Warning: Spoilers ahead for “Westworld” episode three.
The INSIDER Summary:
• Dolores finally broke out of her narrative loop, and killed another host.
• This moment contained an important flashback to the Man in Black.
• Showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy spoke with INSIDER about the scene and how there’s more to the Man in Black than first appeared.
The third episode of “Westworld” contained the biggest advance yet in (what we assume is) an inevitable robot host uprising in the theme park. Dolores Abernathy managed to get her hands on a gun, and actually pull the trigger — going against her programming code which should prevent her from properly handling weapons. She then fled from her ranch home, and wound up in the arms of an empathetic human guest, William.
INSIDER spoke with the “Westworld” creators — Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy — about this pivotal moment and what it means for Dolores as well as the mysterious Man in Black.
“This episode is really the story of Dolores’ growing empowerment,” Joy tells INSIDER. “Even though she’s starting to ask questions about the world and think about it in a different way, she was still really held back by the limitations that the coders have placed upon her.”
We saw this play out earlier in the episode when Teddy (another host) tries to teach her how to shoot a gun.
She physically cannot pull the trigger, even though she wants to. This is later explained by Stubbs, when we learn that given “weapons permissions” is a safety measure mandated by Quality Assurance.
“That’s because Dolores is the happy girl next door, this rancher’s daughter — she’s not programmed to be somebody who pulls that trigger,” Joy continues. “So towards the end when she does pick up the gun and pull the trigger, it marks a really big moment for Dolores’ character. She’s taking her destiny into her own hands and embracing her autonomy, and breaking past some of the leashes that were constricting her.”
The agency Dolores gained in episode three was especially significant, given the criticism HBO has faced in the past for featuring “gratuitous” sexual assault in its programming.
“For us, the interest was always about these characters, the hosts,” Joy says. “[Dolores’] growth and her empowerment and that story. So we acknowledge what the park is designed to do, and the horrors that it entails, but dwelling on that kind of stuff was never and is not the point of what we’re trying to do here.”
The very first time we followed Dolores’ scripted loop was in the pilot, when the Man in Black appeared at her house and killed both her father and Teddy before dragging her off to the barn. Though to many viewers the scene was insinuating a rape happening offscreen, Joy and Nolan reveal there might have been more to that particular moment.
“There’s a interesting moment when, right before Dolores finds it in herself to finally pull the trigger, she flashes back to that encounter with the Man in Black from the pilot,” Joy explains. “We saw her dragged away but we didn’t see what happened in the barn. And in that moment in episode three, we learn that maybe not everything was what it seemed in that scene.”
In the flashback Dolores has, we see the Man in Black turn to Dolores while pulling out his knife. “Why don’t we reacquaint ourselves, Dolores,” he says. “Start at the beginning.”
According to Joy, Dolores may have had something to do with the mysterious maze the Man in Black has been looking for. “What he says to her, it indicates that he’s dragging her there because he’s looking for something,” she says. “He’s looking for a deeper level of the game, and he’s going to do whatever he needs to do to get to it.”
Nolan chimed in to add an important clarification.
“That’s not to say terrible things haven’t happened to Dolores and in fact that encounter with the Man in Black [in the pilot] was clearly a lethal one,” he explains. “It’s just that there are more layers to what the Man in Black is looking for, and that cumulative experience for Dolores has allowed her to start sort of seeing the fissures and cracks in her world. She’s beginning to fight back, and that’s the story we’re excited about.”
The Man in Black made comments to Dolores in the pilot that implied a sinister level of familiarity with her. He noted that she had more “pluck,” and clarified that he didn’t “pay all this money” so he could have it easy. The Man in Black has most certainly sexually assaulted Dolores in the past, even if there was more to it in the first episode.
“That’s the clear implication in the pilot,” Nolan says. “So it’s not as if we’re backing away from that or saying, ‘Oh it’s ok because it’s just implied.’ No, no, no, no. That’s the world we’re dealing with — it’s a world in which terrible things happen to the hosts and they’re already fighting back. It’s just with [the Man in Black’s] storyline there’s a little more going on.”
The Man in Black was absent from the third episode, but based on the previews for what’s to come we can expect to see more of his mysterious maze mission soon. Will we ever know exactly what happened between him and Dolores? And what will happen to Dolores now that she’s left her narrative loop?
We’ll have to wait and see where the violent delights lead.
Watch the preview for episode four below:
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