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Westworld: Episode 2 Review

The whole point of the show is to explore a theory of consciousness

In episode one, several robots break down. It appears they are accessing memories thanks to an unexpected update, which causes the robots to glitch and seize up, unable to communicate. The updated robots are recalled and the worst of them are decommissioned. In episode two, Dolores wakes up, hearing Bernard’s voice in the middle of the night. She goes outside, and it’s later revealed that she finds a gun buried in the dirt.

After we’ve seen Dolores rise from her bed thanks to Bernard’s call, we meet William. He and his future brother-in-law are visiting the park. This is William’s first time in Westworld, and he isn’t excited to be there. He’s humoring his future relative.

Episode two continues in this fashion, jumping from character to character, and we find out over the course of the episode that another robot is “awakening” as well.” Her name is Maeve, but unlike Dolores’s dad, who was glitching because of a photo he’d found, Maeve has a bullet in her stomach that wasn’t removed by the men in charge of rebuilding the robots. The old wound is causing her pain, which in turn, is causing her memories. These memories come in the form of nightmares and flashbacks. Maeve continues her daily routine, but periodically stops what’s she doing and begins spacing out. This is noticed by the technicians who take her back to the facility and decide they are going to decommission her as well. But this time, another programmer from higher up stops them from turning off the robot. This programmer, Elise, is still investigating the glitches despite Bernard’s dismissal of her concerns. She decides there is nothing wrong with Maeve aside from the bullet still in her abdomen and some incompetent programming. She adjusts the robot’s program and schedules a surgery to get rid of the lodged bullet. Maeve is saved, but as her surgery begins, something unexpected happens. She wakes up and flees from the operating table. She runs into the complex and sees all the broken bodies of the robots, many she’s seen on a daily basis. They’re being kept in glass rooms to be cleaned before their bodies are repaired and sent back into the park. Confused, Maeve falls to her knees staring at the carnage. The two technicians who were operating on her find the robot and drug her. They sew Maeve up and send her back into the park, but they don’t remove the bullet.

Turning from Maeve, we find the Man in Black saving a man condemned to death. His name is Lawrence, and the Man in Black is convinced this robot is tied to the deepest game within the park. He calls this game The Maze and insists that Lawrence knows something about it. Lawrence denies this, even when the Man in Black rides into his hometown, shoots some of Lawrence’s gang, and even kills the robot’s wife, but just as the Man in Black is about to shoot his daughter. The girl says, “The Maze is not for you.” The Man in Black is bemused by this, but the little girl also gives him some directions, so he lets the little robot go and rides out of the town, taking Lawrence with him.

The last relevant sub-plot is that of Dr. Ford. He is seen wandering the park and talking to a little boy. It’s very obvious that this little boy is a younger version of himself and is something of a companion for the old man as he walks the park. However, it soon becomes apparent that Dr. Ford is looking for something. That something turns out to be the steeple of a church. We don’t know why this steeple is important, but all will be revealed in time.

Returning from the park, Dr. Ford reviews the new narrative written by Dr. Sizemore. Sizemore is not a fan of Dr. Ford and wishes to take his place as head of the park. So, it comes as no surprise when Dr. Ford rejects his narrative, a decision that will cost the company untold capital. Dr. Ford doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, the real reason for rejecting Sizemore’s narrative has nothing to do with personal animosity, but because Ford has his own narrative he wants to tell. Ford takes Bernard into the park with him and shows him the old steeple.

I won’t lie. This is one of the dryer episodes in the series. It’s mostly character-building and vulgarity. But the first two episodes do spend a lot of time establishing that the robots are “waking up,” which is what we’d expect. The whole point of the show is to explore a theory of consciousness, so we know they’ll be waking up eventually. However, the way the robots are presented in these first two episodes makes their current state very unclear, and this is one of the show’s great weaknesses. No doubt, the writer’s conclusion about what consciousness is will be disagreeable, but beyond the philosophical problems, narratively speaking, the writers choose to present a large portion of the events from the robot’s point of view, but how do you present the POV of a character that is not conscious? We’re not just watching them interact as an observer. We’re seeing what’s going on inside their “minds,” which only complicates matters, because in order to tell the story the writers wish to tell, they have to present the robots’ flashbacks as coherent, and then the writers go a step further by showing the robots reacting to these flashbacks.

Robot Consciousness?

So, with Maeve, for instance, she’s having flashbacks and nightmares of her and a little girl being attacked. These memories bother her, when frankly, they shouldn’t, at least, not at first. It makes sense for her to stop and stare at nothing, but why would the flashbacks startle her when she doesn’t know what fear is? It would be better for her to stop and twitch or something in the beginning, then as the memories repeat themselves, she can begin to consider them bad, and once she’s identified “badness,” she can go on to identify fear. There should’ve been a more thought-out process that went from identifying concepts to feeling emotions.

I mean, we’re talking about something that will never happen, a robot experiencing Qualia, but if we’re to explore the possibility in a story, the process needs to happen at a slower pace. At the start of the show, the robots seem half-conscious already, which is going to become a real problem when comes time for the robots to actually experience consciousness. How are they going to represent an awakening if the robots are already reacting to everything? We’ll review episode three next time.

Gary Varner

Gary Varner is the Assistant to the Managing and Associate Directors at the Center for Science & Culture in Seattle, Washington. He is a Science Fiction and Fantasy enthusiast with a bachelor’s degree in Theater Arts, and he spends his time working with his fellows at Discovery Institute and raising his daughter who he suspects will one day be president of the United States. For more reviews as well as serial novels, go to www.garypaulvarner.com to read more.

Westworld: Episode 2 Review