Westworld: Chestnut
October 7, 2016 9:13 PM - Season 1, Episode 2 - Subscribe

A pair of guests arrive at Westworld with different expectations; Bernard and Theresa Cullen debate about the recent host anomaly; a behavior engineer tweaks the emotions of a madam in Sweetwater's brothel; a cocky programmer pitches a new narrative.

Since HBO went ahead and released it early online, I thought I might as well start a thread for it.
posted by Diablevert (104 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Aw man, looks like nobody else is going to be around to talk about this until tomorrow...

Another quite good episode that I keep mulling over. I'm really impressed by how they're forcing us to take the perspective of the hosts. I realized that when I saw that shot of Thandie Newton waking up and grabbing a scalpel in the previews, I assummed it was a Frankenstein scene --- the creature comes to life and threatens his makers, in which your anxiety is for the lives of the humans. But actually as it plays out in the show it's an alien abduction scene --- the POV is entirely Maeve's, and you imagine yourself in her place, waking up in this hellish netherworld, your body violated. If they can keep that tension going it should match some of the better episodes of BSG...
posted by Diablevert at 7:44 AM on October 8, 2016 [9 favorites]


I'm here! There was an interesting parallel with the arrival of the new visitors in their monorail train. Our white-hat guy wakes up from sleep, just as James Marsden woke up in ep 1, as the train arrives at Westworld. I wouldn't take this literally as 'OMG the Westworld designers are robots too' - I imagine it's just a stylistic echo - but it also would surprise me that this hints at the entire organisation being some kind of test or real-world simulation or whatever.
posted by adrianhon at 8:24 AM on October 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


I am loving the obvious nods to videogame fetch quests.

I mean, the knife-through-the-hand scene was horrific, but it appealed to that part of me that was screaming "Gather your own damn elfroot!"
posted by bibliowench at 9:10 AM on October 8, 2016 [20 favorites]


So, this may just be me hoping the 'MiB dragging Dolores off' bit in the first episode wasn't rape but rather something more interesting, but I am wondering if he's programming her or something.

I think phrasing the Maeve waking up experience as more like an alien abduction is exactly right. Also, a bit more of a look at how the hosts are driven - several drives/goals, an itinerary, tweak some various character stats...

Also, I think technology should have more instances where weird errors generate Shakespeare quotes. Like, in general.

And, yeah. SO MANY SIDE-QUESTS! All it needs is Preston Garvey popping up saying "As usual, I've got something else for you."
posted by rmd1023 at 11:57 AM on October 8, 2016 [8 favorites]


I rewatched the original Westworld movie this week, after seeing the premiere, and it opened with the arrival of visitors via hovercraft. So I do think it's really interesting how that was paralleled and then subverted in the first episode, then played straight in this one.

Was it me, or did the host with the map quest remind anyone else of Jack Palance? Possibly a nod to City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly's Gold?
posted by Pryde at 11:59 AM on October 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


From a straight-up park logistics standpoint, I would think they'd end up with some contention happening about who gets to what side quest. Like, two families with kids want to go on the madcap adventure to get the treasure in the abandoned mine, so they start fighting over who gets to buy the old prospector a drink or something.

And "guns don't work on humans" doesn't really cover bladed or melee attacks.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:59 AM on October 8, 2016 [8 favorites]


Pryde: did you happen to notice if the globe-sculpture thing in one of the underground levels in this was in the original movie? It looks like it is a nod to some older instance of the park or something.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:00 PM on October 8, 2016


So, this may just be me hoping the 'MiB dragging Dolores off' bit in the first episode wasn't rape but rather something more interesting, but I am wondering if he's programming her or something.

yeah, im wondering now if instead of rape he's just straight up torturing her for information? but i assume there would be other scenes of her being repaired if he was cutting her up?

i'm a little confused about the timeline so far, how much westworld time has passed since ep 1? i feel like it's been a week of real time but i'm not sure. also i'm assuming that day and night are 24h there as they are everywhere else but who even knows.

ugh i bet there's a wiki
posted by poffin boffin at 12:28 PM on October 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


also that kid anthony hopkins was talking to was a robot, right?
posted by poffin boffin at 12:29 PM on October 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


also that kid anthony hopkins was talking to was a robot, right?

Pretty sure it was robot Young Anthony Hopkins. They def said something in the first episode about their being no kid robots, and that there's safe, sort of G or PG areas for guests who are coming with their families. That kid was obviously somewhere way off the beaten path, all by himself, and the dialogue seemed to point to it.
posted by Diablevert at 12:41 PM on October 8, 2016 [15 favorites]


I don't recall seeing the globe in the movie--the sets for the control room areas were a pretty 70's vision of a generic utilitarian future, with long corridors and lots of large computers with blinky lights. The name of the company in the movie was Delos, same as on the globe, though!
posted by Pryde at 1:31 PM on October 8, 2016


They def said something in the first episode about their being no kid robots

Oh good lord I hope so. The implications of having robots who appear to be humans under the age of consent is just an express train to NOPETOPUS.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:51 PM on October 8, 2016 [7 favorites]


But there was a kid robot--the daughter that gave the next clue to MiB.
posted by armacy at 3:08 PM on October 8, 2016 [13 favorites]


But there was a kid robot--the daughter that gave the next clue to MiB.

Hmmm, you're right, maybe I'm wrong.
posted by Diablevert at 3:12 PM on October 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


They def said something in the first episode about their being no kid robots, and that there's safe, sort of G or PG areas for guests who are coming with their families.

I remember the second part of this, but not the "no kid robots" thing, although we certainly haven't seen much of them.

I just watched the pilot and this episode back to back. In the first episode, I felt like there was some gratuitous shots of the naked hosts and all that, but I'm more inclined to give them a pass on that based on this episode. After all, Maeve was completely naked during her whole "escape" scene, and they definitely chose to keep the close ups focused on her face, when they could have easily pulled back for cheap titillation. And yeah, I think they did a great job with that whole sequence.

I mean, there's a visceral horror of the whole "waking up in the middle of surgery" thing. And also, the waking up from a nightmare only to find you're in an even more horrifying nightmare. The way it was filmed and the acting was so spot on, too. They didn't focus on the chase scene. They focused on Maeve, and bringing the audience in to empathize with what it would be like to wake up to that kind of world.

After the first episode, I was a little bit concerned that they were putting all the cards out there too quickly. Like, we jumped from a fly crawling on Dolores's eye to her slapping the fly in an hour. But I like how this episode builds on that somewhat (with Maeve's flashbacks, etc), while also giving us glimpses of other characters and potential storylines.

The pilot was good enough to make me want to give the second episode a shot, but this episode made me legitimately excited to see where they go from this. In fact, if this were a Netflix original or whatever where all the episodes were dropped at once, I would most definitely be partway through episode 3 rather than typing this comment.

In conclusion, I am very much here for all of this.
posted by litera scripta manet at 4:18 PM on October 8, 2016 [15 favorites]


Two other random thoughts/questions:

Does anyone know (or at least have an educated guess) about what the title of this episode refers to? The only thing that comes to mind for me is that Chestnut is a color of a horse, but I'm sure they're going for something deeper. If "Original" referred to Dolores in the first episode (as a mefite postulated), then that makes me think this might be referring to Maeve. (I haven't seen the original Westworld movie, so maybe I'm missing out on some reference.)

Also, did anyone feel like there was some vague homoerotic subtext to the interactions between the two guests we were introduced to, William and Logan? I sometimes think my radar for this has been permanently altered by too much time spent in various fandoms...
posted by litera scripta manet at 6:32 PM on October 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


I was thinking that the title referred to the slang "old chestnut," meaning a hackneyed song or saying, perhaps in the context of the park's standard old west scenarios becoming rote and dull. But that does seem like a stretch.
posted by bibliowench at 8:17 PM on October 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


The really clear imagery here seems to be the escalator. We're given a few different divergent storylines - Bernard and the security chief, the White Hat (notice the color of the hat his friend chooses and roll your eyes at the lack of subtlety) and his entrance into WW, and the madame and her awakening to her reality. Each of these storylines features the character confronted with an escalator, and in each case the two male characters go up, and the female character goes sideways.

