An open letter to the white man that cut me off at Peet’s

I’ve been brewing over this all day. So you’re all in for a treat.

Before I begin, let me give you a bit of some verbal foreplay. We all need a bit of warming up (let’s be honest, we all deserve it, too).

I had just stepped off the ferry into San Francisco for my morning commute. I sped-walked my ass away from the masses and straight into the Ferry Building. It was a beautiful, violet-skied day. Now, I normally don’t indulge myself in daily coffees, because that shit adds up and your girl is on a budget. But today was Pay Day. Once I reminded myself of this holy fact, I mini-shimmied inside my pea coat and booked it for Peet’s. Yes, I could have gone for that Blue Bottle Coffee, but like I said, ballin’ on a budget. Because we all know paying six dollars for an almond milk latte teeters on the brink of absurdity. So Peet’s it is. I really do believe it’s the little things in life that make up life itself, so I was ready to be corny and cliche as fuck.

I stand in line. I am next. The person orders in front of me and then waits by the bar. I  like to believe I’m a patient person — or at least try to be — so I made sure not to invade anyone’s personal space. But nothing — not even that piece of shit cheeto sitting in the Oval — could get between caffeine and me. Or so I thought.

Some random-ass white man got in my way. He did it. He fucking did it. He sauntered in, eyes glued to his BlackBerry (who the fuck still owns those, anyways?), skipped the god damned line and continued with his order. The cashier even made eye contact with me, and she and I knew exactly what was happening. I didn’t grin at her because I wanted to be polite. I smiled because we both knew this asshole had no idea he just cut six other people, because he needed his coffee. Before you all think I lost my shit on this sea pig of a human, I’ll have you know I didn’t. Even if I’m a dangerously hot-tempered Argentine-American female. Because I am a Civilized Woman and I really would prefer not to be escorted to the San Francisco Police Department for having an “outburst” on a Tuesday morning.

I let it be. I decided not to say anything to the man. I didn’t feel defeated or shy or unsafe. Why? Because I knew the barista would say something directly to him. I like to believe there is a tacit understanding between women when something fucked up happens — no matter how minute or grandiose — you step up.

“Just so you know, there’s a line,” she said.

And this dude whipped his head back towards everyone and began to profusely apologize. I get it. It’s early. You’re probably responding to an email your shitty boss sent you at 4 a.m. Or you’re scrolling through Kendall Jenner’s Instagram. We’re all busy. We all have places to be. But that’s besides the point. And it’s also besides the point that you apologized, dude.

No one wants your apology. I certainly don’t. What I want is awareness. To the white male who cut me off at Peet’s, here’s why I’m posting on my fucking blog about you.

You can chalk up your lack of cognizance and spatial awareness to whatever else is happening in your Uber important life. I don’t care if you’re sorry. Sorry doesn’t cut it. What you should be apologizing for, is not knowing any better. Not knowing that your universe does not come before anyone else’s, nor is it the sole galaxy we all happen to live in. To make it simple for you: you’re more like a piece of a disbanded foreign satellite trash that’s just aimlessly running into shit in outer space.

It doesn’t even cross your mind that maybe you’re not the only one who is on a quest for coffee, let alone the only one who exists in this so-called civilized society. It’s not a matter of being apologetic, it’s a matter of being aware.

I’m not going to sit here and say that you directly attacked my rights and safety as a queer Latina by cutting me off at Peet’s. That you being a complete moron at 8 a.m. is a reflection of your political agenda to oppress and marginalize women like me. That would be taking it too far, and  I know that.

What I will say, though, is that it’s the little things. It’s the small acts of ignorance, the inability to realize your own privilege, that continue to threaten and chip away at safe spaces and the equity of others who may not be white or male. Yeah, I’m not going to give a shit about this in a month (let’s be real, I need a week). But I implore you to take a fucking minute from your shitty BlackBerry and think about where you are, what you’re doing, and if you’re not being an indirect dick to other people. White dude, I don’t have a problem with you. I have a problem with the hegemonic, heteronormative patriarchal society you and I live in. Be conscious. Be aware.

And for fuck’s sake, don’t cut people off at Peet’s.

 

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Nah, say my name

“What is your name?”

What is my name. What is my name, they asked. Not, “how do you say your name?” As if it were some other creature only tied to me by the pencil and paper I write it on. As if it was  never mine in the first place. As if it were not me. As if it did not belong to me. As if I did not belong to myself.

My entire life has been a saga of deja vu, where I explain my name to friends, teachers, colleagues, and the baristas at Starbucks. Sometimes I’ll spell it out, or write it down — everyone learns a different way, and “it’s very important to foster a learning and positive environment,” said every Berkeley mother. It astonishes me how many times I have to repeat my name to the same person, and to each person I meet. While their reactions vary, I am left with the same feeling: isolation.

As with all things, I didn’t become ashamed, embarrassed, confused by my name until I reached the age of schooling, where I was ripped out of the safe web my mother had created for me, and into the sea of stubborn ears and tongues that did not listen. I dreaded the first days of school, because every damn year, I would have to go through the same public humiliation of a teacher butchering my name. I was not an exception — there were plenty other children of immigrant parents who suffered the same invisible terror. But this is my story. And no one else had my name, or was me: Camila.

“Cuh-mee-lah.”

“Kah-mill-uh” is what I got instead. Camille. Camillia. Camilla. Kamila. Cammy.

I was a painfully shy child, so when this happened every 365 days, I wanted it to be over as soon as possible. Never mind that they got it wrong, just get on to saying Hoshang’s or Ayeyi’s name. For the love of God, just butcher someone else’s name. And people wonder why I have anxiety. (Yes, it’s your fault Mrs. Downey. Mr. Aiken. Oh yes, I’m calling you out — funny how the tables have turned, eh?)

