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‘Westworld’ Recap and Reaction: “Contrapasso”

If last week’s “Dissonance Theory” was mind-bending, then this week’s episode of HBO’s Westworld was perhaps akin to soul-bending. The fifth episode of the series, “Contrapasso“, had an air of the religious about it. The episode’s title gives hint at the metaphors at play. “Contrapasso” is a term from Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, a 14th-century epic poem that details one man’s journey through the levels of Hell. Contrapasso is to “suffer the opposite”, to endure that which you forced others to endure in life. This turns the sinner’s own sins against them within the confines of Hell.

There’s plenty of religious imagery here, too. Following an opening scene where Dr. Ford talks to the bartender-bot about a dog he had as a child, there’s a shot of Dolores, Logan, and William in a graveyard. There are rows and rows of crosses, almost as far as the eye can see. The trio have reached Pariah, the town where their newfound friend Slim can rejoin his gang. In Pariah, our heroes find a number of folks in corpse paint and a fountain that spews blood. Logan makes another quip about the layers to Westworld, and how each circle further from Sweetwater contains new mysteries. In this, too, there are comparisons to Inferno, where the circles of hell are increasingly nastier. If the Maze is the center of Westworld, then is it the final circle of Hell?

outside-pariah-westworld
To get to Pariah, our protagonists journey through this version of Purgatorio.

Speaking of the maze, The Man in Black decides that Teddy is the key to finding it. He kills Lawrence, draining him of blood to then transfuse into the dying Teddy. Teddy tries to get The Man in Black to just shoot him and put him out of his misery. The Man in Black declines and takes Teddy toward the maze and whatever answers it may have for him. Along the way, he meets with Dr. Ford and the two have a vicious chat about villainy. Dr. Ford tells the Man in Black that if he wants to know the moral of the story, all he has to do is ask. With a little laugh, the villainous visitor explains that he can’t ask a dead man. Arnold is the one who could answer his questions, and he’s long since dead.

Back in Pariah, Logan and William have a chat about the park itself. Logan explains that the farther reaches of the park cost the most money and that his company might buy the park outright. He further explains that one of the park’s two creators killed himself right before the park opened and that no one has been able to find any dirt on him. “Whoever created this didn’t think very highly of people,” William says. The duality of Arnold and Dr. Ford is brought to light — Dr. Ford posits himself as God. Does that make the deceased Arnold Westworld‘s Devil? If so, is he the one-dimensional monster from Biblical texts, or something more like Milton‘s fallen angel?

Pariah is everything Logan wanted from the park. There are naked women in abundance, crazy ex-Confederate soldiers who haven’t stopped killing just because the war is over, and tons of tequila. It’s kind of a mad place. A “pariah” is someone outcast from society, and here those very pariahs congregate. Pariah serves up sin and sadism in equal measure, though there is some beauty in it. Even Dolores notes as much, entranced by the colorful people in the city.

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Slim, Logan, William, and Dolores acting the part of bandits.

Logan wants to join up with the crazy Confederates and head out to join their war south of the border. Initially, William and Dolores agree to be in on the deal. They meet with Lawrence, back now that he’s free from the Man in Black’s clutches. He introduces himself as El Lazo, which translates to “the loop” or “the lasso”. Given he’s had a noose around his throat for most of the series and he seeks to be freed from his more metaphorical “loop”, the name is apt. He asks them to rob Union soldiers carrying nitroglycerin. They reluctantly agree, holding up the wagon. In the ensuing chaos, William is forced to kill all of the soldiers. Slim dies as well, though he manages to save both Dolores and Logan. Logan is thrilled, jumping up and whooping with joy. He congratulates William on embracing the park, though William clearly doesn’t feel as good about things as his brother-in-law.

They return to Pariah to claim their reward and are treated to a celebratory party/orgy. The atmosphere in the brothel, which is essentially Eyes Wide Shut out West, pushes William to the edge. He gets into a fight with Logan who taunts him repeatedly about how meek and pathetic he is. Dolores wanders away and has a terrifying revelation involving a tarot-reader who draws a card that looks like the maze. The tarot reader then turns into Dolores and tells her that she has to find the maze. Terrified, Dolores runs down the hall and discovers Lawrence replacing the bottles of nitroglycerin with tequila. She warns William, and they try to escape but are stopped by the Confederados. They grab William, and Dolores guns them all down. She thought of a world where she wasn’t the damsel, and used her skills from another timeline, a memory past, to wipe out the baddies. The two share a kiss and leave Logan to the Confederados, both trading in their trademark goodness for survival.

Dolores is at odds with everything around her. Dr. Ford brings her in for questioning early on in the episode, though she lies to him. Even while running diagnostics, she maintains enough of her mental cognizance to lie. The hosts shouldn’t be able to lie, especially not to Ford, but Dolores is starting to become her own person. She has gained access to more of her memories and is having conversations with a “voice”, likely to be Arnold in some form. Westworld‘s devil is whispering to her, pushing her toward the maze and an escape from the prison of her loop.

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Elsie gives the best little wave ever.

Underground, Elsie from Behavioral wants a better look at the host that tried to kill her (episode three‘s “stray”, who bashed his own brains in with a rock.) She blackmails a young chop-doc by showing him footage from a CCTV camera of himself having sex with a sleeping/dead host. He agrees to help her, but only because he fears losing his job. When she looks the damaged stray over, she finds a satellite uplink in its arm. Someone is transmitting information about the park to somewhere else. She takes it to Bernard, who may be the one doing the recon. He isn’t exactly keeping things on the up and up, questioning Dolores in secret, so he could be the mole within Westworld.

Bernard, Elsie, and the necrophiliac aren’t the only ones with secrets. Another of the surgeons who repairs the hosts secretly stole a bird to try and reprogram it and repair it. When his coworker finds out, he’s furious but agrees to keep it a secret as long as the bird disappears. Instead, the surgeon tries again and manages to repair the bird, who then flies to Maeve. She’s sitting upright and has questions for the surgeon, who has forgotten to put her in sleep mode (again).

So what exactly does the titular ‘contrapasso’ represent? Will the hosts rise and punish their creators with torments similar to those they have faced? Or is it something more, something even more sinister?

Best Moments

  • Dolores shooting the Confederados. It’s badass and a wonderful turn from her usual, fainting demeanor.
  • Hopkins and Harris sharing the screen as the Man in Black (another possible contender for Westworld‘s Satan) and Dr. Ford. The two are both phenomenal actors, and they trade barbs with the best of them.
  • Elsie’s little wave to the surgeons as she blackmails their co-worker. She has the power here, and it’s nice to see her in control after being bossed around by Bernard.
  • Westworld is always gorgeous, but this episode was visually spectacular. Every scene in Pariah was great, especially those at night. The orgy sequence was one of the raunchiest HBO’s ever produced, but it was beautiful to look at. The fountain of blood at the center of Pariah was a nice touch, and all of the skull paint made a nice Halloween touch.

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