Its Sunday Sermon time with the Pop-Culture Theologians!
A couple quick pop culture observations from the last week:
1. The Met Ball was something else--strong feelings all around here--mostly how interesting it is to celebrate an institution like the Catholic Church through the lens of it's sartorial beauty. But, they don't call them Princes of the Church for nothing, am I right?
2. One week till we have a Black American Princess--what a time to be alive! Will you be watching the royal wedding?
3. Childish Gambino's This Is America is a masterpiece.
4. We keep reaching new political lows. Morale is low--we remind readers to practice both resistance and self-care.
5. Anyone else excited about Solo: A Star Wars Story coming out so soon? Early reviews at Cannes are encouraging.
Let's break down Season 2, Episode 3: ‘Virtù e Fortuna’
Spoilers Ahead: You have been warned...
Marci's 5 Sips of Tea:
1. Shogun world was not our first peek at other parks!
This really took me by surprise! I would have bet a pretty penny we would be heading over to the Shogun World world before any other park, as photos of the sets had been leaked earlier this year. I did not see the Imperial British India park, "The Raj", coming (thought the theme of the park itself comes as no surprise--we have been watching a bunch of white folks frolic around Native land's without any sense of historical context of the horrors of the "Wild Wild West"). It seems clear to me that most of the Delos parks revolve around a deep paternalistic romanticism of the white and wealthy swooning over "exotic places" where colonization and privilege decimated cultures. They seem them as quaint and exciting times to revisit from the safety of their own imagination. How sweet, right? While I found the intro an interesting little morsel for those of us interested in the scope of the Delos vision, I wanted a bit more. I felt like the short plot point was a bit rushed to give us that glimpse into another park. But at least now we know this "consciousness problem" is widespread. Which also
means that while it is Arnold/Ford-centric, its bigger than one man or one simple programming issue. AI is going to do it's own thing, humans be damned.
I want to give a huge shoutout to the opening with the White Stripes backbeat because it was a visual and musical masterpiece. The juxtaposition of the aristocratic indifference and colonization imagery with the anxiety building melody was just stunning. While it took a bit of back and forth in my house, we finally "agreed" that Grace and Nicholas, the new Raj characters we meet in this intro, were indeed human (hence the shooting test on our third view but clearly we are still a bit divided) with the couple becoming victims to the rogue park hosts. Our guess is this scene is happening right as the revolution starts, which means Delos thought it was Westworld specific and has not closed all 7 parks. Thoughts? We could entirely be wrong. Going back to Grace thought. Grace, the tiger huntress on the tin-can hunting trip of her dreams, becomes the hunted (YES BENGAL TIGER), eventually washing up ashore in Westworld only to be met by Ghost Nation. She is going to need a lot of grace to get out of this situation.Thats about all we have on The Raj. But we are living for these sneak peaks into the other parks. I think the main takeaway here is clearly that one of the main themes of season 2 is beware of being a hunter. You can and will inevitably become the hunted because hierarchies are for oppressors. In Westworld, the Raj, and Shogun World, hierarchies are crumbling under the weight of their own oppression. Even tigers are getting in on the revenge train. We don't blame Grace for passing out at the end of the episode. She has had a seriously rough park day and might not be getting a refund.
2. If you are not free, I am not free.
I've been thinking about the situation Charlotte finds herself in in-regards to her ability to get off the island (Westworld). Without her delivering Peter Abernathy to an outside source, she herself is worthless and it seems will be left to fend for herself in Westworld. When you think about it, she is part of and now potentially victim to the dehumanizing chain of power that is holding the Delos parks together. Everyone is disposable. Everyone but those who are way above even the board members are disposable. Grace and Charlotte are learning similar lessons. Deconstruction of power is happening. And you might want to learn some intersectionalism and realize you need to shape up.
