In this week’s episode of HBO’s “West World,” we witness the further unraveling of the mystery of the maze, and the growing dissonance hosts begin to experience. The events in the fourth episode leave us both unsettled and begging for more. Here’s why.
The opening scene depicts Dolores, in another session with Bernard. Her memory has yet to be erased, and she is in shock and distraught that her family is killed — and that she herself killed a man. It reminds us that sometimes, we are much more capable than we think we are. So this is the first time we watch Dolores process her feelings before they are deleted from her memory. She bears witness to her own suffering — one that the employees of West World have already witnessed thousands of times. She, like Teddy, has died a thousand deaths, only to continue living.
Bernard’s side project of experimenting with Dolores’ conscience seems to get out of hand, but he continues it regardless. In fact, he mentions the maze, which is only spoken of by the Man in Black — a mysterious veteran player who sets out to find the maze from the get go. This tells us that Dolores will inevitably cross paths with this man in one form or another. A bit for foreshadowing, shall we say. But hey, it’s the Wild West, so anything could happen.
We are then pulled from Dolores’ narrative to Maeve’s. I will note, though, that so far, the only two consistent host narratives that we see this far are of women. Teddy’s beef with Wyatt is momentarily on hold, and only serves as a secondary narrative to that of Dolores’ and Maeve’s. Both of whom begin to recall memories from another life. Maeve’s interaction with West World technicians, or “shades,” as some of the host Native Americans call them, continues to haunt her conscience. She even tells us that she has something on the tip of her tongue, but cannot for the life of her (ha) recall what it is. This marks a moment where we can all relate to her — which also serves to unsettle us — begging the question of whether or not we have past lives, or lost mysteries our subconscious continues to hold on to. We watch her struggle to remember a former life that she doesn’t have, one that does not exist — or so she thinks. In the midst of her paranoia, she draws the shade, only to discover previous drawings she’s hidden in the same place. This is where dissonance theory comes into play, nagging at Maeve’s understanding of the world and her fight to make sense of it. What is more haunting, though, is that the answers to the nonsensical happenings in Maeve’s life are right in from of her, hiding in plain sight — which is why she seeks out Hector Escaton’s knowledge on shades. The sense of dejavu is not just a feeling, it is a reality. Maeve’s conviction to piece together her fragmented memories with her life’s inconsistencies push her to the brink of insanity, only to find that her hunch and gut feeling was completely true. The hidden bullet within her stomach is the personification of her past life, as well as the proof.
Even though her memory will be wiped clean (something we now know to be untrue) as soon as she dies, Maeve’s ability to remember fragments will remain. Her premonition of Hector Escaton’s attack allows her to alter the chain of events, and in turn, her own destiny. The ability to change one’s own fate strikes an emotional chord with the audience, because by chance, Maeve’s inkling allows her to dig deeper into her understanding of the world and her path in it. Like Maeve, any of us are the makers of our own destiny, should we seek to alter it. The only way to do that, though, is by awakening our conscience. For Maeve, it is literally opening herself, and searching inside to do so.
Although this episode was full of flying bullets and grotesque images of the human condition, it also demanded from the audience a sense of curiosity. It asks us to consider the fantasy worlds we each live in, be it living in denial of losing a loved one, or the struggle to hold onto our own morality. While we may not truly be content with our own versions of reality, West World challenges our acceptance of them. Is there a way out? Perhaps this is the question Ford wants us to answer; but Arnold’s death serves as a warning and cautionary tale of one thing: do not lose your perspective.