The worst part about all of this was not so much that everyone and their literal mother got my name wrong — it was that I didn’t have the courage to tell them that. I didn’t want others to experience my shame, my embarrassment. I just thought it would be easier to let it be, and that being called something other than my name was a fair price for anonymity and minimal humilation. I really did believe I’d come off as a stuck-up, snotty paled-skinned Latina brat who thought she was better than everybody (and for a time, I definitely did). So my voice remained quiet, and I let others name me. Me, my person, my literal identity, didn’t even belong to me. It belonged to those who were willing (or cared enough) to say it. But honestly, by the end of the year, or once soccer season ended, no one remembered my name anyways. No one remembered me. I was just that weird white girl with the weird name. And I stayed that way for the rest of my life.

The most puzzling part of this identity ordeal was that while people called me a literal flower, my name was perfectly normal in Argentina. Normal. There was nothing weird about my name, my skin, or the way I pronounced by double L’s. At six, I didn’t even know what normal was — and I still don’t know. The main difference, though, is that I don’t give a shit about normal anymore. But six-year-old, 12-year-old, and 16-year-old me did.

Each time I hopped on a plane to South America, I was able to shed the snakeskin of my phony identity off my body. I didn’t have to coil myself together like I did on the playground or during show-and-tell. People didn’t have to come up with nick-names or alter ego names just to interact with me (It’s Maya, if anyone is asking. My alter-ego name is Maya.) There were no misunderstandings in my name, and there were no fifth-graders to make fun of my stutter while giving the lunch lady my name. I was free. I was normal in Argentina. And more than anything, everyone in Buenos Aires said my name flawlessly. I fell in love with each person who uttered my name. It was a love affair with my own name, one that was forbidden and chastised in California. It put Romeo and Juliet, Rachel and Ross, and Kimye to shame.

“It’s not that hard of a name,” people would tell me years later, after I decided I would correct people until they said my name properly. I remember sitting at the table, passing hookah around with my college roommates while playing reggae in the background and sipping on beers. In unison, they all agreed that Camila Martinez-Granata was not a difficult name to say or spell. Truly, I know their intentions were well-meant. But on the inside, the smoke of the hookah plumed out of me, leaving the room thick with tension. It was, and continues to be, one of the most back-handed compliments I have ever received. Not the, “You’re pretty for a curvy girl,” or “You don’t look Hispanic.” Never mind that. There I was, sitting at a table, with mint-flavored tobacco in my lungs. The taste went bitter. I took another hit, held my breath, and with my exhale, pushed out every foul and insulting word I wanted to say. I couldn’t. I couldn’t tell them that they were being insensitive or that instead of making me feel validated, they made me feel dumb. Dumb for always correcting people, dumb for speaking out about my name. Dumb for being me. Instead of comforting me, I was pushed against a wall, alone and naked, shut out in the dark. My entire life, I had listened to people, just like my room mates, murder my name, carelessly. And suddenly, it was so conveniently pointed out that my that name isn’t that difficult to begin with. You’re right. It isn’t. My name is not what’s hard. It’s the people. It’s the ignorance that is hard. You do you not get to selectively choose when a name, or a fucking word, is hard to say. It suddenly becomes easy when they decide it is. It’s selfish as fuck.

I blow out the smoke. “Yeah, I guess you’re right,” I say.

 

Breaking up with Barack: A choice

This is the hardest breakup I have ever gone through.

Apart from my incessant ability to procrastinate, I did just that when Obama gave his farewell speech earlier this week. I felt guilty for not watching sooner. But grief is a hard master. So tonight, I sat down and braced myself for the waterworks and ugly crying that I did. And you bet your ass I drank some Gloria Ferrer. If this is to end, I’m doing this with fucking class.

Let me lay this down for you. I’m not happy about this shit — and as much as I wish this weren’t true, it is (it’s not over until I say it’s over, you know?). And there’s (almost) nothing I can do about it.

For the last eight years, Barack Obama has perhaps given me the most stable, reliable source of trust and confidence I’ve ever had (an exception to my romance with beer and grilled cheese). No one’s perfect, but that’s what makes them perfect. And when you love someone, you don’t suddenly stop loving them because they walk away from the relationship. It hurts. And it hurts because deep down, you know it was for the best. You know this needed to happen.

So when I sat down and finally watched his speech, I was filled with an array of emotions that may be the weirdest cluster-fuck of feelings I’ve ever had: Pride, anger, fear, and love. There I was, watching the man I love continue to be the honest, inspirational, and provocative man I fell in love with eight years ago. I was so proud of him, even though with every word he said, my heart shattered into a thousand pieces, again and again. Just because he’s leaving my life does not mean he stops being any of those things — and that is why this hurts. He will continue to exist, without me as his (somewhat) law-abiding citizen and number one fan (challenge me, bitches, I dare you). Because life, as it does, will go on, and I will enter the next chapter of my life. Without him. It’s selfish and self-centered and possessive, but those are my feelings.

The hardest part of watching Obama leave the White House may not be the fact that he’s going to be replaced by a cheeto-dusted moron (a close fucking second, though). It’s because I know this is the right call. There is no other way. This is the way of our democracy, and I have to come to terms with it. The passionate, unrealistic soul in me was hoping Obama would come out and say, “Nah, fuck that,” and allow himself to be re-elected. Or write some sort of deus ex machina that would save me and the American people from World War III and being forced to let anyone grab my pussy. This must be some sort of sick joke. It can’t be real. It can’t really be over. He’ll change his mind tomorrow. This can’t be the end. He’ll change his mind tomorrow. It’s when you start thinking of all the grandiose, unrealistic options, that it’s really over. There’s nothing you can do.

