When Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) kills a fly at the end of the Westworld season premiere – defying the code that’s supposed to keep hosts from hurting living things – it’s a small sign that something has gone wrong. “Chestnut” adds fuel to the fire as we see more strange behavior from the hosts – specifically, Dolores and Maeve (Thandie Newton). This episode also introduces us to William (Jimmi Simpson) and Logan (Ben Barnes), makes us bear witness to increasingly violent behavior from the Man in Black (Ed Harris), and treats us to Dr. Ford’s (Anthony Hopkins) wonderfully eloquent smack down of Lee Sizemore’s (Simon Quarterman) terrible narrative.
The episode opens with Dolores waking up and hearing a voice asking, “Do you remember?” If you listen carefully, the voice sounds like Bernard/Arnold (Jeffrey Wright) mixed with Dolores. Later we see her in Sweetwater, and we know now that she has begun to access old memories and relive them – such as seeing the street full of dead townspeople. We also see a wolf running through the carnage. While we don’t have any concrete information, we can certainly speculate on its meaning. Wolves are a symbol of creation, as well as death and rebirth in Native American cultures. European mythology holds a grimmer view, seeing them as agents of destruction and death; both interpretations are certainly consistent with Westworld‘s story.
Dolores encounters Maeve and utters the “violent delights” line, which functions as a prompt; it unlocks Maeve’s memories and eventually kicks off her escape narrative. Later, Dolores flashes back to an analysis session with “Bernard” who we now know was actually Arnold – details like his uncharacteristic clothing, Dolores being dressed, and the appearance of the lab clue viewers in that something is off about this session. Arnold tells her not to discuss their conversations with anyone, because they may not find her as fascinating as Arnold does – her mind works differently than other hosts. While Dolores has a fairly small role in “Chestnut,” this episode sets up her journey toward consciousness. Her last scene is significant, as she finds and unearths a buried gun on the ranch (which she’ll later use to escape her loop).
In a heavily Maeve-centric episode, we see the effects of Dolores’ “trigger phrase.” She has her first flashback while attempting to seduce a client: Maeve is in a different narrative, being attacked by Native Americans. It affects her performance, attracting the attention of the park’s monitors. As Maeve continues to decline, Ashely Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) tasks Clementine (Angela Sarafyan) to take over as madam and plans to decommission Maeve the next morning.
Elsie Hughes (Shannon Woodward) evaluates Maeve and derides the Narrative techs for increasing her aggression; she adjusts Maeve’s perception instead. Her assistant asks if the hosts dream, citing Maeve’s conversation with Clementine about nightmares. Elsie responds that since dreams are mainly memories, they would be “fucked” if the hosts remembered what the guests do to them (no kidding). They do install the concept of dreams, however, in case someone forgets to wipe a host during maintenance.
As Maeve attempts to sleep after a violent episode at the saloon, she has another flashback of her previous loop. Her attacker transforms into the Man in Black, who comes toward Maeve and her daughter with a knife. Recalling her advice to Clementine on stopping nightmares, she counts backward to wake herself up. When she does, she finds herself in the lab; the techs Felix (Leonardo Nam) and Sylvester (Ptolemy Slocum) are operating on her. All three panic, and Maeve grabs a scalpel. She makes her way out of the lab to find “dead” hosts being hosed down and repaired. In shock, she sinks to her knees as Felix and Sylvester overtake her and knock her out.
William and Logan
We see a couple of “newcomers” this episode as William and Logan embark on their vacation. We get our first major clue that this is in the past; an older version of the Westworld logo appears when William arrives at the station. William is taken to his dressing room, and – foreshadowing his future perhaps? – his gaze lingers on the black hats before he finally chooses white.
William joins Logan on the train, and Logan prepares him for what to expect from their adventure (and possibly addressing the viewers as well), saying, “I know that you think you have a handle on what this is gonna be. Guns and tits and all that. Mindless shit that I usually enjoy. You have no idea.” Logan also tells William, “This place is the answer to that question you’ve been asking yourself…Who you really are. And I can’t fucking wait to meet that guy.” Oh Logan, (borrowing a phrase from another popular HBO show) you sweet summer child.
