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[Warning: This story contains spoilers through episode three of HBO’s Westworld.]
Forget the white rabbit: Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) is about to follow the white hat down the rabbit hole.
Westworld hitched itself to the Alice in Wonderland wagon long before the show premiered, what with Dolores as the spitting image of a grown-up Alice. But the connection was made even more overt in the HBO drama’s third episode, “The Stray,” in which Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) asks Dolores to read a passage from the iconic Lewis Carroll tale.
“Dear, dear, how queer everything is today! And yesterday, things went on just as usual,” Dolores reads aloud. “I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night?”
In the moment, she doesn’t realize how close she is to the truth. But given where Dolores’ journey ended in episode three, and is likely to begin this week, it’s right to think that the oldest host in Westworld’s surreal existence is about to become very real indeed.
Consider where she left off: Dolores, fresh from her off-the-record sessions with Bernard, returns to her family farm and watches milk-chugging bandit Rebus (Steven Ogg) slaughter her home. Nothing abnormal about it, right? Just another day in the life of Dolores and her violent little loop … until something changes drastically: Dolores snags Rebus’ revolver and shoots him dead, despite being incapable of wielding a gun earlier in the episode. With that, Dolores rides off into the night, breaking away from her loop … and when we see her again, she’s bursting forth from the pitch black, falling into the arms of newcomer William (Jimmi Simpson).
Westworld isn’t lacking in tension, and the current position of Dolores’ story only intensifies the irons in the fire. For one, what’s driving Dolores forward? What’s happening that’s preventing her from wielding a firearm at one point in the day, only to shoot and kill a fellow host by nightfall? Is someone monitoring Dolores and systematically unshackling her programming? Was it the words of her former father, now decommissioned, that triggered Dolores: “These violent delights will have violent ends”? Recall that Dolores said this exact phrase to Maeve (Thandie Newton) back in episode two, which was immediately followed by Maeve’s own increasing awareness.
Whatever or whoever is responsible for Dolores’ awakening, she’s now in the hands of two of the show’s other more enigmatic figures: William and Logan (Ben Barnes), the white hat and black hat colleagues and soon-to-be siblings-in-law, with very different ideas about how to enjoy life in Westworld. Already, William and Dolores established a connection back in episode two, when William retrieved Dolores’ fallen can of food. How will the mild-mannered man react to an already extremely lifelike host exhibiting signs of true awareness? Just as importantly, and perhaps more frighteningly, how will the hedonistic Logan react to Dolores’ entrance in his life?
Then there’s the matter of one of the show’s most interesting current theories: William and the Man in Black (Ed Harris) are the same person, and their stories playing out on the show in different time periods. But if Dolores’ self-actualization is happening at the same time that she’s meeting William, does that mean William’s arc is playing out in the present day, debunking the William-in-Black theory? Not necessarily. Dolores and William’s meeting at the end of episode three could be a completely separate event from Dolores riding away from the Abernathy family farm. But for fans invested in the connection between William and the show’s central gunslinging guest, this week’s installment could be a make-or-break episode, depending on how the stories play out.
In any event, as Westworld continues to reveal its veritable Wonderland surroundings to its unwitting inhabitants, there’s no story more immediate and urgent than what’s happening with Dolores — not just for herself, not just for William and Logan, and not even just for the denizens of Westworld at large … but for ramifications far beyond the borders of the park.
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