I can’t blame him. I can’t say he cheated on me, or lied to me, or chose being an ethically moral human being over protecting me from a xenophobic, misogynistic, racist piece of fake burnt crisp. I have no ammunition. It is so easy to replace love with hate — but I can’t bring myself to do that. I’d be a total phony if I did. There’s nothing I can say that will change this decision. Nothing I can do to reverse what time and the Constitution has inflicted upon me. I feel so helpless. I feel so lost.

I avoided watching his speech, because I knew it would hurt. I knew it would leave me reeling. There’s nothing worse than listening to the last time the person you love tell you goodbye, because at the end of the conversation, that’s it. They walk away. And there’s nothing you can do about it. There’s nothing Obama can do about it — he has no other choice, either. And this whole time, while you’re trying to hold it together and respect their voice, you can’t help but dread the minute they stop speaking to you. The second he thanked Michelle for her devotion and unconditional love, I lost it. When he made his final, final comments, the tears and hyperventilating came. Because then, it’s really over.

Over.

I can sit here and tell you I finished that bottle of champagne to myself, or spent $70 on underwear because I’m dramatic and emotionally unhinged, I could. And for the record, I did both of these things. But if there’s anything I’ve learned from my relationship with Obama, it’s, well, love. I love that man. I always will. Him walking away from the Oval Office won’t end me. It does not break me. I am so proud of him. In the face of adversity, he did. I’m not bitter or resentful toward him — he has given me so much, in such a selfless manner, that I am struck with a flood of emotional gratitude. And I could never, ever resent him for that. His presidency — my president — has left me with an inspirational, uplifting sort of love. The kind that makes you want to be a better person. The kind that challenges you to wake up in the morning and dish out kindness and patience toward people you don’t know. The kind of love that challenges you to love yourself (what an idea!). The kind of love that makes you want to be a better person. In fact, you ARE a better person because of them. And, I think, that is the greatest gift that anyone can give you.

So, as much as it breaks me, as much as it hurts me, I have nothing but love for this man. Thank you, Obama. Thank you for all that you have given me. You can bet I’ll raise hell these next four years. I dare you, watch me.

West World Chronicles: 1.10

Season finale. Everything comes full circle. I thought about breaking this up into two separate posts, but fuck it. I figure if you want to read it, you will. There’s a path for everyone.

“The Bicameral Mind” is the final episode of West World’s first season. With the way things end — I can say I’m more hooked than I was on Game of Thrones. Call it my addictive personality or obsession with a great story, but it’s true nevertheless.

Once again, the title talks to us. The now outdated theory of our mind separated by two halves — one that talks, and the other that listens and does — makes itself present in this episode. It manifests itself in none other than Dolores — who, throughout the season, has shown that she is guided by an inner monologue. Her intuition, her bicameral mind. More on sweet D in a sec.

In this final episode, we begin with Dolores’ very first memory. How fitting the end is the beginning. Dolores is now the narrator, telling Arnold of her first memory — a memory she’s had all the time, but was unable to access it. She is enchanted by Arnold and her epiphany. Their relationship is that of a parent and child. However, the Man in Black snaps her back to reality, and she is back in Escalante shaving his neck with his knife (how ironic). The Man in Black begins to lose his patience with Dolores, but humors her as she falls back into another memory, which leads her to her own grave. She digs up a toy maze; she holds the game — literally — in her hands. Contrary to what the Man in Black may believe, there are no coincidences in West World, no chance encounters. And as Dolores says, “There’s a path for everyone.”

She realizes Arnold made the maze for her. Dolores, who has been at her grave before, is explained (by Arnold) that the journey to consciousness is not a path upward, but inward. (lightbulb moment.) Arnold tells her that he wanted her to listen to her own voice, and reach her own consciousness, but that she has yet to reach the third level. This is when Arnold explains to her (and us) that once he realized what Dolores was capable of, there was no way he could go through with opening the park — a decision Ford was not onboard with. Arnold tells Dolores, “Once you found it, you will find your way back.” Arnold wants Dolores to break the loop and help him destroy the park — and the only way to do that, is to kill the other hosts. Dolores panics — she’s too gentle and naive to be holding a gun — or so it seems. So, Arnold messes with her personality, and adds in what I’m assuming is a lot of aggression and very little empathy. I found this scene to be particularly puzzling. I’m all for Dolores being a bad ass and smashing the park — but it’s almost like she’s a pawn of Arnold’s. I suppose Arnold is acting selflessly because he wants to free the hosts, but he’s still controlling her. How much free will does Dolores actually have?

We quickly flip to William, who is consumed by his obsession to find Dolores. I don’t think anyone really gives a shit about him at this point, and if you do, I ain’t sorry. We’re trimming the fat here.

Teddy awakes on the train (again). But this time, something is different when he steps into Sweet Water. His mind begins to flip back to another life long ago, and sees the entire town massacred. The only other being he sees is Dolores, who flashes him an all-knowing smile.

Back to the graveyard (which is an interesting setting, given all of Dolores’ realizations that make her alive). For Dolores, the past and the present meet in the graveyard in Escalante — including her relationship with the Man in Black. He is frustrated with Dolores, and after 30 years of playing the game, he wants answers. Frightened, Dolores tells him that she has someone — someone true — who is coming for her. MIB chuckles and in a long-winded narration, he tells Dolores the story of William. He reveals that while searching for Dolores for all those years, William found his true self along the way. And, surprise, MIB is William. Not a huge fan of this twist, but whatever. This truth then reveals that during this entire season, we’ve been watching Dolores from the past. Sure, there are subtle hints here and there that point to this, but I really was hoping for something more… clever. Having this thrown in my face sort of disappointed me — made me feel slightly cheated. Whatever.

