Billy In Black To Billy Pilgrim

Westworld Telegraph

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Hi, guys,

So loved the Instacast this week, and I have so many thoughts swimming in my head, but as a college professor who has studied Slaughterhouse Five for so many years, I wanted to send some quick ideas about this small reference. When William places his identify profile on a book on the shelf, he does so in Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. I was so excited to see, and I wanted to break it down a little bit.

So for those of you who haven’t read it, Slaughterhouse Five is all about a character by the name of Billy Pilgrim who is unstuck in time. Pilgrim is a war vet, and he is not a fan of war, but has to participate in some pretty terrible things as a result of being placed in war like situations. Nothing is linear, and the story is told by a seriously unreliable narrator, so you are left wondering what is real? What is memory and what is fantasy. Sound familiar? Well, it should because it is so much like Westworld. I could literally write a dissertation on this, but I will try to keep this email short and make some connections between this episode and the man in black’s backstory and what is included in Slaughterhouse Five.

1. Juliet makes a big change in addressing William this episode. He’s not the man in black. He’s not William. He’s Billy. I think this is a direct reference to the book he chooses to place the profile card in and a big red flag to those of us watching to link the book’s plot with what we are seeing on screen.

2. The book begins with one of the most famous quotes in literature… “All this happened… more or less.” That big admittance from the start lets us know that Billy Pilgrim’s story is not going to be a traditional one, or one that is easy to follow. The same can be said for the man in black/William. So much of what he is going through is convoluted and unreliable. Look at his state at the very end cutting into his arm. Even William himself is unsure of what is real. Billy Pilgrim is the same.

3. In one of the most fun interludes in the book, Billy Pilgrim is basically held in an alien zoo on an alien planet, Tralfamadore. There he is kept in a see through geodome where he is watched 24/7 and falls in love with a woman who he is intended to mate with while there. While Westworld is not quite that weird, it is still a place where everything is watched and recorded and taken down. Like on Tralfamadore, they record all of the guests (or slaves) interactions. Yet another connection between our William and Billy.

4. Billy Pilgrim in the book is disgruntled because he knows he will die. He’s seen and reseen his death, so he views death and life in a way most humans don’t, fatalistically almost. The same can be said of our William/MIB. Take this quote for instance from Slaughterhouse Five, “It is just an illusion here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone, it is gone forever.” Could anything speak more to what the MIB would do with the data in the Forge?

Anyhow, these are just a few of the many connections that can be made, and I think since nothing is left to chance, we should pay attention to the wink that the reference to Slaughterhouse Five is by our show runners. Billy Pilgrim’s story is left for interpretation about what happened and what didn’t. Did he travel in time? Was he an alien prisoner? Who knows. None of it matters in the end when he (spoiler alert) is assassinated at the end of the book. What does matter, though, is the journey and what Billy himself found to be real. That’s where the book’s amazing line, “Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt” comes from. It’s about accepting what’s occurred and accepting the not knowing. Will our own William reach that point? Will we be left without answers and meant to be okay with that? I suppose only time will tell. Next week will end the season, and as Vonnegut writes… “And so it goes…”

Looking forward to your thoughts. Sorry for the long email, and keep up the great work!

-Ashley from Houston

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