Now, with Shogun World’s formal introduction on the horizon next week, those changes really have arrived. Much like last week, “Virtù e Fortuna” felt like table-setting to me, nudging many of its host characters into crucial positions (such as Teddy defying Dolores’s murderous orders, or the reintroduction of Abernathy, contending with the malicious Delos programming in his head). But I admit I’m very excited for the revolutions on the horizon. Sophie, what do you think awaits us in Shogun World?
Sophie Gilbert: Well, gosh, probably some violence and some mysteries and some speeches about finding beauty in the heart of darkness or somesuch. I feel for James Marsden, really I do, playing the increasingly uneasy and hesitant Jake Hoyt to Dolores’s Alonzo Harris—following her into places he’d rather not go, questioning her Old Testament justice, wincing every time she makes a decision that’s ethically indefensible. Never has Teddy’s name seemed so apt.
Here’s a question I’m struggling with: Is the writing within Westworld bad because Lee Sizemore is a hack or is the writing within Westworld just bad? We’ve got Dolores, speaking in pat clichés about breaking free with the pull of a trigger, and Teddy mouthing Inception-speak about the world being just a speck of dust sitting on a much bigger world. There was even a “We’re not so different, you and I” speech as Teddy faced the fact that he is indeed serving a tyrant, even if that tyrant is also the woman he loves. It’s just not particularly persuasive stuff, especially now that Dolores seems to be stuck in flat, monotonal warlord mode. I’d love to see her respond to anything these days with the awed enthusiasm of Hector greeting a woman wielding a flamethrower. (“She has a dragon!”)
That said, I found the new environment of Colonialismworld/Old Rajworld invigorating, not least because it introduced a character who—unlike anyone else we’ve met within Westworld—isn’t interested in the hosts at all. Grace, played by Katja Herbers, even went so far as to shoot her lover to make sure he was really human, which is the neatest version of a Turing test we’ve seen in science fiction. Is she really here for the tiger hunts at the edge of the park, or is the leather-bound notebook with elaborate diagrams she’s referring to part of a larger scheme? Either way, color me intrigued.
Here’s another thing that’s interesting, though: A handful of hosts this week made choices that defied their coding and their history. Free will is one of the most crucial elements of being human, going beyond self-awareness to allow not just the understanding of who (or what) one might be, but also the ability to choose. It’s a complex debate within AI, but it was embodied this week by Teddy, when he refused to execute the remaining soldiers, and by Hector, explaining his love for Maeve. “You’re fucking programmed to have no love but Isabella,” Lee exclaimed, rather petulantly. “When I walked in the place where you play god, I realized Isabella was a lie,” Hector replied. “Just words in my head. But this, this is true. She’s my life. She’s all I ever dreamed life could be.”