Shakir) over for dinner. Although she still doesn’t know that’s his name. And she also doesn’t realise why he’s there in the first place. He starts sniffing around after Marcus has been fixing the TV, buying things, suspicious little clues that Moses definitely suspects has to do with Arthur’s missing cash.
When Joni and Mac go out to celebrate the new job, the former soldier has a PTSD episode where he sees that Asian mask standing in the background, staring at him. He interrupts a band playing, terrifying everybody a bit. Outside he falls to the ground nearly weeping: “I‘m sorry,” he repeats, over and over.
So we go back those ten months again. In an abandoned building the soldiers come across that Asian mask hung on a wall, sitting in the dark. Mac stares at it for a while, fixated on the face. Something that’s obviously stuck with him, buried in the recesses of his mind and bubbling to the front in the worst of times.
Finally we see Moses confront Marcus. He asks plainly – “Don‘t fuckin‘ lie to me, son” – where the money’s stashed. He takes the cash, and makes sure to tell the kid he better keep his mouth shut. Moses threatens his family with death. That’s a bad dude.
Later on we see Mac at the voting booth, choosing between either Nixon or McGovern. At the same time Joni’s trying to find a doctor to talk with about Mac and his PTSD. Of course back then it wasn’t known as that, or at least not treated with the appropriate respect and gravity deserved. A guy at the VA hospital hands her a pamphlet, as if that’s meant to help. He also implies that seeing as how Mac has “both his arms” and “both his legs” then there’s nothing actually wrong with him. Sickening display of what we’re seeing now as the result of all that neglect. Tons of mental illness, death by murder or suicide or whatever else, too many problems.
Buddy’s having a tough time. Sitting with his mother Naomi (Ann Dowd), he talks about survival, from the time of dinosaurs right to the Black Plague spreading across Europe. He feels like he’s done nothing with his life: “What am I doin‘ with it, mama?”
In ‘Nam, we see Mac and the platoon heading further to their destination. Once there they take all precautions, although Arthur notes there’s a Catholic cross at the front of their village. Either way, the platoon’s captain sends them in making clear to “fire then you ask questions.” Inside the village all hell breaks loose. Civilians are killed. Napalm lights the forest on fire and burns villagers alive. Gunfire gets exchanged between the Americans and some Viet Cong. At one point Mac throws a grenade in a hidden tunnel, where women and children scream. He sees the bloody bits of a child next to him, still moving slightly. This all but melts his brain and his psyche. We can easily see, from this POV, that Mac and Arthur, most of those guys, did not realise what they were doing, led astray by orders followed blindly. Still, they then had to go on living with what they’d done.
At home, Mac goes to meet The Broker. Instead he runs into an old face from the army, someone he isn’t so happy to see – his old captain, Thurston (Matt Nable). They catch up on things, rather contentiously. We get the impression that Thurston hasn’t repented whatsoever, in any shape, for what they did in Vietnam. He seems to want to go back, not able to adjust at all to civilian life anymore. In Thurston, Mac sees everything he hates; about himself. He reminds Mac of what they did in that fishing village. On top of it all we get another flashback to Thurston commanding his officers to execute remaining villagers, under threat of death if they won’t comply. Close by, Mac looks into the distance with heavy sorrow. Well, in the series’ current moments Mac attacks Thurston outside of the bar. They tangle a bit before he takes off after the former captain into the woods.
Do you recognise this scene?
It’s the very first one, from the beginning of the season. This is where it all started. We witness Thurston beating Mac, holding him below the water. After he thinks Mac is dead Thurston walks off. Only to take a bullet. And here, we see Mac pump more lead into the man making sure he’s good and dead. He pushes Thurston’s corpse out into the water to float out and far away from him.
In other news, Buddy goes out cruising but ends up getting attacked by a couple men. They viciously beat him, taking his money and leaving him unconscious, or worse.
When Mac finally goes to meet The Broker he’s beaten and fucked up. That whole meeting with Thurston was, naturally, the old fella’s doing. More than that The Broker tries to keep Quarry on for another job. However, our soldier doesn’t want anything to do with him after all they’ve been through together. “Who‘s a fella like you vote for?” Mac asks The Broker. He also says he “wrote someone in” on the ballot: Otis Redding. We discover The Broker hasn’t voted “since Truman.” Kind of fitting. Likewise, we discover Mac misses war. Not hard to tell.
Flashback to the war. Thurston receives a visit from none other than The Broker. He’s walked through Quan Thang. This is where Conway’s name first comes up for the old gentleman. The Broker takes a stroll in through the trees, to where a field is full of the ripe, beautiful plants needed for processing heroin. Ah, and it all comes together. Very interesting political twist on the Quan Thang.
