Westworld: “Dissonance Theory” Season 1 Episode 4 Review

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“Dissonance Theory” was the episode where characters stopped talking in riddles. Motivations became clear, legitimate evolution took place, and tidbits of character information deepened the entire Westworld experience. The show is starting to find its voice while its characters come into their own. There are still logistical flaws to overcome (the only reason Logan hasn’t shot Dolores is to keep the story moving), but this was Westworld‘s best episode so far.

Let’s start with the Man in Black. Upon meeting with a posse of bandits, a couple other park guest approach him, saying that his foundation saved their daughters, alluding to some event outside the walls of Westworld. If the Man in Black was so easily recognizable, he must be at least somewhat famous, and it sounds like for creating something that helped a lot of people. This alone wouldn’t be enough to change our perspective on him, but he’s starting to make comments to the hosts about setting them free, even telling Arnold’s story at one point. But that story sounds a lot different coming from the Man in Black than it did Dr. Ford last week. As the good doctor falls further and further into villainy, it’s becoming clear that his former partner was potentially a savior for the new species of life the park has created.

And finally, Westworld is fully treating its robotic characters as living things with desires and feelings. Dolores’ search for meaning is rooted in actual reality, not the reality of the park. Then there’s Maeve, who, in all her glory, comes to realize none of what happens to them even matters. The final moments of the episode were electric, as Hector (Rodrigo Santoro), a newcomer for the episode, pulls a bullet out of her from a previous “life.” With their fates sealed for the day, Maeve just starts to kiss him as the door likely comes crashing down and their pumped full of bullets. But she now knows that tomorrow is truly a new day, not matter what came before it.  These androids are starting to fully wake up, becoming privy to the inauthenticity of their world. The more they discover, the more they’ll likely want to leave Westworld.

The fact that the Man in Black may have the same goal for them is incredibly exciting. He’s starting to vaguely intersect with other characters, which just means that Westworld‘s storytelling is getting more cohesive. Like Dolores, he’s searching for the center of the maze, and like Teddy, he’s going after the mysterious Wyatt. This tightening of the narrative was necessary for the show to improve. Though there are still some loose story threads that don’t play into the show herding its own cattle.

William has become a difficult character to buy into. He has so much affection for Dolores. But Logan reminds him that the park probably sent her to be part of his park experience. It’s ironic of course because Dolores made her way to them herself, but William has no reason to believe that’s true. These two guests are so far removed from the inner workings of the park that having them go along with it just feels convenient for whatever the show is building toward. Logan of course splits off from his friend, which means that William hung back to stay with an android that he has no reason to believe is anything other than a theme park attraction. Westworld‘s biggest problem so far is the inconsistency in which it views the android characters and how the human guests view them. The show desperately wants to dive into the philosophical questions surrounding its premise, but it feels like it’s forcing its characters into a place where they can ask those questions rather than have the story take them there naturally. This flaw sadly makes pretty much the entire cast intermittently contradictory to what we’ve seen from them previously. Westworld will likely iron out this problem the further to true consciousness the hosts get, but in the meantime, the show is still struggling to find that balance.

That said, everything else in “Dissonance Theory” was pretty well balanced. The western fun mixed well with the science fiction this week, as the Man in Black spoke pretty openly about his purpose in the park even to the blissfully unaware hosts. With his role now far more grey, Dr. Ford has seemingly taken his place as the show’s big villain. The transition may not have been as smooth as it could have been, but there’s still a curiosity to this whole premise that’s keeping the show alive and well despite its narrative clumsiness. But if we keep getting episodes like this one that accelerate the plot and clarify the characters, Westworld may just be on its way to greatness. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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