Some critics might denounce the unavoidable presence of Westworld theories on the internet. But to do that would be to ignore (or to sit constipatedly with) one of the main elements of the show: On Westworld, the timeline, along with the memories of our main characters, is completely screwed up. We don’t have any other choice but to try to piece together the small fragments of information we’re given to construct our own working theory of what Westworld is, and used to be before now.
The title of the fourth episode, “Dissonance Theory,” could allude to cognitive dissonance theory, the psychological term that describes the discomfort that arises when an individual holds two conflicting attitudes or beliefs, and the need to ease this discomfort by eliminating one of them. And in the episode, we see our characters—mainly Maeve and Dolores—struggle with the discomfort of remembering things that don’t jibe with their current understanding of their own realities. Also, same for us.
Towards the beginning of the episode, Maeve has flashbacks of previous park deaths, of being shot in the stomach and of being collected by a man in a hazmat suit. After some kind of panic attack in the saloon, she runs home and draws an approximation of the hazmat man, only to find that she has done this many times before—today isn’t the first time she’s had that memory.
She later discovers that the native population also sees this image of hazmat man, and has elevated it to the status of a god. Hector explains the hazmat man is a “shade” who “walks between worlds... who is sent from Hell to oversee our world.” In a way, of course, that’s exactly right. This is likely a narrative trick to ensure the androids don’t question the image too much, but it means that memory wipes have been sloppy enough—unintentionally or not—to make an entire subculture see it.
“It’s a blessing from God,” Hector says, “to see the masters that pull your strings.”
Maeve replies, “They don’t know what they’re talking about.”
Hector sexually dislodges the buried bullet from Maeve’s abdomen, and Maeve comes to the conclusion that she’s not crazy, and because she’s died before, nothing matters.
When we meet Dolores, she is in one of her interviews with Bernard, during which she is overcome with emotion for her parents’ death, even while in analysis mode. When Bernard asks if she’d like him to get rid of those painful memories, she responds identically to Bernard when he was asked the same question about his son the episode before: “Why would I want that?” she says, “The pain, their loss, it’s all I have left of them.”
Ultimately, Bernard instructs Dolores to begin to solve a game called the Maze—the same one the Man in Black is working on—the solving of which might allow her, per Bernard, to be free. (Of course, this begs the question: what might be at the end of the Arnold-designed maze that would allow such a thing? Realized consciousness? Death? A nice human bod to inhabit?) So she embarks on her mission, somehow immediately back with William and Logan on a bounty hunt (how does she seamlessly get back from her meeting with Bernard?), eventually making her way to Las Mudas, where the Man in Black received directions to the Maze from Lawrence’s daughter.
Dolores also meets Lawrence’s daughter, in what seems to be the most clue-packed flashback of the episode. We learn the girl, who is drawing the Maze in the dirt, and Dolores are from the same town with a white steepled church; Dolores walks into the church; the girl wears a pink dress; Dolores holds a gun; Dolores digs up what appears to be her own grave (the image above).
And so it appears that these android awakenings have seemingly happened before, or come very, very close to happening, and have been squashed by Delos, or Robert Ford, or some other entity. The other main question that remains after the episode (other than every question) is in what order are these scenes happening? And who is encouraging an android awakening, and who is stifling it?
Other things we learned:
- Backstory of that Charlize Theron-esque snake lady and her connection to Wyatt.
- Logan’s family owns stock in the park, and it seems sinister.
- The Man in Black is the head of a foundation.
- Robert Ford is breaking ground on some kind of creepy world expansion, and can control the androids like marionettes.
- Hector is a fun and cute outlaw.
- Teddy is alive and strung up on a tree! And maybe in some kind of pre-written plot line!