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Westworld - S1E4 - Dissonance Theory

Previously on Westworld, “The Stray”

Westworld - S1E4 - “Dissonance Theory” | Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Evan Rachel Wood, Ed HarrisJames Marsden, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Rodrigo SantoroSimon Quarterman, Luke Hemsworth

In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time; performs an action that is contradictory to their beliefs, ideas, or values; or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas or values. Cognitive dissonance theory is founded on the assumption that individuals seek consistency between their expectations and their reality. Because of this, people engage in a process called “dissonance reduction” to bring their cognitions and actions in line with one another. This creation of uniformity allows for a lessening of psychological tension and distress. Source.

I’ve mentioned on our Westworld podcast that the show reminds me of playing an RPG. You create your character in the beginning, choosing your clothes and personality traits. Some even let you pick the direction you’d like ahead of time (good or evil) while others are designed to give you an ending that’s based solely on the types of decisions you made throughout the game. Never has Westworld felt more like a game than with “Dissonance Theory.”

Images: HBO

The Man in Black continues his journey for the maze and finally finds where “the snake lays its eggs”; the snake being the red tattoo painted along the body of a member of Hector’s posse, Armistice (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal)

(Remember: Hector is the outlaw hunted in one of the missions a Guest can choose; he also robs the Mariposa and shoots up Sweetwater for the big show. This is basically an RPG side mission.)

She agrees to tell him the significance of the tattoo (which is still missing the snake’s head) if he’ll help her and her men “retrieve something of great value,” Hector. TMIB and Lawrence purposely get arrested to gain access to a jail so they can break Hector out of it. Mission accomplished, Armistice explains that each part of the snake represents a time she killed one of the men responsible for the death of her parents. She only has their leader left; the head of the snake, Wyatt.

After remembering another one of her secret sessions with Bernard, Delores wakes up in the company of William and Logan, and the Hosts leading them on their bounty hunting mission. At times William speaks to Dolores as if she knows what she is. He remarks that he assumed “they would keep you all in specific zones,” and it’s clear she has no idea what he’s talking about. While she may have deviated from her narrative loop, we know Delores knows how to improvise. She does this as she convinces William she should continue on with him since there’s nothing left for her at home. The decision is made easier for William when Logan assures him the park planted her there to enhance William’s gameplay experience.

Once their prisoners are caught, one mentions that he works for El Lazo. Logan then kills everyone they’re with save that one prisoner and Delores. He recognized El Lazo as one of the special missions available in the park and he wants in on it. The meeting with Bernard that Delores remembered earlier shows that he told her about the maze and how maybe she’d be free if she found her way to its center.  If El Lazo is at all connected to Wyatt, Delores may soon find herself running into The Man in Black again.

Much to Elsie’s annoyance, Theresa takes control of the investigation into The Woodcutter’s behavior in “The Stray.” Theresa does have good reason to make sure everything is running smoothly as the board is getting anxious about the park’s goings on, particularly Ford’s new narrative that still isn’t complete, yet feels too ambitious. When Theresa meets with Ford to mine any information that would set the board at ease, he reminds of her his god-like status within the park by literally making the earth shake. All Theresa has left is to remind him that the board will be sending a representative not so easily swayed. Ford volleys back that the representative is already there, and this appears to be news to Theresa. As Logan mentioned that his family business should have invested more heavily into the park, and twice now said his trip with William is about business, it’s fair to assume he’s the representative, no?

Or could the representative be The Man in Black? He’s clearly rich (he’d have to be to afford trips to the park), and a guest recognizes him as the head of a foundation that saved his sister’s life. Later, The Man in Black spoke of Arnold and hoping to fulfill his wishes for the park. He tells Lawrence he might be offering him freedom, and that no choice Lawrence has ever made has been his own. This might explain Stubbs’ assertion that TMIB gets whatever he wants, and we see that’s true when all he has to do is light a match in Hector’s cell and the Stubbs approves his request for a low-grade explosive effect to facilitate the escape.

The Man in Black takes issue with Westworld being a place where you can’t die. How can the experience be truly real without any stakes. Since he believes the center of the maze brings that real experience, it makes sense to wonder if “freedom” means death - for the Guests and the Host.

Maeve may be the closest to figuring out who the Hosts truly are. She has yet another memory of one of the massacres inside the Mariposa and seeing the park’s technicians dragging their bodies out of the saloon. She remembers hearing the technicians rushing her surgery and sending her back into the park with a bullet still inside of her. (Guess we now know how she got that infection.)

When she goes home, there’s no abdomen scar from where she was shot or operated on. She sketches the technicians in their helmets and suit and hides it under a floorboard; only to find that she has many drawings of them already hidden away. When she learns that the technicians are believed to be one of the Native Americans’ gods, she corners Hector during the scheduled Mariposa robbery. Since he’s been known to live with the “savages,” she wants to know about her drawing in exchange for the contents of the safe.

The technicians are known as shades, beings who walk between worlds, and sent from hell to oversee their world. Maeve tells Hector about being shot and seeing a shade. She cuts into where the scar should be and he digs out the bullet. Maeve now knows she’s not crazy and that nothing matters, including their impending death when the deputies shoot through the door.

Premium podcast subscribers: leave your thoughts on the episode on the Patreon post and we’ll read them on tonight’s podcast. 

Westworld S1E4 = 9.7/10
  • 9/10
    Plot - 9/10
  • 10/10
    Dialogue - 10/10
  • 10/10
    Performances - 10/10
User Review
5 (1 vote)
About Nina Perez (1391 Articles)
Nina Perez is the founder of Project Fandom. She is also the author of a YA series of books, "The Twin Prophecies," and a collection of essays titled, "Blog It Out, B*tch." Her latest books, a contemporary romance 6-book series titled Sharing Space, are now available on for Kindle download. She has a degree in journalism, works in social media, lives in Portland, Oregon, and loves Idris Elba. When not watching massive amounts of British television or writing, she is sketching plans to build her very own TARDIS. She watches more television than anyone you know and she's totally fine with that.

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