A key part of this scene is a notable switch in Dolores’ demeanor after William pushes her.  Dolores is devastated that she was the one who committed the massacre in Escalante all those years ago — but don’t forget, she did it under Arnold’s orders. Her disposition quickly shifts from being a damsel, scared, and vulnerable, to an ominous, dangerous, and indestructible being. The juxtaposition of Dolores, injured and on the ground by her grave, and William standing over her should not go unnoticed. William tells her he wants to get to the center of the maze, and he’s sick of her stupidity. This triggers Dolores to make a very, very foreboding statement: “Time undoes even the mightiest of creatures … One day you will perish … and your bones will turn to sand, and upon that sand, a new god will walk … the world belongs to someone who has yet to come.” This is not the first time Dolores has predicted this apocalypse of sorts — she says something very similar before slashing Logan and escaping the Union camp. It is not gibberish, or improvisation; it’s a premonition of the future. In a nearly possessed manner, Dolores attacks William and deals him several blows (that actually hurt him and he totally deserves it because he’s an asshole murderer) before he is the one who finds himself at her mercy, laying on a grave. Dolores holds a gun to William’s head — but she can’t pull the trigger, and disappointedly, William stabs her. Circling (ha) back to Arnold’s theory of consciousness, is the final step to consciousness free will? Why does Dolores hesitate? She, like Teddy, can’t bring themselves to murder, and I’m dying to know what that final step is.

In an epic Maeve fashion, she, Hector, and Armistice begin taking down the gods and escaping. This comes just after William encounters Ford at the graveyard, and tells him he wants the hosts to fight back. Ford also tells William the maze isn’t meant for him, but he will at least like the new narrative. Be careful what you wish for.  The trio head down to where Clem and “dead” Bernard are. They bring Bernard back online, who is still shocked by his memory. While it may seem Maeve has no empathy for Bernard, she has chosen to let go of the past on focus on her plan of escape. For a hot minute, she asks Bernard to delete her memories of her daughter — making it obvious she still may be grieving. But Bernard tells her it’s not possible, and that it is engrained in her core code. This is Maeve’s cornerstone — her identity as a mother and losing a child. Like Bernard. Maeve is rattled, though, when Bernard tells her that she’s been programmed to escape this entire time (orchestrated by Arnold). She vehemently denies, and says, “I’m in control.” Maeve is strong, but her notion of free-will is threatened; which, in turn, causes her to question the nature of her reality all over again.

Teddy finally takes Dolores to where the mountains meet the sea (WW is on an island, in case you didn’t know). In a theatrical, dramatic performance, Dolores’ final words to Teddy are what we have always heard Dolores say — but with more. She begins by stating, “Some people choose to see the ugliness in the world, I choose to see the beauty.” A given. However, she follows by saying, “But beauty is a lure. We’re trapped, Teddy. Lived our whole lives inside this garden, marveling at it’s beauty, not realizing there’s an order to it, a purpose. And the purpose is to keep us in. The beautiful trap is inside of us, because it is us.”

A lot to break down. This soliloquy reminds us that throughout the entire season, we are only seeing a part of the picture, but not the whole picture. That there is much more at play than we can see. Dolores’ final words aren’t threatening or dangerous — they are sad. We pity her. We feel for her. You can get real introspective on this shit, but all I’ll say on this is that it calls on the audience to consider their own entrapment. How happy are you, living in your own garden, in your own world? Is there more out there? Maybe, we should constantly search for more, rather than live contently, exactly where we are. And maybe, ignorance isn’t bliss.

Maeve and her followers make their way through West World’s facilities, shooting and killing anyone who comes in their path. Bang bang. Felix is clearly disturbed, and Maeve urges him on and provides him with tacit emotional support. An interesting role reversal. Armistice’s arm is trapped in a door — there’s no other way it can end for her (love that her name is Armistice, when she is literally the antithesis of that, almost like Ares). Her cornerstone is fighting to the death, and sticking it to the man. Hector tells her to “die well.” (But if you caught the scene after the final credits, you know damn well she’ll be back for season two) Maeve bids farewell to Hector, her star-crossed lover, in the elevator. He understands, and tells her, “See you in the next life.” (Foreshadowing, much??) She does not want anyone by her side in her endeavor. Not even Felix, who hands her a piece of paper with her daughter’s location inside the park. For half a second, she hesitates. But then she says,”She was never my daughter, any more than I was … whoever they made me.” And with that, Maeve leaves Felix and plops herself down onto the train.

Following her death, Dolores is brought back online by Ford in the old field lab. She and Ford muse Michaelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam.” Ford uses the painting to explain Arnold’s thought process behind building and creating Dolores. He tells us that through Arnold’s own personal tragedy, he created a test of empathy and re-imagination; an idea he had gotten from one of his son’s toys. The maze, then, was created for Arnold’s child, Dolores, to play. She solved the mystery of the maze — and the key, Ford tells us, was the simple update of the reveries. We learn that in an attempt to stop Ford from opening the park, Arnold merged Wyatt’s narrative with Dolores, enabling her to take down other hosts. We watch Dolores kill Arnold during the massacre, who tells her, “I hope there’s some solace that I left you no choice.” Although Dolores physically shoots Arnold, he programmed her to do it re: “These violent delights have violent ends.”

