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Review: Westworld Episode Five, "Contrapasso"

Ed Harris in Westworld. Photo from HBO. 

Like clockwork, HBO has pulled out its big guns at mid-season to attempt to forge a post-Game of Thrones era with Westworld. The final episode of the month proved to contain the season's biggest moments thus far. The scope of the world expanded significantly during key plot points including a showdown of sorts between The Man in Black (Ed Harris) and Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), a "red wedding" plotline and increasing revelations about the world beyond the park.

The internet has embraced theories and conspiracies regarding what is left unsaid on the show almost as much as it has descended upon the Clinton email stories. During “Contrapasso,” more than any other episode, the show held the carrot on the stick -- the show’s hidden lore -- a little closer to the chest. After Charlotte’s (Tessa Thompson) come-to-Jesus moment with the loops that the hosts are on, it was to be expected that similar scenes would pop up around the park in other episodes. This time, Westworld employees start to unravel the secrets that lie beneath the skin (and code) of the A.I. Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) becomes almost fully sentient and it becomes clear that the rumors regarding Arnold are greatly exaggerated.

The show seems to be fully aware that the big narrative arcs surrounding the park’s history will keep viewers invested. Sure, having Union-Confederate conflicts, outlaw towns with tricky leaders and subplots regarding the story loops in the park is neat. But learning about Ford’s past is far more tantalizing. It’s nice to know that Ford and Arnold, the two founders of the park, are unknown to the general public beyond Westworld, but the show can’t wait too long before viewers get tired of being strung along. 

The Man in Black’s somewhat hypocritical and silly self-awareness is both what makes him interesting and what makes him frustrating. He says that the outside world is spoon fed everything, similarly to the humans in WALL-E, and that customers come to the park for vapid reasons, yet he doesn’t suggest he does anything differently. Clearly there is much more than meets the eye with him, but having the current villain admit that he’s a villain feels like unnecessary exposition.

Finally, William (Jimmi Simpson) is something more than a vanilla, cookie cutter, reluctant hero. Prior to this week, he was one of my least favorite characters (my least favorite being his now ex-business associate, Logan). Seeing him finally kick a little ass and act on his rather confusing romantic feelings toward Dolores is a welcome sight, if only because everyone was waiting for it to happen for four episodes prior. 

While the action moments still feel rather hollow, the show ratchets up the element of danger and intrigue by revealing more about the powers that be. The idea that Arnold was and is currently seeking to sabotage the park is an interesting one. The Man in Black and the world at large show similar promise, as they both hint at ideas that could be conveyed very well by the showrunners. The more time we spend at the park, the more I want to know about what’s outside of it, and it seems like we are going to get just that.

Grade: B+

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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