Westworld Review by Henry Tran

Westworld 1.02: Chestnut

Westworld 1.02: Chestnut

Written By:
Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy
Directed By:
Richard J. Lewis

I was thinking of how to approach writing this review of "Chestnut," an intriguing, and at times frustrating, new episode of Westworld. There is the normal way of writing it, which feels hollow because it's mostly things and aspects of the show that I like or don't like. Or there's the method that Vulture employs, which is to ask relevant questions that come to mind while watching the episode. Make no mistake, those questions are the sort of necessary step taken in order to deal with a series this dense and complex.

 


 

Westworld isn't straightforward. More importantly, it isn't interested in proceeding in a straightforward manner as a narrative. Being that it's only two episodes in, there are bound to be a lot of questions about the nature of the park, those people inhabiting the park, and what exactly is going on, with little to no full answers to any of those questions. So, in part, like another odd and unorthodox show in Mr. Robot, this is a show where a viewer can sit back and just take in the atmosphere.

 

Like I wrote my review for in "The Original," sometimes, it takes another viewing of the episode to get what the heck is going on. For this episode, it is helpful to do just that in order to understand how the series works as a whole. What I found very interesting is that the episode shifts character focus multiple times within the singular hour. It opens on following William as he is introduced to how the park works, what to do, and where to go along with his "friend" and most likely business associate Logan. William functions as the surrogate for the audience, as he is a first-time guest (while Logan is a veteran, useful to understand some of the rules and dynamics of the park), and is unfamiliar with much of how all of Westworld works.

 


 

William's story is, I think, the most straightforward of all the plotlines running through the episode, which is why it's dropped midway through. William looks like he's intrigued by the park and its pleasures, but isn't fully engaged. What doesn't help is that Logan is determined to keep him away from everything but having sex with the Sweetwater hookers. Even that becomes something William doesn't enjoy, at least not to the degree that Logan does, and from the audience's perspective, that's an understandable position given that Clementine is dealing with a bout of night terrors. He also has someone waiting for him at home, outside of the park's environs, which dents the impact of their interaction. 

 

The episode then shifts to following the Man in Black for a bulk of its time. That subplot plays out in a very odd manner. We find out, rather unsurprisingly, that he has been in Westworld for more than 30 years, and is intricately familiar with many of the things it has to offer. This explains why he was so hostile to Dolores and her father in "The Original" and why he marches through the Spanish-looking village without any worry as to the notion of getting hurt.

 


 

The Man in Black has apparently been searching for the "deepest level of the park," a map of which was found underneath the scalp of the host he killed in the last episode. What is in this level of the park? How long has that been there? Was it discovered once before, perhaps by Dr. Ford (who has suggested in this episode that he has been in the park for as long or even longer than the Man in Black), and hidden away from the Man in Black? You could go crazy wondering what exactly is going on.

 

The final act of the episode mostly focuses on what Maeve goes through within the confines of the park. The experience is much like what Dolores went through in the previous episode, although with some minor changes. Maeve is constantly tweaked and adjusted by the park's maintenance staff, all in an effort to get her more clients to engage in interactions. If her numbers don't go up, she is at risk of recall and retirement, much like what happens to Peter Abernathy. Only, Maeve doesn't completely switch personalities. She experiences dreams of being a rancher with a daughter, of having been nearly executed by a band of braves, and in the worst nightmare, waking up in the real world, with two techs working on her physical body, which has been somehow infected with MRSA.

 


 

If the true direction of the series is that the robot hosts eventually, slowly, gains sentience and consciousness of their environment, then the human guests and park staff are in for a rude awakening when their hubris and creation go against them en masse. It's not really clear whether Maeve even remembers what was done to her or her experience in seeing the inner workings of the park, which consist of physical modifications, repairs, behavioral modifications, and QA, which deals with all "defective" hosts. To her, it must be a nightmare come to life, yet how is that any different from the dreams and visions she and Clementine (and no doubt, other hosts) experience in the various parts of Westworld?


Our Grade:
A-
The Good:
  • Interesting exploration of how clients deal with long-term existence in Westworld differently
  • The layers to the park itself are a fitting metaphor for the series as a whole
The Bad:
  • Will the audience have patience to let the unconventional storytelling play out?

Henry Tran is a regular contributor of review for Critical Myth; The Critical Myth Show is heard here on VOG Network's radio feed Monday, Wednesday & Friday. You can follow him on twitter at @HenYay

Westworld by - 10/14/2016 9:29 AM148 views

Your Responses

Flaco_Jones
Flaco_Jones
CONCURRING OPINION

Grade: B
After really loving the pilot episode, I wasn't as on-board for this one. It oddly, felt like a second, weaker pilot. Many of the same plot points were rehashed but it wasn't as good this second time through. I did enjoy the scenes with the Man in Black and that it showed he was being watched by the staff and they're okay with whatever he's doing. I'm still intrigued and in for the long haul, but this episode did feel like a slight step backward.

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