Westworld (S01E03) "The Stray"

The Stray returned Westworld’s focus to Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and Teddy (James Marsden), the first people we met in the park. The episode introduces some intriguing new stories for these characters in addition to revealing more compelling mysteries.
Dolores continued to be the center of nearly every mystery and story line in Westworld. We learn that her disturbing “loop” always ended with guests raping her. The human guest continued to show how savage they have become in the park.
This made Dolores successful escape from the hands of a group of sadistic Hosts and guests quite satisfying. She is finally able to break away from her programing because of that mysterious voice (More on that later) and fire a gun. But there is one incredibly intriguing plot point to come out of Dolores’ flashbacks.
“Let’s start at the beginning.”
The Man in Black (Ed Harris) had limited screen time, but repeats this phrase when he does appear. Shortly after Dolores escaped the farm house, she runs into William’s (Jimmi Simpson) arms. There are several fans who believe that William and the Man in Black are one in the same, that all the scenes with the former are simply flashbacks. This sequence will probably feed into this fan theory even more.
William had an interest in bounties, the more “action-packed” attractions that the park offers. The Man in Black reveled in these action narratives. William was so innocent and good that it would not surprise me that the writers, who have already subverted audience expectations, would go in this direction.
However, there have been some inconsistencies with this theory. Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) has interactions in the modern day with Dolores that lead directly to her escape. Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) interacts with Bernard and he is seen observing the Man in Black in Chestnut. In any case, I do believe that William and the Man in Black are linked in some way.
Bernard’s conversations with Dolores also bore fruit. While a lot of the interactions were a little too on the nose (Bernard giving Dolores a copy of Alice in Wonderland was really heavy handed), an important discovery is made: Dolores yearns to be free. Bernard’s fascination with Dolores’ awakening is a bit confusing though.
The connection to the loss of his son did not quite add up. Did Bernard want to create a host version of his son? After all, Ford (Anthony Hopkins) seemingly made a host modeled after himself as a boy. My annoyance and confusion might stem from how heavy handed the reveal of Bernard’s son was.
Speaking of Ford, we got a glimpse of a more antagonistic side. He chastises a tech for covering up a Host during a “tune up.” Ford always came off as a semi-benevolent god bemused by his creations, but in this scene we see that he is more than capable of being a more wrathful god.
This makes the revelation of “Arnold” all the more intriguing. After Elsie (Shannon Woodward) reveals that a malfunctioning Host had a conversation with someone named Arnold, Ford reveals the name belongs to his former partner. Arnold was a man obsessed with the idea of consciousness in the Hosts, and died in the park as a result.
Ford tells Bernard this story as a warning to Bernard. Don’t chase after things that are not there. However, the more intriguing tidbit? Ford suggests that Arnold’s death was not accidental.
Arnold being the source of the voice in Dolores’ head was the obvious conclusion. But how did Arnold do it? Did Arnold die because of a wild goose chase…or did he kill himself? Could Arnold have somehow placed his consciousness into the programing of the Hosts? Or did Ford have him killed because of his pursuits? It’s all very intriguing.
Ford also focuses on Teddy, finally revealing his purpose in the park. He is simply there to keep Dolores in Sweetwater for the guests. He is a walking plot device, that anchor to keep Dolores, who has “dreams” of traveling to distant places, in place. In many ways, it makes her even more human. We all dream of big dreams, but something always keeps us from pursuing those dreams.
But it is satisfying to see Teddy go off on his own. As a writer myself, I could not help laughing as Ford reveals that Teddy’s back story is so mysterious because the writers never bothered to give him one. Seeing Teddy with a new found purpose as Ford gives him a new target is great to see.
Just as satisfying is this new pursuit. The seeming supernatural evil of Wyatt, the masked assailants who can roar…it is like something out of a horror movie. It is a surprisingly intense story that Ford creates here as Hosts die grotesquely and Teddy is possibly captured. Though part of my satisfaction might stem from seeing human guests run for their lives. It serves those perverts and sickos right.
However, those masked killers did not fall to Teddy’s gunshots. Are they human? Even the guest with Teddy could not land a shot, and early in the episode we see that she can shoot. Has Ford found a way to pit human guests against each other?
Finally, Elsie and Stubbs headed out to catch a stray host. While their bickering was fun to watch, it felt a little aimless. The payoff, where the Host malfunctioned and simply wanted to see the stars, was eerie though. The Host violently bashing his own head in showed that maybe not all the Hosts will respond well to their awakenings.
Stray was a full episode that gives us a lot to digest. Westworld continues to intrigue us with new wrinkles to its multiple mysteries. Hopefully, we will not be disappointed with their resolutions.