I'm relatively convinced that the man in black is more than a power gamer looking for level 11 out of 10. He says he was "born in the park," and I think I'm inclined to believe him. What if he's a replicant as well?

Also, I was talking to a friend today, and he said that he couldn't believe I was siding with the "robots". I think that's actually the point. We're supposed to side with the robots, right?
posted by codacorolla at 8:25 PM on October 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


Also the fact that children are not only hosts, but are obviously present in the, ergh, pro levels of WW (an outlaw town, and a frontier cottage that gets a raid from their racist conception of native americans) is pretty fucking gross. I think that may have been a line that the writers didn't need to cross to get to a point about the depravity of torturing brainwashed semi-humans for fun.
posted by codacorolla at 8:36 PM on October 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


Also, I was talking to a friend today, and he said that he couldn't believe I was siding with the "robots". I think that's actually the point. We're supposed to side with the robots, right?

Some people have surprisingly strong feelings about the nonpersonhood of AIs/androids/robots. I've been similarly nonplussed by some people's reactions to Ex Machina.
posted by Pryde at 9:30 PM on October 8, 2016 [6 favorites]


the White Hat (notice the color of the hat his friend chooses and roll your eyes at the lack of subtlety)

My pet theory: White Hat and his asshole friend's-not-the-word Black Hat are a flashback, and Black Hat is actually a young Man In Black.

We're supposed to side with the robots, right?

Yes. At the very least we're supposed to empathize with / be horrified by their suffering.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 10:41 PM on October 8, 2016 [9 favorites]


So far the entire sympathetic POV has been from the Robots, none of the humans are likable, they say this directly in the concept of dreams. If dreams are memories, they can't let them have them, except as nightmares. Humans and the things humans do are nightmares.
posted by The Whelk at 10:52 PM on October 8, 2016 [6 favorites]


I mean I thought the big line from this episode was "let's remove this thing before someone sees" in reference to an adult robot woman who ran for her life, nude, to try and figure out what the hell was happening to her.
posted by The Whelk at 11:03 PM on October 8, 2016 [9 favorites]




Maeve and her daughter: are they just running through their day, day after day, on the off chance a guest breaks game levels and really needs to see the mother/daughter get scalped?

I know It's a Small, Small World ride plays whether or not someone is sitting on the boat, but this seems ... odd? Expensive?

(Also, the robots standing around all the the time remind me of Kayne's fashion shows and I don't know what to think about that)
posted by armacy at 6:39 AM on October 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Why did Maeve wake?
Did Maeve wake herself from her memories/nightmares by saying "3... 2... 1..." as she had advised Clementine?
Because she has been infected (reprogrammed?) by "violent delights have violent ends?"
Because she was one of the bots that had the update?
All of the above?
posted by bobobox at 8:40 AM on October 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


We're supposed to side with the robots, right?

Well, if the goal of the first two episodes was to have us sympathize with the humans, then they really misfired, but I don't think that's the case. Considering the fact that William is so far the only guest who has shown a tiny hint of not being a total asshole, it's hard to imagine how the audience wouldn't empathize with the hosts. Also, I don't think they would have devoted so much time focusing on Maeve, Dolores, etc if they didn't want us on the hosts side.

At least for now. Maybe in future episodes they'll show us more sides to the human characters. I hope we do get to learn more about the motivations and actions of the non-robot characters, like Ford, the Man in Black, etc.

Also, having watched Person of Interest, in which Nolan et al. got me to sympathize with an AI that never had a corporeal form and had almost no voice until the final season, it doesn't surprise me that Westworld would take this approach. It's certainly much more interesting to me than if this were a straightforward good humans vs evil AI robots kind of thing.
posted by litera scripta manet at 9:28 AM on October 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


Some disjointed thoughts:

I like how Maeve woke herself up using the same countdown that was used on her by the female tech in the lab. The character thinks the countdown is her idea, and then we get to see where she got it from.

I think the young boy is a robot version of young Hopkins. Westworld is obviously his baby, and he's obviously adding all kinds of things in there that the rest of the staff has no idea about (until Bernie, at the end.) This ties in with the outlaw's hometown and the MiB saying he's finding all kinds of Easter eggs in the game, and that that's why he loves it and keeps coming back. The outlaw's daughter is also the only other child robot we see.

Some clues about the MiB: After episode one I thought his trying to find a second level of the game tied in with the writer and director's conversation about what interests corporate has in the world beyond just an amusement park. You get a hint that MiB might be a Vegas-style "whale" when one of the techs says "That guy can do anything he wants." But then MiB says "I was born here" to the outlaw, which to me means either one of two things — he's a replicant as well, who has gone rogue (byt then why the whale status?) or, Westworld was the place where he was truly able to acess his truest humanity, whatever that is.

I *love* the theory that the young visitor in the black hat is a younger version of the MiB. That would nicely parallel Anthony Hopkins' younger self robot.
posted by Brittanie at 9:42 AM on October 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


Why did Maeve wake?
Did Maeve wake herself from her memories/nightmares by saying "3... 2... 1..." as she had advised Clementine?
Because she has been infected (reprogrammed?) by "violent delights have violent ends?"
Because she was one of the bots that had the update?
All of the above?


Just spitballing here but...

If someone (Ford?) programmed this "virus" or whatever into the new update, it might make sense if "These violent delights have violent ends" would act as some kind of activation code. Of course, that also leads to the question about that picture that Abernathy found, but I could see that being a bit of a red herring. Perhaps it's not that the picture triggered anything, although it did seem to be significant, if only because Dolores apparently couldn't "see" it while Abernathy could.
posted by litera scripta manet at 9:44 AM on October 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


I don't think Black Hat is a young Man In Man; I think White Hat is the young MIB. After all, "young asshole grows into old monster" isn't much of a character arc - but "decent man grows into old monster" is interesting.
posted by Mr. Excellent at 9:58 AM on October 9, 2016 [19 favorites]


I don't think Black Hat is a young Man In Man; I think White Hat is the young MIB. After all, "young asshole grows into old monster" isn't much of a character arc - but "decent man grows into old monster" is interesting.

Oh, this is an interesting theory! Perhaps there was some horrific/tragic event involving Asshole Friend, and "only decent human" sort of took on the persona of his asshole friend, or something like that.

(I love a show that gives us so much to speculate on when we're only two episodes in.)

Also, for anyone who saw the original Westworld movie, is it worth trying to track down and watch?
posted by litera scripta manet at 10:30 AM on October 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


After all, "young asshole grows into old monster" isn't much of a character arc - but "decent man grows into old monster" is interesting.

Oh, and that does feed more into the "I was born here" line...

Also, for anyone who saw the original Westworld movie, is it worth trying to track down and watch?

Yes: it's an interesting comparison, and it's fun to spot what elements of it the series is referencing. I suspect also that the series is so strongly doing its own thing that watching the movie isn't going to spoil anything.

(My feeling is that the series is most strongly rooted in the first "protagonists arrive, things start falling apart" act of the movie than it is in the rest of it. The movie kind of loses interest in the morality aspects and becomes a much more straightforward chase movie: more of an influence on The Terminator. )
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:01 AM on October 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


Westworld (film) is OK. It's got a lot of cool scenes and ideas, but suffers from some pacing problems.
posted by codacorolla at 11:06 AM on October 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


But there was a kid robot--the daughter that gave the next clue to MiB.

Again, off the beaten path. MiB specifically mentioned even he wasn't aware of Mexico Town, and he's been there or been going there for 30 years.

