Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Westworld Wednesday: Cages and Chains

Welcome back to Westworld Wednesday, a series of essays/ramblings about the themes & philosophies of Westworld. NOTE: while we deal more with themes here, rather than plot, the emphasis is not on what happened this week; HOWEVER, if you are reading this and wish to avoid spoilers, you should be current on the show (Seriously, there are spoilers in this).

From the moment we met Ake in the eighth episode of season two, it was pretty clear he was doomed. No one is allowed happy endings in Westworld, right? Human or host, the loop is usually pretty bleak. Elsie tries to sort-of help Bernard, and is killed offhand. Hale then meets the same fate, at her half-replica's hand. William and Emily... oof. Ford and Arnold both sacrificed their lives in pursuit of their ideals. Delores watches the man she loves(-ish) kill himself in front of her.

It's not a happy show, is my point.

Life isn't always happy, either, to be sure. There are definitely those debating if the finale was good or not, and there is certainly merit to those discussions. But Ake, of all people in this damned show, deserves some happiness. Kiksuya is my favorite episode of the run, masterfully adding depth to the world; depth that The Raj and Shogun world didn't add, no matter how cool they looked. The happiness and truth which eluded Ake (and his tribe(s)) felt like it would also condemn him to the same loops as despair as pretty much everyone else in the show.

Gladly, that was not the case.

Narrative-wise, it's even better than just rewarding a B character in the host afterlife - Delores, pre-death, is having none of it. She views it as another cage - and maybe it is. It certainly achieves the human goal of, ya know, stopping the hosts from murdering them all. Cages are funny things, though. A caged bird may not be able to fly very far, but it's also safe from predators. Perhaps that is (post-death) Delores' thought, as she shifts where The Sublime is stored to somewhere humans can't find it. 

Sometimes we tend to put ourselves in cages - as not-Logan says, we're pretty simple. William is a case in point here - he became so attached an idea that a fake game meant something (and, as is the folly of our species, selfishly assumed it meant something for him) that his drive for it killed his wife and daughter (probably). We see this in very different ways with Ford and Arnold/Bernard, although those are equally - if not more - lethal. Ford is obsessed with their wooden puppets becoming real boys and girls, which Arnold was with his idea of the Maze, in the end both meeting their ends at Delores' hand. And also by their own. You know what I mean.

One of the keys to good fiction is the characters having choices, and I love how that was a major theme of this season. William's journey is about his decent from escapism to depravity and obsession, but along the way, he's given multitudinous chances to alter his trajectory, yet takes none of them. Delores, on the other hand, does - at least slightly; showing mercy to the souls arrived at their heaven.

It's still a cage, in its way, but if we get to pick our cages, may as well be a nice one.


Dean is the author of the 3024AD series of science fiction stories (which should be on YOUR summer reading list). You can read his other ramblings and musings on a variety of topics (mostly writing) on his blog. When not holed up in his office
tweeting obnoxiously writing, he can be found watching or playing sports, or in his natural habitat of a bookstore.