'Westworld' Episode 4: Dissonance Theory

October 24, 2016

 ... therefore I am. 


Cogito, ergo sum. The Descartes allusion is not lost as we start this episode, where we see Delores ending her dialogue with Bernard by hinting at the French Enlightenment philosopher's most quotable-quote.


"I think... I think I'm losing my mind," Delores says. Descartes posited that the ability to question our own thinking processes and existence (aka meta-cognition) was proof that we do, in fact, exist. By this logic, Delores' concern that her thinking is off is actually an awakening, a switching on. Thus, setting the stage for the motif of this episode: dissonance. 


Ok, dissonance theory, a breakdown:


ELI5 (or Explain Like I'm 5 for you noobs) : two black and white ideas taking place at the same time. 


ELI12: the existence of two opposing ideas in one's mind simultaneously. 


ELI'mAStonedCollegeStudent: when, like, contradictory things take place at the same time, like I know that I love this one girl, but I also love sleeping around.. so, like, you justify it with some bullshit line like, "well, if we're meant to be, then I should probably sleep around now, because eventually she's going to be the only girl I'll ever be with." 


ELI'mWatchingWestworldEpisode4: when Delores says she thinks she's losing her mind to explain the fact that she's actually becoming MORE aware, alert, and mindful of the undercurrents of her world. 


ELI'mGrown: Read a book.


A bit more... you may not know that “Dubito, ergo cogito, ergo sum," is the fuller context of the Descartes quip -- "I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am." Important to make this distinction, as we see doubting, in this episode, run alongside dissonance and awakening. So let's use that as the approach to this breakdown: doubting and dissonance. In 5 points! 


1. Delores' awakening. As above, Delores begins to think, think she's losing her mind, while in the process gaining it. Also, just gotta love Evan Rachel Wood switching between emotional and stoic in the interrogation scenes.


2. Ford as god and slaver. "In here, we were gods," he tells Theresa from the white walls of his plantation overlook, while the hundreds toil away underneath him and in front of him, sowing fields and pouring wine; these servants are his to freeze at the press of a button.. Ford gives life, and lives god-like from his ivory tower, but so too oppresses it, destroying and re-creating as he sees fit. 

 3. The Man In Black as jailer (also jailed) and emancipator. Great example here. The MIB knows as much as one can know as a guest of Westworld, and yet he knows nothing, seeking truth amidst the madness. We see him imprisoning Lawrence, yet also setting him free from both the gallows and the firing squads. Oh, and a cute little note, he is also mentioned to be some kind of philanthropic life-saver in the real world, as a guest alludes while he takes on the Arroyo quest. In true dissonant fashion, he reacts to this praise of his egalitarianism by telling the baby-faced cowboy, "If you say another world, I'll cut your throat." Nice. Even nicer: as he begins to uncover the facade of Westworld, we might begin to see this black-clad, uber-violent anti-hero as the force who can move us to some answers. (Oh, and he knows about Arnold.)

 4. William and Logan. Two sides of the same coin, epitomizing the black and whiteness of humanity, existing in the same storyline. "Wear the black hat with me," Logan tempts William, who guards Delores' "innocence" while seeming himself the most innocent chap in the whole park. Wondering, though, with this show, if anything can be as black and white as it seems. Nice hats though. 

5. Maeve. Go on Maeve! Thandie Newton has spoken of her role in this series before, in which she described her unwillingness to take on a character who is essentially sexual chattel, corsetted and fishnetted. She was handed a hint to her character's own ends, and opted to stick it out with knowledge that this sexploited brothel-broad could be the one to up-end the whole system. As she uncovers the bullet, the shade of doubt that's been gnawing at her comes into full view, and so too her potentially glorious rebellion. Her doubt, and the mistakes of her programmers, lead to the biggest awakening of the series yet, where she realizes, opposite Delores, that she is NOT losing her mind after all, but that all of this madness is meaningless. Unless.. 



So that's about all to handle for now in this episode rich in plot, theme, and world-building. To quickly wrap-up though -- last week I jokingly mentioned that this show was a mock of Grand Theft Auto (though perhaps given the new trailers Red Dead Redemption 2 might be the better fit, due out, conveniently, alongside an anticipated second season of Westworld). These Rockstar games share with Westworld the prospect of gradual world-building -- we are essentially blind-guests, stumbling alongside cyborgs and humans and ambiguous guys and guns and single matches and hyperloops, looking for our radars to kick-on, waiting for each piece of this world to stretch and widen, block-by-block, so we can map it all out. For the masses, that might be the perfect analogy: a world stretching north-south-east-west from desert to mountain. But we also might be intuiting the fact that this world isn't only widening and stretching in our three-dimensions, but bending time and mind as well. 


Oh, and speaking of time being a flat-circle... anyone catch the Dia de los Muertos nod we'll get in next week's episode, 'Something True' ? I did. But what did I miss?! Happy Halloweed, you freaks. 




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