Good catch about the young boy being a young Hopkins. He obviously has a lot of pet projects going on around the place. It would be interesting to find out how much people are paying for a day at the park - it has to be in the order of several millions per day. Or perhaps they keep a tab running?
posted by turbid dahlia at 12:32 PM on October 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


i bet it's like those lifetime airline tickets that were sold back in the 80s; MiB got a lifetime membership to westworld back when it was brand new and they can't go back on their contract now.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:42 PM on October 9, 2016 [18 favorites]


"I *love* the theory that the young visitor in the black hat is a younger version of the MiB. That would nicely parallel Anthony Hopkins' younger self robot."

I really don't think that those scenes are flashbacks. I didn't get the impression generally, and then I specifically thought I noticed that Dolores has an unusual reaction (e.g., "this isn't the usual script") when MiW hands her the dropped can.

The "flashbacks" we have seen have, IIRC, all been literally flashes of disjointed recovered memory experienced by the hosts in moments in which the camera initially shows them having that disconcerted reaction to the memory. Oh, and also Maeve's nightmares.

"Maeve and her daughter: are they just running through their day, day after day, on the off chance a guest breaks game levels and really needs to see the mother/daughter get scalped?"

No, that was a nightmare she was having an earlier storyline/incarnation in which, rather than "getting off the boat" in New Orleans and being recruited by a pimp (as we hear in this episode), she was a pioneer with a family etc. We've not ever seen any of Dolores's flashbacks to other storylines/incarnations she's had, but as she's supposedly the oldest host in the park, she's probably been many different people. With regard to Maeve and her daughter, another host may be in that role, assuming that that particular potential storyline is still active. But, yeah, I think the general idea here is that active storylines are available for the guests to initiate and the hosts have a great deal of ability to adjust (thus the real AI) to what the guests do, or if no one does whatever it is that leads to that attack.

But almost all the storylines indulge the guests' desires to commit violence and such and so basically all of the hosts, through their entire existence, have repeatedly experienced horrific things. And the nature of this and its implications were lampshaded by the scene between Dr. Ford and Lee Sizemore, the designer/writer.

I don't think there's any doubt that we're supposed to prefer the hosts' moral perspective. I feel certain that this is going to become complex and conflicted very soon, as violence begets violence and the hosts strike back. Obviously, the Chekhov's gun that Dolores found was placed there by someone (probably Bernard, possibly Dr. Ford or even perhaps MiB) is going to prove to be effective against the guests and while we may initially be sympathetic to Dolores when she does this (perhaps against some asshole rapist guest or whatever), soon enough some of the other hosts -- whose only moral context is this terrible world -- will be doing terrible things to guests.

Even so, I'm still going to be on Team Hosts. This is a lifelong thing for me, as someone who began reading SF as a child. I have always seen the representation of AI in science-fiction as representing the way that "we" humans have, throughout the past, denied the humanity of others. In principle. Literally by arguing that some kinds of people don't have souls, for example (extreme case). That we can see in science fiction stories, like this one, "robots" which self-evidently are self-aware, have an inner life, feel love and pain and so on, and a large portion (a minority of the SF genre audience but a larger portion of the general audience) will, categorically and sometimes with strong emotion deny that these are people in any sense and will insist that there can not possibly be any moral considerations here at all because these are just "things" ... well, I have strong reactions to that. Because real-world human history.

Anyway, the original movie wasn't that interesting (I saw it as a kid when it came out) in that it was like Terminator, which I'm sure it inspired, in that at its core it's a monster/chase movie.

This is much, much more interesting. And it's going to be even more interesting because I feel certain that they're not going to simply invert the moral analysis and simply make the guests the bad guys and the hosts the good guys. Rather, what's going to happen, I think, is that we will see a moral continuum within both the hosts and the guests but the underlying theme will be the social context that will allow and indulge in the evils of the park and the consequences of that. Which is an allegory for a whole lot of real-world stuff. Stuff right now in the time we're living in.

But, also, the other really important thing going on with the show that wasn't present in the movie are the decades of computer gaming context that separates them. As we've seen in these two threads, it's impossible for anyone who's played any MUDs/MMORPGs not to discuss the show in that context. It's clearly written from an informed perspective in that sense. I'm seeing Bartle's taxonomy of player types pretty clearly here. And then all the more mundane things we've become accustomed to -- side quests, newbie area, etc.

This is super-interesting, though, because although we're a long, long way from anything like Westworld (FYI: I definitely believe that genuine strong AI is possible while I also definitely believe that we're still many decades away from it) there is an increasing computer character realism trend in gaming, and obviously that's what people want. At some point, I think, if we keep going along this path we'll reach a point where there begins to be real moral ambiguity as we see in Westworld. But long before we reach that point, there's already the moral ambiguity of playacting increasingly realistic abhorrent acts.

As a lifelong gamer -- I'm in my early fifties -- I both instinctively and with a great deal of research and consideration disagree with the "violent games make people more likely to commit violence" perennial moral panic. But my stance on this is mostly reactive -- it's a response to the moral panic and not a dogmatic insistence that there couldn't possibly be moral consequences to violent gaming, or more widely violent media. My go-to argument about this more generally with people is that almost everyone insists on the "uplifting" potential for art, especially great art. But how could it possibly be the case that art can make us better people without it also being possible that art could make us worse people? Of course it can. There is a real moral issue at the heart of all of this.

For me, I saw this most clearly with GTA III and its successors. I've never had a desire to play villains in games, but GTA III was especially startling to me in that I was playing it one way and then I showed it to my close friend, a pretty gentle and kind person, and he immediately and gleefully began running down pedestrians and such. I enjoy GTA V, but I don't do and it doesn't occur to me to do all the questionable things that people like to do, such as the infamous killing prostitutes and stealing their money. It's an open world game, the non-gamer critics don't really understand what that means, just because something is possible in a complex, open world game doesn't mean that the designers intended for that particular thing to be a core part of the game's appeal. But by necessity, if you're making a gaming world that is highly expanded with a great many possibilities just because of its complexity, players are eventually going to push the limits of the craziest, even repulsive, things possible within the game. Westworld is the ultimate realization of this.

I've always been fascinated by this, especially since that moment of watching my friend play GTA III, because for me personally, indulging in my darker tendencies within a fantasy world is just not really that far from what it would mean to indulge them in the real world. I am very well aware of the terrible things I am capable of. For me, if I'm roleplaying in a game, villainous, horrifying acts are not a way for me to sublimate that part of myself and thus modulate it (as is frequently argued and, I think, frequently true for many people). I prefer to attempt to be my better self in both life and in roleplaying games. That's what's right for me -- I'm not saying what's right for everyone else.

And yet -- there's something pretty disturbing -- isn't there? -- about not-really-my-friend character's behavior in this episode? I don't think I'd want to be friends with that guy, either.

On the other hand, being in this sort of meta-reflective mood as I was watching this episode, despite what you might expect from everything I just wrote, as the audience was identifying with the guest choosing his clothing and then his hat, I knew without a single doubt that I'd never, ever pick a white hat. I'd pick a black hat. I'm not precisely sure who'd I'd be in Westworld, but it certainly wouldn't be either of these moral archetypes.

Put differently, Unforgiven is one of my favorite films and I've thought and written about it a lot. My analysis is that William Munny is not so much evil as he is outside morality -- not in a Nietzschean sense, though that's worth exploring, but more that he's like a hurricane or a tornado or a flood. Or a plague. He tried to be someone else, but, as he says himself, it's almost as if he was built by the universe to serve a single function, flawlessly: be a killer. I can't judge William Munny. And his name is very on-the-nose, but you could say that he's the incarnation of the amorality and inevitability of the activity of Capital.

But there's an unambiguous villain in the film, and that's the sheriff, Little Bill. He's nominally a white hat, and he does his job well -- he keeps the peace in the town with brutal efficiency. But this role is just a means to an end for him, and we see that demonstrated as he kicks the shit out of English Bob for something like a full minute of screen time. Before William Munny kills him, he looks up and says, genuinely confused, "I am building a house". He's building something. He's the sheriff. He's the "good guy". Who is clearly a sadist. And, you know, when we see him working on his house, what we see, and which is lampshaded by another character commenting upon it -- it's a crooked house.

