Westworld: (S01E05) “Contrapasso”


Time can be a television show’s best friend. Writers play with it to manipulate the audience. Sometimes they will do the simple things that we take for granted, such as the passing of a day in a one hour show. Other times it is more elaborate. The writers will sometimes hide the timing of events.

Is Westworld playing with the time in its world? Do Will, Dolores and Logan exist at the same time as the Man in Black’s quest for the Maze? In addition to some important reveals, Contrapasso subtly plays with time in fun ways that could lead to some interesting pay offs.

The episode mainly focuses on Dolores, Will and Logan’s journey to Pariah, a “city of sin” deep in the park to meet crime boss El Lazo. While this is seemingly straight forward, the show sprinkles some interesting reveals throughout their journey.

First is the surprise reveal of El Lazo: The crime boss is Lawrence, moments after we see the Man in Black kill him. It’s great to see Clifton Collins Jr continue on the show, but the show seemingly alludes to a popular fan theory with his reveal. I’ll return to that later.

Our trio helps El Lazo rob a military shipment of nitroglycerin for the Confederados, a group of Confederates who never surrendered after the Civil War. The robbery goes wrong in a number of ways, with El Lazo betraying the Confederados. The events finally awaken Will to a new path that coincides with Dolores’ journey.

Logan, in addition to being a complete douche bag, drops some interesting tidbits. He is looking to buy the park as the escalating costs are making it “hemorrhage” money. Later, we also find out why Logan brought Will to the the park. In addition to being his brother in law, Logan always thought Will was “never a danger to anyone,” a middle management hump whose best moments have already passed him by.

Jimmi Simpson is great in his role here, making it totally believable when he finally breaks from his “loop” with Logan. It’s not completely satisfying because he doesn’t completely stand up to Logan, instead leaving him to the Confederados. The more interesting development is Logan’s ability to coldly kill unarmed hosts. It reminds me of someone else…

Much more satisfying are Dolores’ developments. First, she tires of her damsel in distress role, making short work of those Confederados that corner her and Will when they escape, a cool “Hell Yes!” moment. Even more intriguing is her ability to hide her connection to Arnold, or whoever the voice is in her head, from Ford.

The scene between Ford and Dolores is probably the best scene in the episode. Most will point to the confrontation between the Man in Black and Ford later in the episode, but this meeting not only reveals some important info, but it also potentially gives us the central adversarial relationship in the show.

Dolores was there when Arnold died, the last one to hear his last wishes to destroy the park. Ford believes that Arnold is “perfectly preserved” in Dolores’ head, but she will not budge. And that moment when Dolores asks if she and Ford are old friends…my God.

Ford’s cold response is absolutely chilling. There is a hint of utter hatred in the previously serene character. Ford despises Dolores, possibly the only creation in the park that he can’t control completely. Anthony Hopkins
is amazing in this scene, perfectly expressing a barely controlled anger.

Equally as frightening is Dolores’ simple response after Ford leaves: “He doesn’t know.” How much of her relationship with Will is fake? Is she simply using him? It brings an interesting wrinkle to the relationship, which is one of the few that feels earned.

In the meantime, The Man In Black made his way to Pariah as well, dragging a nearly dead Teddy with him. He runs into the child version of Ford just before getting to the town, setting up their confrontation.

The scene itself is a bit of a disappointment. The Man in Black basically repeated everything he has been saying about the Maze. And outright saying that he wants to be the villain the park truly deserves feels like he is stating the obvious. But it’s very interesting to hear that the Man in Black played some part in preventing Arnold from destroying the park.

Ford letting The Man in Black run wild with the help of Teddy is fun. His reasons may seem mysterious, but remember the opening of the episode and Ford’s story about the greyhound who finally found freedom but had no idea what to do with it. Obviously, this monologue can be applied to the hosts, but it also applies to The Man in Black.

Ford describes the “villain’s” drive as anxiety. He has the freedom to do what he wants, but continually searches for something not meant for him. Quite frankly, Ford doesn’t see the Man in Black as a threat.

The real threat seems to be in the real world. The mysterious voice may simply be a real world person talking to the hosts from a satellite up link. Thanks to an intrepid Elsie, we learn that the Wood Cutter host that destroyed his head had an up link hidden in his arm.

I like how the show continues to play with our expectations. The voice in some of the Hosts’ heads could have a simple explanation. It may be a red herring, but this is a welcome contrast to the more mystical idea of Arnold living on in his creations.

The two technicians who serviced Maeve during her real world awakening return. While they are used to hammer the whole “People should know their place” theme into our heads with Felix’s experimentation with the little bird, they set up the return of Maeve to the real world. A truly shocking scene, it’s a wonderful pay off to the cliffhanger from last episode.

But there is also a nice little wink of sorts to the time manipulation with Felix. He is shocked to see Maeve again after he helps service her earlier in the episode. The other technician, doesn’t blink an eye. Why is Maeve there again?

I jumped off the whole “Will is the Man in Black” theory about an episode back. Now, I’m back on board. That little scene I described above may seem like a throwaway, but I look at it as a hint to the audience that we can’t always trust the timeline of events.

Lawrence is back in the world seemingly moments after he is killed. Ford manages to talk to Dolores and return her quickly. Granted, a lot of this convenience is simply the technology of the park.

But all of this points to the Will and Dolores’ journey occurring at a different time from the Man in Black. There are hints everywhere in the episode, offering the most intriguing reveal of all.

That look on Will’s face when he kills the soldier chocking Logan during the robbery is cold. That outburst of near violence with Logan after the latter utterly insults him is hint to the ease of violence that the Man in Black uses. And that little moment of camaraderie between El Lazo (Calling himself Lawrence again) and Will could be the beginning of their “friendship.”

Finally there is the part that the Man in Black played in stopping Arnold’s plan to destroy the park.  Could Will and Dolores’ journey to the maze be that part? Logan does mention Arnold’s suicide early in the episode, but that could have happened recently in their timeline. The Man in Black’s reference to Arnold being dead thirty five years could still be accurate…maybe he finished him off as the voice in Dolores’ head as Will all those years ago. It would also explain how Dolores was there at Arnold’s end.

I did a lot of twisting around there, but here’s another surprise: I hope I’m wrong. Will is one of my favorite characters simply because he’s one of the few humans who isn’t a terrible person. I don’t want him to be the hero of the story, I believe that’s Dolores’ role, but I also don’t want him to be a villain.

No matter the case, Westworld is giving us the steps towards resolution. Obviously there is more to tell, but it feels like the show is gaining steam as the characters get closer to the mysterious maze.