Westworld, “Dissonance Theory” Review: Into the Trees


***Spoilers: Spoilers for Westworld through Season 1, Episode 4, follow. Spoilers***

The assumption might be that Westworld‘s fourth episode title is referencing what some of its Hosts are experiencing: a conflict between what is known in their reality and the “memories” and “feelings” that Dolores, Maeve, and Peter are becoming aware of. Just as compelling, though, are the humans facing their own contradictory emotions. While Bernard struggles to understand Dolores’ increasing hints of self-awareness, he simultaneously cautions Elsie against assigning her own feelings to Hosts. He might just be the most puzzling of the park faculty. Bernard’s uncertainty about what’s really happening with Dolores, and his offer to her of a chance at “freedom,” may belie his true belief that, somehow, the Hosts are evolving — or it could just as easily be a simple programming test. What can we tell from the flash of thoughts playing across Bernard’s face when Dolores wonders if she’s losing her mind? This is a man unsure of his own assertions, questioning his own reality, and one whom we must continue to watch closely for clues.

Is the secret maze game Arnold’s invention; is it the same maze the Man in Black desperately wants to find? Is it what Ford is (continuing) working on? Perhaps there are two programmers (Bernard and Arnold) synchronically at play here in Westworld; parallel lines being drawn to a similar endpoint. The Man in Black makes an x-teenth attempt at his current level; a master player having long ago learned the scenario, he jumps past familiar obstacles, takes known shortcuts (calling for a pyrotechnic effect, again approved by Ashley) to save his very expensive time, and hunts new clues along the way. After finding the snake on Armistice’s back, he joins her (suddenly shorthanded) crew on a mission to rescue a man from a prison he’s already been to, and meets a man he’d previously dismissed as useless. Hector Escaton (Rodrigo Santoro) seems to hold more importance than the Man in Black thought, and so he breaks him out in fewer steps than Hector is accustomed to. Armistice keeps her end of the bargain, telling the Man in Black of masked men in devils’ horns visiting death upon her village. Armistice’s vengeance has left her tattooed, etched with the blood of each man she’s tracked down and killed; there’s only one man left: the head of the snake. She tells the Man in Black that, of the last man’s many names, most know him as Wyatt, inviting the Man in Black into Dr. Ford’s new narrative, but, clearly, Black Hat has heard the name before.

Speaking of the not-so-good Doctor, after a little advice from Bernard, Theresa heads out to meet with Ford about the havoc his latest world creation is wreaking. It is the hour’s most deliciously tense scene; their game of control is like a chessmasters’ match, the conversation entendre-laden and full of innuendo. “Rocks prefer not to move, but we shall move them yet.” Ford harps on Cullen’s temporariness, and she on his aged — reminding Ford she’d first visited Westworld as a child — legacy (aka outdated, obsolete). Ultimately, Ford prevails at their Freudian match, magically stopping the world around them as they sit; “In here, we were gods, and you, merely our guests”. He scoffs at Cullen as though she were no more than a common fly he could swat from existence, informing her that a board representative has already been sent to see him without her knowledge.

Of all the exciting happenings — and there were so many that one could easily watch the episode thrice without a hint of boredom — Maeve’s deep awakening is most affecting. Thandie Newton simply kills with her performances; every episode, she’s better than the last. Driven and unafraid, she pushes … prods herself through memory after memory. Where the other Hosts’ memories are wiped clean, somehow Maeve has retained bits and bytes she’s connecting together like her own string of code. When Hector reappears in Sweetwater, she takes him by surprise and offers a trade: the combination to the safe he’s trying to break into in exchange for answers (Hector wonders, as do we, how she knows he has them).


“I was shot.”
“There is no wound.”
“No, but I was shot, and then this was standing over me, and it was as if it never happened.”
And, with that, Maeve slices open her abdomen, invites Hector in (“That’s the first time I’ve ever had to ask a man to put his hands on me twice”), and he pulls out the confirmation bullet. Maeve knows she isn’t crazy, but the gods may be.


Deep thoughts:
Hector to Maeve: “The Dreamwalker said there were some who could see them. It’s a blessing from God to see the masters who pull your strings.” Not unlike Prometheus‘ Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, Maeve may be sorry she’s gone looking for her creators. And, not unlike the Battlestar Galactica prophecy, she knows this has all happened before and that it will happen again.

