Westworld: Season 1/ Episode 3 "The Stray" – Overview/ Review (with Spoilers)

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Overview

Crafting Teddy’s backstory is the focus of an episode dealing with change. Especially the changes the host are still going through.

Main Plot (with Commentary)

Topic 1: The Missing Woodcutter (Elsie {Shannon Woodward} and Stubbs {Luke Hemsworth})

Up into the mountains this odd pairing goes and they discover the wanderer is trapped. Well, so it seems anyway. As soon as they find him and shut him down, something happens. Stubbs seems to be sawing its head off and then it suddenly awakes, attacks him, and tries to escape on the rope Stubbs climbed to get to him. Following that it looks like it may kill Elsie but instead, kills itself.

{Commentary}

Both Bernard and Ford almost foreshadow what is to happen in the near future. Bernard notes that the rollback of the latest update was just a treatment for a symptom rather than a cure, and Ford brings up his former business partner Arnold that the perpetrator of the milk massacre was talking to. On top of that, Ford admonishes one of his employees about covering a host as if they have modesty. I bring all this up to say, it seems the woodcutter, like Delores, is evolving and while certain programming blocks may be in place, either they are failing or the hosts themselves are finding workarounds.

Such as the sleep mode. We have seen it fail just in the last episode, and in this one it fails again. But when it fails, this time, we see it happen as Stubbs tries to saw the woodcutter’s head off. Leading you to wonder was there something in him which recognized what was being done to him? Be it some sense of pain or self-preservation? Much less when it committed suicide, was that it preventing itself from being caught and locked away?

I ask this because we don’t fully know the capabilities of the host. We do know though that they don’t have ports and most changes are done wirelessly. So who is to say there isn’t a network somewhere they can tap into? One of a shared consciousness which is the source of all these problems. Heck, maybe that is where TMITBH is heading to. A maze which leads to the place where the lives and consciousness of all hosts is held.

Topic 2: A New Narrative (Teddy)

Elsie tells Stubbs that a narrative is the foundation for every host. Making it strange Teddy didn’t have a backstory, but this is something Ford fixes. He gives him the backstory of a failed lawman turned bounty hunter. One who can’t be Delores until he kills Wyatt (Sorin Brouwers). Someone who the sheriff comes to inform him about as Dolores questions, more and more, why can’t they just run away and be free. Leaving us watching him hunt the man who stands between him and his happiness. Though, of course, being the man who died 1000 times, and in nearly every episode and loop we’ve seen thus far, his chances of success aren’t that high.

{Commentary}

I don’t care about Teddy or rather, I don’t feel like I’m given a reason to care about Teddy. He is the ideal host. Generic enough to be replaceable, yet unique enough to be memorable in terms of what has happened to him and who his connections are. But despite this backstory, and his cute circumstance with Dolores, I have a serious lack of investment with this character. Something I don’t foresee changing even if there was a major overhaul of him.

Topic 3: The Mistake Which Caused Evolution (Bernard, Ford, and Dolores)

Bernard’s son dying; Arnold, Ford’s partner, in the beginning of this venture, sacrificing his personal life to work on giving the hosts a conscience; and the last upgrade which gave hosts access to fragmented memories. This combination is causing changes within the hosts. Changes which, while potentially reversible, it is becoming more and more difficult to just treat the host as robots. For Bernard especially as they are his children, a pseudo-replacement for the one he lost. Dolores in particular for as her curiousness grows, as she is starting to learn to talk off script and perhaps think for herself, so comes a warning. A warning from Ford, of all people, reminding Bernard that these things are not real.

Yet for Dolores, it seems she is ready to counter that opinion. For on top of what is mentioned above, she is learning to break character, learn, and comprehend. She is evolving past her programming and, at times, can’t even source why she thinks or says something. Leading you to wonder, as she continues to have conversations in Bernard’s basement, where will her consciousness take her?

{Commentary}

A part of me continues to feel that these talented actors are possessing generic roles. Ones with safe, conventional writing, and with that I am in this constant state of feeling disappointed yet having faith. Faith which I feel will never really be justified for the clichés are popping up too much. Be it Dr. Ford speaking of a dead business partner whose work got him likely killed, our lead losing nearly everything which would matter to him, but specifically a child, and now him drowning himself in work, and that leaves Dolores.

With her, I almost feel like there could be something bubbling there. Everyone is lukewarm water but there are bubbles in her pot. Now, whether or not she will just produce a bunch of steam as the show fizzles out, who knows? What remains true though is that Westworld feels like it could be so much more but isn’t fully living up to that potential.

Things To Note

Bernard was married to Lauren (Gina Torres) and it seems the boy’s death was an accident which Bernard can blame himself over.

It costs around 40-grand a day to be in the park.

Arnold believed the way to giving hosts consciences was by allowing them to have memories, be able to improvise, worry about their own self-preservation, and a 4th element he died before discovering. Expect the search for that fourth element to become important.

The hosts are programmed with weapon privileges. Meaning some can use guns, some can use axes, and others can’t. Dolores breaks this rule as she kills a bandit who was in the process of trying to assault her.

Collected Quote(s)

Fiction, like all great stories, is rooted in truth.

—           “The Stray.” Westworld

Low Points

Show Needs a Game Changer

I don’t know if it is because I’m watching this at the crack of dawn or because the potential we know the actors have isn’t being met by the script but, either way, a shakeup is needed. Something about this show seems too much like it is following procedure and the only thing new or even possibly innovative is the special effects. Similar to a summer blockbuster, this show is beginning to feel like it has characters who are just good enough to hold your hand until there are gunshots, an explosion, or someone screaming. Then they push you into the storm hoping you’ll get caught up. Problem is, this is HBO and while the sex and violence can be titillating, the internet has free porn and I can watch violent things happen to people just by turning on the news or learning about the latest hashtag. So this show has to give something more for it isn’t building off these generic bases quickly or efficiently.

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