Speaking about the communal aspects of freedom, Dolores (after lasts weeks exchange with Maeve where Maeve pretty much shut down her white savior complex and told her she was free, not following. K, thnx, bye Dolores) seems to be hitting another roadblock in the revolution: first with her father and then with Teddy. More on Teddy later, but with Abernathy, we see Dolores crumble in the face of his brokenness (the loading of stolen code seems to be the culprit). While she has evolved and from what we can tell he has not, this is our first glimpse at her empathy for those who have not progressed through the maze and for those that she herself loves. I don't know where we are on timelines. My guess is this is before the drowned bodies of hosts from episode 1, but clearly Dolores is now trying to grapple with and process her hierarchy system that she is holding the hosts to and how that applies to those she love who do not make the cut (tribalism is not liberation Dolores!). This momentary lapse into empathy shows us that Dolores is not cut and dry Wyatt. And I think that is important to note. Because, as I have noted, I don't have time for Wyatt. I need Dolores.
When Dolores opens up to Abernathy about her struggles with the mission she sees ahead, his inability to process it seems to shatter her, as does the fact that Teddy does not remember Abernathy as her father at all. While both Dolores and Teddy have died more times that the show probably can count, Teddy is coming along the maze a little too slowly for Dolores. And while for a second I thought we would see the Dolores we have seen in the last two episodes get rid of these two hosts that are seemingly "not meant to get to the valley", she does pretty much establishes that she will do anything for the man she knew as her father. Teddy thought? #saveJamesMarsden.
Interesting how even within Westworld, humans are having to really quickly deconstruct their own privilege and their own intersectional oppression. Shoutout to FELIX who I love and am still holding out hope for that he evolves into a true ally, especially when Delos inevitably decides they may need to remove witnesses, same with Sizemore. Their relationships with the hosts will inevitably change them (connection changes people, period). Human allies are coming. I think Maeve will be open to this. Dolores is anyone's guess. Not that I blame her. She trusted and waited for William for around 30 years to keep his promise. She may have a bad case of shit boyfriend PTSD. We have to give the woman some space to heal.
3. Still worried about Teddy because I too am in a state of forlorn hope. But HELLO Clementine and woke Teddy...
When war breaks out at Fort Forlorn Hope (a lil' too on the nose, no?), we see some serious action happening on
the host front. The first is a major return for Clementine. As Bernard manages to download the information from Abernathy's head (his reaction is not promising, his facial expression is one of horror), Clementine decides to "reclaim her time" and knocks Bernard OUT (this is probably connected to how disjointed the Bernard storyline has become. I am ok with this. Time seems to be irrelevant in Westworld). When Charlotte manages to steal away Abernathy (Dolores gets shot in the process and throws all her military plans to the wind), we get pivot back to the woman we had begun to know prior to her run in with her father: Wyatt Dolores, First of her name, Mother of hosts, Lover of William and Teddy, Daughter of Abernathy. When the Confederados express their fury that Dolores did not follow the plan and used them as "host shields", Wyatt Dolores (someone please give me a nickname) orders Teddy to execute our friend Craddock from last week.
And he doesn't.
And this is so important. I thought for a while that Teddy was simply not evolving. I am not sure that is the case anymore. While I do not think he has evolved as far as Dolores, Andrea, or Maeve, he clearly makes a decision of his own when he refuses to execute Craddock and his men. More importantly, it is Craddock's mocking words, challenging Teddy to question the nature of his own reality and noting that it seemed like he was unhappy following Dolores, that matters most. Dolores watches from a far, disappointed and looking a little cray. All I can think is: funny how quickly power can go to anyone's head. Teddy clearly isn't free to make choices, even if he can, because Dolores is calling the shots. He is as oppressed now as he was when we first met him in Season 1, Episode 1. His chains have simply changed hands. #saveTeddyplease
4. The Curse of Cain--evolving enlightenment in Westworld is a complicated web to unravel.
Ok, so I had a question from one of our readers that I have been chewing on for a bit. Why does it seem that some of the hosts are father along than others on their journey? Why are some meant to reach the center of the maze (enlightenment) and some not? Is this even what is happening? Explain to me the evolution of the hosts. I am confused!
Well, my first response to this would be that enlightenment is a process and what we have seen is mostly some of the oldest hosts further along in their development and enlightenment. The older the hosts, the more "lives" they have lived (the more deaths they have deathed), the more and more experience they have to draw on, and the further their evolution has come. If you think just about you, yourself as a human, and how much you evolve year to year based on lived experience, it makes sense that some of the hosts are way further down the line to enlightenment (the maze). With so much violence in the park, who is to say the average lifespan of a host? We know there are freezers and freezers full of older models and decommissioned hosts. We truly only know of 5 host that most certainly go back to Arnold: Dolores, Teddy, Andrea, Abernathy, and Maeve. I think there are more but those are the ones I feel comfortable saying out loud are from the "Garden of Eden" creation time, so to speak.
