This week’s episode of West World is almost what I wish every episode of Game of Thrones would be. The continuing plot begins to take shape in the form of Dolores’ and Williams’ personal journey in and out of Pariah. But more importantly, we begin to see the development of several key characters, who step into bigger roles, if you will.
Ford (whom we finally learn his first name, Robert) begins the episode with an anecdote, of an old grey hound who finally catches a cat, and kills it. The saddest thing, Ford says, is watching the canine have no clue what to do after killing the feline. Perhaps it’s painfully obvious, but Ford’s childhood story points to this episode’s over arching theme: purpose. What is one’s purpose? And how do we find it? More importantly, what do we do once we realize our purpose? As Dolores has repeatedly said, “There’s a path for everyone.”
Dolores’ path, and her purpose are entirely altered in this episode. Her journey to Pariah with William and Logan bring her closer to the voices in her head, who tell her she must follow the maze. She is pushed to desperation, to survival mode, when she and William become trapped by Confederados. However, in another unsurprising twist, Dolores kills their enemies, telling William she imagines a role where she is not the damsel. Dolores makes a clear deviation from her “little loop,” choosing to step into a bigger, perhaps more dangerous role. Her actions imply that we all are the makers of our own fate, and, if we so desire, can alter our own destiny.
Although we view Dolores as a protagonist in the game, her conversation with Ford suggests otherwise. Ford interrogates her regarding Arnold, and whether or not he has been speaking with her. She clearly denies, later speaking out loud — and presumably to Arnold — that she didn’t tell him anything. We do learn how long it’s been since Arnold’s death, and that Dolores was there when he died. That said, Ford does not consider Dolores a friend at all, and regards her with a subtle animosity. This distinction causes us to ponder what hand, if any, Dolores played in Arnold’s death. In fact, Ford states she is the only host still “alive” who was there when Arnold died — 34 years, 42 days, and 7 hours. The plot thickens when Ford asserts that Arnold told Dolores that she would help him destroy West World, begging the question of whether she is good or bad. Would be painfully obvious to note that once Dolores is given a new set of attire (hence, her transformation), she has a brown hat. Unlike William’s who is distinctively white. Or Logan’s black one.
Dolores’ connection with William is a connection to the real world, one her clouded subconscious knows exists, yet continues to lurk deep within her. It is through William that she is able to unravel that mystery, and as she steps into a new role, she is one step closer to the real world. Her dreams, which are really conversations with real people (Ford and Bernard) do mean everything — they are stories we tell ourselves of what we could be and what we could become. Dolores “dreams” of real people — implying that she, too, could be real. I think it’s a no-brainer that once Dolores realizes what she is, she will inevitably desire to become “real.”
William, whose reserved and hesitant demeanor seem to shed light on the horrifying reality of West World, slowly shifts into an active, aggressive role. He finally stands up to Logan, leaving him imprisoned in Pariah (anyone else see Logan’s slight smirk when William decides to abandon him?). He kills a man to save Dolores. And most importantly, he believes Dolores when she says she’s searching for something more. She ties herself to him, as her anchor of what is and isn’t real, when she confides in him of the voices she hears in her head, urging her to seek.
Like Dolores, Felix, one of Maeve’s shades, has aspirations to become something greater; a coder for Westworld. This prompts us to consider how, and to what extent, we may be similar to the hosts. Although he is belittled by his colleague, he perseveres to fix a dead bird. And he does. This small victory is beautiful, because we, too, are hoping he is able to resurrect a dead creature within such a cold, lifeless building. We are offered a rare, short-lived glimpse of purity, that exists both within and outside of the game. But it quickly comes to an end when Felix finds an awake Maeve perched on a stretcher.
William’s connection with Dolores strengthens, and he grapples with allowing himself to believe that Dolores is not just another host, and that there is more to her than meets the eye. This innate hope resides in all of us, and serves as a tribute to the human condition of always hoping, searching for a better, more real world. Or, for lack of a better word, truth. Which is the ultimate irony of West World. In the search for something real, players are looking for truth and purpose in a completely false and artificial world. West World may act as an escape from reality, but it is also a mirror reflection of it. We bear witness to the extremes of human behavior — violence and sex. The violence we see in this episode explores the human understanding of death in violence. While we see it on TV and read about it, the park allows humans to experience it first-hand. Something that, in the real world, we don’t ever get to take back. In order for us to understand and experience death, we are only able to do so in a synthetic, unreal environment. Perhaps this is what happened to Arnold, who became so enraptured with the park and it’s world, his understanding of what is and isn’t real could only be distinguished through one unchangeable, certain action: death.