Westworld Forces Us To Ask, 'How Naked Is Too Naked?'
Maybe when the bits and bobs distract from the story?
There's a lot of crucial information in this episode of Westworld, as befits the middle of the season. This is the time when questions have to start being answered so that tantalizing set-ups can lead to satisfying conclusions.
And some of the new facts are satisfying indeed. For one, we learn that the company Logan and William work for might buy Westworld, since the park is losing money on its massive narratives. We also learn that Logan is not only William's soon-to-be brother-in-law, but also his boss. And a demeaning boss at that, who considers William a lily-livered varmint (if you'll allow me some cowboy parlance). Logan voices this low opinion after William refuses to take part in a big orgy, but then, just a few scenes later, when Logan is getting beaten up by some former Confederate soldiers, William refuses to help him. Looks like he's finally had of enough of this jerk-o! Instead, Billy boy runs off with Dolores, who is following the inner voice of Arnold toward the maze.
Speaking of that voice! Dolores also knows how to hide its presence from Ford, since she calmly tells him that she hasn't heard from Arnold since he killed himself over thirty years ago. When Ford leaves, she tells the empty room that she didn't spill the beans...meaning she reassures whatever part of Arnold is rattling around inside her motherboard. That free will also helps Dolores shoot her way toward the train that speeds her and William to their next adventure. She's tired of being the damsel, she says. And how!
Meanwhile, Ford has a direct encounter with the Gunslinger, and they have a cryptic conversation about (1) the maze; (2) how the Gunslinger has been trying to bring a grandly villainous presence to the park; and (3) that he thinks there's a deep meaning waiting at the center of this whole affair. I'd suggest that Ford is losing control, given the Gunslinger's attitude AND Dolores's deception, but we've seen his omnipotence too many times for me to dismiss him.
And from omnipotence we move to omniscience, since somebody is trying to steal knowledge from the park by implanting satellite transmitters into the hosts. Elsie finds one in the host that bashed his head in with that rock, and she is pissed!
She'll probably be pissed, too, to find out that some random repairman has been futzing around with coding and has learned how to control a robot bird. But that repairman -- whose name is Felix -- has bigger problems than Elsie's wrath. Because you see, when he reanimates the bird, he's also got Maeve on his table for some repairs.
Who then wakes up and gets the bird to land on her finger. And then she calls Felix by name. And then she says they need to talk. When he hears this, Felix is like...
All that would be enough to make a satisfying episode. But instead, everything I just described takes place in a sea of nudity. You guys, it's SO MUCH NUDITY.
I realize that a prude never thinks he's a prude, but I really don't believe I'm a prude. If you've listened to some of the personal stories I've told on Extra Hot Great, I feel you can agree. Yet even I got tired of seeing all the breasts and pubic hair and semi-hard penises on display. It's just distracting! And it doesn't serve any of this show's hundred storylines.
For example: just before she learns about the satellite trackers, Elsie is trying to train a host to pour drinks, and he's just swinging in the wind. And we get a long, lingering closeup on his johnson. Yay for nudity equality? But also: why? I understand that when they're underground, the hosts don't have be dressed, since they're just machines. But let's be honest. These actors are real people, and seeing them naked in this way is meant to give us a prurient jolt, not advance the story.
"But it's HBO!" you might say. "Of course they're going to show you fleshy bits!" I know. I know. But there's still such a thing as too much. Because remember the orgy William won't participate in? It's happening in thus huge sex palace, where there are just naked people everywhere. I saw so much flesh that I started wondering what these actors were thinking as they filmed these scenes. Were they trying to convince themselves they were keeping it classy? Were they realizing that this parody was now their reality? And were there, like, fifty-five robes waiting just off camera for when they got cold?
For me, this is the first time Westworld has felt cheap. The show's previous uses of nudity have been sparing enough that they often felt meaningful -- like when Maeve was naked while she tried to run away from the repairmen, thus underscoring her vulnerability and fear. This time, though, it seemed like an ocean of body parts was being poured out my screen. The show needs to dam that mess up, lest it become ludicrous.