[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

  • 8
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

[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

[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

[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

[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

Katherine Recap

Chapter 7

American Horror Story: Roanoke has really hit a hockey stick curve in terms of grisly violence and gratuitous torture porn over the past couple of episodes. We started with a really interesting “play within a play” format (and even “play within a play within a play” when considering stuff like the Butcher or anything Cricket retold)… Now we’ve delved into a combination of The Blair Witch Project and Saw. Last week boasted maybe only two or three murders (one barely on-camera)… Chapter 7 corrects that substantially and savagely.

Chapter 6 and Chapter 7 reverse a fundamental point of the first five episodes. We knew most of the cast — Matt, Shelby, Lee… anyone who was talking to the cameras — was essentially “safe”. Now we know that most of them are not. The fun thing is trying to figure out the one person who lives! My money is on the IRL Shelby.

For simplicity’s sake I’m going to call fake-Matt Cuba (for Cuba Gooding Jr), fake-Lee Angela, and so on. I mean the fact that Cuba Gooding Jr played Matt is more useful to us than that he plays Dominic Banks who played Matt. Right? Right 🙂

As this was an episode of AW SHIT moment after AW SHIT moment, we’ll use that format for ye olde recap.

The Top 8 Jaw-Dropping Moments of American Horror Story: Roanoke Chapter 7:

VIII. “The Butcher” butchers the production staff

At the end of last week’s episode I was wondering if the “one survivor” referred only to the cast of Return to Roanoke: Three Days in Hell. The opening scene answers that question as the Kathy Bates version of the Butcher does a hatchet job on everyone in the production trailer. Cheyenne Jackson’s Sidney Aaron James dies so suddenly I jumped out of my seat even on second viewing.

VII. Real Woods Witch, and VI. Real Butcher

One of the things I liked best about this episode was the contrast between the “tv” versions of the Butcher (Bates) and Scathach the woods witch (Lady Gaga) and the “real” versions from Chapter 7’s found footage.

Kathy’s performances have been awesome and Gaga was exciting both as a villainous power source and her carnal role with Matt… But once you see the “real” Butcher and Scathach the My Roanoke Nightmare versions just look like women in reenactment costumes. Bates acted grim; the real Butcher is grim. Gaga might not have been at her Hotel pinnacle, but she was still sexy; the new-look Scathach looks filthy and hideous… You can barely tell where her hair ends and the twigs begin.

American Horror Story: Roanoke is a mesmerizing television show. The multiple “shows within shows” format has me often wondering what is “real”. As much as I hate the “found footage” style in general, it is hugely effective here, at least for contrast.

V. The Butcher butchers “the Butcher”

After her attacks on the crew (and Shelby) I figured Bates’s Agnes Mary Winstead might join the ranks of the true Butcher happily. I guess the Butcher proper has no interest in sharing the nickname.

She just wanted to be on tv 🙁

IV. Cuba (Dominic, whatever) is a total sociopath

I loved the “diary room” session where Cuba spoke frankly about wanting to be the show’s villain. I can’t imagine he will be able to pull that off with the likes of the Butcher and the Polk family sharing screen time with him.

There are moments where Cuba seems like a good guy… He saved Shelby after all. But besides his unapologetic willingness to ruin every other cast member’s life, he was mad manipulative to the grieving Shelby after, well, you know.

III. Bates reminds us why she won the Oscar

I found Bates to be unbelievable as the Butcher in her appearances in the My Roanoke Nightmare episodes. But in Chapter 7 she shows a rare level of versatility. Bates flits from a mad version of the Butcher to moments of whimpering lucidity. Every version of Bates, or Agnes, is cray cray… But they’re all different kinds of cray (and she does a great job with at least three different stripes of them).

II. Shelby murders Matt!

So one of the burning questions posed by every cast member of Return to Roanoke: Three Days in Hell who didn’t actually live the events of My Roanoke Nightmare is why any of the Millers would possibly have returned… Especially during the Blood Moon.

Shelby wants to be with Matt. Lee wants to clear her name (and make like a million). But what is Matt doing there? It turns out he is in love with Scathach, and had been waiting for her to show up. Shelby shows remarkable courage, confronting the woods witch and getting her off her husband… It’s pretty cool to see she can exert some will over one of the local ghosts, especially the power source.

Of course when she finds out Matt’s agenda, Shelby shows more of that same decisiveness. Also gross.

I. Lee tenderizes her own sweet meat (and everything after)

I didn’t think we’d have a bigger jaw-dropper than Shelby killing her beloved husband… Until the girls get captured by the Polks. The real Polks are similarly grimier than the actor-portrayed versions; the cannabis plants were a nice touch.

So where there are Polks… We know there is going to be cannibalism. I’m not really sure why they like to eat still-living people, but Lee gets the same treatment that Elias Cunningham did. The whole thing is just revolting. They untie one of Lee’s hands so she can rub peanut oil into her own leg, then season her, then plunge a fork into her thigh, still attached.

That’s not the grossest part, though. “Guests” Sarah Paulson and Angela Bassett are compelled to take a bite.

Gross.

LOVE
MIKE

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

HBO Summary:
Dolores joins William and Logan on a bounty hunt in the badlands, the Man in Black finds a clue.

In episode four of Westworld we finally learn the name of William’s sex-obsessed future brother-in-law, Logan. It’s the perfect name; Gaelic for “hollow,” and because Logan’s so shallow, he makes androids seem deep. As you likely know, this episode’s title “Dissonance Theory” refers to a psychological concept. It basically says people aren’t comfortable when they hold two equally strong but contradictory beliefs. We like the world to make sense and such inconsistencies confuse our feeble, modern minds.

The episode begins with Bernard and Dolores in a now-established first-scene-interview pattern. Dolores tells him she thinks something may be wrong with this world… or with her. Maybe she’s losing her mind, she says. Bernard tells her he wants her to try a secret game. The goal is to find the center of a maze. Maybe it can free her. Now we know Dolores truly is the parallel character to the Man in Black, his ultimate antagonist. The Yin to his Yang, etc. We know he represents the billionaire “paid guest” archetype and shells out $40K daily for this experience – thirty years worth. Dolores’s true motive remains mysterious for now but all signs point to revenge and we can’t say we blame her.

Next Dolores wakes up by William’s side at the morning campsite with perfect hair and a gun in her hand. William hands her some coffee. We find out along with William that Logan’s family holds a vested monetary interest in Westworld and this is a “business trip” as well as pleasure for them. Dolores then encounters the haunted, all-knowing little girl who gave MIB that crucial clue about snakes with eggs and where to go next in his maze quest. The little girl triggers memories in Dolores: a white church, her father’s grave, and a gun. William gets a bit protective of her in this scene and Dolores likes it. She can’t help that; it’s probably her programming. Then Dolores has memories of her own death and being swept up by the end-of-the-day cleaning crew. These powerful memories are driving her to some degree and it makes us think maybe this is what Bernard wants to test. Which is more powerful, the programming or the traumatic repressed memories?

Meanwhile at the saloon Maeve also has memories of her own death, a saloon bloodbath, and the cleanup after. She even remembers the operating table and then leaves the saloon, goes home and checks for scars on her belly. But it’s pristine. Maeve does spy a dried bloodspot on her bloomers, though. She then finds pencil drawings in a hiding place under her bedroom floorboards. All of them sketch a figure either in a mask or without face. Turns out it’s the cleaning crew masks she’s been drawing. Maeve just doesn’t make that connection yet.

Theresa then confronts Elsie about the woodcutter’s odd behavior, smashing his own head in with a rock and whatnot. Bernard comes in and caves to Theresa who says her team will take over this case from them. So, Elsie snarks at Bernard about how this whole thing is a lot more than a “fucking glitch”. He’s not hearing her temper tantrum, though. Bernard’s got bigger goals in mind. To pivot Elsie’s attention he points out that Stubbs was wrong about the woodcutter’s rock. It’s not a carving of Orion and has to be something else. Perhaps a clue to the maze? So, he leaves Elsie wondering about that clue and heads off to undress Theresa for another secret sexual encounter.

Speaking of clues to the maze, the Man in Black crashes the hot blonde bandit lady’s (Armistice) mission party. She tells him her goal is to “retrieve something of great value,” right after MIB finishes leering at her. Later at the campfire a “fan” from the real world tries to flatter MIB and he quickly silences the guy with a threat. He’s on vacation and doesn’t want to hear about how his foundation “saves lives”. Oh no, the Man in Black’s all about taking them while he’s on vacation. Then he tells Armistice he wants to honor Arnold’s legacy and her tattoo is a crucial piece of that puzzle. Thus, he kinda needs her, though of course, MIB doesn’t say that part.

“Dissonance Theory” even gives us a gander into our relatively unknown blonde bandit’s backstory a bit. Turns out Armistice colors her tattoo with blood of the men who attacked and murdered her mother. She only has one portion of her snake tattoo left to color in red, with Wyatt’s blood. He’s the one man left for her to kill in vengeance. Next on the mission to Wyatt, MIB encounters Teddy strung up and bloody. He’s back to loser status, it seems.

Theresa confronts Ford about his new narrative. Ford says he’s started construction on the landscape. This is a lie, however. He’s actually tearing down the old one. Theresa just can’t see that yet. Ford forges on about how Arnold never liked her people, the money people. He preferred the hosts. “In here we were Gods,” he says speaking of the scientists behind the scenes, “and you were merely our guests.” Arnold lost perspective and went mad, Ford admits but he, on the other hand, has always seen things very clearly. Not like Arnold. Then he notes Theresa’s affair with Bernard and advises her to be careful about his “sensitive disposition.” Ford asks her “nicely” to not get in his way because he’s now put Theresa in checkmate. He tells her his new narrative won’t be a retrospective after all, contrary to the fears of her corporate interests. It’s then that we see how Ford’s tearing down the old landscape. Theresa seems stunned by the monstrosity of the act. She’s at a loss.

Meanwhile William gives his white hat a whirl while Logan shoots ’em up black hat style. It’s a friendly reminder at one point when Logan tells William how it’s all just a game and to keep in mind that Dolores doesn’t actually care how he plays it. That’s “Dissonance Theory” in action, and seemingly, what Westworld, the theme park is all about. The bandits raid downtown and the hot one (Hector Escaton) enters the saloon, right on schedule. But Maeve pulls Hector off script to ask about her sketches in exchange for what’s in the safe. She wants answers. Escaton tells her it’s “a shade in her sketch; a man who walks between worlds, sent from hell to oversee our world. Then Maeve tells Hector to cut her right on the stomach, where she was shot that time she now remembers. Maeve holds the silver blade right up against her skin and puts his hand on the handle. Hector won’t do it, so she slices her own stomach open, then pulls out a bullet. Escaton asks what it means and Maeve says, “That I’m not crazy… and none of this matters”. This is, of course, their cue to make out as bullets rip into the wooden door beside them.

– Katherine Recap

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

HBO Summary:
Elsie and Stubbs pursue a missing host; Teddy sets off in pursuit of a new villain.

“The Stray” opens with Bernard giving Dolores a book, “Alice in Wonderland”. He has her read and asks what she thinks it means, including the question, “Who in the world am I?” a tricky nugget for anyone to ponder, never mind an android. Her memories arise more often these days and she’s thinking too much. It’s a recipe for disaster whether human or host. Still, Bernard seems more intrigued than concerned. He just doesn’t want to get caught probing Dolores, continually checking that she’s told nobody about their “talks”. In fact, Bernard’s one of several characters who stray in this episode; breaking the rules and lying to many people. Never mind his clandestine affair with Theresa, his work superior, and the way he lies to her about the updates.

After he lies yet again to Theresa about this, Bernard meets with Elsie. She analyzes the behavior of the milk-obsessed android who went rogue in the last episode. Elsie discovers that the milk bandit gone rogue actually avenged the androids who’d killed him in previous storylines. This means he too compiled meaningful memories and acted on them off-script. Elsie then joins Stubbs, the security guy, to seek out the woodcutter android, the most obvious stray from our episode’s title.

Next we see William (the new guest last week) encounter shoot’em up action in downtown Westworld. He hesitates to get involved but draws a pistol when gorgeous Clementine faces danger. Thus William kills the culprit and saves her. One of the lawmen invites him to join the squad of desperadoes and we see a glint of interest in William’s eye. Then his sex-obsessed work buddy shows up and we find out William’s engaged to that guy’s sister. This explains their tense interactions and obligatory connection.

Teddy’s storyline shifts right along with Dolores in this episode. For one, the stalwart loser starts winning gunfights. And, thanks to Ford’s new narrative, Teddy finally knows his purpose. Still, he continues to let his lady, Dolores down with the vagueness of his “someday soon” and she points out that this is what people say when they mean never. If Dolores wants change, she’s going to have to go out and get it for herself. As it should be, we here at Fetchland believe. She’ll probably do better for herself on her own anyway.

Teddy’s preoccupied with Ford’s new narrative and his new nemesis, a villain named Wyatt. The whole back story appears like magic in Teddy’s mind when suddenly, with the mere brush of Ford’s fingertip on a glass screen, Teddy remembers Wyatt and his (previously immaterial) backstory. Then we see Teddy take Dolores out to teach her gun usage. But she can’t squeeze the trigger. A posse rides up and tells Teddy that Wyatt’s back in town. So, stalwart loser leaves Dolores yet again, saying he’ll be back for her “someday soon” and she notices that vague word once more. Dolores doesn’t like it one bit. In fact, before this episode’s over that lady will be pulling a trigger after all. She’s mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. You go girl.

Meanwhile behind the scenes, Bernard explains to Ford that the screwy droids are hearing voices. They talk to the same person; (who isn’t there) someone named Arnold. Ford tells Bernard about a partner he had in the early days, a fellow scientist named Arnold. He thought he could create consciousness out of memory, improvisation, self interest… and something else yet to be determined. Arnold built the hosts with an inner monologue made up of their programming commands. But then he had to remove it when the voices drove them nutty. After a wistful moment, Ford tells Bernard that taking away the memory of the droids every night is their greatest gift to them. Bernard retorts that some of them ARE remembering, though, in little bits these days. The unmentioned elephant in the room here is that they also seem to have Arnold’s voice in their heads too. But neither of them says shit about it now. Still, it’s evident Ford is the “Yoda” of Westworld. He gives us all the info. For example, he tells us Arnold killed himself and this serves as a powerful foreshadow for a significant event in the “The Stray”.

Speaking of which, Elsie and Stubbs are in the dark desert when they finally encounter the stray woodcutter. He’s stuck between some rocks, bloody-fingered and reaching out in desperation. Elsie believes the woodcutter got an idea in his head that made him run off script. She leaves a voicemail for Bernard about it – worried. It’s for good reason because right when Stubbs is about to cut the woodcutter’s head off, he wrestles himself free. But it’s just to kill himself; bashing an enormous rock over and over into his own skull. Whether they’re trying to remind us of the meaninglessness of suicide or just gross us out with this spectacle… Westworld succeeded.

Dolores then rejoins her usual script arriving home at night to her father shot and the leering bandits. One of them takes her to the barn but this time she’s got a gun and points it at the bad guy bandit. It’s not actually the Man in Black but she pictures MIB anyway and then Arnold’s voice tells her to kill him. Now able to pull the trigger, Dolores shoots him dead. She then escapes the whole affair, riding off into the night on her horse. We had a feeling something like this would happen when Dolores lied to Bernard in an earlier interview. He told her to stay on her loop and she agreed. There was no way Dolores was gonna take shit anymore, though. We saw it in her eyes. Not now that she has a memory, that attitude, and a loaded gun.

Next we see the final and tiniest scene of “The Stray”. William and his future brother-in-law sit by a campfire when Dolores emerges from the bushes to collapse into William’s arms. One of those damn bandits shot her back at the farm, after all. It’s a bit too perfect a moment to be off script. But Dolores definitely strayed from the narrative to get to this point, so it’s hard to know if this is official Westworld narrative or not. Either way, William seems likely to get sucked into a Westworld brand seduction from this encounter because, as we saw in last week’s episode, he likes that lovey dovey stuff.

– Katherine Recap

Codename: Action #1

comiXology summary:
Codename: Action #1. During the height of the Cold War, unknown forces scheme to heat up a global conflict. As key officials on both sides of the Iron Curtain are replaced with doppelgangers, the infiltration threatens to disrupt the precarious state of world affairs. The security of the Free World depends on a young secret agent, one assigned to shape the world’s masked heroes into a force with singular purpose and unyielding resolve!

I actually don’t know anything about Codename: Action as a title-title. I saw a solicitation announcement for it reading another Dynamite comic and thought this was a cool looking cover. (And hope you’ll agree.) What I do know is that this Codename: Action #1 cover by Jae Lee is a masterwork of elegant design and the use of negative space.

On Jae Lee…

Jae Lee, Jae Lee… What can I say about Jae Lee?

Lee hit my eyes and imagination in the early 1990s. I loved his work on a now-defunct WildC.A.T.S. title (“filling in” for a different J. Lee if you grok). In those pre-Internet days, I had to ask actual humans at the counter where I could find more Jae Lee. I bought all of it, and combed every local comics store to assemble his Namor work. I’m not sure if he was my “favorite” comics artist (or even my favorite “Lee”), but I do remember that when I was writing down my goals for a high school illustration class, I dropped his name as a role model.

Lee is one of the most distinctive artists on the planet, which is why he is so often tapped as a cover artist, more than an interior artist. He’s not the most facile storyteller, but his line work is unparalleled in its intention and precision. Part of being, there are so few lines.

I mean, there are probably fewer total lines on this Codename: Action #1 cover than the average square inch of the average Rob Liefeld! Any doofus can put a giant splotch of black on a panel or flood the gutters, but for my $1.99 almost no one touches Jae in terms of making something as 75% black as this look actually delicate.

And that foot!

It probably isn’t a surprise to you that BDM and I have bumped heads more than once over the years RE: what makes a good comics artist, or even just a good artist. As striking as his portraiture has always been, Lee has drawn criticism over his ability on hands and feet.

