The Sunday Sermon! Our 5 Takeaways From Westworld Season 2 Episode 4: ‘Riddle of the Sphinx’
Its Sunday Sermon time with the Pop-Culture Theologians!
1. SNL finishes off a seriously killer season. While the Trump years have been kind to no one, we can take solace that they have given comedians enough material to last two lifetimes.
2. Reverend Curry shows up at the Royal Wedding and shows us all how to take a moment and make it matter. #killingit
3. Deadpool is breaking records before it even opens. You excited?n We hear we have our first explicitly queer superhero in the film. We are ready!
4. Fahrenheit 451 premiered. We have thoughts. We may write them down.
5. Another week where school shootings are directly correlated to toxic masculinity. This narrative is exhausting and deadly.
Let's break down Season 2, Episode 4: ‘Riddle of the Sphinx’
Spoilers Ahead: You have been warned...
Marci's 5 (Short) Sips of Tea:
1. This is my favorite episode yet. There, I said it. I am also all over the place, so bear with me.
Ok. At 71 mins, this was a hell of an episode, with tons of plot eggs we have been speculating about but now have confirmed.
I have been saying since the end of last season that the hosts were a front for some type of human "cloning" project and now I get to look at my husband every Sunday and remind him that I sat with that for 18 months in-between seasons. I KNEW. #Iknew #Iamright #Brentiamright
Ok, so the "The Riddle of the Sphinx" (What animal walks on four legs when young, two when an adult, and three when old? A Man) asks us to think about our own mortality. In a horrifying opening scene that unwinds at a perfectly glacial pace, we find a host hybrid version of Jim Delos going round and around in narrative, stuck in the quest for eternal youth. William calls it a "cognitive plateau", I call it purgatory. And while he seems to have little agency in this horror, we get a sense of how far he was willing to go to reach eternal life in his prior iteration when he spouts off the line (multiple times in this one episode): "If you aim to cheat the devil, you owe him an offering." At a minimum, Jim Delos was the type of man who would have thought through this process, a man who knew that he may pay a heavy price in search of eternal life--and yet, I can't help but feel horrified thinking of how long that loop has gone on, how often he has experienced his "plateau" and how he has technically "died" over and over again in hopes of not dying. It is simplistic and effective horror. Would he have said the line with such gusto if he had known that 30 years later he would never have made it past a 35 day mark before starting over. Would he have kept going? For how long? Forever? How far are we willing to go in our quest for the "next step"?
And this stands in stark contrast and yet parallel with both Dolores and Maeve. If a man can spend eternity searching for eternity, can we begrudge these women for reaching as well?
2. HYPOTHESIS TIME: William may be a host, y'all.
Ok. I am not going to go too deep into my suspicions yet, but (welp) I am starting to think that the William we knew may not be the William we are watching. I have been keeping a close eye on William Season 2 and I have some thoughts. William seems to be going through the maze, no? From the moment he spoke to the young Ford host, to his strange knowledge of the first aid kit after Ford's death, to creepy girl talking to William post Craddock's explosion like a strange story narrator: something is off. I am still working through this, but more to come. I hate to get on this bandwagon (waves at Reddit) but it feels like William is the one trying to get to the center of the maze, and maybe Dolores is still a part of Ford's greater narrative as Wyatt. Which is frustrating for my girl Dolores. This leaves us rooting for...for who? Maeve at this point, right? Is Maeve even free? Are any of us <headdesk>?
3. OBVIOUSLY Grace is Williams daughter.
It costs 50K a day at Westworld. Grace has spent enough time in Westworld to do multiple narratives and enough time with Ghost Nation to learn their language. I want you to think of how long that must have taken. Either she gets in for free...
Or she gets in for free.
Hi Emily! Can't wait to see the creator/daughter dynamic play out for all to see. My guess is you don't do the virgin complex (thank god), so I am here for the deconstruction.
4. Elsie is an idiot.
I WAS ROOTING FOR YOU. WE WERE ALL ROOTING FOR YOU.
While I absolutely love the line about trusting code more than humans (personally, I trust puppies more
than anyone), Bernard *just* choked you out. While I obviously agree that #robotsarepeopletoo, Bernard is not acting right. In the same way I have been watching William, I have been watching Bernard. We all have. And something is not right. And it is not just his memories of having crashed and burned the Delos-Argos human cloning project. I think it goes further. I don't trust any version of Bernard we have met this season. More on this next recap where I plan to break down predictions for end of Season 2. I seriously have my eyes on all of you.
