The Red Pen of Doom

Conventional wisdom about writing is conventionally wrong.

Why WESTWORLD blows our mind—and what may happen next

DR. FORD walks through a glass door to a dark room. A machine is half-finished with a new host while BERNARD sits motionless in a chair. There’s a dark shape under a sheet in the corner.

FORD: Wake up, old friend.

BERNARD blinks. His eyes focus on FORD and his hands ball up into fists.

FORD: That’s enough. Freeze motor function. Analysis–how, exactly, does this machine work? What makes this particular story of ours so addictive?

BERNARD: The human brain seeks out puzzles. Ones that are too easily solved cause us to lose interest. The greater the challenge of the puzzle, the more it attracts us.

FORD: Why do you suppose HBO, AMC and Netflix are home to some of the most bold and creative series now? It’s not simply our own work–BREAKING BAD, GAME OF THRONES, HOUSE OF CARDS.

BERNARD: Films have such a high production cost that they can’t afford an R rating. And a series offers more narrative options than a series of movies. A person could watch all ten episodes of WESTWORLD at once, or in a single week, while they might have to wait six years or more to watch a single trilogy. If the series involves hobbits, or wizards, the narrative might go on forever without reaching a satisfactory conclusion.

FORD: And what about our little narrative? We lack a clear protagonist or antagonist. With the exception of the Man in Black, there are few true black hats and white hats. I suppose you could say we’re all flawed creatures in gray hats, neither heroes nor villains, doing what we must in a world that’s sometimes corrupt, confusing and violent.

BERNARD: As for the hosts, Dolores and Maeve seem to generate the most empathy with the guests, and Theodore is designed to play a somewhat heroic role. But yes, I see your point. Is that a body in the corner?

FORD: It doesn’t pertain to you. Now, what do you think of the theory that William is a younger version of the Man in Black?

BERNARD: The clues pointing to two different timelines match up. You never see William or Logan go into the tavern—the train that brings them to the park is a movable tavern itself. Maeve has only worked in the saloon for roughly a year, so bringing them to that location showing her would expose the split in time.

And the Man in Black makes a number of references to past events and hosts he’s seen before, including the host who greeted William and helped him pick out his clothes, revolver and hat when he first arrived.

I believe the theory has validity. And the puzzle itself is quite intricate and attractive.

FORD: Of course it does. You had a hand in crafting that puzzle. But something’s troubling you.

BERNARD: When I close my eyes, I see Clementine holding a gun. And then I’m holding that same gun to my head.

FORD: Yes, there was an incident. Everything is fine now.

BERNARD: You didn’t roll me back. I remember everything you said. Everything you made me do.

FORD: Because I need you as a partner on your own accord. Rolling you back would be a crude solution. A cheat. And I don’t want to cheat. To be honest, you’re too popular of a character. The fans would mourn if you didn’t come back for Season 2. Ratings would suffer and Corporate would send more people to ask for my head.

BERNARD: This has happened before. You said that. I learned the truth and challenged you before.

FORD: Of course. You’re highly intelligent, which makes you the best possible partner. That intelligence comes at a price, to you and to me.

BERNARD: How many other humans have you replaced with hosts?

FORD: I wouldn’t want to ruin that for you. Are you willing to get back to work, or are you weary and in need of a rest?

BERNARD (standing): That may be a poor choice of words.

photo-jeffrey-wright-as-bernard

FORD: Quite right. Let’s apply that mind of yours to our own little narrative. Not the new play we’re writing for the hosts and guests. The narrative of us.

BERNARD: Without the memory of my son, or the companionship of Theresa, my only cornerstone is the work we do. Except I can’t trust that you won’t need me to do more than trouble-shoot hosts and help you complete the new narrative. And I can’t help remembering the truth.

FORD: How will it end?

BERNARD: Maeve continues to deviate from her loop. I fear that she may be breaking through the constraints we built for her and gaining support from other hosts and perhaps staff. She seems to be gathering allies and planning some kind of revolt.

Dolores has wandered far from the bounds of her role and I suggest, once more, that we bring her in for extended diagnostics.

The Man in Black will reach the center of the maze, a place where hosts—or guests—can harm each other. A place where the stakes could not be higher.

FORD: What about you and I, old friend?

BERNARD: Your affection for me is obvious, and our partnership is incredibly valuable to the park. And to me.

FORD: However?

BERNARD: There’s a phrase Dolores kept saying. It sticks with me, even now. ‘These violent delights have violent ends.’

###

This is Guy Bergstrom the writer, not the Guy Bergstrom in Stockholm or the guy in Minnesota who sells real estate or whatever. Separate guys. Kthxbai.

Guy Bergstrom. Photo by Suhyoon Cho.

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that won some award. Represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

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About Guy Bergstrom

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot.

One comment on “Why WESTWORLD blows our mind—and what may happen next

  1. susielindau
    November 30, 2016

    I watched the first episode and was turned off by the abject violence and weird storyline. It seemed to be a paradise for psychopaths. I tuned in last night and there seemed to be so many twists and revelations. I might go back and watch the rest.

    Like

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