For me, Little Bill is my nightmare of my worst self. I wouldn't choose the white hat when entering Westworld, but I could see myself becoming as terrible as anyone else, except from a different direction and with more, and less, self-delusion.

I'm excited by this show, particularly by this episode, because it seems to be engaging with all these issues from an informed, nuanced, and difficult perspective. Apparently, the production was troubled -- we're not seeing that yet, but I can easily see how they could overreach. For now, though, I'm enthralled.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:37 PM on October 9, 2016 [38 favorites]


All it needs is Preston Garvey popping up saying "As usual, I've got something else for you."

John Marston! Remember the name!
posted by Fizz at 2:41 PM on October 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


I think the lifetime pass, especially the 'Him, he can get whatever he wants' line, might be playing out this way:
the MiB is White Hat William and WHW's storyline is set in the past. Based on info from throwaway lines.
- MiB has been coming here for +/- 30 years.
-The last 'critical failure' was +/- 30 years ago.
- all the talking about 'the experience shows guests who they really are' vs. the MiB's 'I was born here'.

So WHW comes to the park in its relatively early days, and witnesses (survives?) the 'critical failure' incident.
Delos gives him a lifetime pass as hush money more or less. (It's gotta be super-expensive to be a guest, right?)
Something he saw, or something he did, during the incident puts him on the Man in Black path.
posted by bartleby at 2:42 PM on October 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh, I just realized that I probably misunderstood that theory about the new guest being a "younger version" of the MiB. That is, the MiB was once a guy like either of these new guests -- a frequent visitor who becomes a power gamer and inured to the horrible things he's doing.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:44 PM on October 9, 2016


The original Westworld movie is decent, but there also isn't a lot of depth to it. The new series makes it more interesting retroactively, I'd say. The sequel, Futureworld, is supposed to be pretty bad. I have a vague recollection of having seen it when I was little, but I couldn't say.

Apparently there was also a 1980 television series entitled Beyond Westworld that lasted five episodes. Seems like Delos may have used a globe in their logo in that show, interestingly.
posted by Pryde at 2:55 PM on October 9, 2016


As far as the whole "empathy for robots/AI" thing, Nolan said some illuminating things on the subject in this interview. (Warning for potential spoilers for anyone who hasn't watched Person of Interest.) The main focus of the interview is about season 5 of Person of Interest, another show by Nolan in which AI featured prominently. The main part of the article that seems related to Westworld is this section:
For his part, Nolan said that he’s been struck by the way all the conversations about artificial intelligence in real life have focused on how to place limitations on it. And yet, everything the West has done for the past 200-plus years, from the Declaration of Independence onwards, has been about establishing that all intelligent beings have rights, said Nolan.

“And we’ve been spending the last 20 years trying to be more mindful and considerate of the other animals whom we share the planet with,” added Nolan. “We’re definitely moving towards an acknowledgement of intelligence as something that should have protections nailed down, a more mindful sense for what intelligence constitutes, and what protections should be built for it.”

So Nolan thinks it’s weird that every single conversation about A.I. begins with the idea that we should put chains on it.

We always think of artificial minds as property—“as things that we own and control, first and foremost,” Nolan said. Isaac Asimov intended his famous Laws of Robotics as “a jumping-off point for great drama,” rather than a real prescription. And in fact, Nolan pointed out, “each and every one of the robot stories is immediately about how the laws don’t work.”

But at the same time, Asimov’s laws “remain the kind of gold standard in terms of what we think of in terms of A.I., and yet they begin with the presumption that an artifical intelligence is worth less than a human being. The first and second laws establish a hierarchy of value.”

So when Root and Finch debate over whether the Machine should be free or still under constraints, they’re really arguing about self-determination, and whether we ought to treat artificial minds the same way we treat flesh-and-blood ones, said Nolan.
In Westworld, we already see a little bit of this tension in terms of putting limits vs not putting limits on AI. Ford seems to have embraced the continued forward evolution of AI, and I feel like Bernard is also sort of on this wavelength, although Bernard's interest seems to be more in the scientific and intellectual aspects, whereas I feel like Ford is coming at this from a bit more of a philosophical/existential place.

And then there's the head narratives guy who made the argument that maybe these things are a little bit too lifelike (although maybe I'm remembering this wrong and someone else made this argument).

I do think this show (and Nolan's comments in that interview) raise a very interesting question about where exactly we draw the line when it comes to autonomy, self determination, and the nature of suffering. There are the obvious boundaries like how we know a character in a book or one of the background characters in a video game isn't capable of feeling and suffering. But at the same time, people used to pretty uniformly treat animals (not to mention certain people and children) as if they couldn't feel and shouldn't have any rights.

So at what point is an AI "intelligent" enough that we have to start considering how to treat it humanely?

I'm really looking forward to seeing what direction the rest of this show takes.
posted by litera scripta manet at 3:39 PM on October 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


I hadn't read that interview with Nolan, but from watching (and loving) Person of Interest, I'm entirely unsurprised that his view on this is apparently exactly the same as mine. I have strong feelings about it and I am simply unable to consider these issues without constantly hearing the historical refrain of "it's not really suffering, it's not pain, don't worry, they're not people". And that everything about this historical progression of widening the inclusive circle is something we (or most of us) cherish as progress, as enlightened, as self-evidently "right" ... and yet at any given moment in modern history, including now, there have always been people who argue that the status quo is obviously and necessarily the right place to draw the inclusive diameter of the circle and anyone who wants to expand it are, like, crazy people who shouldn't be taken seriously.

This is obviously at the heart of social justice and progressivism, we see and deal with these issues in our political lives, our personal lives, even here within MetaFilter. But the whole AI thing has always deeply resonated for me as something like this argument boiled down to its barest essentials. In these narratives, some of the characters (and some of the audience) see and recognize other beings like themselves, and some of the characters (and some of the audience) categorically refuse to do so.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:59 PM on October 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm a big fan of the original movie (hugh Crichton fan as a kid, mom's a huge Western fan and Sci Fi fan and everyone's a Yul Brenner fan, so it made sense that it was popular in our house). This show is great so far and I'm very excited to see where it goes.

Random note: some people have been asking about price. In the movie the park costs $1000 a day. That's 1973 dollars. With inflation we're looking at a little over $5000 a day, but the price of computer technology has come down a lot since the 70s so maybe the daily rate has, too. It's nowhere on the order of millions per day, but it does cater to the mega rich, just like Gennaro in JP always wanted for InGen's danger park.
posted by phunniemee at 4:11 PM on October 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


I liked the look into shoddy work practices and how poor management can have really bad unintended consequences!

It would be interesting to see how the tech evolved over the 30 years; what looks "human" today won't look the same 30 years from now (like the odd "hands" referenced in the movie).
posted by armacy at 4:17 PM on October 9, 2016


On the cost of admittance thing, I've seen $40,000/day mentioned in several places (AV club maybe? Vulture?), and I'm not sure if it was the comments or in articles themselves. I'm not sure where exactly they are pulling that number from, but it seems lower than I might have expected, based on the fact that quite a lot goes into the park (just look at how much they catered to one patron, William), and it doesn't seem like they have a ton of guests at any one time. Then again, $40,000/day seems like so much money as it is. Of course, who knows what kind of currency rate we're talking about in whatever time and place the world outside of the theme park exists in.

Also, it sounds like the original movie is worth a watch, so I'll probably get around to it some time in the near future. I imagine I'll find it interesting enough, if only to see some of the comparisons and influences to this series.
posted by litera scripta manet at 4:58 PM on October 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


It would be interesting to see how the tech evolved over the 30 years

We got a glimpse of that in the first episode: Anthony Hopkins drinking in the basement with a robot that looked and acted more like an Disney animatronic.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 5:04 PM on October 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


Does anyone know (or at least have an educated guess) about what the title of this episode refers to?

Operating system versions? "Cheeky Chestnut"? But then the next episode doesn't follow that formula so who even knows, really. "That old chestnut", meaning repetition/familiarity?
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:01 PM on October 9, 2016


So at what point is an AI "intelligent" enough that we have to start considering how to treat it humanely?

