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Review: Westworld Episode Four, "Dissonance Theory"

Ed Harris in Westworld. Photo from HBO. 

It seems even in an artificial world, religion is inescapable. This week’s episode of HBO’s much discussed Westworld does not seem to understand itself any more than the A.I. in the show understand their world. Yet again, the show hints at sincerely interesting lore and history, but muddles its potential by giving uninteresting characters cringe-worthy things to say.

The main issue with “Dissonance Theory” is that it tried to do too much with too little. The show is going all in on hinting at the history of the park, The Man in Black (Ed Harris) and the missing link, Arnold, without giving viewers much solid ground to stand on. When a human visitor tries to thank The Man in Black for saving his sister’s life in the real world through some charity that he runs, it felt like we were finally going to get a glimpse of the world beyond this simulated Wild West. However, Harris’s character predictably puts on a hard exterior, closing the book on his much speculated past for the rest of the episode.

Prison breakouts are inherently dangerous. Inherently dangerous except if you are in Westworld, unfortunately. The Man in Black’s poorly explained plan to get to the center of the elusive maze is flawed from the get-go. We have seen him take out dozens of hosts with no problem, so why does he have to make a whole ordeal about fighting 20 of them? Sure, the exploding cigarette idea may be neat, but it’s also something The Joker would have done in the Adam West Batman show. All the slow motion shootouts in the world can’t change the fact that because the human’s can’t die, there is no reason to bat an eye at the violence.

There has been much conjecture about the cryptic Dr. Ford (Anthony Hopkins) but now it can all be confirmed that his God complex is in fact dangerous to all those involved. A man who plays God in the park should be trifled with in the real world. His exchange with the utterly confusing Theresa (Sidse Babett Knudsen) again hints at a possibly rich history between Ford and the outside world, but one that will continue to be teased out slowly and painfully. 

Unlike Game of Thrones, the show does not handle backstory and exposition with the appropriate grace. Despite an overwhelmingly large cast of characters, there is not that much difference between the motives of a majority of them. Too many similar subplots and motifs make for a difficult hour of television to invest in. The life altering discoveries made by hosts Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and Maeve (Thandie Newton) have so much riding on them in terms of narrative, yet the crux of their self-discovery is an overused genre staple. Without more interesting characters, the show will continue to be a whole lot of digging without much gold.

Grade: C

Westworld is on Sundays this Fall at 9 p.m. (ET) on HBO, HBO GO and HBO NOW.

growell@theeagleonline.com


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