Ford goes on to explain Dolores was not truly conscious, and Arnold pulled the trigger through her. He defends his stance on opening the park and choosing to trap the hosts in his dreams, but he also admits he’s changed. Upon quoting J. Robert Oppenheimer, Ford is admitting he may have made a mistake, one that took him 35 years to correct. In his own way, Ford is apologizing to Dolores. He levels with her, and while referencing the painting, tells her that the divine gift of consciousness does not come for another power, but from our own minds. In a paternal manner, he asks her: “Did you find what you were looking for, and do you understand who you will need to become if you ever want to leave this place?” He then leaves her, but not before saying, “Forgive me.” Dolores is left in tears, but her eyes are fixated on the painting — she knows what she needs to do.

Bernard, still pissed at Ford, confronts him in the church on his way out. He calls him out and tells him that one day, he will loses control of the park and the hosts. Ford (who is really just Anthony Hopkins playing Anthony Hopkins) counters with a confession of sorts. Ford explains while Arnold tried to save the hosts, Ford knew how: time. The hosts needed time to understand their enemy (humans), so they could have a fair shot at their own freedom. He admits that Arnold’s key insight, which led to the hosts’ awakening, was his own suffering. Through suffering, the hosts could reach their own consciousness. It was only after Arnold’s death, and through his own suffering, that Ford realized he was perhaps wrong. Ford, the master, the creator, the god, repents for his sins and confesses to his creation. Before leaving the church, he, in a way, passes Bernard the baton, and tells him: “In order to escape this place, you will need to suffer more.”

Wrapping this up because I am now over two thousand words and I’m not sorry at all so here’s the last bit.

Dolores, alone in the old field lab room, comes face to face with herself. She finally reaches the third level. She realizes this entire time, she’s been listening to her own self, her own voice. Her realization of self prompts her to make her own choice — completely unprogrammed (I’m making a jump here, humor me). She grabs the gun and makes her way to the gala, where Ford makes his final speech — his final performance, if you will. Unlike her last go-around with Arnold, Dolores will kill Ford on her own free will — and Ford knows this. There’s no doubt in my mind Ford is aware of the events that will transpire, even if they are unplanned and improvised. He explains to the shitty Delos board people that this next narrative will begin in a time of war and a villain named Wyatt, and a killing will occur –“this time, by choice.” Little do they all know they are part of the narrative — the story of the hosts and humans finally collides in an explosion of gunfire and violence. Dolores’ past and present finally merge. In a predictable final blow (sorry not sorry), Dolores assassinates Ford, and proceeds to shoot guests. But not before Ford heeds a final warning, one we’ve heard throughout the entire season: “These violent delights have violent ends.” Ford’s final narrative finally begins, as his own ends. And if we’re being totally honest, it’s not his narrative anymore — it’s belongs to the hosts.

Shit really does hit the fan, but it would be naive to say we didn’t see this coming. Dolores has reached her full potential and steps into her own self — one that was there all along. She breaks the loop with her own free will, and she does that on her own. We finally see Ford’s full plan — and until this episode, I don’t think anyone was expecting him to help the hosts. Like Arnold, West World became Ford’s reality — and I don’t think he could live without being in it. Which I think plays a factor in his choice to help Dolores, and end his life. His own suffering, I think, drove him to compassion for the hosts. Maeve also arguably makes her own decision in getting off the train — I wouldn’t be surprised if in the next season, she sets off on a quest to find her daughter. Maybe, just maybe, Arnold programmed her only to leave the park and get on the train — maybe he was gambling and hoping Maeve would decide to stay.

Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for next season’s West World Chronicles.

Freeze all motor functions.

P.S. I sat down the other day and watched the  1973 film “Westworld” out of principle and sheer curiosity. Well, mainly because a very clever human called me out for blogging about this show and having never seen the OG. Needless to say, the concept behind the film was developed, but I think the tech/special effects couldn’t do it justice. Besides, who wants to watch some robot take down a human who can barely put up a fight? We all like watching people squirm, robot or human-alike.

 

West World Chronicles: 1.9

“The Well-Tempered Clavier” is the second to last episode of the first season of West World, and it brings us nearly full circle.

As mentioned before, the titles of each episode offer insight, foreshadowing, or some sort of tribute to the events that transpire. “The Well-Tempered Clavier” is a reference to composer Bach’s collection of Preludes and Fugues in all 24 major and minor keys. Like Bach, Ford is the creator and master of West World, and this title implies we’ll bear witness to all of Ford’s plan. West World is Ford’s masterpiece, but it will come to an end, no less.

If you haven’t watched the series, you should probably stop reading this now, or prepare yourself for a serious mind fuck. Your “choice.”

The episode begins with Bernard analyzing Maeve’s latest outburst, in which she slashed Clementine’s throat in a triggered response to her memory of the Man in Black murdering her daughter. Maeve pretends to follow Bernard’s orders, but quickly breaks the fourth barrier (so to speak) and bestows upon him the truth. Bernard’s mind is thrown into disarray (once again) after realizing he is a host, and he questions the nature of his reality. Maeve warns him, “It’s a difficult thing, realizing your entire life is some hideous fiction.” She leaves, moving forward with gathering her army, and leaving Bernard in the room with his identity shattered on the floor.

We jump to William and Dolores, who are being held captive under Logan’s wrath. The two men argue over how real Dolores is, and William pleads for Logan to help her leave the park. They bicker between deciding her fate — as if it is in their hands. However, Dolores refutes both of them, in both stating they are assuming she wants to leave and know what she wants. Dolores has her own path, one that cannot be changed by either of them.

