Westworld premiere recap and a look at the weeks ahead
Westworld is a super high-tech and fully immersive amusement park designed to look and act like the very low-tech Wild West. Our first introduction to Westworld is through Dolores, a “host.” Hosts are extremely lifelike androids with intricate programming allowing them to look, feel, and act like human beings. Hosts are programmed to never hurt a living being, from insects to humans. They live in a loop that starts the same, but can change at a moment’s notice, just like a real human. For Dolores, the day starts waking up in bed. She greets her father, sitting on the porch, before she heads into town to run a few errands.
“Newcomers” are the guests to Westworld. They arrive via an old fashioned locomotive, dressed in period-appropriate attire. There are no rules for guests in Westworld. They can explore harmlessly, they can have sex with a host, they can join a posse and hunt down a bandit, or they can go around killing hosts. We follow a newcomer, Teddy, who stops at the saloon for a belt of whiskey and turns down a prostitute. He sees Dolores through the window and is drawn to her. She drops a can; he picks it up. She is surprised and pleased to find that Teddy came back, and he sees her home. It is night when they finally arrive, and Dolores is worried because the cattle are out. Gunshots come from the house, and Teddy rushes up to be a hero. Hector and Walter are robbing the place, and shoots Dolores’ dad dead. Her mother is already dead in the house. Walter contemplates raping her corpse when Teddy shows up and shoots Walter dead.
While Teddy deals with Hector, Dolores sobs over her dead father. The Man in Black approaches, surprised that Dolores still doesn’t remember him, even though he has been coming here for 30 years. Teddy faces off with the Man in Black (he doesn’t have a name, which I find suspicious) and they prepare to duel. Teddy is faster, gets the first shot off, but the Man in Black doesn’t drop. Teddy is actually a host and cannot hurt a human being. The Man in Black theorizes on why they “paired” some of the hosts off, and realizes it is because winning doesn’t mean anything if someone doesn’t lose. “You’re here to be the loser,” the Man in Black tells Teddy, then pulls his gun. Teddy begs for his life, and the Man shoots him dead before grabbing Dolores by the neck and dragging her to the barn – presumably to rape her. “I didn’t pay all this money because I wanted it easy. I paid for a fight.”
The next morning, Dolores wakes, just as she did the previous morning. Teddy wakes on the train, pulling into the small western town of Sweetwater, just as he did the previous morning. Neither has any memories of the day before, or the day before that. They are wiped clean every night. The only things that remain are their programmed story loops.
This is where we finally meet the people behind Westworld, the theme park. It is a massive laboratory, with techs in clean suits building horses and people, and programming new automatons. We meet the head of programming, Bernard Lowe, and behavioral engineer Elsie Hughes, marveling at a new gesture Clementine (one of the saloon girls) has “learned.” Bernard figures this must have been something Dr. Ford, the creator of Westworld, slipped in during the most recent update. Ford calls them reveries, motions that are tied to specific, “subconscious” memories.
Bernard is called away after being alerted that one of his “creatures” in cold storage is restless. Theresa Cullen, the head of quality assurance, is worried that this is the start of the rise of the machines. Every update is a chance for critical failure, and the fact that there hasn’t been a critical failure in 30 years means they are “overdue.” Bernard accompanies a tactical team to the cold storage, where a hundred nude, decommissioned hosts stand motionless, expressionless. The movement in the cold storage is due to Dr. Robert Ford. He has come down there to have a drink and talk with an old, withered cowboy, Bill – the second host ever created. Nothing that requires a tactical team; no android uprising.
In the park, a new day has begun. It is exactly the same for Dolores, who wakes in bed, gives her dad a kiss on the cheek, and heads out. It is exactly the same for Teddy until he is stopped by some guests on his way to pick up Dolores’ dropped can. Instead, the Man in Black helps Dolores, and she has no memory of him. The Man in Black says goodbye and heads into the saloon to gamble.
A guest and his wife head into the mountains with the sheriff to hunt Hector and his gang. The wife is not enjoying herself and wants to head back. The sheriff appears to have a stroke – he is malfunctioning. Back in the lab, the sheriff is showing aberrant behavior, and there is blood on his head. Bernard suspects that it might be due to the recent update that was pushed into 10% of active hosts. Theresa wants all the updated hosts pulled from the park until they can fix it, but the lead story programmer, Lee Sizemore, is apoplectic because it will mess up his storylines. Bernard assures Theresa that the host’s core code is in tact, so he can’t hurt anyone. She agrees to give him a chance to fix things more slowly. Later, Lee finds Theresa having a smoke, and attempts small talk. It fails, and he gets to the real heart of the matter: that Ford is making the hosts too real; he is going to “chase his demons right off a cliff.” He believes a changing of the guard is long overdue. Theresa wants to know what Lee seems to think management’s real interests are. He has no answer, but it seems Theresa knows more than she is letting on.
