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