But we also have another clue that came in Episode 2. Ford, when ready to make a pitch to Delos, accuses Arnold of having a preference for Dolores when he holds her back from going in and selling the park to Logan. And while Ford just rolls his eyes and goes with Andrea to present their immersive experience (She is OLD. She is also the attendant that on-boarded William on his first day in his youth), this gives us a glimpse into a tale as old as time. Creators have favorites. Parents have favorites. Everyone plays favorites. While we know that Arnold sees his son in Dolores, the preference still seems arbitrary. Why even build it into her? Why not all of them? And this brings me back to a book I read in undergrad that discussed the biblical problem with Cain and Abel: Regina Swartz's The Curse of Cain. Fundamentally, this book tracked the violent legacy of preference in monotheist traditions. To break it down simply, lets look to the story of Cain and Abel. Cain and Abel offer God gifts. God chooses Abel's gift arbitrarily and preference is establish. Cain is never given a reason for his dismissal or for his fallen status. He doesn't get a breakdown of why his gift was deemed less than that of his brother. He is the first human to experience the arbitrarily nature of preference and privilege. We don't know why some of the original hosts seemed to have closer relationships with Arnold, why they were protected by Arnold (coming from the creator context /paternalistic approach we see throughout all of the relationships of creator). We do not know who received more attention, more hand-holding in the process of figuring out the maze. But we know that not only were some hosts closer to Arnold and therefore closer to the center of the maze, but that Dolores also clearly has already decided that there are winners and losers in regards to hosts in her new world view. The cycle continues. Apparently both humans AND AI are predictable.
5. It's Shogun time!
My favorite "love" triangle since Peeta, Gail, and Katniss has emerged. I love following Maeve, Hector, and Sizemore on their quest to reclaim Maeve's daughter (motherhood). I found the moment where Sizemore interrupts an intimate exchange between Maeve and Hector really important because it speaks to some real issues in different theologies of creation. We are treading into free will territory. While I do think that Maeve is acting of her own free will (hoping for the same for Hector because of Sizemore's confusion that he had never written their "storyline" and was perplexed with how it had even evolved into a chosen romance/alliance), I didn't find his interruption of the love exchange as mean-spirited. I think it shows the confusion that Sizemore is experiencing in regards to what this "consciousness" is because he is not wrong in saying that many of their cornerstones (theological terms like natural order come to mind) were in fact written into their initial build by him. Maybe this is a nod to the fact that what we struggle to discuss the nature of creation: the many unforseable variables, anomalies, and inevitable adaptations. Just think of simply baking a cake. That cake can go a million and one ways depending on a million and one variables! Imagine the coding it would take to create these hosts. The possibilities for adaptation and evolving are endless, just apparently not anticipated by the team at Delos. We as humans have seen how we have evolve over time, slowly but steadily improving as a species (though I roll my eyes at this in 2018), but it is part of the scientific narrative of evolution.
Also, did anyone catch that Maeve, at the end of that scene, seems to acknowledge to Sizemore that he is right and she is better alone. It was an interesting exchange and a plot point to keep an eye on. I am still chewing on how this Sizemore and Maeve relationship, his own personal deconstruction as creator and Maeve's as creation, will evolve (reminds me a bit of the undertones in mother!). It is currently my favorite "theological" discussion happening in Season 2. #dontletmedownSizemore
And so that leaves us with Shogun for tonight. And I AM READY.
1. Dude, Stubs. Seriously the security at Delos SUCKS. You are like a terrible White House staffer--apparently untouchable but absolutely useless. Dog the Bounty Hunter could handle this better. Hemsworth or no Hemsworth, get your shit together man. Wait...could Stubs also be a host? Hmmm.....
2. My husband and I cannot agree on hypotetical parks we would like to see come to life in this Delos nightmare. My guesses are: some sort of Medieval Times Park, An Egyptian Park, The Biblical Experience, Roman Times, Versailles. The options are endless. Selfishly the only park I would want is Hogwarts so that I could live magic for a day. But we would have to work out all these equity issues or else I would be complicit! But a girl can dream (see, even I am part of the problem).