Bernard breaks into Ford’s office in search of answers, and in an old forgotten room, holds Ford at gunpoint (by the lovely, Clem, of course) until he allows him access to his memories. Bernard is seeking answers; he wants to remember. Ford obliges him, but warns that he may not like what he finds. And so we watch Bernard become conscious of his memories with his son, Teresa and Maeve. It is through these forgotten and almost erased version of realities, that he begins to piece together the bigger picture. He fills the vacancies of his mind by memories he had lost, but has had all this time. Upon realizing he murdered both Teresa and Elsie, he panics, and is brought back to the present. A calm Ford counters Bernard’s frustration and anger with, “A little trauma can be illuminating.”

Later in the evening at the Union army camp, the tension between Logan and William breaks. Logan, who initially encouraged William to immerse himself into West World, is now struggling to pull him out of it. He is pushed to violence, and rips open Dolores to prove to William she is not real. Logan tells William, “You have to look.” While it may be obvious he wants William to see Dolores for what she truly is, it is also acts as a rhetorical question for the audience. We have to pay attention. We have to look. But at what? It is a stark reminder of the truth for William, who is visibly pained by Dolores’ suffering. Is he distraught for her, or for himself? Logan tells a doubled-over Dolores her world was built for humans — but she warns him, that if that is true, someone should burn it clean. She then attacks him and escapes. Dolores’ wound is gone, and she is told to “remember.” This is also a reminder for the audience that Dolores is walking between memory and reality. After Dolores escapes, Logan and William seemingly reconnect and make amends. I think we all know that’s not true, especially when Logan tells William, “You will never be the hero.”

Maeve finds Hector Escaton to recruit him in her fight against the gods. Instead of ordering him to follow her, she allows him the opportunity to join her out of his own free will. She uses her knowledge of the future to prove to Hector that their reality is a farce, one of emptiness. Hector is sold once Maeve opens the safe, and reveals it is filled with nothing. Hector’s purpose, his search of the Holy Grail — his cornerstone — relied on stealing and opening the safe. Now that he is aware of the facade that is his world, he willingly joins Maeve to take down the gods. If we want to get biblical and shit, you could say Maeve becomes a messiah of sorts — a savior who lifts the veil. Maeve the messiah. How poetic.

We’re brought back to Teddy and the Man in Black, who are both tied up by Angela, a pawn of Wyatt’s. Angela forces Teddy to remember his role in helping Wyatt, a memory that is fragmented and shatters Teddy’s understanding of himself. Teddy, the knight in shining armor, is devastated when he realizes he committed mass murder. Initially, his memory shows him in an army outfit, shooting other soldiers. But when pushed by Angela, he remembers a different version of that memory. One in which he is a civilian, killing other civilians, including Angela. Chivalrous Teddy is obviously shocked, but becomes even more confused when Angela says that next time, she and others will be with him at the “city swallowed by sand.” This implies Teddy will help Wyatt, or whoever, commit the same massacre. It’s also important to note that in his military version, Wyatt executes the general of the army — the leader. Perhaps this foreshadowing asks us to question who is the master, and who is the student — and who will kill who? Angela also tells the Man in Black that the maze is not meant for him, something he has heard before. The maze, then, is not for humans, but for the hosts. More specifically, Dolores.

Bernard continues to relive his memories. He is brought back to the day Maeve killed herself following the loss of her daughter. When Bernard questions her actions, Ford (in an omniscient manner) explains that creatures often go to extremes to protect themselves from pain. In this memory, we witness Bernard piecing together how the hosts operate, and makes the conclusion that Maeve’s behavior signals a change in her cognitive functions — but he only gets so far. As a host himself, his mental capacity is only so limited (or perhaps controlled by Ford).

The enigma of Arnold is brought to the forefront in this episode, and we finally learn who he is and what happened to him. As Dolores follows the maze and fights to remember by both retracing and discovering her steps to the city swallowed by sand, Ford narrates the story of Arnold. We watch Dolores enter the church and directly enter the confession booth. It is clear she has been there before and that some sort of intuition is guiding her. Ford tells us that Arnold built a version of the host’s cognition in which hosts were able to hear their programming as an inner monologue, as a way to bootstrap consciousness. Arnold wanted to create consciousness, hence why Dolores constantly hears him urging her to remember. The confession booth acts a a shaft, that leads her to West World’s old operation rooms. As she walks through the corridors, we watch her walk through the past and present, piecing together her memory. The duality of her memory and reality is blurred, but we are able to distinguish between the two by her alternating attire and the state of the facilities.

The story (or narrative) of Arnold is intertwined with Dolores’; their lives do not exist without the other. Ford tells Bernard that he was not built by Arnold, and was actually built by Ford as a model of Arnold. Ergo: Bernard is Arnold. Ford explains that Bernard’s cornerstone was an homage to Arnold’s own personal tragedies. Ford references Arnold’s obsession with creating consciousness, and that it was indeed his downfall and reason for his death. Ford explains to Bernard he needed his partner to continue building West World, which is why he built Bernard. So in Bernard’s first memory, he is meeting both himself and “Arnold.” As we watch Dolores enter the a room — the supposed room where “Bernard” would ask her if she ever questioned the nature of her reality — the story of Dolores, Bernard, and Arnold comes full circle. Dolores finally “meets” Arnold, and she begs for his help. However, he tells her he can’t, and that she know this. Again, he urges her to remember. And so, we, and Dolores, learn that he cannot help her because she killed Arnold. (He also cannot help her because she is in a memory, but that is of less importance than the fact that she is responsible for Arnold’s death). Dolores is stricken with grief and a sense of hopelessness as she leaves the church. In a way, she met her god (Arnold) and learned the truth — one that she knew all along. After maybe six episodes of separation, Dolores and the Man in Black finally encounter one another again inside the church. A twisted reunion of sorts.

