Westworld Recap S01E01: The Original

EWWWW. And not for the reasons a homophobe would be thinking.

In a world where technology has advanced to the level that androids are indistinguishable from humans, what is the logical outgrowth? If you answered a Wild West theme park for the obscenely rich, I question your powers of deduction. But suspending disbelief is worth it to enter Westworld.

"Pure"

In the pilot episode, "The Original," we meet our wide(blue)-eyed (white) heroine, Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood). We also meet the world-weary (Black) hooker, Maeve (Thandie Newton) who runs the Mariposa. These obvious tropes would be eye-roll-y at best, except they're there for a reason. Westworld is an Old West theme park — it's not Deadwood. Westworld is a Disney-fied, purdy-fied version of "the real thing." Westworld is full of racist stereotypes (and racists, and rapists) because that's what the clientele wants. They don't want their expectations challenged — they want to be spoon-fed a version of history where they can be heroes, or villains, without consequence. And luckily, the brief glimpse we get of Maeve is not all there is.

"Sin"

Dolores's tragic arc is announced in her name — dolores in Spanish means pains — multiple instances of pain. With her encounter with The Man in Black (Ed Harris playing a literal blue-eyed devil), we learn that he's been violating her for years. The implication being that he is far from the only Guest to do so. Since the update initiated by Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) and implemented by Dr. Ford (Sir Anthony Hopkins), the Westworld Hosts have been tapping into underlying, overwritten code — the memories of past experiences that are wiped regularly. As they remember, they begin to chafe under the yoke of technologically imposed ignorance. When Walter (the skinny half of the cartoonish villain pair who murders Dolores's parents in the first "chapter") goes off-script to massacre a saloon-full of Hosts, he stalks amongst the bodies, anointing them with milk, saying, "Not going to die this time, Arnold." Arnold is lying in a pool of milk and blood outside. Elsie (Shannon Woodward) remarks to Bernard that Walter is always the one who "buys it" only when the bandits are on the "High Sierra storyline." Bernard, jokingly notes: "Well, Walter must have got tired of buying it."

Walter is here to buy milk and that's it.

So what you're really wondering is, what was really gay about the episode? Well, there was the obvious rapey kiss by Elsie, one of the Westworld programmers, taken from the "hooker with hidden depths." This was weird, not only because it played into the predatory lesbian trope, but because Elsie seems to be closeted. She remarks to Bernard that a woman with secrets is "every man's fantasy," excluding herself from a narrative in which she would have a female fantasy. This is odd, because she's in a glass room, and looks around before "stealing" the kiss. Maybe there are better ways to not out yourself? And be less gross?

What is refreshing is the way, surprisingly, race and sexuality are integrated into the story of the show. Dolores runs across a Black family during her plein air painting. One of the first couples who step off the train, and the couple traumatized by Walter in the saloon, are interracial. It seems to go without saying that all manner of sexual predilections will be catered to in this world. The question is whether a Black family, or a gay couple, would really want to come to a place like this. But again, I'm agreeing to suspend disbelief to see where the story goes.

Westworld's intriguing premise is that we empathize with the androids, and any potential human slaughter that may come after, seems almost righteous. The question of whether this is an organic "evolutionary" development, or whether there is a human hand in the AI's march toward singularity is an open one. I will note, though, that it is Bernard's voice walking Dolores through her diagnostics at the episode's opening. And it is Bernard who goes off-script to give Dolores the forbidden knowledge that her world is not what she thinks (or what she has been programmed to think) it is.

Early in the episode, Dolores points out the "Judas steer" of the herd to Teddy. Dolores tells him, with great satisfaction, "You don't need to lead them all, you just need to lead that one. The rest will follow." We learn in the last few scenes that Dolores is the oldest Host in the park. And in the very closing scene, Dolores literally hurts (kills) a fly.

"She wouldn't hurt a fly."

"Violent delights have violent ends." They do indeed, Dolores.

amberhardfemme's picture
on October 6, 2016

Comics made me queer.
Los Angeles-based, Chicanx, comic book pro