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Westworld: “Contrapasso”

By Ellie Wilkin-Smith on Nov 1, 2016 to Westworld

Deeper and deeper we go, down into the rabbit hole, with nothing but a series of cryptic clues and metaphors for human consciousness.

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Often each episode leaves you asking a million questions when the end credits start to roll and this week was no different. The mystery of Arnold widens even further as we discover that other characters are aware of his presence, most specifically Dolores who we learn through a conversation with Ford that she was one of the last people to speak to him on the day that he died, 34 years ago. We know that he ‘died in the park’ but to what extent was that death actually a death? If Arnold had existed as a human being, why is there no evidence of him apart from his legacy of the park? Once Ford leaves the room, Dolores speaks aloud as if she is speaking to someone else, that she hasn’t ‘told him anything’. Anything about what? About how much she knows of the maze and the location of its center? Or about how much she is becoming aware of her own consciousness? The question here is who was she speaking to, perhaps herself or perhaps the fabrication of someone else, or even someone else’s consciousness.

Dolores is changing more and more, emotionally, mentally and even physically as in this episode we see her actually change her clothes for the first time. She is becoming stronger and more resilient to the memories that she is experiencing, she is acting in her own will and questioning her purpose, much like Arnold did and much like The Man in Black is doing, as each character is headed with the same goal in mind – to reach the center of the maze and discover the secrets therein. Arnold met his end by becoming obsessed with trying to find meaning in everything and perhaps our protagonists are on the same path. What I am struggling with is the notion of what would actually be at the center of the maze? Is it the answer to the overarching question of the purpose of life on earth? If that is the case, where did it come from? Clearly,Arnold is the one who put it there and his death made it impossible to know what it is, or maybe Ford put it there and drove Arnold insane with the prospect? There is a lot to ponder there. 

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The most interesting theory tittering around the Internet at the moment is that we are watching multiple timelines in each episode and that William and The Man in Black are in fact the same person. The timeline of William and Dolores now is some thirty years previous to the story of The Man in Black now and Dolores is retracing her steps. There is a crossover of the two and in her mission to discover the truth, as the boundaries of reality and what she believes is reality are becoming increasingly blurred. This theory makes a lot of sense and it explains why sometimes when we see Dolores she is clothed and other times naked, and how she is having flashbacks and memories of things that are unfamiliar to us.

The other question we are all asking is who is Arnold? There was a moment in this episode when Ford joined The Man in Black and Teddy for a drink that it felt like Arnold was going to be revealed to be The Man in Black, but as the conversation went on it became clear that he only knows that Arnold created the park and affirmed that he has been visiting the park for an extremely long time, long enough to have developed a rapport with Ford.

I really enjoyed the subtle Jurassic Park reference when Felix was trying to make his little bird come to life, he quietly said ‘Come on little one’ which are the exact words of Dr Hammond when he unnaturally created life for the purpose of public entertainment; the parallels are somewhat uncanny and it makes sense to put such a great reference in. If we have learned anything from Jeff Goldblum over the years, it is that ‘life finds a way’. These words couldn’t sing more true right now. Speaking of references, I can’t finish this write up without mentioning the not so subtle nod to Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut at the end of the episode when Dolores, William and Logan are in a huge, ornate room full of people engaging in sexual acts with their identities somewhat obscured by shadows or masks. The scene in Eyes Wide Shut exposes a dark and terrible underworld of debauchery and violence, a members only club that is infiltrated by an outsider. Another easy comparison to make to Westworld, as the town is an escape for people, it is a place where they can step outside of themselves and assume a new identity.

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With Dolores and William on the path to discovering the center of the maze, The Man in Black also heading in the same direction and Maeve unlocking new truths each time she is killed and sent back to the lab, we are on the way to and explosive next few episodes. Terrifyingly, it is difficult to predict exactly what will happen when the Hosts realize what they are, as Dolores is becoming immune to talks of the ‘real world’ which is something she shouldn’t pick up on, it feels like she is on the cusp of learning the truth. Perhaps that why the lumberjack bashed his own head in? Because the memories and the dreams and the urge to break outside of himself got too much…or maybe it was the transference of messages outside of the park to an unknown person was forcing him to be dishonest. If Kubrick taught us anything about robots, it is that dangerous and bad things happen when they start to become self-aware and start to become more human. Not only does it encourage human responses from them but it also allows actual humans to feel an empathy and to feel true feelings towards something that is not a human being. A very dangerous and very intriguing concept, as the relationship between William and Dolores deepens, the more he is putting himself in danger.

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Westworld continues to raise interesting debates and discussions around the use of AI and the future of technology and human obsession with technology. The next episodes are impossible to predict but I am hoping some questions will be answered.

Fancy a little teaser for the weeks to come? You’re welcome.

  • Jef Dinsmore

    There is a lot to wrap your mind around regardless of whether you follow the online theories or not. I added to all that the episode’s title. I was unfamiliar with the word. Contrapasso is defined here – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contrapasso. Hmmm?

    • Ellie Wilkin

      That’s really interesting because there was a lot of ‘mirror’ kind of scenes where characters where mirroring each other or when Dolores talks to herself and sees herself when at the tarot cards table.










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