Even you, Teddy. My household doesn't trust you right now either. Or, should we say, your actual host.
5. I am still...
So, I know I am less verbose than in prior sermons. While this *was* my favorite episode (for the acting and direction), I am still sitting with the revelations from this season through the last episode and trying to refocus. I am trying to stand still for a moment and let it all sink into some momentary stillness.
Because unlike other shows I am currently watching, it is getting harder and harder to follow who I am supposed to be rooting for in this show. It is asking me to unpack more and more of my own garbage while not technically relating to any of the characters. And that is a heavy task. The last show that asked this of viewers of note was HBO's The Leftovers. A masterpiece of human deconstruction, not one episode was enjoyable, per say. And Westworld (similar to The Handmaid's Tale as well) is taking us to talks. And it is a thrilling, mind-numbing, exhausting ride.
So I will be back to form next week. Just need time to process this last episode. And now, to Shogun World!
John's 5 Sips of Tea:
1. “Death is always true.”
I feel like this show is a Religious studies scholar’s wet dream; from theological quandaries, questioning the nature of good and evil, and ultimately life versus death. I feel like we constantly have to go back-and-forth between identifying the Man in Black as William or either, the Man in Black. Who is he? What is his purpose? Clearly, he sees himself as a higher power or being. Is the Man in Black Death or does everyone around him just die? (FYI – the same could be said for Jessica Fletcher in think on that for a while)
The Man in Black for me has always represented death or a type of naturalizing force throughout the show attempting to keep the balance of things in line. Whatever story he is in now, it seems like he is the force following in Dolores’s wake and ultimately at the will of Ford’s narrative that he cannot control. While I do not know where in the hell he is going, all I can say is that anyone who is close to him ultimately dies (just like with Jessica Fletcher), so I’m worried for the character that ends up crossing his path in the final moments of the show.
2. Someone to watch over me
If the Man in Black is supposed to be death, that means Ford represents life (or G-d in this equation). Ford is the one that set most of what we are seeing before us in motion or, was at least one step ahead of William on the outside and when he was in the inside of the park as the Man in Black.
No matter where we go in the park, it feels like Ford’s narrative is the ultimately chess game being played. Although Ford may be dead (or is he), he is still playing the game. This all leads me to think all the hosts are just part of his narrative and leading the humans along with them? Are they actually and free? Each time I see Maeve, I want to believe that she is choosing her own path forward but then after episodes like this, I am left to think that everyone is at Ford’s mercy. I guess, only time will tell (but then, isn’t time itself a social construct?).
3. RIP, Logan.
My poor, sweet Logan…my angels lead you in!
4. “If you’re looking forward, you’re looking in the wrong direction.”
I knew there was something about that little girl I found creepy. Leave it to Ford to implant shade into a little girl longing
for her father. Now, I am wondering if what we are supposed to get out of what she said is that the Man in Black needs to look backwards. Was that why we kept seeing the reincarnations of James? Because during this time, he is looking forward into the future of immortality but there is still something that we have yet to find out about why attempts to immortalize James didn’t work? Death is a common theme throughout each of times Williams speaks with James, 149 of them to be exact, because they all, but the last one, end in failure and ultimately the death of James’s clone.
I’m starting to think that they are all part of Ford’s game and narrative and have yet to understand that and perhaps William, much like James, is the other host clone that Bernard is looking for. It would make sense, because, and this leads into my last point, where the Man in Black’s daughter, finds him.
5. Like Father, Like Daughter
Emily and her father seem to have a lot in common, specifically that they are both survivors and never seem to leave the park. Did Emily always know where her father was (in the other park) or is their reunion just cosmic justice?
We don’t know much about Emily yet besides the fact that she seems to blame her father for her mother’s suicide and never seems to leave the park. What is her mission in regards to her father? Is she, like Logan, just another spoiled rich kid living off the wealth of her parents or is she jaded and skeptical like her father? I am thinking more of the latter with what we’ve seen of her. Perhaps, she is the key to the mystery that the Man in Black is trying to find out. I keep going back to his quote: “This whole world is a story. I've read every page except the last one. I need to find out how it ends. I want to know what this all means.” Maybe she is there to help him find out what this all means, and with the way that the story seems to be going, I am guessing that William will find out what it means, and hopefully we as viewers, do too.