Westworld (S01E04): “Dissonance Theory”


Dissonance Theory gave tantalizing hints about the mysteries surrounding Westworld, by having many of its characters, both human and android, break out of their narrative loops. The common thread were dreams, the power behind them…and the fightening ability to control them.

Thandie Newton’s Maeve “awakening” continued down a fruitful path, as she pursued the meaning behind yet another of her past “deaths.” In waking visions, she remembered the techs servicing her in the aftermath of a violent guest rampage through the saloon. But rather than run from it, Maeve was intrigued by it.

As Maeve drew those techs with their distinctive helmets, she discovered that she had drawn the same picture several times before.  We also learned that other Hosts have these “visions” as well. A religion had grown around them among the Native American population, with wooden carvings of those techs and their distinctive helmets sprouting up.

Outlaw Hector Escaton (Rodrigo Santoro) revealed these carvings as “Shades,” or men who came from Hell and walked between the world of the living and the dead. Sensing something deeper, Maeve had Hector cut into her, revealing a bullet still embedded where a tech had worked on her. Realizing that her nightmares were real, Maeve knew that her impending death would mean nothing.

Newton was great in Dissonance Theory, balancing that toughness that had become a signature with Maeve’s character with a slight fear. Yes, she faced the mystery behind the visions head on, but the revelations behind it were frightening. The fear that Newton infused in Maeve never weakened the character and perfectly suited the character’s approach to the mystery.

Though Santoro and Newton had only one scene together, their chemistry was fun. Not only was it nice to see Hector return, it was a great idea to team him with Maeve. The two “outsiders” in Sweetwater, the two could be the key to setting the rest of Westworld free.

Speaking of freedom, Dolores’ (Evan Rachel Wood) journey continued down a new path as Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) seemingly put her on a path to the mysterious maze. While doing so, Dolores clearly stated that she wanted to be free and that there was something wrong in this world of hers. She joined Will (Jimmi Simpson) and Logan (Ben Barnes) on their own “quest.”

Dolores’ interactions with Will were actually kind of sweet, even if some of it was part of a script in her head. But the timing of Dolores’ flashback was not a coincidence. It happened as she and Will spoke about finding new paths in life. Could Will be the key to Dolores’ awakening?

It was also great to see how much of a jerk Logan could be. We learned that Logan looked at Will marrying into the family as business, a cold detachment that explained a whole lot about the character. But sometimes, Logan came off as a caricature in this episode.

Barnes looks like he had a ball with this roll and his broke the “loop” that Will had chosen for them. Setting off on a new path toward “El Lazo,” Logan urged Will to “go black hat” with him. This new path made me go away from Will being the Man in Black (Ed Harris) simply because it is too obvious. This show has done a great job at subverting our expectations and the path tot he Man in Black is becoming too clear.

The Man in Black also revealed a bit about himself as he pursued the secret to the tattoo on Armistice’s (Ingrid Bolso Berdal) body and face. Breaking out of the scripted jailbreak with Hector, The Man In Black got just a bit closer to the secret of the maze.

For seemingly the first time, The Man in Black interacted with other human guests in the park as a man recognized him. Apparently, this villainous man was involved in some world famous “miracle” that had saved lives. It is an interesting contradiction, but also followed the theme of the park revealing the guest’s true nature. For me, it was not a huge surprise. A person who regularly saved lives might find some catharsis in a place that allows you to take lives.

It was also interesting to see that the Man in Black had access to “special effects” as he used explosive cigars to break out of the prison. Not only was it a cool reveal about the character (He is like a hacker or a video game modder), the new method was a nice change of pace from his usual “shoot everything in sight” approach. Though he eventually did to save Lawrence again in the end.

All of these recent developments might be the work of Ford (Anthony Hopkins) and his mysterious new narrative. Many of the interactions in the episode seemed to be connected to Ford’s narrative.

When Dolores was confronted by another Host hunting for her, it was clearly Ford’s voice telling her to “remember.” Armistice’s tattoos and her quest for revenge were linked to Wyatt and his masked minions, the key to Teddy’s (James Marsden) mysterious past. I was worried that the mysteries in Westworld would grow to unwieldy numbers, but it seems as though they might have one source.

The evolution of Ford has been incredible. The character started as a somewhat benevolent and eccentric old man who mused about human nature and his creations. But slowly but surely, Ford became more and more threatening. And in Dissonance Theory, he revealed his true nature.

The lunch scene between Ford and Theresa (Sidse Babbett Knudsen) in the villa was simply amazing. Theresa had always respected Ford, but always seemed to treat him as an eccentric old man barely hanging on to his power. Not only did Ford one up Theresa, who has been portrayed as powerful in the park, he also showed his immense power.

Ford showed that he could control the hosts without even talking to them. He could seemingly do this on a whim as the waiter stopped moving while pouring Theresa’s wine. It was a God-like power and incredibly scary to see. The look of complete menacing bliss on Hopkins’ face was unsettling.

Equally unsettling was the threat to Theresa, warning her to stay out of his way. He brought up his partner Arnold and his obsession with creating a world, indirectly suggesting that he and his partner may not have been very different. Ford seemed to revel in his power over the Hosts in complete opposition to his own words.

Even more frightening: Ford knew the details of Theresa’s first visit to the park as well as her affair with Bernard. Ford not only controlled the Hosts…he knew how to control the human denizens of the park.

Anthony Hopkins has always been great in the role, but this sequence was probably his best work. The man behind Hannibal Lector managed to create an equally menacing character, but in a different way. Ford does not just think he is God in this world, he is the God of this world.

And how did he create this control? By creating the Hosts’ dreams. The show brings up an interesting theme with dreams. Whether they were the actual dreams we have while asleep or our waking aspirations, they drive us in nearly everything we do.

Those dreams created a religion in the world, one not so different from our own. The lines between human and android were blurred with this revelation. Humans associated the supernatural or fantastic things we see with gods. This was a frightening development not only because it shows that awakening was spreading, but that Ford seemed to be behind it.

The Man in Black may not be the biggest threat in Westworld.