TL;DR – There is a new God, and they are bored with the human race.
Disclosure – I paid for the Binge subscription that viewed this show.
Westworld Review –
There are some aspects of Westworld that hide in the subtext, and there are others that blare at you like a foghorn. Today’s title is Zhuangzi, which takes its name from one of the core works of Taoism. Its view of a central authority starkly contrasts with other core philosophical schools of China. That tension has been playing out across Westworld’s many seasons and, as we will see, the episode today.
So to set the scene, as we have been going through the season, Caleb (Aaron Paul) and Maeve (Thandiwe Newton) have been on a mission to stop Hale/Delores (Tessa Thompson) and her mission to take over the world through the use of parasites. We didn’t know until the closing moments of Generation Loss is that Hale had already won that war a whole generation ago. She has such control over the human race, using audible sounds from the tower, that she can stop and the entire city in its tracks like it was one large Westworld park, and everyone was a host. But in the deep desert, the long-buried remains of Maeve were unearthed by the prophetic Bernard (Jeffrey Wright), and a rebellion is on the move. Now from here, we will be looking at the episode as a whole, so there will be [SPOILERS] ahead.
The title of this week’s episode is not the only allusion to theology we get this week. There is a lot of talk that the hosts have become gods, and in that way, their ability to control does have that idea show in full effect. Indeed, the very subtext of this episode is wading into the full ‘Calvinism v Arminianism’. Are you in control of your lives? Do you have free will? Or has something put you on a very narrow trajectory with an endpoint you have no control over. Every human has a set narrative they play out without deviation as they plod through their lives, unaware of the manipulation behind them. All while deities float around doing what they please, including carving their way through an apartment block if they so please.
While we have a lot of subtext around theology, we also have a lot of literal text this week, especially from Hale, the supreme god of this land, but then quote ‘God is bored’. Few people can do a soliloquy while forcing people to dance and be a chair quite as well as Tessa Thompson, and I am glad that this and last, we have let her shine after being a bit on the sidelines this season. We also get a play on Eve and the Serpent with Teddy (James Marsden) and Christina (Evan Rachel Wood), with Teddy [now officially Teddy not unknown] playing the role of the serpent asking Christina to open her eyes and seek the knowledge that God [Hale] has kept from her. This is a reverse of the traditional narrative of the tale because it leads to wisdom, not lament, but it ties into Teddy’s original programming.
Part of the show that propelled the narrative forward was how we understood how the world worked after the hints of last week. Hale uses audible signals to operate the parasite to control the humans, and if a human breaks that control, well, it is time to send out a hunting party. This is where we get Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) and the rebels come into play, which was probably the weakest part of the episode so far. But we also discovered that hosts are not acting like Hale wants, even committing suicide, when they interact with humans that have broken past the audible control. What this leads to is the first time in about three seasons that I have cared about The Man In Black’s (Ed Harris) storyline. We get to see Ed Harris play into doubt and uncertainty, giving his characters much more depth than we have seen. From a production design perspective, I liked how the devices they used to control people have been part of the production design all the way from episode one, The Auguries. Also, I see you sneak the trailer song Lou Reed’s Perfect Day into this episode Ramin Djawadi.
In the end, do we recommend Zhuangzi? Absolutely. I have thoroughly enjoyed this season of Westworld and the direction they are heading in. Though I wonder if they will pull the rug out from underneath my feet again before the end?
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Westworld
Directed by – Craig William MacNeill
Written by – Wes Humphrey & Lisa Jpy
Created by – Jonathan Nolan & Lisa Joy
Based On – Westworld by Michael Crichton
Production/Distribution Companies – Kilter Films, Bad Robot, Warner Bros. Television, HBO & Foxtel/Binge
Starring – Evan Rachel Wood, Thandiwe Newton, Jeffrey Wright, Tessa Thompson, Aaron Paul, James Marsden, Luke Hemsworth, Angela Sarafyan & Ed Harris with Ariana Debose, Daniel Wu, Morningstar Andeline, Michael Malarkey, Emily Somers, Nicole Pacent, Evan Williams, Ted Monte, Hollie Bahar, Nhumi Threadgill & Katie Kuang.
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