TV review: Westworld – The Stray

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Westworld‘s latest episode ‘The Stray’ is perhaps its greatest to date. It pushed the boundaries of what I expected to happen much earlier, and brought about genuine shocks.

This week Dolores steps back to the forefront and Evan Rachel Woods gives a particularly nuanced portrayal. She’s doing a wonderful job of playing a dual rolled character: the naive Dolores, and the sinister Host beneath. Particular praise must go to her scene in which Jeffrey Wright’s Bernard Lowe bequeaths a gift of a book. Here Woods plays both facades with subdued simplicity, conveying a myriad of emotions with the slightest flicker of her face.

Dolores’ decent into consciousness continues as her flashes of former encounters pick up. She finds and instantly loses the gun from last week, and has more than one memory flash of The Man in Black. Her past with him is very intriguing; I still think William may be a younger version of him. Yes, these scenes happened in the past, I think, with flashes of the future traveling through her AI mind to make her go gun crazy. I think Westworld is going to continue getting confusing.

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It was inevitable that the Hosts would eventually spark and turn on the humans, but it came as a genuine surprise that this happened a mere three episodes into the run, or that Dolores was able to do so so… easily. The ramifications of this remain to be seen, but surely Dolores is going to get away with it. Woods is one of the biggest stars in the show; I can’t imagine them getting rid of her so soon. But then again, this is HBO…

James Marden’s Teddy Flood is given more to do this week as he’s given a backstory. This is the part of the episode I struggled to care about. With the controllers being able change the narrative so easily, it’s quite hard to get invested in a story that could literally change to something completely different next week. Hopefully this isn’t the case though.

There’s a genuinely stunning scene between Lowe and Anthony Hopkins’ Robert Ford midway through ‘The Stray’ in which they discuss Ford’s past. The flashbacks are creepily scored by Ramin Djawadi (seriously just hand him another award) and both actors are exceptional. I still think that Ford is holding something back, though. There’s more to be uncovered about this mysterious Arnold, surely.

And then there’s the subplot with Elsie and Ashley – the titular Stray – that I originally thought was going nowhere. It was boring. I’m finding it hard to like either of these characters – Shannon Woodward’s Elsie, in particular, is very annoying. But when the stray Host caved in his own head I was literally gaping at the screen. For shock value alone, this is the standout scene from ‘The Stray’.

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With Dolores turning so swiftly I genuinely have no idea where Westworld will head next. But I can’t wait to find out!