Genre tripping in Westworld

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Warning: This post contains spoilers for Westworld up to and including Series 3 Episode 5.

I am rooting for Dolores, I really am. I never thought I would say it because she went postal last series and was super scary as she created a gore-fest which led to the destruction of the whole park. However, last night, in between all the murdering she has been doing this series, she does have a plan and she succeeded and I clapped my hands as she said she set the humans off their loops. Dolores sent them their predicted futures and set them free so that they have the opportunity to write their own futures.

These loops and lives were created by Incite’s big AI brain biblically named Rehoboam. And what better way to make sure that Rehoboam can predict the future than by getting it to create the future it predicts? How much do we do that ourselves? It is, after all, an age old theory which meditation and mindfulness tries to counteract. The way we interpret events influences the way the events will play out.

It is part of our embodiment, and in cognitive science, it is known as selective perception. A simple example is, if we want to buy a red car, we start seeing them everywhere. More worryingly in social psychology, research has shown that it is enough to anticipate rejection for us to start behaving like we are rejected, and we fulfil the prophecy of being rejected.

But back to Westworld where Rehoboam writes people off and refuses to give them job security, and all of the deficiency needs defined by Maslow and his hierarchy of needs so that the prophesy of them not being good enough is self-fulfilling. Not really AI, but smart nonetheless, not least of all because it is true and the feeling of truth is all we need to keep calling it truth or a belief, which is just a thought we keep thinking. Even Economist Paul Krugman said Economics is the story of how things were done in the past. The same stories which are used to predict the future.

Rehoboam was created to control the world by two brothers who found their world destroyed so they got the backing of a rich man to make sure it would never happen again. Of course the rich man just wanted to get richer, and then he died for his greed. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. And, then the system identified one of the brothers as one of the uncontrollable variables that he was trying to control to keep the world safe and everyone in their place, so of course he had to go, for the good of the future. Thus, tapping into our age old fear of being overtaken by technology – one of our ghosts of AI.

Technology at Westworld is quite fabulous from driverless cars to the DNA recognition technology but it is also easy to circumvent too, by stealing someone else’s DNA as Dolores steals Liam’s and then injects it into Caleb so that with a thumb print he can steal all of Liam’s money and rewrite his future.

The self-fulfilling prophecy business which Rehoboam is, reminds me of Macbeth, and the three witches he meets on the heath, except I had a lot of sympathy for Macbeth which is what makes the story a tragic one, I don’t yet for Engerraund Serac, he is still too shadowy. We don’t know enough about him. So far, he seems a bit too much of a megalomaniac for my liking (though I love Vincent Cassel, I learnt a lot of my French watching him in films on TF1 back in the day). Dolores on the other hand well she is someone to watch, especially when on genre drugs.

I don’t know what that plotline was all about except that it was great fun – a lot like Westworld itself, trippy and fun – exploring how we are living out our fantasies by watching it in a genre theme park, or a genre themed drug complete with soundtrack and special effects. Don’t we all do that anyway? Aren’t we all trying to figure out our genre? And when we remember things, doesn’t our memory do that to us anyway? Those spotlight moments of life, which we remember for the rest of our lives in technicolor glory. It was great when Dolores was backlit by flames and her eyes twinkled as Caleb looked at her, his leader, infused with love and admiration, and then it was just too funny when they swapped to glamrock and did a slow motion walking action shot. Dolores and Caleb on a mission to save or destroy the world whilst looking fabulous. She has given Caleb hope and a purpose, she rescued him from landing on the scrapheap of life, the one created by Rehoboam, so Caleb is loyal to her.

This week, I missed Maeve who is smart and funny and even makes a pint glass of sherry look cool as she raises an eyebrow and goes about her day. I love a glass of sherry. So, glad she’s brought it back in a big glass no less. Indeed, I am glad she is back. She is a fabulous nemesis for Dolores, even though personally I want them both to win but that doesn’t seem to be possible, but who knows? I also missed the ruthless Charlotte Hale this week, as I felt like I was just getting to know her last week when she showed us her vulnerable and murdery sides and her struggle with the she who keeps trying to take her over.

It was just as we were getting to know her and wondering who she was, that we got the fantastic cloning twist, and Dolores’s most appropriate line so far as she said: If you want something doing… I loved it as that is the best bit of great fiction writing, when we the viewers are watching closely and we are figuring things out, and we feel smart but then they throw in another twist so that we say I was concentrating, but yeah, I didn’t know that that would happen at all, and yet afterwards it seems so logical and consistently designed. That was that reveal for me. And then, twist on twist this week, Dolores threw herself under the bus, in the shape of Martin, Liam’s bodyguard, who had served his purpose as he put it, before blowing up the building and Rehoboam, leaving Serac frustrated and furious watching the whole thing happen from his plane.

I love the fact that we get to see so many strong women, they may all be robots, but hey aren’t we all? They are females who are breaking out and breaking free from their loops and changing the world in a fantastic subtext.

I loved every trippy second last night and can’t wait for next week. I can’t even imagine where we will go from here but I am sure it will be a totally fantastic ride.

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