Important Takeaways from Westworld - Riddle of the Sphinx
By: Brenna Gonzalez │@Brennagonzalez5
[Editor’s Note: This review contains spoilers for “Westworld” Season 2, Episode 2, “Reunion”- If you have not seen it, leave before it is too late]
Riddle of the Sphinx is another carefully-crafted step forward for Westworld and a step backward for the storyline. Again, through methods of stalled screenwriting, the plot now seems more concerned with the past rather than the present-day narrative it spent so much time building in the previous season. This episode is so cautious that every scene - every delivered line - feels as though it is part of some larger scheme… something big that the show is slowly getting to. It is a self-aware episode that dwells on the philosophy regarding eternal life and aging rather than the logistics of its practicality and how it eventually wears a person down to nothing.
The title itself provides important insight, referring to an ancient Greek legend regarding the guardian’s riddle at the entrance to the city of Thebes: “Which creature has one voice and yet becomes four-footed and two-footed and three-footed?” The answer: “a man who moves from a baby on all fours, to a walking child/adult, to an elderly person with a cane,” inevitably fits into the shows potential manipulation of aging, and that being exactly what Delos is trying to control.
HAS WESTWORLD DUG ITSELF INTO A HOLE?
I sit here, week-after-week, writing about Westworld and only one thing stays constant: my unhappiness with how the series is progressing. Personally, I have found that where the show is most interesting is in its thought process - what made the now-rouge park turn into something this disastrous. How did the creators get to where they are now? I ask more questions about the past when, from my understanding, I should be still concerned as to what is happening in the present day. Dolores and her repetitive revenger plotline is no more amusing than it was in the first couple minutes of the season premiere. I feel as though I watch the show for its backstory now when I should be watching to see what happens next, not what happened years and years ago. Maybe once the hostage trope eventually plays out in this season we will start to see some actual impactful action instead of the ruthless slander of all human beings who chose to participate in this psycho-meta social experiment.
Westworld is losing more and more steam when it comes to continuously churning out episodes that deal with the backtracking of the community’s actions and I think that this could be harming the series. If they were to incorporate more of a balance in present vs. past with the present being reworked into a more entertaining form, then I think that this season would be beneficial. If nothing changes, however, then the show is just using the hype of season 1 to churn out mediocre filler episodes until they come up with something as original as the concept of Westworld.
PREDICTABILITY IN A SEEMINGLY UNPREDICTABLE CONTEXT
If I could easily uncover two of Westworld's “major revelations” weeks ago through some light analysis and casual viewing, then the writers are not doing their job well enough (no offense Nolan, you know I love you still). In my Season 2 episode 2 review I wrote about two specific theories and how they could be explored and utilized sometime later in the show. Well, it turns out that they were correct, but the ultimate reveal of both was extremely dissatisfying. In a moment where I should have felt a straight-up ego boost, I felt only mild content… Can’t a girl just get an egotistical pat on the back for my sleuthing through some good old fashion dramatic writing?
James Delos (Peter Mullan) and his character arc were about as easy to discover as it was to guess William’s wife killed herself. I know that seems harsh, but once you understand that they “terminated” James in that over-exaggerated flame ball 149 times, it becomes easily forgiven. I’m not even going to get into the fact that they definitely could have reused his room for later trials rather than setting that on fire too… but fuck the ozone, I guess.
Now to Logan (Ben Barnes). Poor attractive junkie. Not only did he overdose, but his overdose was then talked about as casually as someone would mention the fact that his father didn’t trust him with the fate of the company. I had always been curious as to why we had never seen Old Man Logan (again previously mentioned in my article linked above), but c'mon, the writers could have cared a little bit more than to just throw away his redemption arc altogether. If they wanted his death to have the least amount of impact on anyone real, then they have certainly succeeded at that.
In a show that is all about the innovation of modern television and the creation of the unpredictable, how come they can’t even create storylines that take the audience by surprise?
A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE
YES! It is about time we see her going behind the camera. I mean c'mon there is only one thing better than a Nolan brother, and that is a NOLAN WIFE! Finally, we see Lisa Joy’s Directorial Debut on the show she co-created. You can feel her carefully handle each scene, as her artistic choices seemed to be from someone who knew more about the show than actual direction (not a bad thing, quite the opposite really). She spent time focusing on what she knew mattered within the shows actual aesthetic. Offering the series what we as fans needed, I am very excited to have seen her take the reins of a show she has already put so much time into.
More series need to invest in using the diverse backgrounds of different directors in their shows to add a subtle uniqueness. I think that in this episode specifically, you could see where the different direction showed. From the attention to detail in James trial room to the editing styles of bouncing from timeline to timeline, Lisa Joy’s influence was apparent. For a first-time director, I am glad to see her adapt a series known for chaos and make it tranquil as even a slow episode for Westworld may lead to a more impactful end.