Westworld’s ‘Zhuangzi’: Of Street-Writers and Street Fighters…

In a lyrical but sinister episode, we see some of the threads that are binding the puppets and puppeteers alike...

The Host version of William dining at an upscale restaurant with a couple who also seem upwardly mobile but something is clearly ‘off’. William notes that though they think he’s a friend, they’ve never met, but they will obey his every whim and desire. The couple realising he’s right …ALSO realising they can’t understand what’s happening, is sinister in every respect. When William has to excuse himself to deal with a rogue synth/Host who has wiped out a hotel suite of humans, things don’t get any less intense. In this future city the Hosts can do anything, often at the human’s expense, but that doesn’t mean such OTT behaviour is without consequence. The homicidal synth finds that out the hard way.

Meanwhile Stokes and members of the rebels try to infiltrate the city to find an Outlier who has begun to realise what’s going on and Christina finally begins to understand her role in the brave new world…

 

*spoilers*

Reverso Chango. The latest episode of Westworld gives us a future in which humanity is the captive creature, made to dance to every whim and exist in an ever-decreasing circle of routines. Given the way that humans treated the host/synth creations in the original park, there would likely be plenty who would note that turnaround is fair play and karma is a bitch and a glitch. The inference is clear… this is a direct reversal of the original Westworld experience where the Hosts were the victims of human peccadillos.

After this overt flipping of the concept, we also get some definitive answers (for a change) though most of the revelations from last week’s episode are still firmly in the waiting room. The ever-confused Christina (Evan Rachel Wood) begins to piece together her past with the help of Teddy (James Marsden) who helps her see Tower looming over everything but warns her to be careful about whom she trusts. Her everyday reality is actually the location transformed by Tessa Thompson’s Charlotte Hale who uses it as a testing ground and a way for her fellow synthesbians to blow off some metaphorical cyber-steam – very much her revenge for what has gone before, with humans now acting as the playthings. Christina isn’t quite a pawn like the few members of humanity who are left, though her ‘friend’ Hale is clearly regularly checking in to make sure ‘Christina’ doesn’t remember, especially anything of her time as ‘Dolores’. In this new role Christina is the writer behind the routines and scenarios that play out in the city. Christina is, to all intents, a middle-management ‘God’, making life and death decisions, but unaware that they are playing out beyond her interface. Until now.

In a way that starts to dovetail some of the stories, Stokes and the rebels are also coming to town, to remove one of the ‘Outliers’, a woman who has finally started to realise the state of the world. Of course, Hale can’t have that and sends out her version of William to kill her first. But while one might expect things are heading for a showdown between those pursuers, it’s mostly avoided when William is cut down by concussive fire. The main action comes with the rebels encountering the city turned against them… and finally a change for Daniel Wu to show some martial-arts moves.¬† Yes, it’s all very Matrix-y, even more so than usual, but it’s handled well enough – less reality-bending than paranoia-made-flesh (or synthetic flesh at least).

With even Hale herself becoming bored in a world that all too accurately echoes the human world before it and her dreams of transcending humanity completely and leaving it behind, Host William begins to realise there’s more to existence than the world Hale offers and even has a long conversation with his ‘himself’ about his options…

All in all, a satisfying episode, one for visual treats as always (with the street-dancing-scene which feels like a sinister take on the Grand Central Station sequence from The Fisher King being one of the stand-outs) and one that feels as if it’s starting to make all the investment pay-off… but with no idea where we’ll go next…

'Westworld S04 Ep05 - Zhuangzi'  (HBO review)
9.3
'Westworld S04 Ep05 - Zhuangzi' (HBO review)
  • Story
    9
  • Acting
    9
  • Direction
    9
  • Production Design / VFX
    10
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HBO REVIEW

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