Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Westworld Wednesday: What is Missing

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).

If you don't like what you see in the mirror, don't blame the mirror
What is free will, anyway? Is it an illusion and our whole lives are spelled out from the word go? Or are we really free to make our own choices? But even if we are, it is folly to suppose we have actual, complete agency over those choices. Everyone has obligations, duties, and even should they be abandoned, doesn't that just introduce another in its stead?

Absence of Field may be my favorite episode yet, at least since season one. It basically takes those categories and puts them in amazing character. Caleb discovers that his whole life is tracked and mapped out, that he is a slave to fate due to powers far beyond his control. Delores is finally in control of her own destiny, wretched control of her life from murdered gods, and now finds herself in conflict with the other would-be citizens of a twisted Olympus. But even gods have obligations, and she finds herself to return the good that Caleb showed her.

Charlotte embodies the third option. All her obligations come pouring down upon her, obligations she, being not-Charlotte, didn't even know she had. A massive, essentially evil corporation with a major PR disaster on its hands seems like a bit, but turns out she also has a son, an ex, AND she's supposed to be spying ON said evil corporation. I mean:

On top of all that, she is embodying the other major theme of Westworld: Identity. All of her obligations require her to be someone else entirely, but those are all facades in the first place. Look at the world right now - our world, the real one (or maybe it's not, who the hell knows, our simulation is off the rails) - and how much can change, and how fast. People wear masks all the time because of their obligations - hell, if you're in isolation right now, there is a good chance you have not only renounced any metaphorical masks, but also literal pants.

Pants notwithstanding, those masks change - most people shift to fit in, be that at work, with friends, with other friends, with hobbies, on and on and on. We are social creatures; we try to belong. All of that goes to form our identity - or does our identity inform it? What makes us, really, truly, who we are?

Not-Charlotte comes in as a host, with orders from Delores to impersonate Charlotte, and the internal drive to do so. But we see her become Charlotte as she begins to assume who she is, what she is, and what she actually embodies.

Is this an example of free will, her making the choice to become that? Or is she forced there by being in so deep that she literally has no other choice? Why, to take from the poem, does she keep moving?

Why, then do any of us?


Dean is the author of the 3024AD series of science fiction stories. 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.