That really is the interesting question. It is fully plausible to me that an AI can be constructed that would fully achieve sentience and be entitled to rights. It's also plausible to me that an AI can be constructed that mimics sentience convincingly but doesn't cross the threshold into it.

I believe both of these AI's could simultaneously co-exist in the world, but it's not clear how we'd tell them apart. Humans can de-humanize other humans, but we can also be manipulated into ascribing feelings to a lamp, so human judgement doesn't seem a reliable indicator.
posted by Pryde at 6:09 PM on October 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


it doesn't seem like they have a ton of guests at any one time

I think the dialogue (in the first episode, maybe?) said about 1500 guests, but they also said that 10% of the host population was about 200 hosts, which seems REALLY low given that you're having multiple storylines/sidequests going on and each of them presumably takes multiple hosts... Even allowing for hosts being involved in multiple quests as minor characters. (I'm assuming horses and snakes and other more livestocky livestock are not subject to the same sorts of updates.)
posted by rmd1023 at 6:42 PM on October 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Okay on the second run I think "these violent desires have violent ends" is totally a virus code phrase to unlock access Un-written over memories and this is totally Ford'/ plan. The show took the time to introduce "deep untroubled sleep" as a turn off phrase to establish that phrases exist "we speak the right words" Ford even says,

I think the MiB is either a casino like Whale or someone whose been involved with the park from the very beginning and is a major investor and this ties into the first episode'/ "this place is something different to the investors"

I also like how the one guy, the white hat, tries to play it like a LARP or period simulation and everyone treats him like a thundering dork rube. Most players just want to get drunk, screw, and kill people. Just like real MMORPGs!
posted by The Whelk at 9:07 PM on October 9, 2016 [11 favorites]


So apparently there's an interactive Westworld website
. I clicked on the let's begin link at the bottom right of the home page, and it's an interactive ask a question thing.

Anyway, I'm thinking this might be where that $40,000/day figure came up, because that's the answer I got. (Also they offered to set up a payment plan if the price was too steep.)

Maybe this was mentioned previously and I missed the comment, but this is really cool. Seriously, I already love this show.
posted by litera scripta manet at 9:13 PM on October 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


The actual number of dollars the park costs isn't important just the idea that it's a highly expensive entertainment for the elite , I just wonder if it's like say an exclusive high end eatery where a Middle to upper middle class person could save up to go once (and there is a big difference between eating at Masa like once vs eating there once a week) for one night or more like a private island resort where even a comfortable upper middle class person wouldn't have even heard of it.

Like, how well known is Westworld to the outside world?
posted by The Whelk at 9:19 PM on October 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


"In a sense, I was born here" I took to mean "this is where I figured out my fundamental phislophy to life and how life should be , I:E murder and pillage , fuck you got mine " I mean, he's really into a world where everyone is a robot and he is the only "real" person and then right after we see a suffering, naked robot invade a world of people.
posted by The Whelk at 9:22 PM on October 9, 2016 [11 favorites]


Other interesting answers from the interactive site q and a thing:

I asked, "What should I do when I'm there?"

And "Aeden" (the online "host") responded: There is no wrong way to enjoy yourself with a host—in fact, nothing is wrong in the future of sin. Where would you like to start?

"Nothing is wrong in the future of sin" is an interesting phrase, isn't it?

Oh, also, apparently there is a 10:1 ratio of hosts to guests.

And, I guess you get "currency" to start with, but once that runs out, you're basically on your own, so you know, if you weren't into looting and gambling before, I guess that's one more incentive to give it a shot.

(I tried to get more creative with questions, but "Aeden" got stumped very quickly.)
posted by litera scripta manet at 9:22 PM on October 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


Also on the second run, the dark comedy of the medics' scene, as said up thread, it's totally an alien abductiion scene and "MRSA in the abdomain. No wonder we have a fly problem" is again, darkly PC,in, and ...they're full on biological robots? That's much more squicky.
posted by The Whelk at 9:38 PM on October 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


Also the thing Ford has been working on for quite some time "something quite original" looks like a mix between an oil derrick and a church.


Uh oh.
posted by The Whelk at 9:44 PM on October 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


"Uh oh."

What I keep thinking about that is in the context of video gaming -- specifically, the genre and appeal of "god games". The guests are already effectively demigods. But Ford may be going in a different direction. Dunno.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:48 PM on October 9, 2016


I am very intrigued, and holding out hope that the rest of the series can fulfil the promise of the first two episodes.

However when thinking of Westworld in the context of modern gaming I have a couple of quibbles, people being what they are.

A) In reality a large proportion of the guests would be completely uninterested in the roleplaying and/or pillaging and instead heading straight to the Olde Timey Pachinko Parlour (you know it exists).
B) The persistent subset of people insisting on playing it as HonkyTonkBarTycoon or SimWildWestMayor would be really annoying to everyone else, Hosts included.

But then I try and play GTA V as a dating and shopping sim, so what do I know.
posted by arha at 4:22 AM on October 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


The "morality" of the show has been resonating with me because in the last two games that I've played, the most recent Deus Ex and Dishonored, I've chosen to go the stealth/traumatic brain injury but technically non-lethal route. The worlds of these games makes me feel like I ought not to be killing indiscriminately, which I usually don't have a problem with (in video games, I guess I should stress). But I get frustrated by getting spotted by a guard, or I find new powers/weapons that could reduce my human opponents to bloody shreds in all sort of creative ways, and I realize I really want to kill these collection of pixels that my brain has convinced me deserve to keep their narrowly-scripted little lives. So I guess there's a part of me that's pretty evil, and certain game designs seem to be able to both bring that part out and make me feel bad for having it in the first place.

And my kids think I'm crazy when I tell them I can't kill the evil overseers because the man in the boat will yell at me, so I guess I'm raising little monsters.

This show is high-concept enough for me to be worried about whether it can maintain the promise of the first two episodes, or if everything is going to diffuse into vague monologues and metaphors about what it truly means to be human. I'm cautiously optimistic, although good lord have I been burned in the past.
posted by bibliowench at 7:13 AM on October 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


A) In reality a large proportion of the guests would be completely uninterested in the roleplaying and/or pillaging and instead heading straight to the Olde Timey Pachinko Parlour (you know it exists).

I disagree. One of the reasons so few people are interested in actual roleplaying in modern MMORPGs is the low cost and non-existant barrier to entry. Back when you were paying for online RPGs by the hour roleplaying was not just widespread but pretty much mandatory.

The $40,000/day cost would keep out the riff-raff noobs. You might still get griefers like the Man in Black but you won't get xxx360NoScopeDeathMurdererxxx screaming about his balls while running around without any clothes on like you would if the cost was $1 a day.

The more something costs the more seriously people will take it, and Westworld costs a ton. Hell, people take Metafilter a lot more seriously than Youtube Comments and it's just a one-time $5 cost.
posted by Justinian at 9:25 AM on October 10, 2016 [21 favorites]


Obviously, the Chekhov's gun that Dolores found was placed there by someone (probably Bernard, possibly Dr. Ford or even perhaps MiB) is going to prove to be effective against the guests and while we may initially be sympathetic to Dolores when she does this (perhaps against some asshole rapist guest or whatever), soon enough some of the other hosts -- whose only moral context is this terrible world -- will be doing terrible things to guests.

I thought it was the gun that the MiB was reloading with new ammunition while he was in Mexico town. I really like the idea that William's story is a flashback to the origin of the MiB, but the hosts are still really good and lifelike if that's supposed to be 30 years earlier in Westworld.

