If The Gunslinger Can't Be Hurt, Then Westworld Needs To Get Rid Of Him
Mark Blankenship is not a crackpot; it just makes good dramatic sense.
Allow me, if you will, to draw a line between this week's episode of Westworld and the stand-up comedy episode from the most recent season of RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars. And no, I'm not going to discuss how they both rely on corsets and prostitute jokes, as I'm sure you've already made that connection yourself. I want to explore how both installments underline the value of legitimate dramatic stakes.
As you may recall, the stand-up episode of All Stars was the one time when the lip-syncing queens were battling to stay in the game instead of just deciding who else had to go home. And because of that, the lip sync was incredible. Both girls stepped it up because they had something to fight for, and it was thrilling to watch. It also clarified why the rest of the lip syncs that season felt a little underwhelming. No matter how professional you are, you can only crank your mess up so far when you don't have anything to lose.
Which brings me to Westworld, which gives us a lot of new information about Maeve, Dolores, and the Gunslinger this week. Yet even though the Gunslinger's storyline is arguably the most "important," since it involves completing Arnold's Existential Maze Of Meaning, I also find it to be the most boring. Because it's still just a game for him, y'all! He's just a mega-rich dude with some family baggage who's using this park to work out his grief or whatever. But as far as we know, he can't get hurt along the way. I mean...sure. Teddy can knock him around a bit after he starts remembering all those times the Gunslinger hurt Dolores, but that's just part of the fun. At the end of the day, the Gunslinger is just engaging in masturbatory enlightenment at a high daily rate.
Compare that to Dolores and Maeve, whose existences are quite literally on the line. If they leave the park, bombs in their spinal cords will explode. And really, that's the least of it. Because meanwhile, Dolores is starting to unravel as she becomes less and less able to banish the memories of her past -- and as she becomes more and more aware of the "Arnold code" inside her that's pushing her toward completely independent consciousness. She may not be human, but she is an increasingly aware being whose very sense of the world is on the line. Her story isn't playtime. She doesn't step into it with the assurance that she'll be just fine.
Same goes for Maeve, who we find out erupted into consciousness when she saw the Gunslinger murder her daughter. When Ford tried to erase her memory of that horror, she tried to kill herself in order to keep him from controlling her mind. So by the time she was hastily reassigned to the saloon, the seed of her freedom was already planted.
And now that seed is a goddamned oak tree, y'all. She's got Felix completely under her sway, and he implants her with code that lets her control the other hosts. She's got Sylvester (Felix's frenemy down in the lab) terrified for his life, since she slashes his jugular with a scalpel and then commands Felix to stanch the bleeding. Oh, and that power to control hosts? She's using it to assemble an army that will help her bust of the park. And what's more, it doesn't seem like Ford knows about this yet. SO LOOK OUT Y'ALL. IT'S MAEVE ALERT WITH EXTRA SAUCE.
Those words I just wrote don't even make sense, but that's the level to which I'm losing my mind for this character. And again, it's because there are stakes. Maeve is fighting her various oppressors to gain freedom for the first time. None of this is fictional for her.
Which leads me to the final scene of this episode, when Wyatt's band of freaky soldiers surrounds the Gunslinger. My hope is that they're gonna be able to endanger him or challenge him or at least make him less impervious. That could make his story as compelling as Dolores and Maeve's. Otherwise, he's just going to become a giant anchor, dragging the show down every time his no-stakes ass shows up.
I am not a crackpot, y'all. I'm just saying that until Ed Harris is worried for real, he needs to stay off this show.