Now three episodes into its first season, HBO’s Westworld seems to be thriving on its ability to craft intriguing and complex questions that may or may not have obvious answers. Much like the two episodes that preceded it, “The Stray” focuses heavily on setting up mysteries and expanding upon existing ones, but it’s also the first episode that feels like it’s entrenched itself in a storyline and is ready to get moving.
We know who the players are, we sort of know what the overarching narrative is (judging by the preview for next week’s episode, the hunt for the maze is about to become heated) and we’re pretty much through all the introductory business. Still, that doesn’t mean that “The Stray” answers very many of our previous questions and it also introduces quite a few more at the same time. Here are the ones we’re most hung up on heading into episode four next week.
10. Why Did That Host Kill Himself?
The episode’s title refers to the stray host that Elsie (Shannon Woodward) and security officer Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) venture into the hills to find and as expected, it all ends in violent fashion … although not in the way many of us likely imagined. While it looked like Elsie was going to be bludgeoned to death with a boulder, the stray ended up bashing his own head in, and it’s an outcome that seems to have left Elsie and Stubbs just as perplexed as we are.
We see the stray Host attack Stubbs in the pit before pulling himself out, so we know that he is hostile towards humans when he picks up that boulder but for whatever reason, he decides to kill himself instead of Elsie. Was this the “Voice of God” at work or did someone at HQ step in at the last second to put a stop to him? Whatever the case, it seems likely that Elsie now shares some of Stubbs’ paranoia about the Hosts’ potential to rise up and kill them all.
9. Why Didn’t Elsie’s Commands Work?
Expanding on the previous point a bit, one of the most worrying things that happened in this episode was Elsie’s control tool failing to stop the stray’s wayward behavior. This is the first instance of a Host failing to comply with a direct command we’ve seen on Westworld and it probably won’t be the last. The question, then, is why it didn’t work. Of course, there are a myriad of possible explanations involving faulty tech or glitches in the system, but it definitely feels like this is the first of many instances where the humans won’t be able to control the Hosts.
8. Why Is Dolores Able To Pull The Trigger?
One of the biggest questions introduced in this episode is how Dolores is able to buck her programming and shoot her would-be rapist (played by character actor Steven Ogg, better known as Trevor from Grand Theft Auto V.) We not only see in an earlier scene that Dolores is physically unable to pull a trigger, but it’s even noted at one point that certain Hosts are programmed for certain actions—hence why that group that Elsie and Stubbs discover is stuck in a loop after their wood-cutter abandons them.
Did Bernard change something in her programming to allow this to happen, or is this a case of Dolores “improvising” a solution and breaking further away from her programming on her own? Or did the Man in Black have something to do with it when he took her into the barn back in the first episode? With Dolores now joined up with William and Logan on their hunt to track down a bounty hunter, it will be interesting to see if her ability to perform actions she was never supposed to do continues or even manifests itself in new ways.
7. Why Does Bernard Want The Hosts To “Change?”
We learned a lot more about Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) in this week’s episode, including the potential bombshell that he seems to want Dolores to break free of her programming. Westworld appears to be establishing a clear divide between the philosophies of the park’s two most important creators: Doctor Ford sees his creations as means to an end; machines meant to give his guests the greatest experience, while Bernard is more emotionally attached to them and potentially views them as beings worthy of empathy and sympathy. Bernard’s viewpoint is certainly a dangerous one for someone in his position to have, but why does he feel so differently than his mentor? Does it have something to do with his deceased son who we learn about for the first time in this episode, or could it be because Bernard may not be a human at all? Speaking of which …
6. Is Bernard A Host?
If you subscribe to the popular theory that one of the human characters on Westworld is actually a Host, it’s hard to think of another character who fits the bill more than Bernard. While his sympathies for the Hosts may just come from a belief that they are so human-like as to deserve our sympathies, it’s just as likely that it’s because he’s a Host himself and is trying to break his fellow machines free of their mental imprisonment.
While some may point to the fact that Bernard had a son as proof that he is human, it’s also possible that this narrative is all a fabrication. Doctor Ford very well may have designed Bernard himself and has him employed in an important position at his company to see what he will do. Ford also told him point-blank in a previous episode that he knows how Bernard’s brain works, and while this line is supposed to be taken as proof of Ford’s ability to read people, it’s possible that he meant it quite literally on account of him creating Bernard.
5. Will Teddy Ever Catch A Break?
Poor Teddy. The would-be savior of Westworld is chivalrous, handsome, and heroic, but is saddled with the misfortune of being destined to die in pretty much every scenario. James Marsden’s character was even given a new degree of pathos on this week’s episode when it was revealed by Doctor Ford that Westworld’s writers were too lazy to even give the poor guy an actual backstory. Ford then proceeds to give Teddy an admittedly cool backstory involving a sadistic outlaw named Wyatt that inevitably leads to an even more gruesome way for Teddy to die at the hands of his nemesis’ gang of masked psychopaths.
Is every episode of Westworld going to involve Teddy getting close to being the hero, only to die miserably? Or will he eventually get his man? With Dolores breaking free of her own programming by successfully wielding a gun, it seems inevitable that Teddy will one day avoid being killed off … although, at the same time, it would be kind of hilariously tragic if he never catches a break too.
4. Why Is Ford So Disdainful Of His Creations?
Next to the Man in Black (who pretty much sits this episode out) Anthony Hopkins’ creative director Dr. Robert Ford is Westworld’s most enigmatic character. We’ve seen previously that while he cares a lot about the experience of the guests who attend his park, he doesn’t seem to harbor any illusions about what his creations actually are. This episode hammers that point home, with Ford reprimanding one of his workers for covering up a Host’s nakedness, arguing that they’re not real so they don’t care about immodesty and feel no shame. He also takes a particularly disdainful note when talking with Teddy, practically laughing at the fact that he was designed to die over and over again. I’m interested to see if Westworld will explain why Ford cares so little for the things he’s spent his life perfecting.
3. Why Are Children Allowed Into The Park?
Although we’ve barely seen any visitors coming to Westworld with their kids in tow, we do know that is allowed since Dolores encounters a family wandering by the river in the first episode. From what we’ve seen of Westworld so far though, it begs the question: why on earth are children allowed in? While there are surely some fun, family-friendly activities to participate in, Westworld is designed to be a place that allows you live out your most depraved, twisted fantasies; call me crazy but a theme park that is based heavily around extreme violence and sex does not seem like it should be open to anyone under 18.
Then again, as we learn in this episode, the price for one day of attendance is a steep $40K, which means that it is only the wealthy and privileged who are visiting the park. Since rich people are keeping the park open and are generally allowed to do whatever they want anyway, if they want to bring their kids along for the ride, Westworld’s board of directors probably aren’t going to offer much of a protest.
2. Why Is Dolores Clothed When Speaking With Bernard?
I probably wouldn’t have even noticed this if the scene with Ford raging about a Host being covered up wasn’t in the episode, but isn’t it a big odd that Bernard speaks with Dolores while she is clothed; whereas in every other conversation we’ve seen like this, the Host is naked? Bernard must have a good reason for doing this, but it is not made clear as to why. The most compelling argument is that it is all in an effort to help humanize Dolores when he is talking to her, but it could also simply be because Bernard is summoning her straight out of a scene and it would involve a lot of unnecessary effort to disrobe her and then clothe her again before sending her back. I can’t recall if we’ve seen Bernard speaks to any other Hosts this way, but it will be interesting to see if he speaks to any of them while they are dressed in the coming weeks or if this is a courtesy he only gives Dolores.
1. Is Ford Actually Arnold?
We finally got some background information on Westworld’s early days during “The Stray,” with Ford revealing that there was was a man named Arnold who wanted to create conscious robots, a concept that Ford opposed. Ford tells Bernard that Arnold died in the park decades ago, but what if Arnold wasn’t an actual person, but rather the man who Ford used to be? Hear me out: what if Ford’s original vision was to give robots consciousness but a traumatic event led him to adopt his current philosophy that views them as lesser beings? Perhaps it was him all along who gave the Hosts the “Voice of God” and he’s trying to offload the blame on a made-up person who isn’t around to refute him.
Arnold also doesn’t appear to be present in any of the flashback scenes (although correct me if I’m wrong about that), and the only evidence we have that he exists is Ford’s word and a picture that Ford has of himself with Arnold, but that could easily have been faked. At any rate, whether he’s a real person or not, this likely isn’t the last we’ve heard of Arnold, as his vision of robots with consciousness is quickly becoming a reality.
There’s also a strong possibility that Arnold is the Man in Black, but that’s a theory that will have to be revisited once (if) we learn a bit more about his backstory.