Buddy – or Sebastian, as we find out – makes it home to his mother, beaten into bloody pulp. Detective Verne Ratliff (Happy Anderson) has one last look at Cliff Williams’ book of lyrics. President Nixon is announced to have won on live television. And Ruth, she finds that Moses is no longer waiting for her at the diner, but sitting home with the found money, contemplating his next move.
On the shoreline Mac sits with his next kit – gun, money, name. He got himself out, yet allows himself to be sucked back in. The carnage of war has crept into his veins, important as the blood flowing through them. Meanwhile, The Broker plays him like a fiddle.
Then we see Mac strip down for a swim out into the river, perhaps doing the only thing he can to not think about everything other dark thing swirling around his entire existence.
What a beautiful, gritty, importantly relevant series! Man, this first season was a blast. With the finale episode and its flashbacks, the revelations, Quarry cements itself as one of the greats, up there with any of the best HBO has had to offer over the past 20 years. Truly amazing writing, lots of fine acting, as well as solid directing.
Cinemax: do what’s right. Give this show a second, third, fourth season. C’mon. Do not pass this up. There’s a lot of other important stories to tell in the world of Mac Conway.
Season 1, Episode 4: “Dissonance Theory”
Directed by Vincenzo Natali (Splice, Cube)
Written by Ed Brubaker & Jonathan Nolan
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Stray” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Contrapasso” – click here
Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) is tinkering away at Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood), as usual. She tells him that losing everyone she’s loved “hurts so badly.” She speaks of grief. As if she knows the feeling. Like instead of being a robot, she’s become human in her emotion. But it’s all a “scripted dialogue.”
Is the machinery at Westworld becoming more sentient than it ought to? One thing’s for sure: Dolores believes “there may be something wrong with this world,” like an evil lurks below it all. Then Lowe tells Dolores of a game called The Maze. He wants her to play. Apparently if she can play it and succeed, she may also find freedom.
And what exactly is the greater purpose of Westworld’s grand illusion? We know there are… levels. However, what does that mean, exactly?
When Dolores wakes up on the plains of Sweetwater she’s with William (Jimmi Simpson), who last whisked her away from trouble in the previous episode. Back at the saloon, Maeve Millay (Thandie Newton) and Clementine Pennyfeather (Angela Sarafyan) chat while The Cure’s “A Forest” plays on the player piano. Really dig the song choices, especially how the fit in anachronistically with the Western setting. All of a sudden Maeve’s world goes funny. She sees blood all over Clementine. Then she’s on the floor. A man fires his gun into people around the saloon, over and over. The sick fantasy of a player enacted on the helpless hosts. Just another day in Sweetwater. Robot life. Afterwards, in come the cleanup team to get things sorted for the next team of players visiting the park.
Then Maeve snaps back. Everything is fine. Clementine’s still yammering on. Ah, the flashbacks of a previous day, a death some time before. But it’s set Maeve off and nothing is the same as it was before. She continually flashes back and forth between the present and those awful memories. So, she draws a picture of a man in a Hazmat-like suit. Before finding a bunch of similar drawings beneath a floorboard in her bedroom.
Out in the lab, Elsie Hughes (Shannon Woodward) is running Theresa Cullen (Sidse Babett Knudsen) over the violent malfunction of the stray from last episode. The one who smashed its own head in with a rock. Bernard drops by to check in. But it seems Theresa is taking over, sick of how things are going lately. Like any right-minded person, Elsie’s worried this problem is spreading like an infection through the hosts. And she airs those grievances to Bernard. He’s lost, though. Lost in the memory of his own loss, that of his boy. He is blinded by love and science at once and I don’t think he’s the best judge of who’s doing what right at the moment.
William wants to take Dolores back to Sweetwater, while his buddy Logan (Ben Barnes) would rather kill her off. It’s only a game, right? In other parts of the world, The Man in Black (Ed Harris) is trying to figure out “what this all means” and how the game is supposed to end. Again: what exactly is the whole purpose, the deeper meaning to everything? Well, The Man in Black and his hostage Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr.) run into Armistice (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal) and her gang. He proceeds to kill a few of them, ingratiating himself to her company.
Poor Dolores, she looks adrift every time we see her. She wanders around in another little town. She meets a girl who draws a maze, like the one from the scalp we’ve seen, in the sand and then disappears. When Dolores is confronted by a man things get eerie. But William interrupts and everything goes back to normal. At least for the time being. Either way, Dolores is wary of her world more and more. “Sometimes I feel like something‘s calling me, telling me there‘s a place for me somewhere beyond this,” she tells William.
Then she fades out. The moon becomes a light above her. She’s on the ground, corpse-like. Men in Hazmat-style suits are around her. And just as quickly William whisks her around in his arms, frightening her. Reality – whatever reality she exists in, I guess – is slipping.
