“There are not two versions of me,” deadpans Delores in a less than routine maintenance. “There’s only one, and I think when I discover who I am, I’ll be free.”
If the second episode of WESTWORLD was about introducing a whole lot of new characters to the story, then “The Stray” is intent on unashamedly introducing us to new ideas and crazy notions. As Bernard reads Alice in Wonderland with Delores, we as the audience begin to realise that we have only just started to free fall down the rabbit hole ourselves.
More than anything, we learn some major new pieces of information about Ford. The title, “The Stray,” could literally just refer to the wayward hosts that Elsie and Stubbs spend tracking down in one of the side stories this week. Or more likely, its a veiled reference to the enigmatic Arnold, a character we learn helped build Westworld with Ford before the former’s death. Ford viewed him as a liability: where Ford sees mindless programmable automatons, Arnold saw new life. It’s a trap Ford worries Bernard is falling into, and his relationship with Delores (and his video call to his estranged wife) would seem to confirm those fears.
On a smaller scale, the human heroes begin to emerge much more clearly this week. William, taking his first life in a gunfight, declines the comfort of a robotic lover and instead chooses to explore the open world environment. He is the most sympathetic of all the “white hat” humans, a parallel to host Teddy, but the increased presence of human gunslinger Marti (Bojana Novakovic) is quite intriguing as well. Aside from the already overdue presence of a female gun-hand on the show, playing charismatically by Australia’s Novakovic, we now have several players on the board who could potentially be the ‘saviours’ of this lawless land.
Like all good science fiction, there’s a moral lesson lurking underneath it all, and this week at least demonstrates the importance of backstory for sentient lifeforms. As Ford opens his enigmatic door slightly, we also learn of the loss of Bernard’s son and how that might be impacting on his ability to make good judgment calls. It’s telling that Ford decides at this time to give Teddy a backstory, not to make him more human, but to wield his power as a god however briefly. In an ironic twist of fate, Teddy’s reprogramming may still simply be facilitating Delores’ narrative, such is his fate. More than that, the “virus” that is now revealing itself could be a code Arnold placed in the machines long ago.
A riddle, wrapped in a mystery and stuck in the middle of a $40,000 a day desert, WESTWORLD continues to push the boundaries of what a smart TV show can be. Bloody and violent for sure, going into some incredibly dark places this week, it also raises far more questions than could ever be answered in a single season. We can’t wait for more episodes, and hope that the run of this series is long and successful.