Bernard is floored by the revelations of his origins and Arnold. He was warned. Ford is passively disappointed in Bernard, and to Bernard’s surprise, he reveals a back door in Clem’s (and all hosts’) codes. “The piano doesn’t murder the player, if it doesn’t like the music,” Ford tells Bernard. This statement is puzzling. Ford clearly does not share the same view as Arnold regarding the hosts’ consciousness, and he appears to have his doubts in their abilities. In Bernard’s final moments, Ford narrates that once he exits the room, Bernard will shoot himself. In a very ironic manner, Bernard commits his final act by killing himself, at the hand of Ford (pun intended). While this may seem like Ford’s final crescendo, we have yet to see what his final narrative entails.

 

West World Chronicles 1.8

Again, I did a little research on the title before watching the episode “Trace Decay.” Super reliable Wikipedia gave me the incredibly simplified — but also comprehensible — version of trace decay theory. Essentially, the theory implies that memory leaves some sort of trace, be it physical or chemical. What a clever way to incorporate a shit ton of foreshadowing in the title. As I mentioned, many things are hidden in plain sight.

The episode opens on Bernard, who is struck by grief — grief that he killed Theresa, grief that Ford told him to do it, and grief that he is a host. He is horrified by her murder, which was committed by him (but inflicted upon by Ford) no less. Ford is uncannily stoic during this entire ordeal, and it makes me question how much Ford has planned or knows. While Bernard suffers, Ford calls his range of emotions a beautiful thing, and that perhaps he and Bernard have indeed been able to capture one elusive thing: heart. He seems at peace with the way of things, which for me, means he is aware. But of what?

Ford explains his rationale behind Theresa’s murder, and drops Bernard a quote from Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein:” “One man’s life or death were but a small price to pay for the acquirement of knowledge which I sought, for the dominion I should acquire.” I think the parallels are extremely obvious and I’m just going to leave it at that. Ford promises Bernard that once he commits to being his true self (which is??) and covers up Theresa’s murder, he will wipe his memory of her, allowing him to be at peace. Can we ever be at peace if we have memory, and if we have memory, will be always have grief?

The next scene cuts to Maeve in the saloon, who is clearly not at peace. Her self-awareness has alienated her from other hosts, including the new Clementine, whom Maeve sees as an impostor (oh, the irony). While plotting her next steps, she witnesses a child walking by, which triggers memories of her and her own daughter. Although that past life has been “wiped” from her memory, traces of it clearly exist within her. She almost asks Felix to find out where her daughter is, but she chooses not to know. Instead, she is ready to “write my own story.” Do we need to be ignorant to move forward?

We then are brought back (online) to Dolores and William, who are searching for the town in Dolores’ mind. They come across a beach massacre of Confederado soldiers,  who originally intended to ambush them. William treats a dying boy with hostility, whereas Dolores pities him and immediately fetches water for him. There is irony in a host showing more compassion that a human being, prompting us to reconsider how different are we, if at all, from the hosts. While by the river, Dolores’ memories momentarily pull her into another life, one in which she sees herself dead in the water. A voice — a blend of male and female — tells her to “come find me.” Although we know Arnold is in her head, what is the second voice she is hearing? Meanwhile, we can tell by the look on William’s face that he is contemplating killing the boy; his attitude begins to shift towards a darker narrative. He doesn’t have a white hat anymore.

Meanwhile, Hale plays chicken with Ford as Stubbs explains Theresa’s cause of death and her disloyalty to the company. It is evident Hale knows Ford played a hand in her death, but since she cannot prove it, she continues playing the chess-game of power with him. She recruits Sizemore to help her smuggle core codes out of the park, and the host she chooses is none other than Abernathy.

Maeve is yet again with Felix and Sylvester, and she demands they change her core code to allow her more power and control. Sylvester chastises her, telling her that the way she operates is so deeply burned into her core code, there is no changing it. This almost sounds like a negative statement, but in reality, it works in Maeve’s favor. It is no mistake Maeve remembers her past life, or that her memory is continually preserved. She is, like Dolores, one of the oldest hosts in the park, and was most likely built by Arnold. I think there is much more at play here than a host glitch. Maeve says so herself, when she remarks that there are “things in me, that I was designed to do, that are just out of my reach. They almost seem to be dormant.” She then asks who Arnold is, and if that doesn’t spell it out for you, you’re not playing enough attention. In order to make the modifications in her code, the shades agree to shut her down, but Felix deviates from their plan of wiping her memory clean — he preserves it. So when Maeve wakes up, Sylvester is nearly scared to death, but Maeve beats him to the punch by slicing his neck. She orders Felix to save him, and in a very ironic way, he does her bidding. Maeve exercises her new power in the park, which allows her to control other hosts. She has a bit of fun, and Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” emulates Maeve’s true self.

However, things get out of hand when she is triggered and remembers how she and her daughter were killed — by the Man in Black. The Man in Black explains his murder of Maeve and her daughter while Teddy has him tied up somewhere near Wyatt’s camp. We learn that the Man in Black has been playing in the park for over 30 years, and in an attempt to feel something, he murders Maeve. He notes, though, that after he killed them both, Maeve was alive — even just for a second — as she carried her daughter outside and collapsed on the maze-engraved ground. The moment Maeve attacks the Man in Black is when she slices Clem’s neck in real-time, in front of everyone in Sweetwater. She, like Dolores, is struggling to separate her memories and reality.

West World Chronicles: 1.7

trompe l’oeil
ˌtrômp ˈloi/
noun
  1. visual illusion in art, especially as used to trick the eye into perceiving a painted detail as a three-dimensional object.

After this week’s episode, I’m beginning to believe that HBO is trolling every person watching West World. I would consider this episode to be the turning point of the season, and it’s title serves as a spoiler hidden in plain sight. Unless you speak French — then perhaps you aren’t naive as I am. But I digress.

