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Out of the Loop, Lost in the Maze

In the beginning was the word, and the word was Ford. As in Dr. Robert Ford, the god-like creator of a vastWild- West adventure park in some distant future. His singular vision is an adult playground for wealthy sensation seekers who flock to the park to experience a full immersion fantasy in which they are free to do as they like with the realistic android “hosts” that populate the place. Mostly what they like to do would have Thomas Hobbes high-fiving Charles Darwin: kill and copulate. The hosts respond to this in turn by laughing, climaxing, weeping, and begging for their lives just like humans. But guests feel no need to sympathize. When the day’s mayhem and carnage end, the hosts and their various dismemberments are carted off to maintenance, where they are reassembled under pools of surgical lights that seem to struggle to fend off an outer darkness. Hard drives are wiped, the day’s suffering erased, basic behavior loops reinstalled.Wash, rinse, repeat.

Now that the first season of HBO’s darkly dazzling Westworld is over, now that we all know for certain that we all knew for certain that the Man In Black really is…but before we dive into the spoilers let me get this disclaimer out of the way. As entertaining as it may be to focus on questions about what time frame we’re in, or about who is a host and who is a human, I would argue that this may be the least rewarding way to watch this story unfold. The plot is as bursting with misdirection as the maze that Arnold sets up as a test for the hosts’ self actualization. It is thick with dead ends—and just like the maze, what you get out of it may say more about you than the show, a Rorschach test in prime time.

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