'Westworld' Episode 5: Contrapasso

November 4, 2016

"All hope abandon, ye who enter here."


Sunday's episode title, "Contrapasso," is a clear allusion to Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy, the most famous of this three part epic poem being Inferno, in which the protagonist, Dante, is guided through the rings and layers of Hell by the poet and philosopher Virgil. 


The direct reference in the title of the episode is one of many allusions to the 14th century Italian's pinnacle work, and it is no wonder showrunners Joy and Nolan have chosen this literary epic as a frame for their story about seeking answers in the middle of a maze. 

















Inferno was, among many things, a scathing political and religious indictment of (and warning to) treasoners, abandoners, and traitors. In the ninth and deepest ring of Hell we encounter those who have committed treachery against kindred, country, guests, or lord. Here we see men like Cain and Judas Iscariot, frozen in ice to various degrees of silence and immobility. Dante's Contrapasso, then, refers to a punishment that is either a replica of the crimes committed on earth (rapists being raped time and time again) or, as he preferred, an inversion of the crimes they committed. Men and women who took action or spoke against their nation or lord were thus frozen-still, some with only their heads above ice and the most treacherous completely submerged in frost for eternity. (Have we seen this already? achem Peter Abernathy et. al.) 


Dante and Virgil hasten through this ninth ring, as there is little to gain from these wordless sinners, and enter the center of the maze where they find Lucifer, he too entrapped in ice, flapping wings in unending damnation and rebellion from his Maker. 


Crafty design by Joy and Nolan to implant this allusion here, as we see the Man in Black pushing his way to the center to meet, assumingly, a God or Devil of some sort. Yet as we saw in "Dissonance Theory," not all is as it seems, and it would be fitting for Westworld to center the maze with both, perhaps. 


The theories abound on who the Man in Black and the Designer are, but it is quite fitting to see as we expand further and deeper into Westworld, encountering more treacherous lands, we are also, inversely, dissonantly, moving closer and closer to the center. 


So what big questions remain? Is the above Dolores-on-Delores sequence a glitch in her functioning, or is it possible that different lives and different timelines are overlapping? Is this future-Delores meeting present-Delores? If that is the case, is the Man in Black a future William, as the spoiler theorists have suggested? By the way, when are we going to start getting some Minotaur references in this wacky maze? And what do y'all think about Lucifer now?



If he [Lucifer] was once as handsome as he now

is ugly and, despite that, raised his brows

against his Maker, one can understand

how every sorrow has its source in him!

I marveled when I saw that, on his head,

he had three faces: one – in front – bloodred;

and then another two that, just above

the midpoint of each shoulder, joined the first…

Beneath each face of his, two wings spread out,

as broad as suited so immense a bird:

I’ve never seen a ship with sails so wide.




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