The William Hero Narrative Question

Westworld Telegraph

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Hi William, Kit and Ben,

I have been pondering my visceral reaction to episode 6 and it’s multi-William scene.

A little background. I have some training and qualifications in Rogers person centred counselling as well as worked with New Human Potential methods working with young offenders and young homeless. I have experienced therapy in individual and group settings from a variety of traditions. My reading includes the likes of Freud, Jung, Lacan, Bowlby, Winnicott and Klein (Melanie Klein is barking btw). While I am a few years away from that period of time, I can walk and chew gum here.

So why did that scene produce such laughter that I almost pulled an intercostal muscle on first watch?

Simply that it used a therapeutic construct to further a narrative plot at the expense of the William character. Instead of having a complex character having to engage with psychological and philosophical questions, it instead gave us a cartoon sketch.

For me, the catharsis of group therapy is from 1) the act of sharing with strangers and 2) knowing that you aren’t the only fuck-up. Neither of these were at play.

If the room just consisted of the boy William, young William and old William then you could have had an interesting Gestalt type exploration of his character at different stages of his life. You could have explored the violence with depth to add to the character.

Instead they split the current William into three aspects. This robs the Ed Harris character of nuance and depth by turning the Man in Black and Respectable Businessman into caricature. This is particularly damning of the Man in Black as we have had two seasons exploring his motivations and resulting in his killing of his daughter Emily. One of the reasons established why William is in a mental facility is because of the supposed trauma of Emily’s death and yet we see that version of William split from the William with agency? All those sins can be dealt with by a dagger to the stomach of the Man in Black caricature? Doesn’t this devalue both Emily and his trauma? I am feeling kind of angry about this writing.

The bickering Williams with the cartoon Daddy Delos who could have had fake horns on and it wouldn’t have been any cheesier. Joy and Nolan stripped down a character for the sake of plot convenience and cheap laughs right down to the WWE chair routine.

You remember the scene in season 1 when Logan cuts open Delores to show William the mechanical nature of the host? This is what Joy and Nolan did to William.

All story are artificial constructs but the art of acting is to create a glamour that hides that artifice. Poor Ed Harris has all that work over three seasons trashed.

And what are we the viewers meant to make of the declaration post bloodbath of William being the hero?

Sorry but all that slaughter has a name – repression. You have literally killed off everything that the viewer has travelled with William over 28 episodes. A hero is someone who carries the burden of their life and still acts despite it. We invest in their lives. What’s left with William if he is free of the experiences that made him? What are we meant to identify with?

It’s good that I still have characters that I can identify with.

I guess this is where limits exist for writers. Joy and Nolan love to craft philosophical exploration of technology but this dive into psychological themes has left me a bit cold. The Emily plot device feels exploitative. The idea that a man who kills his daughter can just shrug that off after a therapeutic killing spree and take on the role of hero and saviour? This is quite dodgy and very unhealthy behaviour. For William to be a hero in this story has to involve a redemptive act for Emily and that doesn’t occur by erasing your previous actions.

How this character gets combined with our benign duo of Bernard and Stubbs is beyond me. I can only hope that William proves himself to be the dick he is in the next two episodes.

Apologies for the negative nature of this email but I feel cheapened by what I watched.

Keep well Shat family

Yours degradedly
John Lish

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1 Response

  1. Ashley Schlafly says:

    Cartoon sketch is how I saw it on first watch too…

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