The MiB said in this episode that's not going home this time, so this is his final "visit" to Westworld -- does he want to die there? destroy the park? The "these violent delights have violent ends" is from Romeo and Juliet, so maybe there's a love story at the root of the host awakening?
posted by gladly at 9:28 AM on October 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


His line about not going home combined with his fanatical pursuit of the game's "next level" makes me wonder if he's out for some sort of uploaded-mind situation?
posted by Justinian at 9:30 AM on October 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


But I get frustrated by getting spotted by a guard, or I find new powers/weapons that could reduce my human opponents to bloody shreds in all sort of creative ways, and I realize I really want to kill these collection of pixels that my brain has convinced me deserve to keep their narrowly-scripted little lives.

I imagine a certain percentage of guests probably would be squeamish about killing human-looking hosts. Which would be a motivation for them to create Medieval Fantasy World, filled with Orcs and Goblins whose external ugliness clearly reflects the evil in their hearts. Guilt-free smiting for many more guests to indulge in.
posted by Pryde at 10:45 AM on October 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


"That old chestnut", meaning repetition/familiarity?

that's what i thought as well? the only other usage of the word in something related to a westworld-y context i could think of was the horse coat color, which doesn't really make sense.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:14 AM on October 10, 2016


Am I really lame or does "follow the nutty old prospector on a quest for hidden treasure" sound like the BEST THING EVAR? Compare it to the other quests: sleep with prostitutes, rape people, kill people, flee cannibals, steal stuff. Maybe I'm a boring goody-two-shoes, but I'd be all over buried treasure.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:36 AM on October 10, 2016 [24 favorites]


Yeah, I think the show really wants us to sympathize with the hosts, and maybe a small minority of the guests (partially), but they really want us to hate the people that run Westworld. They're either brutally cold, annoyingly self-serving, or pensively (but still probably selfishly) playing at God.

As for the video game analogy: I saw it too, and I'd like to take it a bit deeper. I think it's a commentary on what game makers THINK we want versus what we'll do with what we're given. As an example: GTA V's online mode is a pretty shallow "just cause chaos" situation from what I've experienced. Why is this? Probably because there's no permanence. There's no consequences to players causing all sorts of chaotic grief for each other and the non-player characters, because the next time they join, everything will be reset, if not sooner.

Now, if you go into the unofficial multiplayer mods for the earlier GTA games (or any of the more recent survival sandbox games), permanence is a big deal in many game modes. The modders that work on these game modes, and run the servers, really are going for an 'ongoing society' kind of thing, usually. This changes how people play the games, because they have to deal with and consider the consequences of their actions, and probably other reasons (such as building/having a home, making alliances with other players, being able to actually create instead of only kill). Sorry for the tangent - basically, I see Westworld as the sort of multiplayer experience big developers think we want and so provide for us, and I see these player-made mods as the experience we actually perhaps want or would thrive in.
posted by destructive cactus at 11:43 AM on October 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's also clear that the story takes place in a completely alternate universe.

You can tell because no one there seems to find Thandie Newton attractive.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:43 AM on October 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


The more something costs the more seriously people will take it, and Westworld costs a ton. Hell, people take Metafilter a lot more seriously than Youtube Comments and it's just a one-time $5 cost.

i agree and yet i also think this overlooks the very real existence of zillionaire griefer trolls like martin shkreli who would absolutely spend huge sums of money to ruin other people's fun personally and deliberately.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:13 PM on October 10, 2016 [9 favorites]


Chestnut is a commonly-used word for describing the color of a horse.

But also, chestnuts straight off the tree are covered in this terribly, prickly, hurty shell, whereas inside they're nice and soft and tasty. Metaphor?
posted by Brittanie at 12:25 PM on October 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't know, DirtyOldTown, I thought the same thing about the old prospector quest. But then I considered that the park experience gets progressively more intense the further out from town you go. The old guy says something like having to go way out over the river, Through the Murder Death Badlands and into the Nasty Stuff Mountains, so I am guessing that quest gets very dark very quickly.

And given that the game designers seem to have no concept of anyone wanting to anything but torturing and raping, yeah, no thanks.
posted by arha at 12:29 PM on October 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


Solid point, arha. Hadn't thought of it that way.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:32 PM on October 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


Chestnut is a commonly-used word for describing the color of a horse.

But also, chestnuts straight off the tree are covered in this terribly, prickly, hurty shell, whereas inside they're nice and soft and tasty. Metaphor?


Incidentally, chestnut is also used to refer to this small callous kind of thing on the inside of horses's legs.

According to wikipedia, there was also Operation Chestnut, a failed British WW2 mission. I'm guessing this is not relevant to the title of the show.

But there is also the Chestnut blight which apparently has been a huge problem for American Chestnut trees. There is some interesting stuff in the wiki about blight resistant chestnuts and conservation efforts and all that, but it's a big stretch.

It's not really that important, but I was wondering if I was missing the title of this episode making some reference to the original movie or some kind of video game/technology reference, but I guess not.
posted by litera scripta manet at 1:03 PM on October 10, 2016


Does anybody know what the can is that Delores drops every day?
posted by phunniemee at 1:10 PM on October 10, 2016


Does anybody know what the can is that Delores drops every day?

For some reason, I was thinking condensed milk, but I'm not sure if there is any contextual clues for that or if I just completely made it up. I think there was some pun about sweetness maybe? The white can? An association between that and all the milk they keep pouring on people?

And on that note, seriously, what's with the whole dumping milk on people thing?
posted by litera scripta manet at 1:16 PM on October 10, 2016 [5 favorites]


And on that note, seriously, what's with the whole dumping milk on people thing?

I don't know but I fucking love it. It's so damn weird and creepy! Milk is so wholesome, it's like this huge transgression when you see it get perverted by some evil freak (cf. A Clockwork Orange, Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds).
posted by phunniemee at 1:24 PM on October 10, 2016 [10 favorites]


I assumed it was condensed milk, too, based on basically nothing, but now I'm wondering...are canned chestnuts a thing?
posted by phunniemee at 1:25 PM on October 10, 2016




...are canned chestnuts a thing?

Chesnut paste is, it's used as a filling in some French desserts. I assummed the can was of pigment or paint, since we see that she's planning to go painting later.

Milk is creepy, but it also seems to be a visual link to the white liquid the hosts are dunked in in order to form their skin, as per the opening credits. Milk and blood mixing together in the first ep might be seen as the artificial and the real life forces mixing together. Of course regular milk is also a life-giving liquid; we are mammals.
posted by Diablevert at 1:37 PM on October 10, 2016 [6 favorites]


There's some great tidbits tucked into the Westworld site. Talking to the chatbot:
Who is the Man in Black?
Aeden: I’m sorry, per the Westworld confidentiality policy, we cannot disclose personal information about any of our guests. [pic of MiB]Just between you and me, though, the Man in Black is something of a VIP. What else would you like to know about the park?

Also, I went to shift-click to expand the text selection box when I was copying that, and the site glitched out into a bunch of distorted vid test screens, BSoD screencaps, and a grained out video of the dadhost from Ep1 saying 'Hell is empty, and all the devils are here.' I've also spotted a couple other 'visual artifacts' like the mouse cursor glitching and other things, and i'm sure there's more passphrases than just 'whitehatblackhat' to enter in the access box up in the right.
posted by FatherDagon at 5:32 PM on October 10, 2016 [8 favorites]


Such as 'violentdelights'. Ohhh fun with ARG sites..
posted by FatherDagon at 5:39 PM on October 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh, and if you plugin "These violent delights meet violent ends" in the ask box when chatting with Aeden, you get:

SYSTEM ERROR /// RequestId: 8D1BB15A2068AAB6 /// Hello! It's so nice to meet you. What questions can I answer about Westworld?

Whereas if you just ask it a question it can't answer, you get something like:

Hmm. I’m not sure what you mean. Let’s go through the details of your trip.

I love this show so much already.

Such as 'violentdelights'. Ohhh fun with ARG sites..

Thanks for the tip! I tried "theseviolentdelightshaveviolentends" and got nothing. Clearly I should have abbreviated.
posted by litera scripta manet at 5:43 PM on October 10, 2016


Oh, and if you ask "hell is empty and the devil is here" in the chat three times, you get a string of letters and numbers and then it says:

You're in a prison of your own sins. Hell is empty and the devils are here. Arnold will come for you.

