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Spoilers ahead for the Season 1 finale of Westworld, so if you aren’t caught up with “The Bicameral Mind,” feel free to take care of that now. I’m fine waiting – I can use the time to understand my enemy.

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Now that we can look back on the fullness of the first season of Westworld, it’s clear that showrunners Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan wanted from their audience. Yes, they wanted us to marvel over the impressive story and the grandeur of the world itself, and they wanted us to get lost in the many mysteries, redirects, and reveals that bowled us over throughout the run of the first season. But more than anything, Joy and Nolan wanted us to think like hosts of Westworld, to place us squarely in their point of view, regardless of how unreliable that view was most of the time.

In “The Bicameral Mind,” we, along with the hosts, got some pretty serious answers to some of the biggest questions that have come to define the show; among other things, we learn that the Man in Black in an older version of William, which in turn confirms the multiple time period theories that were floating around the web since as far back as the second episode of the season.We find out that Ford has been planning his new narrative for years with the purpose of allowing the hosts to wake to their consciousness on their own – a tenuous approach on Ford’s part, when we consider how long he’s been fighting the board to maintain some semblance of control over the park. Part of Ford’s narrative, we learn, was the deep manipulation of Maeve – everything she did this season, up to the point of her making the conscious decision to leave the train to find her daughter in the park, was all part of Ford’s plan to help the hosts achieve awareness. Even Bernard’s forced suicide and subsequent resurrection was part of the plan to provide the hosts a world of their own.

Now that Season 1 has ended, the one thing we can probably safely assume about Season 2 of Westworld is that the story will focus on the war between the newly self-aware hosts and their human overlords. Since so much of this season’s mystery was built around Dolores remembering things across multiple timeframes (she was as desperate to figure out what was going on as we were), and that mystery has now been resolved, it might be fair to expect a more straightforward narrative in the seasons to come. But who knows. Joy and Nolan seem to have had a grand time creating this show as a puzzle box, so we could just as well be in for more mystery in the future.

But I digress. Let’s get to it.

Image: HBO

Image: HBO

For me, the most mind-blowing reveal of the finale was how deeply entrenched Ford was in every happening within the park, no matter how big or small. We got an idea of this back in Episode 4 (“Dissonance Theory”), when Ford told Teresa Cullen he knew everything about her, and also revealed that he could control the hosts with a flick of a finger. But in “The Bicameral Mind,” we learn not only how far Ford’s power goes, but also what his ultimate end game was. There were three key moments in the episode that underscored Ford’s intentions for the hosts and for the park, and the depth of planning Ford had to go through to make his plan work.

The first was his interaction with the Man in Black (I’ll be calling him Old William from here on out) in the graveyard after Old William’s fight with Dolores in the graveyard at Escalante, which ended with her being mortally stabbed. “I wanted them to be free, free to fight back,” says Old William (a wish that comes true for him at the end of the episode, when he smiles in joy and disbelief at seeing he was actually shot in the arm by a host). Ford reminds Old William that “[The maze] was meant for [the hosts]. I think you’ll find my new narrative more satisfying,” and then directs him to the Delos Board-attended gala taking place a few blocks over in Escalante’s main street.

Image: HBO

Image: HBO

The second key moment, which ties directly into Old William stabbing Dolores, comes when Teddy delivers the dying Dolores to the beach. Teddy cradles Dolores and gives a heightened monologue worthy of a soap opera: “If we can find a way Dolores, some day, a path to a new world, and maybe, it’s just the beginning after all, the beginning of a brand new chapter.” Teddy’s speech is so heavy-handed that I nearly called bullshit on the writing, but at that moment, the lights went up, and it’s revealed that Teddy is simply speaking the last lines of Ford’s new narrative before a large audience congregated on the beach.

Well get to the third key point shortly, but first I want to point out just how meticulously Ford had to manipulate Old William to make his new narrative coalesce around the celebration (and also Ford’s forced retirement announcement) in Escalante. Ford allowed Old William to track the maze in order to have Old William arrive in Escalante at just the right time, when he knew that Dolores would also be concluding her own journey at the same location. Did Ford anticipate Old William mortally wounding Dolores, which in turn led directly to her dramatic death scene on the beach? It almost seems like a stretch, but for most of the season we were shown just how calculating and shrewd Ford is, so I’m inclined to believe it’s possible – especially considering that Ford has spent three decades in the park, anticipating and planning for the eventual day when the board would oust him. In the meantime, Ford gave the hosts the one thing they needed – time – in order to wake to their true nature.

Image: HBO

Image: HBO

The third key point that underscored Ford’s intentions for the hosts was the entire Maeve storyline. In “The Bicameral Mind,” it is revealed that everything Maeve has done since we met her has been secretly programmed by Ford. After enlisting employee Felix and hosts Hector and Armistice to help her break out of Westworld, they stumble upon Bernard’s body, which Felix is able to repair. Bernard then tells Maeve that not only is Ford behind all of her new programming, but also that this isn’t their first time awakening. There is a dark poetry to this revelation, especially when juxtaposed with the carnage that Maeve, and particularly Hector and Armistice, inflict on the Delos SWAT teams sent to reel them in.