We start to hear The Man in Black talk about Arnold. You remember him, right? The old partner of Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins). Once more, The Man in Black takes out that bloody scalp he procured in the first episode. Now he’s hoping to get help from Armistice in order to enact the next portion of his plan. Deliciously devilish. I still don’t think he’s an older version of William. I don’t see this as happening in two different eras. Could still find a surprise there, but I just can’t see that. Moreover, with the little trickles of information concerning Arnold, I feel like Dr. Ford has skeletons in his closet, and the Bad Dude in Black just may rip a few of those out into the daylight just yet. We do get a clue about Ed Harris’ character when another visitor at the park mentions his “foundation.” Interesting stuff.
Armistice, The Man in Black, Lawrence, their crew, they head to a nearby prison. Black is tossed in alongside Hector Escaton (Rodrigo Santoro), as the police take Lawrence to the firing squad. Black plans on breaking Hector out. Outside, Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) approves some pyrotechnics. Oh, baby – the cell door gets blown open. So does one cop’s face, having taken a cigar off Black not expecting it to explode in his face. Literally. For the second time, The Man in Black saves Lawrence from an execution: “Mo–therrr–fucker,” he exclaims upon rescue.
So what’s the next step for ole Black? Armistice tells him about Wyatt, one of the men who killed everybody in her town when she was younger. Maybe there’s another hunt together in their future.
More problems for Maeve. She sees a little girl from a Native American tribe drop a wooden toy. It’s shaped just like one of the suited men from her visions. Part of “their religion,” a man from town says.
Outside, Bernard and Theresa talk about Westworld troubles. She has to meet with Dr. Ford because of his recent, troubling behaviour. The next morning she meets the eccentric man, he’s out watching equipment clearing out new space in the desert. All a part of his latest, massive narrative. Theresa worries it’ll take much longer than projected, and that it won’t do his “legacy” right. For his part, Ford believes she doesn’t exactly like being there at Westworld. She doesn’t particularly. Ford speaks of Arnold and his preference of the hosts over real people. He likewise remembers that Arnold went crazy. There are slight and plain warnings from the doctor: “Please, don‘t get in my way.”
On their adventure, Logan and William head into a gang’s hideout and start blasting. A huge gunfight erupts, as Logan has a laugh and William tries getting into it. Just like a damn video game come alive!
The Man in Black and Lawrence come across a mutilated body: Teddy Flood (James Marsden). He is in terrifying shape. All the fellas can do for him is cut him down.
Into Sweetwater rides Hector and Armistice. They unload their weapons and then their bullets into anybody nearby. Like it always is during this storyline. Into the saloon goes Hector until Maeve pulls a gun on him. Upstairs, she questions him about the drawings of the men in the Hazmat suits. “Native lore,” he tells her. She also tells him about having been shot. She wants to see if there’s anything inside her as evidence. When he won’t cut into her, Maeve does it herself. But Hector, he puts his hand in the wound to do some searching. Sure enough there is lead inside her belly.
“What does this mean?” Hector asks.
“That I‘m not crazy,” she replies. “And that none of this matters.” Right after, men burst through the door to gun Hector down.
What a solid episode. The writing is insane! I love it. Such wonderful concepts and a lot of different angles, different characters. So many things happening.
Next episode is titled “Contrapasso” – will we learn more of Dr. Ford and his old pal Arnold?
Season 1, Episode 6: “His Deeds Were Scattered”
Directed by Greg Yaitanes
Written by Max Allan Collins
* For a review of the previous episode, “Coffee Blues” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Carnival of Souls” – click here
Mac (Logan Marshall-Green) is naked with a shotgun protecting the house, sending Joni (Jodi Balfour) into a craze. He’s out into the streets, hunkered down behind a parked car. Is it a real threat, or is it PTSD? Hard to tell with his life.
Eugene Linwood (Christopher James Baker) is locked up because of what he did on the bus last episode. Trusty ole Karl (Edoardo Ballerini) listens to him talking to his racist buddies on the outside. Sounds like deals are being made. Linwood and Credence Mason (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) are making greasy moves behind the scene.
Oh and we get back to Buddy (Damon Herriman), one of my favourite characters! He’s got personal troubles though, and he nearly gets into a big mess at a gay bar. He definitely has an addiction, to a few things. His mother Naomi (Ann Dowd) tries her best to help him even if he doesn’t take it.