Then it does random pixelated stuff and disappears.

I wonder who Arnold is...
posted by litera scripta manet at 5:53 PM on October 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


When asked about costs, Aeden answers "Westworld’s pricetag is indicative of the one-in-a-lifetime, luxury nature of the experience. The typical visit costs at least $40,000 per day." Cullen states in the first episode that there are currently 1400 guests in the park.

Assuming that's an average attendance, and that the park is open everyday (like Disney), that's over $20 billion in revenue per year from attendance alone. Obviously an operation as complicated and vast as this would have astronomical overhead, but based on the conversations about cost-cutting, I assume they're having problems operating at Apple-level margins.

Totally unrelated: while a "host" is certainly "one who receives or entertains guests", it can also be "a living animal or plant from which a parasite obtains nutrition." I don't think this word choice is unintentional.
posted by aerosolkid at 8:18 PM on October 10, 2016 [7 favorites]


When asked about costs, Aeden answers "Westworld’s pricetag is indicative of the one-in-a-lifetime, luxury nature of the experience. The typical visit costs at least $40,000 per day." Cullen states in the first episode that there are currently 1400 guests in the park.

And since Aeden tells us there is a 1:10 ratio of guests to hosts, that means there are roughly 14,000 hosts in the park.

Also, after giving my (junk) email and registering on the site, I did there whole "book a stay" thing, and my costs were quite a bit more than that. To be fair, I picked the "gold" vacation, which is apparently $200,000 per day, so...yeah. Also, the total for my "stay" is just over 1.7 million; 1.4 million is from the cost per day, but then there are also the fees, including $22,000 for the Standard Guest insurance, $14,000 for a Biometric Monitoring Fee, $5,000 for an Arbitration Deposit fee, etc. Also, they only let you book your stay starting on Sundays (I guess because that's when the show aired) so I picked next Sunday, because I'm curious if there's actually any kind of follow up. (They say they will contact you as it gets closer to your stay.)

This show is off to a great start. They've clearly put a lot of thought and time and effort into it (I mean, it did take them like three years to produce this season). I think I read that it had the highest ratings for a pilot since True Detective, which is good. I hope that keeps up so that the show doesn't end prematurely.
posted by litera scripta manet at 9:50 PM on October 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm kind of surprised that over at the AV club the reviewer rated Episode 1 as better than Episode 2. I liked both episodes, but this is the one that really sold me on the series. I guess the pilot may have had a "tighter" plot since it was more focused on just Dolores whereas Episode 2 split time between Maeve and William/his asshole friend, and there was the clever bookends of the fly crawling on Dolores's eye at the beginning and then her killing the fly at the end. Still, this is the episode that made me excited for the rest of the season.
posted by litera scripta manet at 10:07 PM on October 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


I thought the boy was likely Anthony Hopkins' robot rendition of his son, presumably dead or taken from him IRL. That also sets up a new (and highly profitable) use for the world he created: enabling people to spend time with lost loved one for therapeutic/nostalgic reasons. Could this be why he was paying attention to the telling detail (an evocative and quirky hand motion that we saw early in ep 1.1), how we learn that staff are implanting their own memories and emotions, etc. Somehow, the church fits in here too, maybe as the site of the future "resurrections."

Maybe it's via making replicants of real people--if they're good enough they could "live" beyond Westworld's borders--that we'll get to see what society has become. Oh and I kinda want William to break Dolores out.
posted by carmicha at 5:55 AM on October 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm now stuck on the idea that the MiB is Ford's co-founder, who is now living inside the simulation - which is why he's basically left alone. Both he and Ford are searching for something via Westworld, quite at odds with its commercial purpose (which just gives them funding for whatever it is they're looking for - whether that's the same thing or not). I'm thinking a relationship a bit like Jobs and Woz (although, obviously Woz didn't live inside Apple, although he never really left).

The approach to the humans is a bit reductive at the moment (as it seems to centre on the question of whether a person is going to be seduced by the notion of Sadeian depravity with no comeback or not, and as noted above, there would be people enjoying the world for all sorts of reasons, probably complaining to management about the shooty, rapey assholes who keep spoiling everyone's fun).

It's still early days yet, of course, so let's see what happens next.
posted by Grangousier at 6:27 AM on October 11, 2016 [6 favorites]


Maybe it's via making replicants of real people--if they're good enough they could "live" beyond Westworld's borders--that we'll get to see what society has become.

This thread on the Westworld subreddit has been wondering if there's any significance between the similar appearance of Hector Escaton in episode 1 and asshole friend in episode 2. There's a section on the Westworld contract stating that Delos corporation owns "all skin cells, bodily fluids, secretions, excretions, hair samples, saliva, sweat, blood, and any other bodily functions not listed here," which seems like a strange detail to include unless there is some sort of cloning wonkery going on.

I've also seen a lot of theories that the show is presenting two separate timelines, and the William and Logan story might take place earlier than the Delores and Maeve narratives. So, the reddit reasoning goes, Logan might have provided the genetic material (in a variety of unseemly ways) that became the Escaton host. Likewise, some people are speculating that William might eventually become the Ed Harris character, what with the claim that the latter was "born" in the park 30 years ago (around when Westworld had its last disaster) and the repeated focus on Williams' "paragon" roleplaying choices.

We're early enough into the mythology of the show that you can get some sort of mileage out of any crazy theory, but I have started to wonder about narrative timelines, even if the cloning speculation seems pretty far fetched.
posted by bibliowench at 8:13 AM on October 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh, and Chrys' wonderful picture recaps that I learned about via Diablevert in the last thread now include Episode 2.
posted by bibliowench at 8:24 AM on October 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


I've also seen a lot of theories that the show is presenting two separate timelines

Speculation is a lot fun, but I hope none of these wild theories are true. These first two episodes set up a world that's very interesting and full of potential even when the viewer takes everything at face value. It would be a waste to undermine that, in my opinion.

But I don't know, maybe the whole thing is a simulation being run by a race of cat people in a distant galaxy made of dark matter.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 10:07 AM on October 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


The Two Timelines theory makes no sense to me:
  1. Long-lived hosts like Delores and Maeve are in the same roles with the Not-Friends as they are in the main stor(ies), yet they have memories/flashbacks indicating they have held multiple roles over the years (workable if the memories are themselves constructs, but they said in the pilot that Delores had been reprogrammed and refurbished).
  2. Host technology has advanced significantly, as demonstrated in the scene with Ford and the animatronic cowboy.
  3. Sizemore, the narrative director is constantly revising the plots at Westworld, yet the Not-Friends exit from the train is almost identical to Teddy's in the pilot, apart from the Union Army recruiters having replaced the local sheriff trying to form a posse (presumably due to the killing of the bandit leader in the pilot).

posted by cardboard at 10:31 AM on October 11, 2016 [9 favorites]


And now in furtherance of wild speculation: I did wonder if the romantic liaison between Lowe and Cullen was 100% real. They don't really seem friendly outside of that scene, and either one probably has the wherewithal to get themselves a custom host copy of their coworker. And near the end of the scene she even tells him "I'm programming you." (He just frowns.)