Once in Sweetwater, Logan embraces his black hat as he attempts to shoot up the saloon and stabs a host in the hand. He chides William for being too timid and worrying about “making a mess” – just like at work. Later – as Logan enjoys the company of several prostitutes – Clementine tries to seduce William. He gently turns her down, saying he has someone waiting for him back home. Clementine tells him “real love is always worth waiting for,” and it makes me wonder – how many agonizing years did William spend waiting for Dolores to remember her love for him?
Man in Black
We see a sharp contrast between young William and his future self, the Man in Black. Long gone is the white hatted, would-be hero who balked at harming hosts; the Man in Black is relentlessly violent. After murdering a posse and saving his “old friend” Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr.) from execution, the Man in Black explains that Lawrence is his key to finding the Maze. As they sit down to a meal in Lawrence’s hometown, Lawrence claims to know nothing about any Maze. The Man in Black says he’ll have to jog his memory and proceeds to shoot the waiter.
Back in the hub, a monitor asks Stubbs if they need to put the brakes on the Man in Black’s killing spree. Stubbs replies, “That gentleman gets whatever he wants,” hinting at his importance. Meanwhile, Lawrence’s cousins show up to rescue him. The Man in Black embraces the impending shootout, saying it’s why he’s been coming for 30 years: “In a sense, I was born here.”
He slaughters the men and threatens to kill Lawrence’s wife and daughter. When Lawrence continues to deny knowing how to find the Maze, the Man in Black shoots his wife. He prefers the hosts’ basic emotions, saying, “When you’re suffering, that’s when you’re most real.” Lawrence’s daughter finally speaks up, telling the Man in Black that “the maze isn’t meant for you,” but she gives him a cryptic clue anyway. Lawrence asks the Man in Black to go home and leave them alone, but he responds that this time, he’s never going back.
Bernard and Ford
Elsie continues to express concern over Peter Abernathy’s (Louis Herthum) breakdown, telling Bernard it appears to be more serious than a glitch – she is worried it could be contagious, like a virus. Bernard rejects this idea; perhaps he’s coded by Ford to shut down further investigation? Later, Bernard remarks to Ford how difficult it was having to decommission Abernathy, and he questions whether someone could have tampered with the hosts. Ford discounts it saying while that would be the simplest explanation, simple explanations don’t always work when what they do is so complicated.
Later we get insight into Bernard and Theresa’s (Sidse Babett Knudsen) relationship, as well as another clue about Bernard’s true nature. As they lie in bed together after making love, Theresa remarks that Bernard is so quiet, but his creations “never shut up.” Bernard explains that the hosts constantly talk to each other as a way of practicing to become more human. Theresa teases him, asking if that’s what he’s doing right now (hint, hint).
Meanwhile Ford ventures out into the park, encountering a young boy (who we now know is a host version of himself as a child) who asks if Ford is lost. Ford responds that he “just strayed a bit too far from where I’m supposed to be,” perhaps acknowledging he hasn’t done enough to help the hosts. As they walk through the desert, Ford asks if the boy can see the town with the white church and hear the bells; he causes the boy to hear them. When Ford also controls a rattlesnake, the boy asks if it’s magic. Ford replies, “Everything in this world is magic, except to the magician.” He then looks out at the burnt church steeple and tells the boy to run along and not return.
Sizemore later presents the new narrative the board has been expecting: “Odyssey on Red River.” He promises excitement, romance, titillation, and savagery (“self-cannibalism” sounds pretty brutal, and what’s a “whoroborus” anyway? I’m not sure I want to know). Ford shuts him down with a simple, “No.” Ford explains to Sizemore, and the television audience, that surprises and cheap thrills aren’t enough – not for the park, or a successful television show. Guests want more; not just the obvious, but the subtle details.
Ford’s voice continues over a scene of William in Sweetwater; as William encounters Dolores and picks up her dropped can of milk, Ford says, “[Guests] come back because they discover something they imagine no one had ever noticed before. Something they’ve fallen in love with. They’re not looking for a story that tells them who they are. They already know who they are. They’re here because they want a glimpse of who they could be.” When Sizemore asks if Ford likes anything about his narrative, Ford looks down at a host’s feet and says, “What size are those boots?”
The episode concludes with Bernard and Ford out in the desert, with Ford wearing his newly acquired boots. Bernard warns that board is still expecting a new storyline, and Ford says he’s been working on one, “something quite original.” As they gaze out at the burnt steeple, Ford’s plan to foment a host uprising has begun.
What insights did you have after watching this episode? Did you notice anything you’d missed the first time around? Let us know in the comments!