Westworld, Season 1 Episode 5 – ‘Contrapasso’ | Review – Hostile Takeover

Westworld, Season 1 Episode 5 – ‘Contrapasso’ | Review – Hostile Takeover

Disclaimer: This review contains spoilers and discusses theories

This is the first episode of Westworld that doesn’t open with Dolores being interrogated. These scenes have shown Dolores in a pliant and passive light, and the decision not to open with such a scene foreshadows a change for the character. She has been growing sharper and more confident over the last few weeks, and in Contrapasso her transformation gets an exclamation point. Halfway through the episode, she and William are cornered by ‘Confederados’. It looks as if they are set for a gloomy fate. To William’s shock, Dolores suddenly and savagely guns down the villains. Twirling her smoking weapon like an ace gunslinger, she drawls, “You said people come here to change the story of their lives. I imagined a story where I didn’t have to be the damsel.” She then grabs William by the hand and they run off into the night. She leads the way.  Not subtle, but it works.

This will likely be remembered as the signature moment of Episode 5, but it wasn’t the only interesting thing Dolores was up to this week. She did have an interrogation session after all. The always unsettling Ford quizzes her about her last conversation with Arnold, and she tells him it was 34 years ago. After he leaves, though, she speaks to an invisible presence. “I didn’t tell him anything,” she says. She has learned to lie even in analysis mode. The humans better be afraid.

Is Arnold the voice in Dolores’ head, the presence that she seems to perceive? Many of the shows secrets seem to now be converging around Ford’s mysterious former partner. Theories abound. One is that Ford himself is Arnold. This seems to be supported by the fact that he asks Dolores “Do you remember the man I used to be?” and immediately follows this up with “Do you remember Arnold?” Are those two separate questions, or a sneakily written line? Another theory claims that Bernard is an AI, one that Ford modeled after Arnold to assuage his guilt at Arnold’s death. Both Arnold and Bernard are revealed to have lost children, so maybe there is something to this. My own wild instinct is that Ford himself is a robot – the ultimate culmination of Arnold’s work. If he is integrated into park programming, it would explain why he is able to pause the entire park with the flick of a wrist. It also lends greater meaning to the Man in Black (MIB)’s threat to Ford this week – “I wonder what I’ll find if I cut you open.”

This interaction between Ford and MIB was an unexpected treat. To nobody’s surprise, Anthony Hopkins and Ed Harris played off each other beautifully, and their conversation dropped even more tantalizing hints. It turns out that MIB thinks the center of the maze is a higher ‘truth’ that Arnold left behind. He believes there is something more profound to the gameplay than mindless sex and violence. “If you want to know the moral of the story, you could just ask,” Ford says. The reply is immediate: “I’d need a shovel. The man I’d be asking died 35 years ago. Almost took this place with him. Almost, but not quite, thanks to me.” What exactly did MIB do to save the park? Did he get some kind of lifetime pass in return? Why would Arnold have the answer and not Ford? Is this more evidence for the Ford-as-an-AI theory?

MIB also lets slip another intriguing detail when he tells Teddy that the real world is “one of plenty”. Does this mean that there are other parks with other themes? The original Westworld film referenced ‘Roman World’ and ‘Medieval World’, so it’s a definite possibility. (Can you imagine if Game of Thrones turned out to be a park on Westworld? Hahahaha) Or is MIB making some kind of comment on the nature of reality that could encompass everything from simulated reality to parallel universes? We also learned this week that someone has been smuggling data out of the park – is this corporate espionage or something more sinister?

It also turns out that in addition to pleasure, Logan and William’s trip to Westworld could be about business too. The park has been ‘haemorrhaging cash’, and the duo’s company may be looking to buy it out. This isn’t the only takeover brewing though. In another “I’m not the damsel” moment, the episode closes with Maeve awakening on the operating table in the ‘real’ world. She knows the technician’s name, and appears to have full awareness of who and where she is. “Hello, Felix,” she says. “It’s time you and I had a little chat.”

There is seemingly no limit to where this show can go, and that is tremendously exciting. Nolan and co. seem to be sprinting confidently after several complex storylines. I just hope that unlike the greyhound in Ford’s story, they know what to do when they catch them.

Overall Rating: 4.5 / 5

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