Season 1, Episode 5 – Contrapasso
There’s a turning point near the end of “Contrapasso” where we discover that every single thing we’ve seen so far is more connected than we assumed. It seems that every one of the main characters in this show serves a bigger picture. There are no superfluous subplots or character arcs. Everything revolves around the park and its deeper mysteries. When Robert Ford sits down at the table with the Man in Black and Teddy, it becomes clear that no one is off to do their own thing in this show. They’re all interrelated somehow, which paints an even grander picture than I previously assumed.
There have been a lot of revelations in this episode, but whenever one question is answered, two more are asked. These questions have a logic to them that the writers are adhering to. It delves into more abstract conversations every once in a while, but in terms of plot, everything is feasible and grounded in reality. Previously I thought that Dolores hearing a mysterious voice in her head meant that she was slowly going insane and that the path of every host becoming self-aware brings with it insanity in one form or another. This was during the episode “The Stray” where a wandering host almost kills one of the human characters before bashing his own head in. But “Contrapasso” reveals that the voice in Dolores’ head is that of Arnold, who has programmed a way of guiding Dolores even after his own death. Another revelation is that the wandering host killed himself in order to prevent the creators to discover a device in its body that allows to transfer data from Westworld to an unknown place.
It’s always good to be surprised, because what I previously thought was a clear trajectory and direction that the series was following turns out to be completely wrong. The mysteries of Westworld’s past and what exactly can be found in the maze has shifted the series from “maligned robots revolting against their oppressors” to a huge question mark. There’s not much point attempting to predict where this series is going, because whatever expectations that audiences seem to have continues to be subverted with each new episode. I’m sure that my initial preconceived notions about where the show is inevitably headed will come to pass, but getting there is full of more surprises than what I could have ever predicted.
By the time a fully naked Maeve wakes up in the lab, calm as could be, and immediately takes control of her situation, you can’t help but reconsider almost everything you think you’ve known about the show up to this point. Has Maeve been more in control than what we’ve seen so far? Did something “unlock” within her programming after finding out on her own that nothing matters in Westworld? Or was she simply overhearing conversations while being fixed by the lab butchers? All these questions arise just from one scene at the end of the epiode, and it’s only a small moment in an episode full of new questions.
There will come a point when the time for mysteries is over and the plot starts really moving. There’s definitely a limit as to how long a series can keep adding intriguing but unexplained concepts to the audience. I would hate for this series to fall into the same trappings that Lost did, wherein the only way the writers thought they could keep the show interesting is by dumping even more mysteries on top of existing ones. But right now Westworld has been incredibly consistent, and we’ve only scratched the surface of a show that continues to renew audiences’ expectations with each episode.