3. I want real redemption for Clementine. I need it. And she needs it.
4. Anyone else getting darker and darker vibes from Bernard? I can't shake that we are missing some HUGE plot twist here. Nothing about him feels like an ally.
5. Someone needs to find Elsie. STAT.
John's 5 Sips of Tea:
1. “I May” A choice.
Who makes that choice, is the ultimate question. We are all aware that the writers of Westworld are incredible smart so it shouldn’t seem foreign to us that they dropped a reference to East of Eden somewhere. Specifically, identify the phrase and its opposite: shall, are key differences in the awakening of the androids. Whether or not someone shall doing something or when they they may do something is a question of agency and who has it. With each new awakening, we see that choice being made: people may choose their own futures. Much like the use of timshel in East of Eden, the literal translation of the word means you can if you want to. However, it is that want, the desire to choose, where we see the conflict arise, because with choice, comes ownership and ultimately responsibility for one’s actions.
I’m finding that a common theme in this show is domination and WHO is exactly in charge. From humans to the androids, you see that power, and exactly what it can get you, is the thing everyone is searching for. This is why Dolores search is so fascinating to me: she is creating her version of Kill Bill. The power for which she seeks comes as she gains more control over the chaos that she once existed in and now finds herself as the prime author of. Dolores wants to dominate as a form of gaining more control over the world that she was abused by. I’m fascinated by her search, her longing for and loss of her father, and ultimately, the path she creates through the destruction she causes. She’s headed down a path that only she has control over and I am still unsure of where it will end but I’m enjoying the journey (and the acting) along the way!
3.) “There is Beauty in what we are”
Simplistic and the point; the androids were to serve a purpose. In the beginning the purpose was to make a profit for Delos and to satisfy the wants and desires of the guests. However, now, in the middle of a new story, it seems like the purpose is no longer to serve but rather discover. They were made beautiful to serve the aesthetic wants and desires of the guests, however, what they are really is beautiful on the inside as they present a future without limits for their paths and stories have yet to be written. While the plot focuses on specific characters, I am left gazing into the faces of those that are not part of the central story and left wondering: what secrets do they hold and will we ever find out?
Damn, I love this character. Her search for her daughter leaves me to wonder where we are in her development. I had this conversation with a few people about whether or not she is actually woke or, like with the scene at the end of season 1, her decision to leave the train was truly made by her and not part of another story that we, the viewer, have not come to understand yet. She is driven by a mother’s quest: vengeance, love, betrayal, understanding, and ultimately acceptance. I am most interested in the last one: what larger role will Lee play with Maeve? Lee designed her story, he knew her decisions before she did, and ultimately, he may be the guest that play a pivotal role in shaping a future (of her own choosing) that is not written into her code.
5.) Enter the Samurai
Enter the Samurai I love a good cliffhanger and Westworld is no stranger to their effectiveness. This past week’s episode teased us with a colonized version of new park that we have not seen yet while setting us up for what is to come: Shogun World! Although I am excited that these violent delights are taking us to new places, I would by lying if I didn’t say I was hesitant to see a new version of a corporate colonized world created for pleasure and adventure. In regards to the new world, I am going to be watching to see how, or if, the gaze that we find ostracizing women in Westworld translated into this new world and the women (and men) we’ll meet there. Although the women (and men) in Westworld are no stranger to white, corporate overlords and their guests getting using them for their pleasures, the western gaze into the colonized worlds that Asian culture presents a problem that so many shows have fallen victim to: normalizing orientalism. A slander to Asian cultures through a colonized lens, many shows have been unable to present or depict it as anything but an oppressive westerly gaze. Will we find Shogun World’s variation of Dolores or Maeve? What is the status of their revolt; and, most importantly, who is in charge? While we have been lead to believe that there are 6 parks in all, what does this mean for the progression of the show and its main theme? Does this mean 6 seasons for 6 parks? We have more to find out but with every introduction to a new world, what mysteries and characters lie beneath their surfaces and will Westworld become the new Lost, i.e., leaving viewers with more questions than answers.