Is Westworld ‘Stray’-ing Into a Really, Really Weird Place?

Westworld Poster

The Stray Plot Summary:

Ford (Anthony Hopkins) tweaks the narrative of Teddy (James Marsden) which introduces a brutal new villain named Wyatt who is stalking the countryside. Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) questions Ford’s motives, especially when hosts begin talking to a mysterious figure, who happens to be one of the original founders of the park. Bernard and Delores (Evan Rachel Wood) begin having more and more in-depth conversations. A stray needs to be tracked down, and when he is, strange things begin to happen.

Westworld is a great show. In fact, had Stranger Things not been released this year, Westworld would’ve been my slam dunk favorite new show of 2016.

However, one has to wonder after this week’s episode, “The Stray,” if this series isn’t about to take a sharp left turn into something way too heady, philosophical and “timey wimey” (a Doctor Who-ism for “way too science fiction-y”) for its own good.

Photo Credit: HBO
Photo Credit: HBO

The idea of identity, past and present selves, evolution and free will all came into play in this episode. After reading this sentence you’d probably think this episode was just way too dense and convoluted. Luckily, writers Daniel T. Thomsen and Lisa Joy, and director Neil Marshall take their time and slowly dissect all of the concepts. They deftly weave them into the intrigue of the storyline, particularly Ford’s plan to change Westworld’s entire narrative, and Bernard’s mysterious conversations with Delores.

With seven episodes left, and hopefully more seasons to come, these ideas and concepts can take their time to manifest themselves onscreen. Right now they’re being delivered as a mystery, almost film noir-esque in their vagueness, and it’s working. However, one false step, and all of this could get really heavy-handed and really confusing rather quickly.

Luckily, the series has Jonathan Nolan. He has helped pen all of his brother Christopher’s greatest works (e.g. Inception, The Dark Knight Trilogy), and the fact those movies dealt with bigger, more psychological and philosophical issues deftly, and in a way mainstream audiences could appreciate, gives me hope.

The series has also chosen the perfect person to embody all of this — Evan Rachel Wood. Using her character Delores as the primary vessel to show the dueling personalities, and the conflict between past and future self is perfect. She’s one of the oldest hosts at the park, and she’s been the most reliable — so to have her have this conflict will be a game changer for all involved in the park. Wood does a fantastic job portraying this conflict — her hallucinatory scenes featuring Ed Harris, were just awesome.

Photo Credit: HBO
Photo Credit: HBO

Speaking of that scene, one of the best parts of Westworld is seeing changes in the narrative loop. It’s a real trip to views scenes we’ve already witnessed be changed by one decision. Reliving the first scene of the series where Delores’ family is murdered then she’s assaulted in the barn, then to see all of that change radically is amazing.

While I have a lot of confidence in the cast and crew of this series, the road they are about to embark on is an extremely tricky one. It’s one that can get heavy-handed and overly convoluted, and frankly unentertaining rather quickly. Let’s hope they keep their course, and all is revealed in due time.

Rating: 8 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