Review: Westworld’s “Dissonance Theory” Adds Insane New Levels to the Mystery

Westworld Poster

Dissonance Theory Plot Summary:

A cautious “newcomer” named William (Jimmi Simpson) enters the park with the cavalier Westworld veteran Logan (Ben Barnes). Westworld’s employees look into the dissonant behaviours of various hosts including Maeve (Thandie Newton) – who’s been having nightmares. The Man in Black (Ed Harris)continues his hunt for a deeper level in the park. Ford (Anthony Hopkins) rejects the new narrative involving an Indian battle, and has a new narrative of his own.

Last week, Westworld debuted with an episode of television that almost had no right of being that good. It was dark, complex, brilliant, slick, and most importantly — it left us wanting more.

One worry this reviewer had going into the episode was this — could they top the premiere? That episode was so damn good, the world building in it was amazing, and Evan Rachel Wood and Ed Harris gave us these crazy good performances. Could they really top it this, or would they go the way of Boardwalk Empire season 3-5, where they’d blow you away with the premiere and then throw you into a rather pedestrian rut for the majority of the season?

“Dissonance Theory” not only maintained the quality of the premiere but it complicated so many things with the introduction of new characters, new weirdness with the hosts, and intriguing twists at the Westworld facility. They did this in three ways:

Jimmi Simpson in Dissonance Theory
Jimmi Simpson joins Westworld as William. Photo Credit: HBO

Three Great Cast Additions:

The premiere of Westworld was a spoil of riches. Episode two decided “Hey, let’s add three more really talented actors into the mix.” The first is the always solid character actor Jimmi Simpson who has torn it up on Breakout Kings, House of Cards, and the criminally underrated Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Simpson is the perfect choice for the initially cautious Westworld newbie, who will undoubtedly get caught up in some sort of madness by season’s end. He’s instantly smitten by Delores (Evan Rachel Wood), and it looks fairly obvious being smitten by this host could end up leading to his downfall. Simpson carries himself perfectly here, exuding the right amount of worry and wonder in his eyes. His character’s evolution is going to be so much fun.

On the opposite end of the character spectrum is Ben Barnes as Simpson’s “friend.” Decked out all in black, Barnes’ character is the kind of douche that takes advantage of every type of vice in Wesworld. He kills, drinks, eats, and sexes his way through his time there. Barnes brings a perfect amount of recklessness to the series, one that hasn’t been brought to the forefront yet, and one wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t end up toe-tagged by season’s end.

Then there’s the always awesome character actor Clifton Collins Jr. Collins who’s been in everything in recent years was the right choice to exemplify The Man in Black’s love for watching host’s suffer. Collins brings extraordinary pathos to a character that is known to be a hardened outlaw. It’ll be interesting to see how he and Harris’ Man in Black interact.

Thandie Netwon in Dissonance Theory
Thandie Newton as Maeve. Photo Credit: HBO

Delores isn’t the Only Intriguing Host

I’ve never been a fan of Thandie Newton — she’s never been in anything I liked, and if I did it was never because of her.

In the second episode, the writers took what was really one of the most caricature hosts, Maeve, and made her an amazingly intriguing character, and in lesser hands this whole thing could’ve been a train wreck. Newton basically had to play three roles tonight — as Maeve the down on her luck prostitute, Maeve the woman with a haunted past, and Maeve the fish out of water who discovers that her world is not what she thinks.

Newton masterfully navigates three through three characters that could’ve been played for pure scene chewing melodrama. Instead, Newton plays each with nuance beyond the words on the script, and emotion that’s so wild and frenetic yet completely tasteful. It’s nice to see that Newton just won’t be this sassy prostitute hitting the same note every episode.

 The Plot Just Got Really Thick

The writers of Westworld did not waste any time in complicating matters. Luckily, they didn’t go to levels that would find audiences dumbfounded by its complexity.

The issues with glitches in the hosts have increased — we all saw that coming. What we didn’t see coming is Lowe’s (Jeffrey Wright) encounter with Delores. It seems the two have been having secret meetings, meetings that Lowe wants erased from Delores logs. We didn’t get much insight about the meetings, but man oh man, I think there’s some crazy brewing here. I also wouldn’t put it past the series to have Lowe hide secret romantic feelings towards Delores.

Speaking of romantic feelings — Lowe is sleeping with Cullen (Sidse Babett Knudsen). Could this be strategy on his part, gaining her trust in order to push his yet-to-be-revealed agenda.

No one has a bigger hidden agenda than Anthony Hopkins’ Dr. Ford. The mysterious steeple in the middle of the desert is the crux of a new narrative he’s constructing. This is super intriguing, however I’m really hoping this doesn’t go all sorts of sci-fi bonkers, and Hopkins is trying to build a weird cult or something.

Someone whose agenda is not hidden, but is still really mysterious is the Man in Black’s search for “the maze.” The maze is something we don’t quite understand yet because we literally have no idea what it is. The fact the MITB will kill anyone and everyone to accomplish his goal of finding it really makes me want to know where this will lead him.

Overall, “Dissonance Theory” was an awesome second installment of Westworld.

Rating: 9 out of 10 

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites