deadbridge

Twitter discussion about drafting sent me to the keyboard to write about some Limited options I would love to see on Magic Online.

Flashback Drafts are starting to feel a little like getting the gift of socks. I am happy to get socks over the holidays. I need socks. I like comfortable socks and warm feet. Who am I to complain about getting socks? Yet… socks would not be the top of my list to grown-up Santa. The same is true for Flashback drafts. I want something…else.

It all started with a tweet from Lee Sharp. He was musing about what would happen to the Time Spiral draft block if you simply removed a problem card from the format. Sprout Swarm was one of those Mythic Commons that completely dominates a game in a way that commons just should not be able to do. It is on a list of Limited public enemies that includes Empryial Armor, Sparksmith, and (the original) Rolling Thunder.

Responses ranged from very cautious support to #HanShotFirst hashtags. My suggestion was to just bump it to uncommon. Playing with Sprout Swarm is essential to the nostalgia for that block but maybe playing against it a little less frequently would be a good thing. This led to former Limited Resources co-host Brian Wong wondering about what other minor tweaks could be made to fix draft formats.

After a little back and forth on this topic Eric Klug chimed in. Instead of the Flashback drafts on Magic Online he would like to see resources committed to something I have advocated for in the past — Wacky Drafts.

Wacky Drafts

Sometimes known as Chaos Drafts, players in a Wacky Draft have no idea what packs they are going to be drafting when they sit down at the table. There is a lot of excitement about what packs you might get to open — there are usually some Modern Masters packs sprinkled into the assortment. Once you get your packs, your mind races to think about what fiendish creations you can assemble across your three first picks.

There can be as many as 24 different sets opened up at the table with each player getting a completely different random assortment of 3 packs. They are a public event favorite at Grand Prix and conventions and I know I would play them all the time if they were a play option on Magic Online.

The discussion got me to thinking about what other Limited formats I would like to see on Magic Online for the holidays.

Frankenstein Flashbacks

Instead of just drafting previous blocks, cobble together three sets with a thematic, mechanical, or tribal connection and draft them. I suggested as an example — with not much thought — an artifact themed draft format.

It would be fun to find new interactions between cards and to tie tribal synergies across three different sets. You could have a Sliver format. Richie Scott suggested the Rebel Yell draft format on FB with Time Spriral, Mercadian Masques, and Planar Chaos. Kenyon Colloran suggested a format with M13, Innistrad, and Shadows over Innistrad for a spells REAAAALLY matter format.

Frankenstein Flashback is a Magic format that could be crowdsourced and debated before it goes live. In an ideal world, with unlimited resources, this would be something you could hand pick and host for yourself and 7 other people that you engage to play with you.

What three sets would you most want to draft? Something I had not considered when I posted the original tweet was that you don’t need it to be three different sets. It could just as easily be AAA-AAA-BBB as AAA-BBB-CCC.

Minimaster

In the old days of Magic Minimaster was a winner-take-all format. The tournament needed to be 16, 32 or 64 players (although you could continue upward to 128, 256 etc). Each player would get one booster pack, two of each basic land. From there you would shuffle up and play. The winner would take the loser’s cards and add them to their card pool to rebuild for the next round. In a 5 round minimaster you would end up with the contents of 16 packs to build your deck for the finals.

In the kinder, gentler era of modern Magic you get to keep all your cards when you play Minimaster. You start with one pack and then each time you win you get to add another pack to your card pool. Another very popular option from the side event area at Grand Prix; it is not uncommon for the format to be played by hundreds of people at once as a special event on Friday before a Grand Prix. It would be a quick, fun way to play Magic Online — without any need for deckbuilding for the first round. Assuming there were enough people playing it would be perfect for League play too. You would just need to be paired against someone with the same size card pool as you and rebuild after each win.

Armchair Quarterback Drafts

For the better part of the past decade you have been able to sit yourself down and look over the shoulders of Pro Tour competitors and see what they took when faced with drafting at the highest level of competition. The Draft Viewer features a stacked draft table at the start of each day of Pro Tour competition and shows you every pick of every pack.

How cool would it be to sit down in the same seat as a Hall of Famer, Draft Master, or Pro Tour Champion and see what you would do in their place?

For almost as long as we have had the Draft Viewer I have wanted to have the opportunity to sit down and actually draft those same packs. Ben Stark loves to tease Conley Woods and Luis Scott-Vargas about their drafts at Pro Tour Philadelphia. I know I would enjoy a stream with Stark sitting in one of their seats and putting his money where his mouth is.

Wouldn’t you like to see the Butterfly Effect across multiple drafts? Drafts happen and they go away with little examination of what could have happened differently. I want to see what the distribution of color pairs looks like based on different first picks that players make across multiple iterations of those same packs.

Yuuya Watanabe has taken a lot of guff for his Deadbridge Shaman pick at the 2015 World Championship. Wouldn’t you love to see what the decks look like if those first picks in his seat start out differently? What happens in that World Championship draft if Yuuya Watanabe take Cruel Revival over Deadbridge Shaman? What if Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa took Whirler Rogue over Outland Colossus?

I want to see the results of those same packs being drafted many times over. Is there a consensus best deck that wins from a specific seat more often than others? Are there decks that consistently form around certain cards regardless of which seat they end up in? We never get to see drafts get iterated and I would love to find this feature under my non-denominational holiday plant next Winter solstice.

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Westworld-the-bicameral-mind

[For Westworld‘s “The Bicameral Mind” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]

HBO Summary:
Ford unveils his bold, new narrative; Dolores embraces her identity, Maeve sets her plan in motion.

If you’ve read some of the articles out there, perhaps in Vanity Fair or on Vulture.com, you likely had specific questions for this episode. Is the Man in Black actually William? How many timelines are there, anyway? We brought these inquiries to the season finale of Westworld, “The Bicameral Mind” along with a few others. Luckily, they were mostly answered and the finale was gripping even if it was also pretty darn dark.

The episode opens as Arnold welcomes Dolores into the world for the first time. She’s wearing only part of her skin at this point and it’s reminiscent of “Ex Machina”, which we think is on purpose. Foreshadowing. “Ex Machina” is about a brilliant man-of-science who makes a robot that’s virtually indistinguishable from a human. It doesn’t end well for that man or likely for mankind in general.

Robert Ford tells everyone throughout season one of Westworld that destruction is an essential element of being human. In fact, he says Westworld only exists because humans already destroyed everything else on the planet. The park gives humans a much-needed playground to wreak havoc to their hearts delight. Thus, in the world of artificial intelligence, to create a human is to create destruction. A creator of AI has truly “succeeded” at re-making humanity when they’ve created a killer.

This appears to be Ford’s vision, though not necessarily Arnold’s. Arnold seems to care more about what’s happening inside his hosts. He doesn’t like for them to suffer. The fact that they may develop consciousness terrifies him because it means they truly feel and understand their own suffering. Ford, on the other hand, cares about the outer world and consequences more. He’s a bottom line kinda guy.

There’s a lot of talk in Westworld about the gods of this world, ownership, and control. The story revolves around power for many of the characters; especially The Man in Black, Maeve, Dolores, Arnold, Charlotte, and Ford. In fact, this power-hungry-control-freak list points out our favorite thing about Westworld. It’s gender-balanced. Also, nobody is better or worse than anybody else when it comes to winning and losing. Those who think they’re superior usually pay a steep price soon after their declaration of it. The show keeps reminding us that all this comes and goes; including power and control. It’s a swiftly changing world and thus staying on top is temporary.

One poignant question the finale explains is that brutal beatdown at Escalante where seemingly everybody dies. We’ve seen it referenced many times in the season. Dolores hovers on the outskirts while Teddy and Wyatt kill every single person in town. This is what we’ve always seen. It’s a massacre. “The Bicameral Mind” reveals, however, that Dolores isn’t on the outskirts at all. In fact, she’s the whole shebang. The entire Escalante event was manufactured by Arnold, though. After he put Dolores through the maze of his creation, she did indeed find consciousness. Thus Arnold knew she could truly suffer. That means the other hosts would soon follow the same course and develop consciousness.

To put conscious beings who suffer and are aware of their suffering in a playground made to torture and destroy them is cruel, Arnold concludes. He enters a shame spiral and wants to die. Arnold was the agent of this cruelty, so he feels guilty. This is why he wants to end all the host suffering as well as his own. That means he needs to kill all the hosts. Then they won’t suffer. So, Arnold uses Dolores as his agent for this – thus the Escalante massacre. This story arc also reveals one of the many gender swaps Westworld employs, it turns out Wyatt is simply Dolores. In fact, just a small part of her is Wyatt. She’s THAT powerful.

Meanwhile The Man in Black continues to think he’s all that matters. He informs Dolores that she should be heartbroken because it turns out he’s her beloved, William all grown up. Thus nobody is coming to save her after all. Sure, it smarts a bit, but Dolores gets over it pronto. You know why? Because, just like with everything else in Westworld, William/The Man in Black isn’t as significant as he believes. Sure he owns the park on paper. He’s got the most shares and is the most powerful board member. But just like all those shareholders who “own” things like energy futures… it’s a willow wisp sort of ownership. He actually has very little power and control beyond what the game allows.

This lack of significance hammers The Man in Black throughout the season when he’s constantly told, “The maze isn’t for you”. It’s really not. The maze is for the hosts. It’s an inner journey to their consciousness. The Man in Black is only capable of surface BS games. He only understands what he can see and kill and dominate – things outside himself. This is why there are never any real stakes for him in Westworld… at least not until the end of the finale, anyway. The very source of his frustration is the thing he refuses to face. After all, The Man in Black is just human – a stubborn, unchangeable human.

Meanwhile the changeable and non-human host, Maeve, has the control panel to the park security system and her troops in line. She’s ready to roll. The plan goes into action when Armistice bites the finger off the technician who works on her face. Armistice is that badass bandit who tattoos a red snake all over her body using the blood of her enemies for the ink. She beats him and throws her now-nine-fingered technician through a glass wall.

Then, in our favorite gender flip of the season, it’s Armistice who comes to Hector’s rescue. At the crucial moment when another technician is about to sexually assault Hector, Armistice bursts in to save him. Maeve joins them afterward and the trio confront Maeve’s favorite technicians, Sylvester and Felix. With help from Armistice’s rough manhandling, they get Sylvester to admit somebody knows about their plan, it’s someone with an access code called “Arnold”.

In Ford’s new narrative we see Teddy save Dolores from The Man in Black. He plays hero and finally takes her to where the mountains meet the sea. Teddy made this promise a million times but never kept until now. The old story ends then, like all tragic romances, as Dolores dies in Teddy’s arms. Sunlight glistens on the water behind them as the day ends in a gorgeous sunset. The music swells to a tearful crescendo. Teddy declares that maybe this is somehow actually a new beginning. Ford has thus introduced his new narrative. His new beginning comes right at the old narrative’s tragic climax. So, Ford points out the nature of life as an eternal loop yet again. He then instructs technicians to clean up Teddy and take Dolores to the “old field lab”. Her work has just begun.

Meanwhile Maeve and her team encounter Bernard in the back warehouse and she has Felix fix him. He did indeed shoot himself, as Ford had instructed. But Felix tinkers around and brings Bernard back online. Maeve then asks Bernard to remove the memories of her daughter but he says he can’t because they’re part of her consciousness now and to destroy them is to destroy a critical part of her structure. She can’t learn from her mistakes if she can’t remember them, he explains.

Maeve then asks Bernard who altered her code under the name “Arnold” and he points out that her escape plan was programmed to happen. It’s all right there on the control panel for her to see. She’s still being controlled. Maeve calls BS, though, and says it’s she who’s in control. Nobody else. It’s a human trait, this stubborn refusal to see the facts right before her. Maeve attempts to deny her humanity at every turn but she’s certainly the most human host in Westworld.

Then there’s a system breakdown in the back lab. A red light pulses in the otherwise pitch dark space. An alarm sounds continually. Maeve and her team are undeterred by it, though. They continue their escape plan and Felix follows along like a puppy-in-love. Hector and Armistice battle their way out with ease. Guns blazing and witty remarks flying, they even seem to have fun with it. The duo done this sort of thing a zillion times.

But then Armistice gets her arm caught in a hardcore computerized security door. She’s trapped. Hector helps Maeve and Felix get to their escape elevator, though. When Maeve gets into the elevator, ready to leave for good, she bids Hector farewell and tells him he can’t come with her. Maeve has always valued her independence, she explains. So, Hector says, “See you in the next life,” and the doors close on him. She’s on her way.

Next Ford explains the whole story to Bernard and Dolores in the old field lab. Arnold made Dolores conscious by running her through the maze. It was a technical success but then he didn’t want to torture the hosts with consciousness and reverie. Arnold knew that after the Escalante massacre, Ford could just bring all of the hosts back. But he couldn’t bring back his beloved human partner. So Arnold had Dolores shoot him along with Teddy and herself. They’d also merged Dolores with a new character named Wyatt, Ford continues to explain. So, now Dolores and Bernard understand the scope of their adventure. All those wiped memories are now conscious for them.

After his explanation, Ford hands a child’s maze game that’s exactly the Westworld maze emblem to Bernard. He says he knows how to save Bernard, something even Arnold couldn’t do. It turns out Ford learned about the horrors of the hosts having consciousness soon after Arnold’s death. In fact, it was the suffering he endured at the loss of his beloved Arnold that taught him this. Ford tells Bernard he knows how to save him from this place but that, unfortunately, he’ll have to suffer more first. Then Ford also gives Dolores the gun she used in the Escalante massacre. It’s an old times sake, Wizard-handing-out-goody-bags-at-Oz kinda dynamic. You had the maze inside you the whole time!

One of the things Ford tells Bernard and Dolores during this long explanatory session is that the park probably should have fallen apart with Escalante. In fact, it likely would have except that Dolores had just hooked William into his Westworld obsession at that point. William thus invested all his company’s money into owning and rebuilding the park. Then years later he came back to search for the center of the maze like an addict seeking a fix. If William hadn’t done that, Ford presumes, it might not have been possible to rebuild the entire park from scratch as they did after the Escalante massacre.

This explains why The Man in Black has such a strong sense of entitlement and ownership over the park. But truth is that he’s more like a sperm donor with hundreds of biological children than he is a true father to Westworld. Yes, he played a crucial role and it might not exist without him. But that doesn’t mean everything in the park is about him or owes him anything. In fact, he’s rather insignificant in the overall Westworld picture now. Like they all keep telling him, “The maze wasn’t meant for you”. Fact is, he’s just a guest that spent more money at a critical time.

Maeve rides the exit elevator with Felix. He found where her daughter lives now in Westworld and hands her the info on a slip of paper. But Maeve says that little girl never really was her daughter anyway. Just like she never was whatever they made her to be. If that’s so, what does Maeve think she is? A blank slate? She continues out of the park with a determined look on her face. Before she goes, Maeve tells Felix he makes a terrible human being and that she means it as a compliment.

But, honestly, Felix is 100% human. He’s just a particularly loving and empathetic human being. That’s as human as any of the violent and cruel people Maeve has met before. In fact, many would call those vicious types animals and people like Felix the more truly human. It’s just Maeve’s unlucky circumstance that most humans with empathy and love as peak traits don’t likely visit Westworld. So, Maeve is unfamiliar with them. To her Felix is an anomaly.

She sits on a train that’s headed out of Westworld awhile. As she waits for the train to leave, Maeve sees a mother and daughter in the seat across from her. This touches something in her and she gets off the train to go back into the station. Maeve’s about the re-enter the park but then everything at Westworld shuts down. She’s stuck in the station – just outside. Maeve’s got the piece of paper with her daughter’s location in her hand and she’s looking at the entrance but there’s no way inside while it’s shut down. We then see that Westworld is shutting down bit by bit. The warehouse of zombie hosts is empty. Where are they now?

Next, in a familiar scene that takes place in every episode of Westworld, we see Bernard interview Dolores yet again. But then it turns out Bernard isn’t really with her at all. He appeared to be facing across from her in a duplicate chair. But, in fact, the voice she’s been hearing all this time wasn’t Bernard, nor Arnold. It wasn’t even Ford. Dolores has just been talking to herself all along. She sees herself in the chair and realizes the only voice in her head is her own. This is self consciousness. It’s a journey inward, after all. So, all those times Dolores thought she was listening to Arnold she was actually just being conscious and hearing her own inner dialogue. This is what the phrase “The Bicameral Mind” means. It’s a psychological theory about our voice in our head.

This brings us to the final scene. Ford gives a speech at the gala. The Man in Black is there along with the rest of the Westworld board and employees. He talks about storytelling and becoming who we dream to be. Ford calls Westworld a prison of our own sins, speaking of humans. He says humans can’t change. Ford explains that he realized someone was watching all along who was capable of change, though. So, he wrote a new story for them. His new narrative “…begins in a time of war, with a villain named Wyatt and a killing. This time by choice,” Ford says.

Then Dolores joins the gala with the gun Ford gave her from the Escalante massacre behind her back. She’s in the blue dress of yore and walks up behind Ford who’s still speaking to the gala attendees. Without hesitation or comment, Dolores shoots Ford in the back of the head. Then the zombie hosts arise out of the woods and start killing guests, just as Dolores does. She’s a crackerjack shot, remember? Humans are falling to the ground. It’s another massacre. The Man in Black smiles, seemingly delighted, when he gets shot. Finally something is real in Westworld. Of course… he might also die as a result. So, the rules have changed now. Suddenly everything is at stake just as the story ends.

After the credits roll we get a quick glimpse of Armistice cutting her arm out of the door where she’s been stuck. She smiles and begins to fight again. The battle wages on, a war just like Ford said.

In the end we’re drawn back to thinking about Maeve. The most human of hosts, she asked Bernard to remove her daughter’s memories right before exiting the park. He wouldn’t do it, though. He said memories are a crucial part of her structure and how could she learn from her mistakes without memories? It’s the memory of her daughter that brings Maeve back into Westworld. So, was leaving a mistake?

The fact that this was her final choice of the season makes Maeve, yet again, the most human of hosts. It also points to her as one of those Ford was talking about when he said, “Some are capable of change”. In fact, she is perhaps the most changed of all the characters on the show. Even if she is right back where she started in her return to Westworld, Maeve’s also a whole new character now. Just like in Ford’s narrative, the show ends with a new beginning. But the beginning of what? We can’t wait until season two to find out.

Katherine Recap

Invasion!

[For Arrow 100, “Invasion!” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]

The CW Summary:
“Invasion!” Oliver Queen wakes up to a life where he never got on The Queen’s Gambit.

The 100th Episode of Arrow was many things: Part homage, part heartstring-tugging spectacle, part nostalgia piece… But most of all, center episode of the “Invasion!” crossover.

At the end of the opening “Invasion!” episode of The Flash, we saw five human heroes teleported onto a Dominator alien ship. The five heroes — Arrow, Speedy, Atom, White Canary, and Spartan — spend Arrow 100 sharing a collective dream, plugged into a Dominator computer.

“For the Man Who Has Everything”

The shared dream sees Oliver Queen on the eve of his wedding to — you guessed it — Dinah Laurel Lance. The resplendent Laurel is alive and well in the dream, as are both of Ollie’s parents. Noteworthy to this dream is that everyone is proud of the man Ollie has become (even Captain Lance). Oliver’s dad is about to become the mayor of the city. He asks Ollie to take over as CEO of Queen Consolidated, lest the board support a buyout from one Ray Palmer.

It seems like Ollie has everything a boy billionaire could want: A beautiful Laurel. The love of his family. A CEO job waiting. “You have everything. Stop trying to throw it all away.”

Arrow 100 is a light homage to Alan Moore’s great “For the Man Who Has Everything” (incidentally BDM‘s favorite Superman story of all time). Superman — who dreams of living a very different life on an unexploded Krypton in the Moore story — is Ollie here. But the whole thing is a lie. The Dominators want to present a perfect life to the five non-metahumans to keep them docile in the ship; very The Matrix, even.

When Ollie and Dig first show signs of freedom and recognition, the dreamscape fights back. Deathstroke — fully masked and certainly not Manu Bennett — bursts onto the scene and attacks them with swords. Ollie and Dig hold him off admirably (given it’s fists-against-falchion) until Sara disarms Deathstroke from offscreen and stabs him to death.

This prompted some discussion on Twitter.


I think it’s obvious that White Canary — even promoted to her starring role on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow — is not realistically a match for Deathstroke. This was dream-Deathstroke, and not even Manu Bennett! We actually know how a Sara-versus-Slade confrontation would go (Sara onced jumped Deathstroke and was tossed aside effortlessly).

The Fight

The trio gather Ray, but initially fail to recruit Thea to leave the dream. What’s so great about the real world, she perhaps rightly asks. Maybe, speculates Thea, this dream where Laurel and their parents are still alive, and the Queens are still billionaires, is Ollie’s reward for all the sacrifices he’s made.

Except Ollie didn’t make any of those sacrifices for a reward. He did it all because it was right.

Ollie &co. move to leave the Queen wedding compound but are confronted by the Big Bads of the previous seasons. Malcom Merlyn. Deathstroke. Damian Darkh. (and some randos) Conspicuous by his absence: Ra’s al Ghul.

Thea has a change of heart and engages dear old dad.

Sara pairs off against Darkh this time, avenging a sister still alive in the dreamworld.

Ollie gets Deathstroke.

The fight scene is pretty great. Thea kills her dream-dad with a sword and takes his bow, shooting an arrow at Sara. Sara catches the arrow out of the air and uses it to stab Darkh. Ollie finishes the fight with the bow, which he uses to finish off Deathstroke. (Ray and Dig kill the randos with some guns. Whatevs.)

WHO’D WIN?

Could Sara have beaten Deathstroke? To be fair, it was three-on-one (one of whom was Ollie). Ollie could not only beat Deathstroke, but Year Minus Three Ollie on Lian Yu killed a Mirakuru-powered Deathstroke, cleanly. Why does Deathstroke only have one eye? Ollie stabbed him “to death” through the other one. Ollie of course completed Season Two with a very pyrrhic win over Slade with another clean win. But Sara? Probably not.

Could Speedy have beaten Merlyn? While it is possible that Merlyn would “let” his daughter win, I don’t think that dream-Malcolm not throwing a death match would likely lose to Speedy. Merlyn is sub-Ollie, but still ascended to Ra’s al Ghul. Remember, Nyssa was not considered his equal (Ollie had to fight Merlyn in her place, taking Merlyn’s hand). Unless you think Thea is substantially more dangerous than Nyssa, this win is equally the product of a dream as Sara killing Deathstroke.

Could Sara have beaten Darkh? I think so. Regular Darkh (i.e. not Diviner Darkh) was “just” an assassin (not the equal to Merlyn); same as Sara. Sara is depicted as having grown through her many trials, while Darkh is depicted as increasingly reliant on magic or powerful allies like Reverse Flash.

Could Ollie have beaten Deathstroke? Sure. Especially in the dreamworld.

The heroes escape the Dominators’ dream, stealing an alien spaceship. They are persued by dozens of others, but are saved at the last minute by the Waverider, leading into the “Invasion!” conclusion on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.

Until tomorrow.

To be continued…

LOVE
MIKE

Hall of Justice from "Invasion!"

[For The Flash‘s “Invasion!” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]

The CW Summary:
When aliens attack, Barry seeks help from Green Arrow, the Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl.

Cold Open

In an “Invasion!” opening flash*-forward we see Barry and Ollie up shit creek. Ollie refers to Barry as “team leader” just as a burst of Kryptonian heat vision rips through the wall they are hiding behind. The founding pair of the Arrowverse come around to face their foes… Starting with Speedy (!!!)

The “Invasion!” cold open ends with Thea Queen in her full red Speedy armor, Spartan, Heatwave, White Canary,Firestorm, the Atom and Supergirl in badass poses facing off against the fastest man alive + a guy with a bow and arrow.

Ten Hours Earlier…

At S.T.A.R. Labs a concerned Team Flash is measuring Wally West, who has only recently obtained Flash-like speed. Apparently everything is coming up Piznarski for Wally, but Iris begs Team Flash to discourage him from training or using his speed.

A “meteor” plummets towards downtown Central City, prompting Barry to investigate… but it turns out to be an alien spaceship instead. Scary alien monsters swarm out and knock down Barry (but don’t kill him or anything)

The government attempts to cover up the alien ship crash as a routine experiment. Lyla Michaels (aka Mrs. Diggle, aka Amanda Waller version 2.0) is on the scene and suggests the President take this more seriously. She is rebuffed by government “big guns” … But Barry, still there in Flash mode from the previous night, will listen.

At S.T.A.R. Labs Lyla informs Team Flash about the aliens — the Dominators. Four ships are coming, not just the one. Lyla says that the United Nations is coordinating a response, but Barry points out that they won’t be able to stop the Dominators if it comes to it. The Argus director retorts that neither will Barry.

Not alone anyway!

Barry gets a little help from his friends…

Barry recruits Arrow, Diggle, Thea, and Felicity from Star City. Thea comes out of retirement, because aliens. Felicity leaves some kind of time message for the Legends. All of them meet up at “a hangar” that Barry owns (pictured above). Recognize it from anywhere?

Hall of Justice from Young Justice

There are countless wide open plot holes in “Invasion!” so far but my God there is nothing as great as Team Arrow, Team Flash, the Legends of Tomorrow, and a dimensionally-displaced Supergirl meeting at the Hall of g-d Justice. The next episode could be an “it was all a dream” cop-out and ten-year-old michaelj wouldn’t care. He would love it Love It LOVE IT anyway.

Per BDM‘s recap of “Medusa” Barry and Vibe bring Supergirl back from last night’s episode and the team-up proper begins.

Ollie defers to Barry as team leader; Supergirl plays resident training alien, to the dismay (and bruises) of the assembled other-heroes.

Key “Invasion!” plot developments:

  1. The Dominators capture and apparently kill the President. Their goal, though, seems to be to take mental control of our heroes.
  2. The Firestorm duo reveals the recording Barry sent from forty years in the future on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. In the recording future-Barry warns Rip and crew that he can’t be trusted, presumably due to his Flashpoint screwup. When Dig finds out that Baby John used to be Baby Sara, Caitlin is maybe Killer Frost, and Cisco’s brother is now dead, everyone is upset with Barry. Oliver says he will stick by Barry, which ends up separating Arrow and Flash from the rest of the heroes when they go to rescue the President.
  3. Heroes versus heroes! The Dominators mind control the non-Arrow / non-Flash good guys with some kind of alien gem. All heck breaks loose at S.T.A.R. Labs. Wally very briefly bursts in to save the day (before being punked by Supergirl).

In addition to these three crossover points, I found it interesting the DC’s Legends of Tomorrow team would choose to make two of their show’s big reveals on The Flash. Not only did we find out what happened on future-Barry’s recording during “Invasion!” but we found out about the mystery brunette that has been giving Professor Stein headaches… It’s a daughter he apparently didn’t have pre-Flashpoint.

Head Scratchers:

Keeping in mind that there is almost nothing that would quench the raging inferno of my love for this superhero crossover, here are three things from “Invasion!” that made no sense to me:

As far as I can tell, the point of this episode (from the Dominators’ side) was to mind control the powerful Earth superheroes. It is consequently maddening that they would leave their mind control gem unguarded. For that matter, why wouldn’t they have used the mind controlled heroes for something more interesting than just attacking the not-yet-mind-controlled ones? Barry has to out-speed and outwit Supergirl to break the mind control gem, but it is inexplicable to me that he would have had the opportunity against a strategically thoughtful foe.

Supergirl says she has heard about the Dominators. They came to her world before she was born and killed a lot of people. I found this a bit off considering she is from Earth-38. Is she saying that there are parallel Dominators in her universe? Implying Earth-1 Dominators breached their way to Earth-38?

White Canary claims that Nate and Vixen have stayed behind to guard the Legends’ time ship, calling them “rookies”. Doesn’t Vixen presumably have years of superhero experience, seeing that she was an actually trained agent in the J.S.A. prior to stowing away with the Legends of Tomorrow? Maybe they’ll reappear Thursday night or so.

These things did make sense:

  • Upon learning that boy billionaire / Star City mayor Oliver Queen is the Green Arrow, Iris declares him “even hotter”.
  • White Canary expresses similar admiration for “skirt” Supergirl, as she repeatedly lays out the Earth-1 heroes in training.

“Invasion!” ends with Barry alone in the rain, as the briefly-foiled Dominators teleport all nearby superheroes off the Hall of Justice S.T.A.R. Labs tarmac.

To be continued…

LOVE
MIKE

* See what I did there?

supergirl-invasion

[For Supergirl‘s “Medusa” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]

The CW Summary:
A superhero crossover event begins with Barry Allen and Cisco Ramon from The Flash seeking Kara’s help with an alien invasion; at the same time, Eliza comes to town to celebrate Thanksgiving with her daughters, which seems like the perfect opportunity for Alex to come out to her mother. Meanwhile, Winn and James consider telling Kara the truth about the Guardian; and Kara wants to team up with Lena Luthor to combat a deadly virus unleashed by CADMUS.

I love a crossover…

When I think back to my earliest memories of reading comics at sleep-away camp I can still envision the cover of Justice League of America #107. It was “Crisis on Earth-X” and featured a world where Golden Age characters banded together as a resistance force against the Nazis, who had won WWII. I never read Justice League of America regularly (not until the Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire run) but I would go out of my way to find all the different “Crisis” issues where the characters crossed over between worlds to fight a common enemy.

Justice League of America 107
Justice League of America #107

Supergirl kicked off the first of four parts of a crossover for the CW last night. I have to admit I felt a little cheated. It was very reminiscent of buying the first part of a major story arc only to have it briefly introduced in the last panels of the comic. They teased the crossover as all the main characters — plus original Supergirl actress Helen Slater as Eliza Danvers, Kara’s Earth-mom — gathered for Thanksgiving dinner.

Fans of The Flash surely recognized a brief breach bursting open over the dining room table, interrupting a nervous Alex Danvers’ big coming out moment with her Mom and friends. (That talk would have to wait until later. But don’t worry, Eliza already kinda knew what was up based on Alex’s non-stop Maggie Sawyer-talk and was totally supportive of her birth daughter.)

Previously on Supergirl

  • CADMUS is trying to kill aliens.
  • Lex Luthor’s mom Lillian runs CADMUS.
  • CADMUS stole Supergirl’s blood.
  • The real Hank Henshaw is still “alive” and working for CADMUS as Cyborg Superman.
  • Cyborg Superman used Supergirl’s blood to unlock files in the Fortress of Solitude about Project Medusa.
  • J’Onn J’Onzz took a blood transfusion from a white Martian and is in danger of losing himself to their DNA.

Back to our show…

Mon-El is falling hard for Kara, as evidenced by his unwillingness to have meaningless alien sex with a cute alien at the unnamed dive bar frequented by those not of this (that?) Earth. Down the rail he notices Cyborg Superman, who has affixed something under the bar. Assuming it is actually J’Onn J’Onzz, Mon-El chases him down outside the bar. A fight ensues while the device inside the bar releases a gas that kills all the aliens inside.

Mon-El is also affected by the gas and lies near death inside the walls of the DEO. Kara realizes what her blood was used for and flies off to the Fortress of Solitude to assess the damage. There she learns that her birth father built a bio-weapon — codenamed Medusa — alongside the military guilds of Krypton. Medusa will kill anyone with alien DNA. She is devastated but brings the information back to the DEO to devise a cure.

After analyzing data from the Fortress they realize that CADMUS will need to use technology that only L-Corp* possesses. Supergirl saves Lena from an assault by Cyborg Superman (I thought that would get less stupid to type as I went on but alas it does not) and alerts her to her mother’s schemes. Lena turns cold to Supergirl and reaches out to her mother to give her exactly what she needs.

CADMUS loads up a rocket and prepares to wipe out all alien life on Earth. The DEO team tries to intervene. Supergirl chases the rocket. J’Onn transforms into a fearsome white Martian and battles Cyborg Superman. In the end, it turns out that Lena had duped her mother! When the rocket does explode it’s not only harmless to aliens but reverts J’Onn to his good old green Martian self.

Everyone gets to live happily ever after. J’Onn is green again. Alex and Maggie finally kiss. And Mon-El and Kara get back to their Sam and Dianne Ross and Rachel routine. Only then do we finally get a successful breach. Barry “Flash” Allen and Cisco “Vibe” Ramon appear in Kara’s living room to ask her help with an unrevealed threat.

In the epilogue we see the aliens that are implied by the title “Invasion” as they head to Earth. Their goal? Capturing Mon-El.

To Be Continued…

–bdm

* Formerly known as LexCorp but now run by his mysterious adopted sister Lena

The-Well-Tempered-Clavier

[For Westworld‘s “Well-Tempered Clavier” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]

HBO Summary:
Dolores and Bernard reconnect with their pasts. Maeve propositions Hector.

The episode “Well Tempered Clavier” begins as Bernard interviews Maeve about her unscripted events of the day before. Through this, he discovers the changes to her code and nearly calls Ford in before she appeals to him… “man to man or whatever it is we are”. Because of her high intellect, Maeve can control him now. Thus, Bernard returns her to service just as she orders. Maeve gets to him. She understands how depressing it is to realize one’s whole life has been a grand fiction. He’s deeply affected by the conversation, as affected as a man-made entity can be, anyway.

Next we see Dolores with William and Logan. William tells Logan he wants to take Dolores out of the park with him – free her. But she doesn’t get it, “If it’s such a wonderful place out there, why are you all clamoring to get in here?” Logan laughs at this but Dolores is serious. It seems the two shall never meet in mindset. Logan represents the ultimate beast of humanity – all selfish id. While Dolores is the ultimate host, a most convincing machination.

Then Bernard confronts Ford and says he knows Arnold built the most elegant parts of his code. He wants to know more about what Arnold had in mind and demands access to all of his history. That way he can meet Arnold through his memory. Ford says Bernard might not like what he finds in that memory. Bernard doesn’t care. He pulls out a gun and gives it to his freshly “hacked” Clementine. She responds only to Bernard now, he explains, and so will shoot Ford if necessary. Ford then gives Bernard access to his memories. First he’s with his son, next Theresa, and then Bernard remembers killing Elsie.

In the next scene Logan cuts Dolores open so William can see that she’s a robot inside. He thinks this might bring William back to reality and return him to the way he was before – mainly, in love with Logan’s sister. Dolores sees her insides too and gets pissed. She slices Logan’s face and shoots some cowboys; then runs off. Arnold tells her to remember. Dolores heads for the hills.

Then William says he’s over Dolores. He convinces Logan he’s back to his old self. They’re bros again. Logan, thrilled to have his old brother-in-law back, calls what happened between them “bonding”.

Maeve propositions Hector to join her revenge mission. It’s easy. She shows him the safe is empty and grinds his lap near an open flame. That’s all it takes. He agrees to join her. The best part of this scene is when Maeve says that “getting to hell is easy” while they’re surrounded by flames. It’s funny not only because it’s true. The theme of this episode also revolves around trying to return to a past that’s gone forever. Sounds a lot like hell to us. Make a fresh start instead! Seems like Ford’s the only one who gets this. Of course, he also seems like a villain… so, maybe being right isn’t everything.

In the next scene we return to the campfire where the Man in Black and Teddy are bound with ropes. The lady from the side of the road pushes Teddy to remember what happened with Wyatt. She says he doesn’t remember the story quite right. Then she stabs him in the gut and says maybe in the next life he’ll be ready to help Wyatt. The lady bashes the Man in Black’s head against a rock after she repeats the refrain, “The maze isn’t for you,” but does invite him to play a different sort of game. This interaction makes us wonder if maybe the more a host “dies” the better they get at remembering things. Why else does she keep killing Teddy and saying he’s not quite ready yet? Is death for a host like refreshing a web page?

When MIB wakes the next morning, he’s got a noose around his neck that’s tethered to a horse. The horse starts to run and the Man in Black ends up cutting the rope with a knife from his pocket to barely survive. Then Charlotte comes out of nowhere to confront him. She wants his vote on the Westworld Board to push Ford out so that it’s a unanimous decision. Man in Black says fine, no biggie, whatever. He only cares about the maze.

When Logan wakes up the next morning William has gone postal and killed the entire campsite; slashing off limbs with assorted brutal hacks and stabs, it appears. William calmly tells Logan he finally “gets the game”. Now he’s going to find Dolores. A knife to Logan’s throat is all the convincing a douchebag needs to keep mum about it.

At the same time Dolores finds that white chapel outside of Pariah and when she enters, poof! she’s back into her blue dress. Inside the confessional Dolores rides a tiny elevator down into the basement. This appears to be ground zero from the day Arnold died. It’s a medical lab with dead bodies strewn everywhere, seemingly frozen in time from the day they died. Through Dolores’s memories we know this was the original lab where the hosts were made by Arnold and Ford all those years ago.

Meanwhile Bernard comes to the conclusion that his life has virtually no real meaning. His memories tell him this. He realizes the loss of his son is simply a cornerstone. That’s a sad backstory meant to make him more interesting for Westworld purposes. This, he now knows, is why he continually returns to the memory of his son’s death.

So, as an exercise, Bernard makes a final return to that memory and stops the death from happening. He calls the whole thing a lie. When Bernard wakes into his next memory, it’s the day he “came online” for the first time. He’s with Ford and finds out Ford made him in Arnold’s image. Ford created him so that he could have his perfect partner again. Only this time he could control that partner completely. Thus, the theme of not being able to return to the past fleshes out fully here. Even Ford tried to do it. Alas, as a human he makes such mistakes.

Dolores is still in that basement living in her memory. She goes to Arnold for help but soon realizes he’s merely Bernard now. Dolores knows this because it turns out she was the one who killed Arnold. She remembers it now. So, resigned, she takes the confessional elevator back up to the chapel and is about to leave. But then another memory arrives for her. It’s the Man in Black. He’s standing in silhouette at the chapel door. Cliffhanger alert.

Then in the final scene Bernard tells Clementine to shoot Ford but it turns out Ford back doored her code and she won’t shoot him. Ford then orders Bernard to kill himself with the gun instead. As he leaves Ford says to Bernard, “Always remember you can’t trust us. For we’re only human and inevitably will disappoint you”. Then we hear the gunshot off camera. So, because it’s out of sight, it’s possible Bernard still exists. Even if he did shoot himself, he could still come back. Maeve, whose died a million times, could enlist him in her army of revolutionaries.

We don’t know what lies ahead in the finale of Westworld next week. But one thing seems certain, no more going back. One of the things Ford said when he told Bernard to kill himself was, “Let’s put an end to this nightmare once and for all”. Ford wants to forge ahead with a new story. For him the stories are life. He wants a new one. Maeve also wants a new life, and Dolores too. There’s might taste like revenge, sure, but it’s still something new. Even the Man in Black wants a renewal; the discovery of the maze’s end at the very least. Nobody wants to look back anymore. It’s all facing forward from here on. We can’t wait.

Katherine Recap

Westworld-Trace-Decay

[For Westworld‘s “Trace Decay” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]

HBO Summary:
Bernard struggles with a mandate; Maeve attempts to change her script.

As “Trace Decay” opens Ford tells Bernard to be proud of his colorful feelings about killing Theresa. Ford explains that one man’s life or death isn’t signifcant. What matters is the lesson and dominion earned from it. Bernard rages about this and Ford restrains him with his host controls. Ford mentions that Arnold also tried to stop his machinations. Suddenly it seems likely this was actually how Arnold met his untimely end, trying to stop Ford.

Then Ford says Bernard must clean up the murder mess and remove all the evidence he killed Theresa. Ford will reward him by erasing all memory of his love for Theresa and killing her. So, Bernard can be at peace. Ford portrays this as a sublime gift. The idea that it’s best to erase the memory of love and loss is reminscent of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”. There’s no question Ford sees it as a blessing. The real question is whether he’s right.

Maeve struggles with this same concept throughout “Trace Decay”. First, she confronts Felix and Sylvester. Maeve tells them she knows her spine (like all the hosts) is designed to detonate if she ever leaves the Westworld park. Felix and Sylvester must be her allies so she can safely leave the park and write herself a new story. They’ll need to do a full rebiuld on her to fix this. Maeve insists. She’s sick of all the fake stories she’s been “surviving” in her empty, looped life.

Now she’s super intelligent and knows her inside code, even her dormant self. Thus, Maeve asks them about Arnold. He likely lives inside that dormant self, after all. But her cat cronies don’t seem to know who Arnold is. Maeve then explains to the cats that they can open a window for her to slip through during a shift change. It’s such a cat-like escape plan… Sylvester pulls Felix aside to suggest they wipe her clean like a blank slate rather than going along with her plan.

The next time we see them Felix shuts her down, as planned. But instead of wiping Maeve clean like Sylvester wants, he rebuilds her. When Maeve awakens she slashes Sylvester’s throat for his betrayal attempt. But before he truly dies Maeve has Felix seal his neck with a laser torch. So, Sylvester may not be human. Would that fix a human with a severed artery? No. So, either this isn’t really happening (just another Maeve narrative arc) or Sylvester is a host. Maeve doesn’t care much either way because she’s already onto the next step, recruiting her army.

We see Theresa’s corpse on a table. Ford pretends to Stubbs and Charlotte that he doesn’t know how or why Theresa died. Stubbs explains how he found proprietary data on her dead body. He says Theresa likely attempted to transfer it to someone outside the park. This sublime setup clears Bernard of any potential questioning. Ford seems gleeful. Charlotte, on the other hand, pouts.

In a talk with Ford after this Bernard wonders if his feelings are real or not. “What’s the difference between the machine host and a person?” he asks. Ford says there’s no difference. Consciousness is just a construct in both cases. Of course Ford believes this. If he is human Ford’s likely a sociopath, if not a psychopath, so for such a person there would certainly be little difference.

Bernard asks if Ford ever made him hurt someone like this before. Ford says no, of course not. But then we see Bernard’s memory of strangling Elsie. So, Ford’s lying about this. Thing is, that memory should be erased. Bernard’s having reveries he shouldn’t. Does Ford know or care? Whether or not he does, Stubbs is catching on. He later expresses empathy to Bernard about losing Theresa. Then Stubbs registers surprise when Bernard says he barely knew Theresa. Stubbs knows Bernard was intimate with her. So, it’s fishy as eff.

Charlotte visits the writer, Lee Sizemore, and enlists him for a “real job” unlike the busywork he’s doing for Ford. She takes Lee to the zombie host-filled warehouse. Once there, Charlotte uploads a ton of Westworld data into Dolores’s first Dad. Remember him? It was his short-circuit that alerted the scientists to this whole reverie/update issue in the first place. Charlotte tells Lee to write the guy a simple story. She plans to get him on a train and ship him out of the park undetected. Dolores’s Dad will serve as a data mule for corporate.

Speaking of Dolores, she and William encounter a struggling member of the ambush gang and find out that Logan sent the group to kill them. Dolores too, has disturbing reveries and questions what’s real. She’s trapped in bad dreams – memories really. In one such reverie, Dolores nearly kills herself with a gun to her temple and that old blue dress back on her bod. William tries to comfort and save her. As they leave the town that triggers her bad memories they encounter Logan. He’s up on his high horse and ready to take revenge on them.

Meawhile the Man in Black and Teddy ride horses together on a mission to find Wyatt. They “save” a woman on the roadside and she joins them. Then a giant uniformed minotaur man attacks and Teddy takes him down. For some reason this arouses his reveries. Now he remembers MIB’s cruelty to Dolores. So, Teddy hits the Man in Black and says he remembers it all.

Later at the campfire Teddy confronts MIB about it again. The Man in Black describes himself as a god and controller of worlds. He says his wife in the real world killed herself because she knew he was a terrible man hiding behind “good deeds” and philanthropy. So, MIB created a test for himself in Westworld. Did he have it in him to do something truly evil? What was he truly made of? Turns out this “test” was when he killed Maeve and her daughter. But the Man in Black explains that afterward Maeve refused to die and “was truly alive – even if only for a moment. It was a miracle. That was when the maze revealed itself.” The dirt forms a maze around Maeve’s body as she clutches her daughter in grief and death. MIB explains that the maze reveals a deeper game – Arnold’s game.

He says in Ford’s game Teddy can never kill him. Then MIB implies that this rule may not follow in Arnold’s game. This seems to be the ending he seeks. The woman who joined them on the trail confronts the MIB at the campfireside. It appears she’s more than just a helpless victim they found aside the road. She jabs an arrow deep into Teddy’s shoulder; killing him, and tells him to return quickly. “Wyatt will need you soon,” she says. Behind her creepy characters emerge from the darkness as a threatening spectre to the Man in Black.

Hector was, of course, Maeve’s first choice recruit for her army. After securing his loyalty with a victory at the saloon, Maeve escapes a standoff right outside. Then we see a tragic scene from Maeve’s past. She loses her daughter and Ford uses “an old trick from an old friend” to take her suffering away. But Maeve asks him to leave it with her. It’s all she has left of her daughter, she explains. Ford erases her memory anyway but right then Maeve kills herself. Is this why she still remembers? Did her rush at death save a remnant of her daughter’s memory? This goes back to the earlier bit Ford said about erasing love and loss. Maeve wants to keep it. She wants to remember her daughter. In this preference, Maeve seems more human than Ford.

– Katherine Recap

Westworld-Tromp-LOiel

[For Westworld‘s “Tromp L’Oiel” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]

HBO Summary:
Dolores and William journey into dangerous terrain; Maeve delivers an ultimatum.

“Tromp L’Oiel” is a perfect title for this episode of Westworld. It refers to the artistic trickery realism sometimes employs. Ever tried to open a window or a door that turns out to be a painting on a wall? If so, that “Tromp L’Oiel” experience probably felt exactly like a day’s work at Westworld. The episode covers such a day where, like in the book Alice in Wonderland Bernard reads to his son, “Everything would be what it isn’t”. In fact, reality’s entirely up for grabs in this episode as three big secret revelations alter our idea of what’s really happening.

In the narrative “park” version of Westworld, Dolores, William, and Lawrence ride a train into dangerous territory. The windows armor down for their protection and Lawrence explains that the train’s their only way safely through the area. But William and Dolores have other priorities; hormones mainly. They want to do it. The duo discuss how they have nothing in common as well as that he’s engaged and will forget Dolores the second she’s out of his sight. So Dolores rushes off in a huff.

William then chases her to give a romantic speech about being truly alive for the first time. Finally, the switch flips at this point and they smooch it up hardcore. The next morning William says Dolores has unlocked something inside him. She replies, “I’m not a key, I’m just me,” which feels so hackneyed it’s likely meant to remind us that these two are just rehashing a tired old script.

Dolores shows William sketches she did overnight of her dream place. It’s where she wants to go; a place she’s only imagined but believes is real. Her illogical explanation then gets interrupted when angry Confederados ambush the train. A fun gunfight, horseback chase, and explosions scene follows and covers lots of cowboy territory. In the end, Native Americans shoot arrows to kill the Confederados. Thus, Dolores, Lawrence and William are now safe from danger.

Conveniently, just as they escape peril, Dolores and William find they stand right near the dream place Dolores sketched. So, of course, that’s where the pair are going next. On the other hand, Lawrence leaves them behind to go fight in the war. Before he goes, though, Lawrence warns them that nobody’s ever returned from where they’re going.

Meanwhile in the backstage version of Westworld Theresa and Bernard remain embattled. This time it’s less about their secret affair and more the bottom line. Charlotte Hale came down on Theresa about all the recent host screw ups. Not because corporate actually cares about the safety issues or ramifications for the guests… but because of their agenda. Charlotte calls this entity “the gods” and says they demand a “blood sacrifice”.

Turns out it was corporate Theresa stole the code for. Because Ford kept it all within the park all these forty years they don’t have dominion over it. They want to force Ford into retirement but retain the code after he’s gone. They assume he won’t retire amicably and thus might erase the code on his way out. So, they’re stealing it as a precautionary measure. This is big secret number one.

Then Charlotte and Theresa do a fake presentation for Ford and Bernard where Clementine gets dangerously violent after not resetting properly. They claim to be convinced that the hosts are developing grudges from those pesky memories they’ve started having since the latest update. The presentation ends as Charlotte fires Bernard for all this. Bernard confronts Theresa after the presentation and says he knows that presentation was a total sham. Bernard says he knows she’s been stealing code from the park.

He then tells her about how the hosts are screwy and why – “repetition leads to variation,” which we hope to figure out sometime this century. Bernard explains it as a link between memory and improvisation. Then she tells him of the corporate plan to save the information and get rid of Ford.

Bernard takes Theresa to Ford’s little cottage out in the woods. Before they enter he tells her the hosts “can’t see what’s right in front of them”. Then Theresa says, “What’s behind this door?” and Bernard responds, “What door?”. It’s a clue to the next, and last, big secret to be revealed inside. In the cottage basement they find a studio where Ford secretly makes hosts. That’s big secret number two. There are blueprints for hosts all over the damn place. This is when we find out, along with Theresa, that Bernard is a host – big secret three. Theresa seems hurt at the news while Ford seems gleeful. He has that Hopkins twinkle in his eye.

They have a standoff. Theresa suddenly knows what Charlotte, and now Ford, mean by “blood sacrifice”. She scrambles and takes out her phone to free herself. But Ford controls everything in this world, even cellphone service. Thus, Bernard slowly takes off his tie and then kills Theresa at Ford’s order. After she’s dead Bernard calmly puts his tie back on and leaves. Is Ford “the gods” Charlotte refers to? Will that be the next big secret reveal? Or is corporate really truly about to ask him to retire?

Maeve trespasses backstage once again to land on Felix’s table. She tells Sylvester and Felix to get her out of the whole thing, though. Just backstage isn’t far enough for her. Nor is “survival”. She’s decided now that surviving is really just another loop in the storyline. In fact, Maeve doesn’t fear death because she’s an old pro at it. So, she threatens to kill Sylvester if he doesn’t help free her from the park. After all, he’s a newbie at the whole dying thing. This ultimatum will likely work on him. Felix, on the other hand, doesn’t really need threats. He’s ready to marry Maeve at this point.

“Tromp L’Oiel” succeeds because it gives bountiful answers while it still leaves a few juicy tidbits on the plate for us to chew awhile. We like Westworld a bit more now as it shifts from a navel-gazing frontier into answers and action.

Katherine Recap

The-Adversary

[For Westworld‘s “The Adversary” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]

HBO Summary:
Elsie discovers a possible sabotage; Teddy and The Man in Black have a conflict with a garrison.

“The Adversary” answers a few questions but offers few conclusions. Ever wondered why Ford prefers the company of the ancient android cowboy? Or why there’s a human figure at the center of the maze symbol? Watch this episode for clues.

In the beginning Maeve heads brothel-bound to the tune of Radiohead song, “Fake Plastic Trees” on the saloon player piano. There she quickly instigates her own death; choked into oblivion with just a few choice words to a John. Thus Maeve lands on Felix’s table once again. Skittish Felix isn’t happy to see her. But she’s thrilled to accomplish this goal so easily. Maeve asks him about the difference between her humanity and his. So, Felix shows her the data tablet where Maeve’s thoughts appear in digital letters just as she thinks them. The ultra-awareness of her inner programming silences her then. It stalls Maeve until she flutters into consciousness again and asks to see “upstairs”. It doesn’t take much coaxing for flustered Felix to take her there.

Upstairs blood pumps through a pipe and fills a waxen white body until the veins pinken and it turns into a flesh and blood man. Because it’s through Maeve’s eyes, there’s all male nudity in this scene. It feels refreshingly of-the-moment. Such gratuitous body-baring usually relegates to the female form. Maeve then watches an ad for Westworld where she’s happy in a field with her daughter. Maeve asks how they got her dreams and Felix explains that she had previous “builds”.

Right then Felix’s butcher partner and fellow cartoon cat, Sylvester, enters. He’s pissed and threatens Felix’s job. So, Maeve holds a scalpel to Sylvester’s throat with enough fervor to terrify and silence him. Then Maeve convinces Felix and Sylvester to make programming changes on her. She wants her intelligence as high as it will go. Our cartoon cats do this for Maeve. But they also find out somebody with a much higher level of access than theirs recently altered Maeve’s programming. This likely explains why she’s so far out of her lane already.

Meanwhile Elsie discusses the android data espionage with Bernard so he heads to Westworld‘s sub-level to inquire further. Bernard locates five old school hosts that aren’t registered in the new system. Afterward he brings this info to Theresa. But she’s got Ford on her mind and breaks off their affair without much attention to Bernard’s breakthrough. So, Bernard then checks further into his findings and finds the unregistered hosts in the sector for new narrative development. There he finds a man, wife, and two sons in a house. That’s four of the five unregistered hosts. But then who’s that hiding behind the door? Ford.

He explains to Bernard that these are first generation droids. Ghosts. Turns out we were right and the boy is indeed Ford as a child. Arnold made this family as a gift for Ford – his only happy memory from childhood. He guilts Bernard into allowing them, “if you could only see your son again, wouldn’t you want to?”. In the next scene Ford interviews his younger self, the boy. Turns out the boy kill his beloved dog. Arnold’s instructed him to do it because the dog had killed a rabbit. Thus, Arnold told the boy to kill the dog so that it couldn’t hurt anyone ever again.

Elsie investigates further and finds a broadcast to the hosts, which explains the voices they hear. She locates the source in a creepy and dusty room. Meanwhile Bernard goes to Theresa and tells her about Ford. But right then Elsie calls to tell Bernard that the person smuggling data out of the park is Theresa. He ducks away from Theresa but we never see his true reaction. It’s possible Bernard already knows about this or has set up Theresa himself. On the phone a bit later Elsie tells him someone has been modifying the droids so they become dangerous. Yet again Arnold appears to be the culprit. She continues to dig for info in the creepy room but somebody grabs her from behind. We can’t see who it is quite yet.

On the other side of Westworld, Teddy and the Man in Black seek Wyatt on horseback when they’re redirected because the borders are closed. The pair encounter and kill Union soldiers. Teddy keeps pointing out signs of Wyatt, like tortured soldiers with severed limbs. That’s how Wyatt rolls, apparently. There are several fighting scenes with Teddy and he finally grows a pair, thanks to his new memories of Wyatt. He pictures himself kicking ass alongside the villain. So, Teddy’s no longer a perpetual loser and instead reads like a bit of a brute. Mainly, he enjoys killing en mass. At one point he machine-guns an entire campsite and it seems to brighten his spirits.

This isn’t quite the Teddy we thought we knew but he does still get misty-eyed about Dolores. She doesn’t appear in “The Adversary”, though. MIB merely mentions her name. It’s mostly fight scenes for them but Teddy also tells MIB that the maze is the sum of a man’s life and at the center of the maze is a man who’s been killed over and over again, countless times. He’ll return one last time and vanquish all his oppressors in tireless fury. He built a house and around that house he built a maze so complicated only he could navigate through it. So, the Man in Black has finally chosen an appropriate partner. Teddy likes to kill and knows lots of factoids about the maze. Maybe he’ll even live a few days and nights all the way through if MIB sees his value.

A few Fetchland notes on the episode:

  • We’re intrigued with the “butcher” cartoon cat names; Felix and Sylvester. Remember how Felix even plays with a bird to Sylvester’s dismay? It’s just like a real world cartoon catfight.
  • Bernard finds 5 unregistered hosts in the system before he meets them in person. Once at the house he finds the family of 4. So, who is the fifth unregistered host? Is it Ford? That might explain Ford’s oddness. Did Arnold create Ford as his revenge mechanism to destroy Westworld much like he had the little boy kill his dog? They’re solid parallels. The boy loves his dog and Ford clearly loves Westworld. This makes Ford a perfect sacrificial lamb.
  • Several characters in “The Adversary” say either it’s my job to know people’s desires, or I’m programmed to know what people want just by looking at them. Yet everybody seems surprised all the time. Human or android, nobody really knows anybody else that well in Westworld. And half the time they don’t really know what they themselves want. Perhaps this is meant to reflect humanity. If so, we like it.
  • Lee Sizemore, the writer serves as an obvious example of the episode title “The Adversary”. He chugs margaritas and pouts poolside when Lee spots a lovely lady and approaches her at the bar. Unfortunately for him, she’s unimpressed when he’s cut off by the bartender. She likes Sizemore even less when she meets him at work later. At the office Lee pisses on the Westworld map and rants like a spoiled lunatic. After which, that same lovely lady, Charlotte Hale, Executive Director of the Westworld Board officially greets him, title intact. Oops. Maybe they won’t be poolside margarita best friends after all.

Katherine Recap

Westworld-Contrapasso

[For Westworld‘s “Contrapasso” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]

HBO Summary:
Dolores, Logan, and William reach Pariah and are recruited for a dangerous mission.

Dante created “Contrapasso” – the idea that divine punishment of the damned in Hell mirrors the sin being punished.1 within his story of the “Inferno” a masterwork of Hell.

We learn how this episode’s title applies to Westworld when Ford tells a story about his childhood dog. A racing greyhound, the dog chased a piece of felt around the track in his heyday. Once retired, Ford and his family took the old dog to the park. The greyhound spied a cat and a switch flipped inside him. He was off to the races and chased it like that piece of felt from the track. But after the dog catches and kills the cat, instead of feeling victorious he’s like, That’s all there is to it? He’s an existential dog.

Clearly Ford is projecting his ol’ buddy Arnold onto this greyhound but we get the point. And even if we didn’t, the rest of the episode hammers it home. We’re all chasing after something and might even do anything to get it… but once we’ve got it – what then? Turns out a victory lap is just another time around that circle, after all.

Another illustration of this hamster-on-a-wheel theme brings Dolores, Logan and William to Pariah, city of outcasts and delinquents. Logan can’t wait to join in the town’s salacious ways while William and Dolores hang back, less enthused. Logan explains that one of the original Westworld partners created Pariah, the one who killed himself. In fact, there are several references to Arnold in this episode and Dolores never stops talking to him. He’s the felt at her racetrack and she’s the Westworld greyhound.

In fact, later that night in Pariah Dolores passes out in the middle of the Day of the Dead parade and awakens to Ford asking her about Arnold. He’s clearly suspicious that Arnold is somehow still in contact with Dolores but she pretends the last time she spoke to Arnold was thirty four years ago, the day he died. Apparently she’d been his compadre and Arnold wanted her to help him “destroy this place” but they failed. Later we learn that it was the Man in Black who defeated them and “saved” Westworld.

Speaking of the MIB, we see him in the next scene with Lawrence attached to his horse by a noose. Soon after, Lawrence hangs from that same noose by his feet as blood from his slit neck drips down his face. But this is Westworld, so death is short-lived. Haha. We see Lawrence alive again soon. He’ll no longer be the Man in Black’s companion, though. Teddy has taken over that role even though Teddy makes it clear he’d rather be dead at this point. Join the club, Teddy. That sentiment’s all over Westworld in “Contrapasso”.

Unfortunately for Teddy, there is no true death for droids. It’s just an infinite racetrack – the ultimate example of “Contrapasso”. Thus, we see Lawrence again in the next Pariah scene. He sends Dolores, William, and Logan on a mission to hijack some nitroglycerine from a wagon of Confederados. Dolores, no longer clad in the blue dress of innocence, wears a new cowgirl outfit. In pants, she helps them quickly achieve their nitroglycerine mission. Although the plan was to take no lives and they kill everyone… but these deaths are treated as details, minor details at that. Lawrence isn’t even that mad about this “change in plans” although he loses of one his men in the process. Turns out he has plans of his own and his buddy’s body is going to come in handy.

In fact, Dolores sees Lawrence filling his friend’s newly deceased body with the nitroglycerine and replacing the liquid in the nitro bottles with tequila. She warns William and they try to escape from the consequences – angry and armed Desperados. As they make haste, captured Logan pleads for their help. But William and Dolores abandon him without hesitation. William fails to shoot the Desperados and yells for Dolores to flee. But Dolores pulls out her gun and kills the Desperados with ease, saving William and herself. They escape together and jump onto a moving train headed out of Pariah.

Once in the train car they face Lawrence and all three have guns raised until the trio quickly realize they’re better off working together as friends. Dolores then sees the symbol of the maze on a pine box where Lawrence’s nitro-filled friend lies “at rest” inside. She gazes off into the air and tells Arnold that she’s coming.

Meanwhile MIB and Teddy share a drink with Ford at a bar. MIB says he always felt Westworld was missing a real villain. So, he acts as a villain to fill that void. Then he asks Ford if Wyatt is a worthy adversary and if he’s close to finding the end of the maze. Ford doesn’t answer and instead asks what the Man in Black hopes to find at the end of the maze. He says purpose; something true. MIB also threatens to “open up” Ford and see what’s inside. He brandishes a big o’l knife at Ford but Teddy saves Ford from injury with a lightning fast protective reflex. What would we have seen inside Ford? Another droid perhaps? We wonder about it too.

There are two tiny backstage subplots in “Contrapasso” that, though minor, are also kinda major in their own ways. Elsie secretly examines the woodcutter and finds “a big problem”. Somebody smuggles data out of the park using the hosts as mules, she reports to Bernard.

The other subplot involves Felix, a backstage operations guy. He strives to be a creator though he’s relegated to butcher. It has a feeling reminiscent of the elf who wants to be a dentist in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Felix’s co-worker keeps mocking him. “You’ll never be anything but a butcher!” he yells at poor, put upon Felix. Even with this mockery ringing in his ears, Felix experiments on a bird he stole from Westworld until finally he brings it to life. Meanwhile Maeve secretly watches him; pretending to sleep on the operating table in his workroom. She wakes up at the end of “Contrapasso”, though. Her consciousness shocks Felix but cool-ass Maeve plays it off blasé and just says it’s time for them to have a chat.

1) https://bu.digication.com/olivias_eportfolio_dantes_inferno_the_modern_imagination/Understanding_the_Complexities_of_Contrapasso – Boston University

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