Westworld: season 1 episode 3 review – The Stray
This weeks installment of HBO’s Westworld was directed by Neill Marshall, who helmed several of the more cinematic Game Of Thrones episodes, and it certainly delivers. While the two previous episodes each focused heavily on specific characters, this one broadens and delves into several characters and narratives more thoroughly. We see how Dolores is beginning to change, William and Logan’s visit to the park escalates, Bernard’s actions and motivations are revealed, and Elsie and Stubs are sent to track down a stray host. And that’s just scratching the surface. Below is our spoiler-heavy review.
This episode was packed so full of content that it’s difficult to know where to begin and impossible cover everything, so lets explore some of the heavier narratives. The opening scene is a private interaction between Bernard and Dolores, in which he gifts her a copy of “Alice in Wonderland” and they have intriguing discussions about change. It seems this is a frequent occurrence, as it’s noted by Dolores that change is a frequent theme during their visits. Bernard seems to regard as a daughter type figure, which makes sense after it’s revealed that Bernard lost a young son. His is relationship with her seems to be a way of coping with that loss. While he clearly struggles with the notion of allowing her to change, he ultimately decides to see how it plays out.
And does it ever. Despite Bernard’s instruction to stick to her narrative, Dolores is experiencing memories of previous loops and is no longer tolerant of the violence being done to her by the park’s guests, causing her to overcome her programming and righteously dish out some violence of her own in the form of self defense. She also implores Teddy to take her away to someplace nicer, but he’s set on atoning for something elusive from his past before being willing to move forward with their relationship, as he wants to earn the right to be with her. Which, prior to this episode Teddy’s past did not exist, as we see him get an update giving him a backstory for the first time in the form of an adversary named Wyatt who was sergeant who believed he heard the voice of God. There’s still much to be disclosed about Teddy’s backstory, but the encounters we saw between him and Wyatt look to be a fascinating development.
Last weeks new visitor William gets his first real taste of the park when he protects Clementine from being held hostage and gets his first kill. We knew previously that hosts are unable to harm guests, but here we learn that a hosts bullet is able to knock a guest back, but can’t penetrate a their skin. The escalated sense of danger seems to inspire William, who complains to his companion that they haven’t partaken in any of the parks real adventures yet, and decides to go on a hunt for desperadoes. Logan begrudgingly goes along, and the pair eventually run into Dolores by the end of the episode. Or rather, she runs into them. Quite literally, in fact. As she’s fleeing from her actions against her would be abusers.
Dolores isn’t the only host acting out of character, in fact the episodes title specifically relates to a host that has wandered off and has to be hunted down by Elsie and Stubbs. The host is a woodcarver and the pair find a turtle shell with the constellation Orion carved into it, which seems an odd notion for a host (this is likely an obvious nod to Blade Runner, but the shows influences are a discussion for another time). When they finally do encounter the stray host, it’s divulged that he is also having memories of past narratives to which he reacts violently (his memories also pull him out of sleep mode, which we’ve seem previously with Maeve). Only in this instance his behavior is directed at himself, and rather gruesomely. These violent delights certainly do have violent ends.
Furthermore, it’s revealed that two hosts have been speaking to an invisible person whom they refer to as “Arnold” at times when they’re malfunctioning. Bernard addresses Ford on the matter, and learns that Arnold was Ford’s partner when the park and hosts were being created. Ford reveals that prior his untimely death, his partner wanted to create genuine sentience within the hosts. However this information feels very one sided, and one has to wonder what Ford isn’t disclosing. It’s all very perplexing and it’s unlikely this is the last we’ve heard about the mysterious partner. Ford continues to be a puzzling character, and his insistence that his creations are static and less than human, versus all the evidence to the contrary, is unsettling and suspect.
While the entire cast is extraordinarily talented, Jeffrey Wright shines in this episode as Bernard, and though his scenes tend to be of a slower pace they are among the most compelling of the series so far. The stand out scene of the episode is an incredibly moving video conversation he has with his (ex?) wife, played by the fabulous Gina Torres, about the loss of their son. This scene coupled with his private conversations with Dolores showcase what a talented and emotive actor Wright is, and are beginning to indicate that Bernard is the heart of Westworld.
This was an episode so full of content that it’s hard to wrap ones mind around, which is likely to be an ongoing occurrence in the coming weeks as they layers of mysteries are slowly peeled back to reveal, well, more mysteries. And hopefully some thought provoking answers along the way. Westworld is beginning to remind me of ABC’s LOST, and I mean that in the best possible way. Speaking of which, what were those inhuman sounds we heard? It’s probably (definitely) not the smoke-monster, but the way they were presented was undeniably reminiscent of LOST.
Image credits: HBO