When Dolores returns home (before dark, as she promised), she finds her dad, Peter, staring at a photograph he found in the dirt. The picture, clearly lost from a guest’s pocket, shows a woman in Times Square, and Peter is mystified by it. It doesn’t look weird to Dolores, but Peter can’t stop staring.
Bernard has the sheriff working good as new when Elsie comes in and warns there is a “serious problem” with one of the hosts in the park. When he gets to the park, he sees Walter, stumbling around drunkenly in the saloon, spilling milk and shooting other hosts. Two guests are huddled in the corner, terrified. Clearly, Walter is off script. He stumbles outside and Bernard shuts him down. Elsie is confused: the hosts are only supposed to turn on one another in the High Sierra storyline, and Walter is always killed. Bernard is pleased, though: this means the problem is with the updated hosts. They can just roll back their programming and put them back into the park. Lee agrees to rewrite the storyline to create a bloodier show in order to have an excuse to get the hosts back to the lab. Back in the lab, Bernard informs Ford that the code he added has some mistakes in it. Ford accepts this with a sad smile. “This is as good as we are going to get. We’re done. You must indulge me the occasional mistake.”
That evening, the Man in Black slits the throat of Kissy, the blackjack dealer. He takes him into the hills. When we see them in the morning, there are literal buckets of blood on the ground. The Man in Black left just enough blood in Kissy to keep him alive, and promises to torture the answers he wants out of him. He wants Kissy to show him how to get to the “deeper level of the game.” And he will dig deeper into Kissy to get the answers.
Dolores’ day starts normally. She finds her father still preoccupied by the photo. He has a question he is not supposed to ask, and starts stroking out, much like the sheriff did. Then he grabs Dolores and tells her to leave. “Hell is empty. The devils are all here.” She rushes into town to find the doctor. There is no answer at the doctor’s door, and Teddy finds her, following his usual storyline protocol. She tells him of her father, and they plan to go back to her home, but a group of people ride into town. It is Hector and his gang.
Hector lays out a smorgasbord of guns and he and his gang shoot every host they can find. The guests love it and run screaming. Dolores is desperate to get back to her father, and she and Teddy come out of hiding, planning on making a run for it. Teddy is shot. Dolores clutches him, crying, as they say their final goodbyes, and he “dies” in her arms. The gang steals the saloon’s vault. “Let this be a lesson,” Hector proclaims, about to deliver a speech that Lee is particularly proud of. But he doesn’t get to give the speech. He is shot through the neck by the same guest who witnessed the sheriff’s malfunction. He shoots a couple other gang members, and seems shocked at first. Then, proud.
While the guest and his wife pose proudly for photos with the gangsters they killed, Elsie has come to town, dressed as a guest, to help collect all the dead and “malfunctioning” hosts. Dolores is one of them.
Back at the lab, most of the hosts are checking out just fine. Dolores did not, but Bernard seems to think they were able to fix her. She believes she is in a dream, and wants to wake, but first she must answer Bernard’s questions. She has never questioned her reality, but admits her father showed her a photograph. There was nothing odd about it to her. She admits her dad whispered “These violent delights lead to violent ends” but that means nothing to her. Dolores swears she has never lied to the technicians, and would never hurt a living thing. We learn that Dolores is the oldest host in the park.
Theresa wants to put down Peter, but Ford wants to discover why he malfunctioned. Accessing an older configuration, Peter seems to be back to normal, but then his speech falters. “I have to warn her. The things you do to her, I have to protect her.” He is panicky, and Ford shuts him down. Accessing his current build, Peter starts rambling about having revenge, and causing terror on Earth. He grabs Ford, at which point security shuts the host down for good. Bernard doesn’t know what that was; he wasn’t programmed for that.
A new day, and Dolores has the same routine. But this time, her dad is a new dad, a fact that doesn’t register with her. She greets him and promises to be home before dark. Teddy is back on the train, coming in to Westworld. And Peter and Walter are retired to cold storage.
The Man in Black is done with Kissy – he took his scalp. On the underpart of the scalp, there is what appears to be a maze.
Dolores stares dreamily out over the prairie, when a fly lands on her neck. She swats it. You can almost hear the dramatic music sting.
You can watch a preview for upcoming episodes using the player below!