At home Mac is trying to smooth things over after his crazy episode. He can’t even remember any of it. That’s rough. I feel bad for both of them because a) he can’t help doing something he does not remember, and b) a shotgun could’ve killed her. So, yeah, it’s a double-edged sword that war veteran trauma. In other news, Mac does what he can to look after Marcus (Joshua J. Williams) in light of all the racial violence lately. They actually bond a bit. The kid brings up “Quan Thang” wondering whether it was a mission. He roundabout wonders if his dad was a hero, or something else. He doesn’t yet understand being a hero and being something else aren’t inherently separate; sometimes heroes are stained.
Another character I couldn’t wait to see again: Oldcastle (Tom Noonan). He fields some calls in his backroom plastered with various photographs. He’s got himself work. Looks like Eugene Linwood is marked as a target by The Broker (Peter Mullan) because Oldcastle’s got a little kit ready, gloves, gun, map of the Greater Memphis Area. Y’know, tools of the trade.
At the police station, Detectives Tommy Olsen (Josh Randall) and Verne Ratliff (Happy Anderson) get a little information on Suggs, the man with one leg, like an old Western plot. Although Verne’s more excited about it than Tommy.
Moses (Mustafa Shakir), as it turns out, is a bassist, jamming in the studio with a band. Laying down a nice groove, horns, piano, the whole bit. Only it’s a bit of a misunderstanding, he gets tossed for some white guy. Just another example of guys like him who try to do honest work and get kicked in the ass for it.
Lots of music now, as Mac flicks through vinyls in a record store. He picks up a Spirit of Memphis album. At the same time The Broker calls. That’s kind of creepy, and impressive. Job time. They meet at Tom Lee Memorial Park. The Broker goes on a bit about his story, but they’re meeting for business. The kit Oldcastle put together goes to Mac: Linwood needs to die. Certainly when Joni finds out she isn’t happy. And who would be? The ball’s rolling with The Broker, so it can’t stop now all of a sudden. Still it can’t be easy for her to sit by and let him get in deeper.
Dt. Olsen is drinking and chatting it up with Sandy Williams (Kaley Ronayne), which gets closer and closer to becoming more than just a friendship. Until they fall into each others arms. And so what does that serve? Well, I feel like Tommy only gets more determined to try and figure out what really happened to her brother Cliff.
Other people getting closer includes Ruth (Nikki Amuka-Bird) and Felix, a.k.a Moses. Even if it’s under false pretence. This gets a little tricky, too. Particularly when Linwood’s been released and racial violence threatens the streets. A curfew’s enacted. Meaning Moses can’t go home and has to stay over at Ruth’s place. He does prove himself worthy by helping Marcus out when the police come around talking a lot of “boy” shit. Excellent, if not very tense scene. Great acting. Also a really nice lesson on racial politics, as Marcus wonders why things are the way they are, and Moses relates that it’s something, unfortunately, they have to get used to; sad how things haven’t changed, barely a bit outside certain laws. That doesn’t stop the same type of sentiments from thriving.
Oh, Mac. He’s off to do the latest bidding of The Broker, picking himself up a vehicle from Oldcastle’s car lot. This time a pickup truck. And then off he goes. Simultaneously, Lloyd (Skipp Sudduth) is looking over Mac and Joni’s place, checking things out to see how it might sell, what needs to be done, so on. This leads to Joni realising Mac actually went to Lloyd, to try and get out of debt without having to kill again. So she knows he’s at least trying in that sense. And Mac doesn’t know Joni is trying to sell the house.
Back to Buddy, yay! Naomi and Buddy are like their own show, love it. She goes on and on about Linwood, saying what we all feel. Instead of playing Bingo with his mother, Buddy cuts out a “proposal” that looks like a ransom note.
Listening in on Linwood we find Karl hears him say he’s going to Cesar’s, a redneck bar. Mac follows him in waiting for the right time. He follows Linwood away from the bar. He shadows the man’s ever move. Soon enough he finds Eugene doing some sneaky things at the school bus terminal. Mac gets the drop on him as he plants a bomb under one of the seats. He beats the life out of Linwood, leaving him on the bus, then shoots the bomb triggering a huge explosion. Massive. It throws Mac to the ground, luckily not killing him. He manages to get out, watched at a distance by another of The Broker’s insurance agents, Mary (Aoibhinn McGinnity).
Another job done. The Broker’s informed and another stack of cash taken off ole Quarry for his debts. Closer to the finish line, and further than neck deep in shit. Again quoting President Calvin Coolidge from the monument to Tom Lee: “His good deeds were scattered everywhere that day and into eternity.” A fitting testament to the actions of Mac Conway in this episode. And all episodes.
Yes, he’s killing. But sometimes, can the killing be good?
Another beautiful chapter. This one written by original novelist of the series upon which the show is based, Max Allan Collins. Next episode is titled “Carnival of Souls” and I love that they named it after one of my favourite films of all time, the Herk Harvey classic.