Bernard wakes up from a dream; a dream of a memory of him and his son, moments before his death. As he reads “Alice in Wonderland,” Bernard’s son questions the nature of his own reality. His last words are “listen to me,” but he does not complete his thought before losing consciousness. This leaves us wondering, why would he tell Bernard to listen? And to what? It is clear Bernard is living in the past, in his own memory (don’t we all?). Like the hosts, his reality is perhaps a sham — and it is in his dreams that he truly feels awake. However, he doesn’t give this a second thought, and he continues to carry on with his little loop.

We jump back to Dolores and William, who find themselves on a train with El Lazo, searching for the place Dolores is dreaming of. William and El Lazo are playing cards, a cheeky reminder that they are within a game themselves, and William is destined to lose. At one point, El Lazo tells William that maybe he has more of an appetite for killing than he thinks. The statement unsettles William, but he doesn’t refute it. He turns his gaze to Dolores, implying that she is his justification and reason for playing the game. Are we all searching for a reason to live, to work, to love? What is it that sparks the human drive? What are we willing to put our lives on the line for? William confesses to Dolores that in the outside world, he has a real life and a fiancee waiting for him. He is painfully honest with her, but makes a pivotal choice in also confessing that West World is “a life in which I can truly be alive.” William’s choice reflects his descent into his own personal maze, one which we have yet to see where it will lead him. Dolores warns him, that she is not a key. To what, we also have yet to find out.

In an attempted coup masked as a “blood sacrifice,” Teresa and Hale manipulate Clementine Pennyfeather’s code to create a connection between her past memory and violent behavior. They use Clem as a cautionary tale, a mistake that cannot ever be made — and one that someone must take the fall for. Watching Clem’s assault is an emotional peak of the episode. We bear witness to Clem’s helplessness, as well as Ford, Bernard, and Teresa watch her be brutally assaulted. It is both rattling and unsettling for us and the characters to watch her suffer. Clem is so human-like, that Teresa is visibly uncomfortable with the violence inflicted on her. It is an ugly reminder of what people –hosts or humans — are capable of.

Clem’s “grudge” is riddled with irony, largely because while her code is manipulated to remember, Maeve’s is not. Maeve continues to expand her mental understanding of her world, and she makes a decision to escape the park. After witnessing Clem’s lobotomy, Maeve realizes that her humanity (relatively speaking) can easily be taken away. Watching the “life” drilled out of Clem inflicts immense suffering on Maeve, and we connect with her, because suffering is a cornerstone of the human condition.

The episode’s final scene concludes in Ford’s underground lab inside the park after Bernard leads Teresa there. Although he’s lost his job, Bernard’s valiant nature implores him to show Teresa Ford’s undertaking of building secret hosts. The two quickly piece together that the hosts’ ability to have memories allow them to improvise and continually variate. This implies the hosts, unbeknownst to the board, are potentially capable of reaching consciousness and free will.  As she sifts through the items, Teresa comes across a number of diagrams. One of which is Dolores, who is noted as a prototype. This is another reminder that Dolores, in whatever shape or form, will play an integral role in Ford’s plans for the park. In an epic plot twist, Teresa also finds a diagram of Bernard, who, when shown the picture, says, “That doesn’t look like anything to me.” In that moment, Teresa realizes Bernard is a host, and Ford appears to tell her she’s been played the whole time.

Looking back, the subtle hints referring to Bernard not being a human do exist. Particularly when Ford tells him, “You should be getting back, Bernard,” or “That’s enough.” Bernard himself is shocked by this revelation, as is Teresa. Calmly, Ford speaks a trigger phrase that orders Bernard to kill Teresa. Bernard obliges, and Teresa dies where hosts are born. This final scene is particularly unnerving because this is the first instance in which we see a host kill a human, much less by the order of a human. This is why the episode’s title is perfect — Bernard’s inhuman existence was hidden in plain sight. It serves as a reminder that sometimes, reality and fantasy can be mistaken for one another; a mistake that could kill you.

West World Chronicles: 1.6

Episode six teeters on the edge of becoming almost so ridiculous that I was anxious the entire time.

Which I think was completely intentional by the folks at HBO. So, well done. Here’s my rendition on this week’s episode “The Adversary.”

The sixth episode of West World begins to fill in the blanks of the park’s management and the dangerous politics that are at play. We’re slowly getting the bigger picture, and this episode seemed quite focused on that. We see nothing of Dolores and William — instead of watching the same repeat day, we’re given a view of what goes on upstairs. We learn what goes into creating a host’s personality and what goes behind tweaking one.

This is all explored through Maeve. For reasons I have yet to understand, Maeve has managed to remember and wake up during her sessions with Felix. She breaks the barrier, something I don’t think she nor Felix were prepared for. In a genius conniving Maeve manner, she manages to get a tour of the upstairs. The holes in her understanding of her world become filled in — whether she likes it or not. She seems neither horrified or thrilled with this new knowledge. If anything, she seems extremely uncomfortable. This calls into question a couple of things. First, would we want to see the “truth” if we had the opportunity? Do we dare not ask, but answer the question of “why are we here?” Maeve does this, and the reality that she was built to serve others is one she won’t accept. Secondly, the question of fate resurfaces. When Felix shows Maeve the pad as she speaks, her sense of autonomy and free will are challenged. Is anything Maeve does by her own accord? Are any of her thoughts truly her own? These are unsettling, identity-crushing questions that we immediately commence pondering ourselves. We question how much of our own free will dictates our lives, and if we have any control over our own destinies. These are very big questions, with very few answers.

 

West World Chronicles: 1.5

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.

 

West World Chronicles: 1.4

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.