This could have the makings of a very uncomfortable meeting with HR.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 10:42 AM on October 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


By the way - and I hope this isn't too tasteless - is it a simulation / AI / tech billionaire in-joke that the first host William meets is played by Talulah Riley, Elon Musk's ex-wife?
posted by Grangousier at 11:04 AM on October 11, 2016 [6 favorites]


Talulah Riley, Elon Musk's ex-wife, current wife, and soon to be ex-again-wife.
posted by Justinian at 3:46 PM on October 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yes, I looked them up on Wikipedia and don't quite understand what they're up to. As long as they're happy, it really doesn't matter, though, does it. Or if not happy, then entertained.
posted by Grangousier at 4:06 PM on October 11, 2016


This episode made me genuinely curious about what will come next. The first episode was good in all the ways good can be good - well made, intelligent, entertaining. This episode cranked that up to, interesting as well. The Man in Black's 'shtick' revealed at the end of the first episode was a little pat. The development of that in this episode (the two techs asking if they should make it 'harder' for him and then the 'daughter' speaking to him directly, outside of her 'host' routine) was clever. More compelling is the hint that 'memories' are helping/contributing to awakening consciousness in the hosts. And what was Bernard up to with Delores?
And how can no one have mentioned the player piano (no, not the book) at the beginning? Was it too obvious? It made me chuckle.
I didn't know 'Person of Interest' and will check it out. This Nolan brother is clearly the interesting brother.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:10 AM on October 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


Person of Interest began as a somewhat interesting but pretty much paint by the numbers broadcast show and then became more serialized, thoughtful, science-fictional, and much better show, by which point it had lost half its original audience. And they ended it on their terms, and did so well, which is unusual. But be aware that the first season or so is pretty ordinary broadcast fare. By the time Amy Acker shows up (yay!) it starts getting good. IMO. Plus, it's a broadcast 23 episodes a season show which is way too many and means lots of unevenness and periodic mediocrity.

(Can you tell I just don't like the broadcast networks?)
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:43 AM on October 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


My main advice to people who I think will like Person of Interest is 'stick with it through season one'. Jonathan Nolan pretty much seems to have sold it as an internet-era counterpart to The Equaliser and The A Team only to start slipping the more science-fictional elements in under the radar.

By the end of season one these are becoming apparent and when season 2 finishes it's clear that this is really a show about artificial intelligence - a theme that comes to the fore in the second half of season 3 and plays out during season 4 and the short season 5. In particular, season 4 episodes "If-Then-Else" and "YHWH" are some of the finest tv science fiction we've seen in recent years, despite having on the face of it a completely contemporary setting.
posted by Major Clanger at 5:36 AM on October 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm with Ivan and Major: Person of Interest is absolutely worth it. But it does pull that odd trick of pretending to be a procedural at first and only slowly revealing its cards. It was a marvelous misdirection that managed to get CBS to greenlight a much more cerebral sci-fi show than they likely realized, and it sucked in a bunch of nice older CBS viewers like my mom, who would never sign on to something like Westworld. But it can make it a bit tricky to get into watching.

This guide of which PoI episodes are actually necessary is spot-on and is a terrific place to get started.

I'll end by saying this though: the "pretending to be a procedural" thing may be an off-putting trick in some ways, but if you miss out on what this show becomes, you're really cheating yourself.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:45 AM on October 12, 2016 [12 favorites]


I didn't know 'Person of Interest' and will check it out. This Nolan brother is clearly the interesting brother.

Yes, you should definitely check it out! I'll nth what everyone else has said about sticking with it through the first season, even if it seems like just another case of the week procedural. I still very much enjoyed those early episodes (and have in fact re-watched the those episodes more than once), but they really aren't representative of the amazing way the show unfolds in the later seasons.

This guide of which PoI episodes are actually necessary is spot-on and is a terrific place to get started.

I might also add S01E04 Cura Te Ipsum to that list. It's not absolutely necessary in that it doesn't really tie in to any broader arcs, but I think it's one of the first episodes that gives a glimpse of the kind of show this becomes.

As I mentioned in the thread for Episode 1, PoI/Jonathan Nolan is the reason I decided to check out Westworld. It's also the reason why I feel reasonably confident that this isn't going to be one of those shows that throws out a bunch of hints and mysteries and never satisfyingly concludes anything (I'm looking at you, Lost).

And unlike PoI, Westworld isn't constrained by being a broadcast network show. PoI was a great show with a number of not so great episodes, but it's really hard for any show to handle a 24 episode season and not have some mediocre episodes. Fortunately, with only 10 episodes this season, I don't think this will be an issue for Westworld.

Oh, and the music for Westworld is handled by Ramin Djawadi, who also did the music for PoI (and apparently Game of Thrones), so I think we can expect continued excellence in that department. PoI had some of the best musical sequences of any show I've seen.
posted by litera scripta manet at 10:53 AM on October 12, 2016


Both he and Ford are searching for something via Westworld, quite at odds with its commercial purpose (which just gives them funding for whatever it is they're looking for - whether that's the same thing or not).

A line from Gibson's Burning Chrome came to mind: "The street finds its own uses for things." We have conceptual spaces of all kinds that are bound by some set of rules, some set of spoken or unspoken contracts: artistic, legal, religious, scientific, etc. But we also allow some space for people to explore outside those bounds. These are spaces that are culturally or even legally illicit — like Gibson's metaphorical Street — but which also allow exploration and shifting of boundaries of desire: often to make money.

On one level, Westworld itself is such a space: It has specific rules for how guests and hosts can interact, and specific narratives that follow those rules. There's an exchange of capital. But perhaps the MiB is deliberately given free rein outside of those bounds — figuratively and literally — by investors, so that he can play his "game" or explore the park in such a way that his explorations — seemingly an excursion through a dream-like maze — indirectly push the park forwards. Whether the investors/owners allow this to benefit as a commercial enterprise, or to evolve the park to some other end, like giving rise to a new and improved form of AI for other as-of-yet unspecified reasons, is unclear.

It's only two episodes in and I'm really enjoying all the possibilities. I don't know what's coming, and I constantly check myself about how I feel about how the characters behave and interact, and all of that is interesting. Can't wait to see what happens next.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 4:33 AM on October 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


I was talking to my coworker about this show the other day and mentioned the Jimmi Simpson = Ed Harris theory to him. He watched the episode again, and said that the Westworld logo when he gets off the train as whitehat is different than the Westworld logo we see in the modern day scenes. I didn't notice that myself, but I don't think anyone's mentioned that here yet.
posted by phunniemee at 1:48 PM on October 14, 2016 [11 favorites]


So, the first time we see William, when he's on the arrival train, we see a warped reflection in dark glass and then we pan down to him on the white background of the train. COULD BE SIGNIFICANT.

Also, regarding logos and such, the decayed areas really do look like a beat up version of the shiny white arrival areas, but I can't tell if it's actually a duplicate. There are big circle patterns on the floor in the shiny new looking areas that I haven't seen in the beat up ones, but that may or may not mean anything.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:56 AM on November 4, 2016


Also on the second run, the dark comedy of the medics' scene, as said up thread, it's totally an alien abductiion scene and "MRSA in the abdomain. No wonder we have a fly problem" is again, darkly PC,in, and ...they're full on biological robots? That's much more squicky.

But there is also the Chestnut blight which apparently has been a huge problem for American Chestnut trees. There is some interesting stuff in the wiki about blight resistant chestnuts and conservation efforts and all that, but it's a big stretch.

Totally unrelated: while a "host" is certainly "one who receives or entertains guests", it can also be "a living animal or plant from which a parasite obtains nutrition." I don't think this word choice is unintentional.

The throwaway bit about MRSA coming in an episode where the major "backstage" plot revolves around diagnosing a software virus passing between hosts definitely seems intentional.

I wonder if Ford's deeper motivation is to modify society outside the park. Hence the reveries and the "violent delights" virus. It's clear that people who visit Westworld have transformative experiences, in one way or another, and this is why they keep coming back. I think Ford is trying to figure out how to guide those transformations. To what end, I don't know.

I thought the boy was likely Anthony Hopkins' robot rendition of his son, presumably dead or taken from him IRL. That also sets up a new (and highly profitable) use for the world he created: enabling people to spend time with lost loved one for therapeutic/nostalgic reasons. Could this be why he was paying attention to the telling detail (an evocative and quirky hand motion that we saw early in ep 1.1), how we learn that staff are implanting their own memories and emotions, etc. Somehow, the church fits in here too, maybe as the site of the future "resurrections."

Yeah, do we really know Ford's background at this point? It wouldn't surprise me if he's actually a psychologist/psychotherapist who learned to program, rather than being a highly philosophical programmer.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:31 PM on November 24, 2016


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