I Don’t Know What’s Going on in Westworld But I’ve Never Been More Alive
Westworld is another one of those TV shows like True Detective, Better Call Saul, or Game of Thrones, filled with a dozen little mysteries and no real answers until way late in the season, if at all, forcing thousands of fans with internet connections and time to blow to spend their online moments thinking about What Might Be Going On. Google “Westworld theories,” and you will find literally dozens of smartly written articles and coherently argued forum threads jabbering about what might be the deal with the multiple timelines, the so-called robot revolution, the identity of Wyatt, the so-and-sos and the such-and-forths.
If you’re discontent with sitting back and passively consuming the entertainment, there’s a lot of fun to be had in blithely pointing your finger at the screen and going, That guy’s a robot, and feeling good as hell when, in fact, that guy turns out to be a robot. The most recent episode of Westworld was particularly cathartic for viewers who’ve spent all season obsessing over the potential connections like Rust Cohle trying to catch the Yellow King. Bernard, who was previously revealed as a robot, was also revealed to be Arnold, the park’s co-creator; the Man in Black, Ed Harris’ sour-faced antihero, was more-or-less exposed to be a future version of soft-hearted William; the long-theorized multiple timelines were finally confirmed.
SPIN is not above granular cultural analysis, because culture is what we think about when we’re not strapped to our laptops, waiting for Radiohead to tweet. But here’s a confession: The SPIN newsroom, as a whole, is particularly divided on HBO’s Westworld, for a few different reasons. Some of us say it stinks—think it’s just Lost with higher production values and sexy, killer cowboy robots. The rest of us like it, but for another, simpler reason—we don’t have any idea what’s happening, and we’re content to just have fun for as long as it’s going to last.
This is not very discerning, but it’s true: Westworld is like Lost with higher production values and sexy, killer cowboy robots. There are a bunch of narrative strands that might be threaded into some revelatory moment of brilliance … but to be honest, I’ve forgotten most of what’s going on. Ten weeks of watching a show is a long time. Memories contract; details smudge; hints are forgotten unless mentioned in the pre-episode recap. This week, I had two separate IRL conversations trying to parse the revelations of the latest episode, both of which ended with a hearty shrug, and a return to our beers.
We did learn a lot during this past Sunday’s episode, but there are still plenty of questions as we head into the season finale. Here’s one: We see Dolores, dressed as a gunslinger, run away from the killer Confederates in the past, and make her way to the basement of the mysterious church that’s been triggering some of her flashbacks. We then fast-forward to the present, where she’s confronted in the church by the Man in Black, suggesting that she maybe just chilled in a basement for 30 years. But we already saw Dolores interact with the Man in Black and Maeve and Teddy in the present, way back at the beginning of the show. So, after she was killed by the Man in Black in the present, did she just start roaming the wild on her own, making her way to the church independent of anything we’ve seen? Was it another Dolores? Does anything I typed make sense? Am I missing something incredibly obvious, turning this paragraph into an idiot’s ramble?
I do not know.
I’m sure there is some tidy explanation for all of this. The clues are there, waiting to be caught by some savvy Reddit user. But the other side of this is that I don’t particularly care to figure it out ahead of time. Westworld is enjoyable in ways that don’t need to be ruined by analysis, I think. Strip away the prestige trappings, and it’s just a campy sci-fi show with a bong’s worth of What is reality? hypothesizing thrown in for fun. I love watching Dolores figure out whatever’s happening to her; I love watching Ed Harris snarl and mutter his way toward some violent conclusion; I love watching the Bernard robot hiccup and sputter his way to some kind of self-awareness; I love the sexy, killer robots. They’re so sexy, so deadly. James Marsden, Thandie Newton, the guy with the beard who’s trying to crack the safe. Va-va-voom.
There are a lot of things going on in the world. Culture is vitally important, and culture writing can be vitally important, but is Westworld vitally important enough to spend weeks obsessing over whether this guy is that guy, or whether the thing is doing the other thing, in a show about sexy, killer robots? Will all your theorizing aid your enjoyment of this admittedly incomplete, admittedly not-that-deep show?
I do not think so. All of this internet tail-chasing might potentially ruin television, as the Ringer recently claimed, which is a free entertainment. (We know that HBO Go account isn’t yours.) Why nitpick what’s probably going to be explained at some point? Instead, I’m incredibly excited to let it unfold, and to be pleasantly surprised with whatever happens. It can’t be as unsatisfying as Lost. I hope that one guy turns out to be a robot, though. You know who I’m talking about.