Personally, I love the interplay between the dancers’ hands… The combination of her consistently implied details versus the strategic line overload of his palm.

I wonder what BDM thinks of that foot. There is no mist rising up covering it; both the dancers have actual hands (and not claws).

But even if it were just claws / mist… It’d probably still look great from across a comics store.

LOVE
MIKE

“Chapter 5” opens with [real-life] Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin (presumably on My Roanoke Nightmare) talking about the history of the house.

In 1792…

In 1789, the fabulously rich art collector Edward Philippe Mott (played by perennial American Horror Story leading man Evan Peters) left his wife and young heir up in Philadelphia to secret an unparalleled art collection at a personal hideaway deep in the North Carolina woods. Mott, envied even by the very rich of his day, commissioned Shakers to build what is “today” Matt and Shelby’s house, to house his paintings and busts, worth more than “every tobacco farm in the state.”

So of course, Mott ran afoul of the Butcher.

One night he found his precious art collection destroyed. Incredulous at his servants’ desperate rantings, the furious Mott imprisoned the lot of them — a goodly number of naked women at least — in what we viewers know today as Elias’s root cellar.

Mott was subsequently staked and immolated by the Butcher. His black footman boyfriend (quite possibly a slave, given it was 1792) fled on a stolen steed, only to be jailed for killing his master and hiding the body. No one mentioned the poor women in the root cellar. Those servant women starved to death underground, discovered some time later, nothing but bones.

Was — or is — that big Shaker house haunted?

Doris Kearns Goodwin, the narrating historian, would love it if the dead could come back to talk to her! That said, she would never spend a night in the Roanoke house; certainly not under a full moon.

Matt and Shelby…

In the present, Matt and Shelby (and the rescued Flora) are themselves about to be butchered by the Butcher’s mob. With seemingly nowhere to run, the trio encounter the ghost of Mott, who guides them away not out of altruism, but because he “can hardly suffer three more souls.”

Getting the family out of the house and getting them to safety are two different things, sadly; so the minute they seem free (woo hoo), Matt, Shelby, and Flora are captured by the hillbilly Polk family (boo).

The Polks are still sour for offenses real and imagined. Out bidding them for the house. Leading the cops to their farm. Taking their mistreated, malnourished, “babies” into state protection. The Polks did save Dr. Elias Cunningham’s life, though (whew). In the aftermath of his encounter with the Butcher’s archers in Chapter 4 the Polks found Elias full of arrows, porcupine-like… But are now using him as a living source of jerkey (ew).

Mama Polk, played masterfully by Frances Conroy, is dissatisfied with the taste of her “meat”. She has no further use for the crippled Elias. As quickly as we are reintroduced to that mad, altruistic, professor, the Polks smash a lethal hammer into his head!

It turns out Polks made a deal with the Butcher 200 years earlier. They help provide human sacrifices. She leaves them alone to grow lots and lots of cannabis. In order to make good on this centuries-old deal, the Polks cart Matt, Shelby, and Flora right back to the house.

In a burst of heroism, Matt seizes a Polk shotgun and blows the head off of one of their captors! Shelby kicks another out of the back of a moving pickup! The Millers flee! Yay, right? For a second only, sadly… In order to keep [Matt] from running, Mama Polk takes a hammer to Shelby’s ankle, nearly severing it with a blunt object. She knows Matt won’t leave his hamstrung bride. This is one of the most grisly things I have ever seen on television… and remember just a few minutes earlier on the same show we saw a screaming man missing half of his appendages being essentially eaten alive.

Despite promising that Flora will die last, the Butcher decides to kill the little girl first. This infuriates ghostly playmate Priscilla, and spurs the Butcher’s own son Ambrose to a brief moment of defiance. He tackles his own mother into the giant fire!

The. End.

Released from police custody, Lee rockets onto the scene and spirits the rest of the family away from the deadly mob.

In kind of an end tag, the Miller family, broke with their life savings sunk into that damned house, feel collectively wealthy — thankfully alive — at the cheapest hotel in town. Shelby, on crutches due to her Polk-inflicted ankle injury, calls dibs for a shower. A strange mist seeps out from under the door. The Butcher bursts out and chops poor Shelby right between the eyes!

Yikes!

Except… We all know that Shelby can’t be dead. She’s been narrating My Roanoke Nightmare for the past five weeks, right? That last bit was “just” a nightmare. But it had to be, right?

Chapter 5 of American Horror Story: Roanoke leaves us with a most enchanting (and horrifying) head scratcher. Given the unique structure of the show, we can’t know what is “real” and what is unreliable narration. But you know what? Despite knowing Shelby lived to tell the tale, I still jumped out of my chair.

LOVE
MIKE