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Spoilers ahead for the latest episode of Westworld, so if you aren’t caught up with “Trace Decay,” feel free to take care of that now. I’m fine waiting – I can use the time to address the weird inter-species simpatico going on here.

westworld-spoilers

Here’s the thing about Westworld: every week, a new episode premieres, and every week, I proclaim the latest episode the best yet. My reasoning for this is fairly simple; each episode further shapes ideas introduced in the last, consistently building upon the tension, intrigue, and lore that has quickly come to define the show. Every hour-long installment is equal parts entertainment and homework, demanding a keen intellectual eye from its audience while unfolding its delightfully macabre tale. In the week between episodes, many fans (myself included) spend their time on online forums like Reddit to check in on the latest theories, or simply to fill in some gaps of understanding with some of the more complex ideas at work within the show (again, myself included. This show is hard).

These kinds of online extracurricular activities, where fans engage with the show as much as they do when actually watching the episode (if not more), is a relatively new phenomenon. As long ago as Lost, and certainly as recently as Mr. Robot, the ability to check in with online communities has been reshaping the way in which we consume dramatic, long-form television. It’s fun to see what these communities think will happen next, in terms of plot and action. But as fun as this level of engagement can be, it’s important to remember that beneath all the theories and all the speculation lies the story. Westworld may invite incredible levels of speculation, but the show is at its best in the moment, telling its rather human tale.

Image: HBO

Image: HBO

One of the most shocking moments of series came in last week’s episode, when Teresa was murdered by Bernard shortly after learning he is a host. During the scene, we also see a host being created, which led the internet to conclude this new host would be none other than Teresa, who would go on to do Ford’s bidding. It was a fun theory, but it came at the cost of the emotional story taking place here; there was no host Teresa this week to add to the drama – just her very human body, cold and dead.

While we were distracted by the possibilities presented by Teresa’s death, we forgot to think about the emotional ramifications it would have on Bernard. It’s as if showrunners Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan anticipated this from the audience, and chose to begin “Trace Decay” with the most emotionally affecting sequence of the series to date, in which Bernard tearfully attempts to come to terms with the violence he’s unleashed.

Image: HBO

Image: HBO

Once again, Westworld is underscoring just how human these hosts really are; Ford tells Bernard he was programmed to feel things beyond the “primary colors” of emotion – things like love and hate – and give them the “shades between.” Heart, in other words. And it’s this heart that leads to Bernard’s suffering, which, to Ford and the rest of us, is what makes Bernard so endearingly life-like. It was hard to watch as Bernard burned Teresa’s love letters and removed himself from security footage; he was erasing her from his physical life just as Ford later erased her from his memory.

This sort of scorched-earth policy Ford is inflicting upon Bernard’s memories, as well as Ford’s god-like enthrallment of all things within the park, reminds us of the very real stakes at play within Westworld. Though we don’t yet know Ford’s ultimate intentions (even with blood on his hands, I’m still not ready to call him a flat-out villain), it seems that his vision for the park and its hosts is something more noble than what the board has in mind. Which feels weird to say, because Ford’s done some pretty heinous things, and the question remains not if he will attempt to use Bernard to kill again, but when (and man, with the reveal that it was Bernard who abducted Elsie, I’m very worried for her well-being).

Image: HBO

Image: HBO

Bernard may have had his memory wiped, but there are other hosts in the park who are still have their newfound memory mojo. For Dolores, her memories continue to lead her back to the mysterious town with the black-steepled church. Through flashbacks, we see the town as it was in the days before the park was opened to the public, with hosts practicing dancing and other interactions. The pastoral scene is interrupted when the whole town is brutally mowed down by an unseen assailant, and William jerks Dolores back just before she puts a bullet through her head. William is concerned for her, as usual, but what’s new in this scene is his dawning realization that the host he’s falling in love with is having some serious problems – perhaps even broken entirely.

