Reflections on WW Complexity

Westworld Telegraph

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Dear Roger, Big D, Gene, and Ashley,

I first came across Shat Media during in 2016 because – unlike with “Game of Thrones” and some other shows – I couldn’t coax my IRL friends to the watercooler to hash over “Westworld,” HBO’s balsy, then-new show with its peerless cast (Ed Harris and Thandi Newton were the fucking B-Team?!?) and ambitious, genre-bending premise. And of the podcasts available at the time, I found y’all to be far and away the best substitute for the good ole’ days of debating what R+L equaled over a beer with friends. I stayed on for later installments of Shat on TV and have since litened to pretty much all of the content yall have put out. Except for “American Gods,” which never really interested me as a show, and “Taboo,” which I’m still not convinced is a real show. I enjoyed the deep dives so much that I was actually reluctant to check out Shat the Movies because I didn’t think I would enjoy your appraisal of content as your analysis of content – two different forms of criticism… then I clicked on your “Sandlot” review while putting together a bunch of Ikea furniture and by the time Monday rolled around I felt like I had just re-watched half of the movies I grew up with.

So it’s sort of ironic that during this season of “Westworld” I find the latter form of criticism so much more appealing than the former form of criticism – the barely-subdued anarchy of Shappyhour was a true highlight of the quarantine to date. But it’s understandable nonetheless because unlike Charlie Brown, most of us placekickers won’t keep trying to kick that field goal when its Lucy catching the snap.

Some diehards may dismiss my lot as simply not being smart enough to pick up what Joy and Nolan are throwing down (and maybe they’re right: like Gene, I found Season 2 to make much more sense when I binged it versus watching it serially), but to them I say “Jonathan Nolan decided Stubbs was a host THE NIGHT BEFORE THEY SHOT THE SCENE.” You can be Mozart, composing symphonies; you can be Coltrane, a virtuoso improviser; either way, you’re a fucking genius. But if you try to be both, you’re going to be a Phish concert: an audacious, massively talented presentation that is utterly soulless, bereft of direction, and no good without LSD.

But this is Shat on TV and not Shat the Westworld, so like the Man In Black imam try to suck it up, play the NolanJoy’s game, and keep this email Telegraph-appropriate from here on out.

Sooooooo here’s a theory for the direction that this season is heading: I think that the show is squaring up for a conflict between Team Dolores versus Team Rahobo (I know it’s actually spelled something different and I’m a Catholic who’s actually read the Bible but Big D’s version is just objectively better. Sorry, God). On Team Rahobo: The Bosses. On Team Dolores: Caleb, the Masses, the show, the soundtrack, the audience, and eventually everybody else including the MIB.

I see it as similar to portrayals of the 20th century conflict between Western freedom/individuality/Rocky and Communist oppression/collectivism/Drogo. The storytellers here love to present us with dualites – see such foils as Black Hat vs. White Hat (guests); Dolores vs. Maeve (woke robots); Arnold vs. Ford (robot creators).

In the show’s scheme, Dolores is the “good” guy because she represents an intelligence that evolved from humans – natured by Arnold and nurtured by Ford. Gene said in the deep dive that the Arnold/Ford Brand Hosts are more comfortable in the Sublime and that they don’t have the same desires that we humans have. I agree that that is what should be, but disagree that that is what the show has shown us. Two examples: Maeve’s irrational love for her daughter and Dolores and Teddy’s tender boning on the eve of Sgt. Flood’s involuntary lobotomy. I interpret this as the Hosts having inherited at least some of humanity’s desires and imperfections.

Dolores’ (probably temporary) alliance with the Little Guy is itself an imperfect strategy. The smarter money would be to get on the side of the powerful…

Which is what Rahobo has done, manipulating the lives of the losers from the behind the curtain on behalf of the rich, the powerful, the bosses. Rahobo is sided with and a manifestation of mankind’s corporate, mechanical, faceless side. It is effective and efficient but also brutal and cold. If Rahobo experienced a Skynet-like awakening as opposed to a Host-like one, then the Rahobo intelligence will have never have lived the illusion of humanity and, consequently, will have no reason to empathize with it. On the flip-side, there’s no reason for us IRL humans to empathize with the HAL-like smoldering black ball as compared to something with a face. Real humans’ hormonal responses to young animals are similar to those of our responses to babies partially because they have faces. Faceless babies = terrifying; Talulah Riley-faced babies = grow up to blow up.

There’s no smoking gun that Rahobo is sentient, but there’s been a Checkov’s gun or two. Following the breadcrumbs further, Serac is Rahobo’s homo sapiens avatar: apologies to anyone who shares whatever his first name is but it’s gibberish and clearly an anagram ala Bernard Lowe/Arnold Weber. Also he has a deliberately-obscured background. Also he has a French accent. Non-French accents = good. French accents = suddenly you have an nebulous but indisputable desire to declare war. [Author’s note: I almost deleted that last part. Maybe you should. I’ve visited France, I love France, I think the French people are great, and I oppose xenophobia. On the other hand, Big D is right: Hollywood does like to assign French accents to heavies.]

So that’s my attempt to add to the stellar contributions that other listeners have brought to the conversation. Hell, there’s probably already some AI-philes out there that have discussed the concept of human-based vs. non-human-based AI much more thoroughly and eloquently than I have. #greatestAItheoreticians

Random Tinfoil:

– I agree with Ashley that there’s probably a better term for the Host brain’s than “balls,” but I’m not a fan of “pearls” either. Maybe orbs? Pellets? Skulldrives?

– If the game is seduction and corporate espionage, Maeve would be the best ball to upload into Charlores by far

– My sleeper pick for the Charlores brainball: Ford. He did talk about humans preying upon Neanderthals and I think he’d totally be down for seduction and mayhem in his robot overtime afterlife

– Should Caleb/the audience even trust Dolores when she tries to turn us against Rahobo? Didn’t’ work out so well for the Confederados and Ghost Nation is al…

– In the scene where we see Checkov’s Murderbot/Ed 209/Evil Optimus Prime… I was expecting to see Whiterose

– Whatever my problems with the narrative, the worldbuilding is outstanding and those garden-terraced highrises are cool af

– George the OSHA bot should have been named “Lennie” instead

– Naming your new AI god “Rehoboam” is like naming your canoe “titanic” or your dog “meat”

Sorry for the long-ass email. Keep up the great work!

Don Sauce

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1 Response

  1. Ashley Schlafly says:

    It’s interesting that I also found the Shat community because my real life friends wouldn’t theorize with me about GOT :). Glad to have you with us!

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