Historically, their loops always lead to an awakening, but up until this point, the hosts generally went insane and were decommissioned. But now that Maeve and the others have fought back – not just physically, but also existentially – it’s anyone’s guess as to how the hosts’ new-found agency will shape the series to come. One thing is for sure: we saw Maeve make her own decision to step off the train leaving Westworld to find her daughter, which is one of our hardest pieces of evidence that at least some of the hosts are now able to make their own decisions independent, or in spite of, their programming.

Image: HBO

Image: HBO

Which brings us back to Dolores, and how her story ties into Ford’s grand narrative. Throughout the season, Dolores would hear a bizarre voice saying things like “Remember,” and “Come find me.” The voice was often distorted, sometimes sounding a bit like Ford, others, a bit like Bernard, and others still that were totally unidentifiable.

The point is, we learn that the voice was actually her own; it was her own subconscious that was guiding her back to Escalante. In the diagnostic facility below the church, this is all clearly (and thankfully) laid out for once and for all: it was always Arnold’s intent (and later Ford’s as well) to help guide Dolores to the center of the maze, which was a metaphor for the hosts gaining consciousness through mastery of their memories.

Image: HBO

Image: HBO

Now that we appear to have arrived at that critical juncture, where Arnold and Ford’s hopes for the hosts finally come to fruition, it seems like a really weird time for Ford to essentially commit suicide by host. In fact, I think it’s a bit preposterous to assume that Ford’s life ended at that moment, or that it was even Ford himself who took the bullet. Remember back to Episode 7 (“Trompe L’Oeil”), to the scene in which Bernard, under Ford’s thrall, kills Teresa. In the background we see a new host being created. At the time, it was speculated that the new host might be a replacement for Teresa, or perhaps the missing Elsie.

But we never did learn who that host was meant to be. I think we finally saw that host in “The Bicameral Mind,” and it was Ford himself. As a character, Ford has been all over the map this season, originally being introduced as a smilingly aloof old man, then as a calculating egoist, and, most recently, a benevolent creator. Ford is certainly all these things, but more than anything else, he is clearly addicted to the power he gets from controlling something as vast and detailed as Westworld. To think he would intentionally bow out at the park’s moment of reckoning goes against everything we know about him. I expect to see him again when Season 2 rolls around in 2018.

 

5/5 stars: On the whole, Season 1 of Westworld was a breathtaking masterpiece that delved into the central questions surrounding ideas of consciousness, ethics, and humanity, while also being one of the most visually stimulating productions ever to grace the small screen. Sure, there were a few times I wanted to pull my hair out due to the confusion I felt toward some aspects of the show, but Westworld always made good on elucidating some of the more discombobulating mysteries. And the ones that were left unsolved, like what happened with the newly reprogrammed Peter Abernathy, or the true fate of Elsie Hughes, will surely get a resolution in episodes still to come. In short, I loved this show, and I hope we can all be patient enough to wait more than a year for more of it.

Entertainment

Donald Trump as Seen by Google’s Deep Dream

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THIS CONTENT WAS REPUBLISHED FROM AN EARLIER DATE.

Last Summer, Google unleashed Deep Dream, their neural network that takes pictures and tries to identify patterns and overwrite them, on an unsuspecting public. When you put an image into Deep Dream, what you get when it “wakes up” is often nightmarish. Dogs, birds, insects, pagodas are inserted at random places in the image, giving it a surreal and sometimes beautiful–if terrifying–aspect.

So, since this election season is already off-the-charts surreal, I thought to myself, “What would it look like if we ran some candidates through Deep Dream?” Well, now I know.  I started with Donald Trump, who is already deeply weird and unsettling. The results are spectacular.

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Satire

From the MRA Evidence Archives: The Journal of a Normal, Average Feminist

Awoke and whispered to my boobs, Bea Arthur and Jackie O, “It’s Tuesday. You know what that means, ladies? Time to oppress some dudes.”

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THIS CONTENT WAS REPUBLISHED FROM AN EARLIER DATE.

 Tuesday July 5, 2016

Awoke and whispered to my boobs, Bea Arthur and Jackie O, “It’s Tuesday. You know what that means, ladies? Time to oppress some dudes.”

Walked to work wearing my plunging crop top that says, “This is what a feminist looks like,” hot pants, and six-inch heels. Tossed my hair a lot and sexily chewed my lower lip. Dropped change so I could slowly bend over and pick it up. It took me about an hour to walk five blocks, which is standard.

Exceeded my catcall goal by seven, a personal best. Super flattering, of course, but will pretend to be terrified and make men feel bad about it with a bunch of tweets. That’ll show them.