In this revelation, we begin to see William in a new and darker light. The shy and apprehensive William we knew in earlier episodes is beginning to disappear, and is being replaced by a man who is being seduced by the romance and grandeur of the park, even as he watches Dolores suffer. Though it was left ambiguous, I believe William killed the Confedarado boy when Dolores left the two together; he’s beginning to see certain host interactions as distractions from his ultimate park experience, even if he’s still figuring out what that experience truly looks like. And now that the insufferable Logan is back in the picture, we’re sure to see some bloody drama between the two in coming episodes, taking William further down his dark path.

Image: HBO

Image: HBO

Elsewhere in the park, Teddy is beginning to remember his past. Specifically, he’s remembering all the awful things the Man in Black has done to him and Dolores in the past. After finding the desiccated remains of a Wyatt raiding party, they find Angela, the host who welcomed William to the park in an earlier episode. Teddy incapacitates the Man in Black after a vivid flashback to Dolores’ farm, and the Man in Black proceeds to open up to Teddy like he’s Barbara Walters. In the outside world, the Man in Black is lots of things: in his own words, he’s a titan of industry, a philanthropist, a family man, and, oh, a god. We also learn that his wife of thirty years likely killed herself because she couldn’t deal with her husband’s dark streaks.

What this all boils down to is that that Man in Black has returned to the park one final time, in the hopes that the maze will somehow free or immortalize him. When he tells the story of killing Maeve and her daughter without emotion, it begins to paint the Man in Black as a tragic character, and less the villain we were originally led to believe he was. His violence against Maeve had nothing to do with any scripted stories in the park; he went looking for someone like her on purpose, to carry out an act of random, horrific violence. It was in the moment of seeing Maeve “truly alive” that the maze was revealed to the Man in Black, and though we still have absolutely no idea what that actually means, it tells us more about the Man in Black’s unyielding obsession to find it.

Image: HBO

Image: HBO

And then there’s Maeve herself, who in “Trace Decay” gained the god-like ability to control other hosts by narrating their actions after getting one hell of an upgrade from Felix (and a begrudging Sylvester). Her god-like power has it’s limitations, as we learn along with Maeve that even though she can control the minds of others, she cannot escape the watchful eye of the Quality Assurance team, who capture her after she essentially commands the town of Sweetwater to use itself as shooting practice.

Now that Maeve has been captured, it’s unclear what will happen to her, or her new-found abilities, though for story’s sake I’d imagine she somehow keeps them. But what’s important here is that Maeve is beginning to be able to use her memories to define who she is, and who she wants to be. She knows the memories of her daughter are fake, the whims of some writer, but she also feels the very real pain at the memory of that loss. This pain, whether fancied or real, serves as the motivation for her to escape the bounds of the park, both physically and psychically. In fact, I think that pain and suffering are the emotional keys to the hosts achieving full sentience, and with Maeve, along with Dolores and Teddy (and the soon to be reawakened Peter Abernathy), it’s only a matter of time before the revolution begins. After all, how many horrific and sad memories are there in the park waiting to be remembered, when added from one host to the next? That will be one angry army, to be sure.

Closing Thoughts

Image: HBO

Image: HBO

  • Now that lead story writer Lee Sizemore has been put in charge of smuggling Peter Abernathy – and all the park’s intellectual property – out of the park, combined with Maeve’s desire to escape, I feel it’s only a matter of time before we begin to learn the true nature of the outside world. But I also have to wonder if Peter will try to get to Dolores instead. Either way, Sizemore is definitely in over his head.
  • If Elsie is dead, I riot. Period. I’ll also riot if she becomes a host.
  • Sylvester is a dick, but he’s the kind of dick who endears himself to the audience. I was actually pretty stoked when Felix used that thingy to repair the gash in Sylvester’s throat. There’s more fun to be had with this guy.
  • With all the time frame confusion buzzing around the show, I think Dolores spoke for us all when she implored of William: “When are we?!” Indeed, Dolores. When the hell are we.
  • Stubbs clearly saw through Bernard’s bullshit when Bernard said he and Teresa never had a relationship. We haven’t getten to know Stubbs very well yet, but it looks like he’ll be stepping into a larger role. As long as he figures out what happened to Elsie I’ll be happy.
  • There was a ton of evidence in this episode that supports some of the larger fan theories out there, so check out our Weekly Westworld Roundup every Thursday to catch up on everything.

 

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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mcrib-woman

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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