Anthony Hopkins was wonderfully menacing during his lunch scene with Sidse Babett Knudsen’s Theresa. I am firmly of the mind that he had a hand in Arnold’s death. “I will ask you nicely: please, don’t get in my way … I’m not the sentimental type.” It is also Ford’s overconfidence that will eventually take out the resort founder; perhaps Arnold’s consciousness (uploaded somewhere, as I mentioned in last week’s notes) will be Ford’s undoing.

An important note: For the Man in Black, fantasy is suddenly broken when a fellow horseman approaches to tell him how he admires the Man in Black; that our villainous gunslinger’s foundation saved his sister’s life. At first thought, this could seem to bust my Man in Black is a Host theory, but I maintain that it’s likely, but not necessarily so. The Man in Black could be modeled after a real person or have a backstory he believes as most Hosts do. Again, the Man in Black would believe himself to be (human).

The Man in Black’s speech about Arnold is very interesting: “You could say he was the original settler of these parts. He created a world where you can do anything you want, except one thing. You can’t die. Which means no matter how real this world seems, it’s still just a game. But, then, Arnold went and broke his own rule. He died, right here in the park. Except I believe he had one story left to tell. A story with real stakes; real violence. You could say I’m here to honor his legacy, and I think your tattoo is the next piece of the puzzle.”

Possible new theory: Ashley is the Man in Black’s son. There’s a similarity to their appearance, and both times that an employee has questioned things the Man in Black is doing, we’ve seen Ashley unhesitatingly approve them. Now, how this would play out and what importance it holds remains to be sussed out. It’s possible the Foundation is part of the technology Westworld now uses; is that connection why the Man in Black has no bounds, can stay as long as he likes, and does whatever he wants?

Totally whackadoodle theory: If (and I don’t subscribe to this theory) the Man in Black is William, what if he is headed to free Dolores because he fell in love with her? Dolores x William.

Maeve’s flashbacks haunt her. Though she shouldn’t be experiencing such memories at all, her multitude of hidden drawings prove — if these characters are existing in the same timeline — that she may have been questioning her world long before Dolores (did Peter ever leave the ranch? Did he and Maeve share “violent” Shakespearean whispers in the dark?).

The look in Dolores’ eye when that collector Host took her arm, attempting to force her to come with him “back to the ranch:” Holy … if looks could kill. And, now, a girl has two hot gentleman saviors.


Dolores to William: “We would bring the herd down off the mountain in the fall. Sometimes we would lose one along the way, and I’d worry over it. My father, my father would tell me the steer would find its own way home and, often as not, they did. It never occurred to me we were bringing them back for the slaughter.” That gave me legitimate chills, especially after seeing this week’s bonus Delos material, the Livestock Management chart:


Logan continues to be the worst, telling William they should leave Dolores behind while they play out the Bounty Hunt narrative. “If you’re so concerned about her well-being, I’ll just blow her brains out and then the park will come get her.”

William’s perfect response: “Can you please stop just trying to kill or fuck everything?”

Did Bernard easily agree to Theresa’s team (QA) taking over analyzing what went wrong with the Woodcutter in order to keep Cullen and Co. distracted while he plays out Dolores’ quest for freedom? It’s a smart move, and he probably believes it’s easier than holding Elsie at bay. But he could be wrong.

Poor Teddy. Again.


This episode was directed by Vincenzo Natali (Cube, Splice, Hannibal [series], The Returned) and written by Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The First Avenger scribe Ed Brubaker.

Loved the player piano version of The Cure’s A Forest, and the late shootout to the dulcet sound of Carmen Suite No. 2: Habanera

Great lines:
Hector: “This park is madness.”

Elsie on Theresa’s team taking over: “Are you kidding? This guy couldn’t debug a balled-up napkin.”

Amazing eye shot: Bernard reflected in Dolores’ pupil.


Cindy Davis

Cindy Davis has been writing about the entertainment industry for ​over ten years, and is the ​Editor-in-Chief at Oohlo, where she muses over television, movies, and pop culture. Previous Senior News Editor at Pajiba, and published at BUST.

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