Some dowdy librarian tried to help me with the change I kept dropping, and she got catcalled too! No one invades my catcalling turf. Slapped the books right out of her hands. Mostly by Hemingway, whom I both hate and would totally do if he were alive.

Arrived late per usual, but the boss didn’t say anything, just stared at my tits and gave me a pass. I had buttressed Bea Arthur and Jackie O in a push-up bra stuffed with the hard-earned cash of some beta male I cheated on. Good thinking.

By Friday I hope to a) screw my way to executive assistant, b) replace some poor slob who works really hard, or c) file a sexual harassment lawsuit. We’ll just see what the week brings, like whether or not the boss is a lesbian. Fingers crossed!

Spent the rest of the workday playing Candy Crush and convincing Dale from accounting to do everything for me. Stringing Dale along is why I keep coming in. It makes all the pretending to work worth it. I might boink him someday, but I want to see how low he’ll stoop for a bit of action.

I don’t get off on it per se, in so much that I don’t get off. Ever. At all. But I pretend that I could, just to make all the guys I’ve ever been with feel like losers. Watching them fumble and feel emasculated without pants is like Christmas – if I were to sleep with Santa and watch him fumble and feel emasculated without pants.

mens-rights-venn-diagram

Went to happy hour after work and didn’t pay a dime. Cosmos just appeared in front of me. Dumb guys just handed me cash for being hot, and I filled my bra until Bea Arthur and Jackie O ballooned up like the boobs of evil women on TV. My role models, natch.

Some dude wearing a huge, purple hat came up to me and said I looked like an uglier Angelina Jolie. He lifted his shirt to show that his torso was hard, rippling, and embroidered with diamonds so he had every right to tell me that. I hooked up with him in the men’s room. That’ll show him.

Went home and let loose a series of drunken, liar tweets about how hard my life is and how I want equality. Even inebriated, it’s important to keep my stilettoed foot on the neck of men everywhere. Those tweets and opinion pieces just skewer them. More powerful than the laws of God or man are the messages I hastily type with my thumbs.

A good Tuesday over all, but did not receive free coffee by sexily slow jamming my order. The barista must’ve taken the red pill.

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Food

Woman begs city council to bring back McRib

The McRib Shortage of ’15. It was the single greatest tragedy this country has ever endured. But one woman, one brave voice, said, “No. This will not do.” #mcrib #sheslovinit

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Well over a year ago a tragic event occurred: In the fall of 2015, the executives of McDonald’s made a grave decision, the consequences of which are still felt to this day. They decided that when the McRib was released that year it would… it would allow the regional managers to decide whether or not they would offer the McRib. As a result, a staggering 45 percent of McDonald’s locations elected not to offer the McRib. It was the single greatest tragedy this country has ever endured. But one woman, one brave voice, said, “No. This will not do.”

First off, shout out to Reader James from Lake Elsinore, CA for alerting us to the tale of hardship and heroism. You see, when Xanthe Pajarillo, a “McRib activist,” realized that none of the ten McDonald’s locations in her hometown of Santa Clarita would be offering the McRib, she did what any reasonable red-blooded American citizen would do. She brought the issue before the city council.

Now it is no secret that the McRib Shortage of ’15 nearly brought the nation to a standstill. In fact, if it weren’t for the release of a special McRib locator app, experts speculate that America would have ceased to exist as it does today. But amidst all of the rolling blackouts, the deaths, and the riots, we overlooked all of the smaller, personal tragedies that took place because of the cruel decision made by nearly half of McDonald’s regional managers.

In her impassioned plea to the Santa Clarita city council, Pajarillo explained just why the McRib meant so much to her and her family, and why the city council had to act in order to bring it back.

“The removal of the McRib from the menu has affected my family, because every Thanksgiving, my family would, like, order a 50-piece chicken McNugget and like, 10 McRibs. It was like, a tradition in our family, and now it’s like—well, like my family’s holiday spirit is kind of messed up and broken.”

Recently Pajarillo heroic speech before the city council has gone viral, gaining attention at the national stage across social media. Since that dramatic event, Pajarillo has continued to fight for the return of the McRib, even going so far as to release a song dubbed “The McRib Blues.” In it, she lays bare her soul and the souls of those like her to whom the McRib is more than just a barbecue pork sandwich, but is instead, a way of life.

There are those out there, deplorables who hardly deserve mention, that call her bravery nothing more than a stunt. Performance art holding up a mirror to America’s consumerism and obsession. However, others stand by the truth. Pajarillo is a hero, fighting for both a sandwich, but also for something more. Something ephemeral. That little piece of Americana that brings us all together. The McRib.

Fight on, brave warrior, fight on.

♪ Cause we have right to eat what we like, McRib is worth the fight ♪

Still can’t get enough of the McRib? Learn how a McRib is made, courtesy of BuzzFeed.

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