“This is the new world. And in this world, you can be whatever the fuck you want.”
After introducing the world and the main players of its story in the pilot episode, Westworld’s starts settling into the larger narratives with episode two, entitled Chestnut. As well as introducing new characters and expanding on some of the smaller roles from the previous episode, we’re given a look into a possible future for the future and enough to chew over with as many theories and ideas as we can manage.
The biggest addition in this episode is that of William and Logan (Jimmi Simpson and Ben Barnes) two guests to the park who follows the roles of Peter and John from the original movie. Like Peter, Jimmi is a nervous, socially anxious newcomer to the Park while Logan, like John, is a frequent visitor who revels in the ability to indulge his every desire, though already Logan is shown to be a much more violent and aggressive character which leaves hope that the series won’t exactly copy the film’s narrative. It’s early days but the dynamic between the two characters presents an intriguing new element to the show, in particular the way Logan recognises all the hosts as not being human and treating them with distain whereas William’s gentle nature allows him to see androids as living people.
Also, it might be a little on the nose, but the having William choose a White hat over Logan choosing the black hat is both a visual representation of their personalities and a possible parody of videogame moral choices. In this case picking a colour of hat defines your alignment in the game from here on out.
Some of the main characters from last week take a back seat to allow more focus on other people, namely Teddy whose one scene reminds us that he’s a good man in an awful place and Dolores though her apparent awakening last week is having a domino effect with Mauve being the first to fall. This is definitely Thandie Newton’s episode with her subtly changing personalities as she starts to remember her previous lives in the Park giving the episode it’s emotional centre, there’s still some confusion as to what actually happened and when but as one of the programmers states ‘God help us if these things ever found out what the guests do to them’, implying that whatever happened to Mauve happened many different times in many different ways.
It’s worth note that Mauve’s memories are triggered by Dolores using the same phrase that woke her father, ‘These violent delights have violent ends’. The nature of the phrase is still unknown but it’s eerily fitting to the show’s main of the violent delights that the guests inflict on the Hosts without remorse – something that we see Mauve suffer the aftermath of in one of the episode’s main set-pieces – and the promise of a violent end once the Hosts start realising the truth. The connection to Romeo and Juliet (the original source of the quote) is still questionable but considering what we’ve seen so far it’s highly likely that Dolores is Juliet, leaving the question as to who shall be her Romeo.
There’s also more of Dr Ford in this episode and his enigmatic nature is slowly starting to reveal itself, through a conversation Ford has with a young Host clearly designed after himself we see Ford fashion himself as The Man Behind The Curtain, Westworld after all is his creation but it’s gotten away from him recently. As evidenced in the pilot Ford is having regrets over the need to add in more thrills and excitement to Westworld rather than just allowing the experience to be the focal point of the Park, it’s almost a dissection of the show itself, distracting us with sex and violence so we don’t notice the subtleties in the story elsewhere, in Ford’s case what he plans to do with the structure in the desert might seem strange but taking in both the Host’s becoming self-aware and Ford’s own underlying narcissism there is a lot more concrete evidence than what meets the eye.
The final piece of this week’s puzzle is The Man In Black who gains a reluctant new ally in the shape of criminal Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr). While Lawrence doesn’t remember The Man, he remembers Lawrence and the many adventures they’ve had together, again we’re presented with an interesting dynamic between the Hosts and the Guests, especially when it comes to someone like The Man who claims to have been coming to the Park for 30 years and has interacted with a great number of the Hosts in enough ways to recognise and distinguish them all as though he were talking to regular people, he is in a unique position because of the memories he has with everyone that they don’t share, he holds that power over everyone, to know their deepest, darkest secrets and use that against them. Harris made a chilling opening scene when he killed Teddy and was implied to have raped Dolores but his set-piece here where he uses the Park’s safety protocols to appear immortal before a gang of killers is just as terrifying. More so because as we’re shown, now only does the Park know about him, they let him get away with it all for reasons we are not yet privy to.
Chestnut might not have had the thematic punch that The Original gave us through Dolores and the time-loops she suffered through but in expanding the storylines we’re allowed a stronger look into what makes Westworld tick, both inside through William and Logan, and outside through Mauve. There’s still a lot more questions but we’re starting to see answers take shape, it’s all theoretical at this point but like all great sci-fi, we’re given enough to chew on until next week.
4 out of 5 hairpieces