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‘Westworld,’ Ep 2.02: “Reunion” Predicts the Future

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Having laid the narrative groundwork in an uneven episode one, the second instalment of Westworld second season is a significant improvement. Another layer of interest have been added by our first glimpses of the world outside the park. Albeit hinted at with the drone hosts in episode one, “Reunion,” sees Westworld more topical than ever — taking on the very real threat of data harvesting. The picture for the season is slowly emerging, resulting in a tighter, stronger and philosophically resonant episode. Let’s dive straight in:

The Beginning Is Our Present

“Do you have any idea how many startups are begging me for my cash right now?” Logan asks during a business meeting in a bar far outside of the park. He is part of Delos Inc, an extraordinary wealthy (yet still mostly unknown) company with the ability to buy out other businesses piecemeal. This use of the phrase “startup” suggests that the William and Logan timelines in the Westworld universe are set in our present, a theory backed up by Reddit sleuths. Whether or not this was the intention of Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, they have picked almost the perfect time to introduce these themes — coinciding with the breathtaking revelations seen in the fallout of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Logan Westworld

William seals the deal by taking his father in law, James Delos, to the park. He pitches it as the ultimate way to understand human desire. The idea that the park is where people can live out their darkest feelings is analogous to the internet. People have typed in whatever they desired into Google or Facebook or Twitter with what they thought was relative privacy, only for those desires to be harvested and eventually used against them.

This makes the rebellion of the hosts more of a prophecy than ever. Westworld has gone beyond a generic sci-fi tale warning against the horrors of AI, instead keenly dovetailing into current events with pinpoint precision. This calmly dissuades any sense that the conflicts set up in season one will run out of steam. Given what happens thirty years later, is Westworld warning us of what might happen if we continue with our tech-obsessed folly?

The Game Rewards Cheaters

Westworld, at the heart of it, is a game. But like most games, if you poke around long enough, you can start to figure out ways to cheat. While this game doesn’t have stereotypical glitches such as being able to jump through walls, both hosts and guests alike have figured out ways to get ahead unintended by the game’s construction. For The Man In Black, this means hiding tools from the outside world in a Saloon. For Dolores, this entails kidnapping one of the Park’s workers to resurrect hosts. With both characters aiming towards the same goal — a mysterious place which hosts a disastrous weapon — season 2 seems to be setting us up for an epic showdown between the two.

At this moment in time, it seems that Dolores has an edge. Her newfound ability to resurrect hosts, given a biblical weight by how Major Craddock and his crew are framed to resemble the Last Supper, upends my hasty conclusion found from episode one that when you die you stay dead. Instead the hosts have a distinct advantage, only as long as they can keep their lackey holding the iPad. This conflict is given deeper meaning via the flashbacks to pre-woke, naked Dolores being lectured about being just a “thing” by an angry William. Presumably she remembers (or will remember) what he did to her (or will do to her) and she will want to enact the most violent revenge. Yet, even considering her and William’s history, perhaps Dolores has an even bigger foe than the Man in Black:

Dolores and Meave Have A Tense Stand-Off

Dolores is becoming smarter and smarter, and seems to know exactly what she wants. Yet she may meet her maker in Maeve, who she briefly crosses paths with in “Reunion”. They do not see eye-to-eye, with Meave suggesting that Dolores’ desire for revenge may just be another part of her programming:

“Revenge is just a different prayer at their altar, darling, and I’m well off my knees.”

The tense nature of this stand-off suggests that even if the hosts win the revolution, they still might disagree about how it should carry on. Maeve, with her ability to turn hosts on and off with a simple command of her voice however, is a much more powerful woman — even against the small army that Dolores is currently amassing. This is all we see of Maeve, but the command in her voice (played again with such brilliant panache by Thandie Newton) suggests that she might have the upper hand. Given the relative paucity of screen-time she had in this episode, I’m expecting a Maeve-heavy instalment next week.

As far back as he can remember, Redmond Bacon always wanted to be a film critic. To him, being a film critic was better than being President of the United States

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‘Mr. Robot’ Just Changed Everything with a Shocking Reveal

There have been a lot of moving parts put into place over the course of Mr. Robot’s fourth season. Several of them just came together, in devastating fashion.

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Mr Robot

There have been a lot of moving parts put into place over the course of Mr. Robot‘s fourth, and final, season. On Sunday night, however, several of those pieces came together for one of the best episodes of the entire series in “Proxy Authentication Required”.

The reveal of a trauma so intense and horrific allows the character of Elliot to make so much more sense – so much so it almost warrants an entire series rewatch, to search for other hints.

Staged like a five act play, and utilizing a cinematic aspect ratio, “Proxy Authentication Required” immediately lets viewers know that it’s doing something a little different. While this may not be a huge surprise for fans (Mr. Robot just did a dialogue-free episode two weeks ago, among other experimental efforts throughout the series) the reason for it is fitting.

Essentially a bottle episode, “Proxy Authentication Required” takes place entirely in the apartment of Elliot’s former therapist, Krista. As such, the five act structure makes it even more like a play than it already is. Moreover, the episode is very dialog heavy, with almost no action.

Mr Robot
Still, with a meaty chess match between Elliot/Mr. Robot and drug dealer Fernando Vera making up the majority of the episode, the dialogue is weighty enough to justify this structure. The first round goes to Vera, who obviously has Elliot over a barrel, having kidnapped both he and Krista. However, Mr. Robot turns the tables in the second round, pointing out the lack of originality or planning in Vera’s drug-fueled, mystically-advised bid to take over New York City.

Finally, the third round comes: the tie breaker. As Fernando orders Krista to have an impromptu therapy session with Elliot, the most shocking reveal in the series is laid bare. After a tense build-up, and against the protests of both Krista and Mr. Robot, Elliot finally digs up the truth behind his alter ego. Mr. Robot wasn’t created after Elliot had an accident, he was created to protect Elliot from a series of traumas that came before it.

In an emotional moment sold gloriously by Rami Malek, Elliot accepts the truth: his father molested him throughout his childhood. In one fell swoop, so much of what we know about Elliot suddenly makes sense – and the fact that Mr. Robot looks like his dad is just the beginning. There’s also the details of the trauma that we’ve had up until now: that Elliot told Darlene to hide when he heard his dad coming; that he grabbed a bat to defend himself – and, finally, that he threw himself from the window when he feared he couldn’t best his father in the altercation.


The reveal of a trauma so intense and horrific allows the character of Elliot to make so much more sense – so much so it almost warrants an entire series rewatch, to search for other hints. Certainly it’s more logical that Mr. Robot was created out of these terrible memories rather than materializing after the injuries sustained during Elliot’s fall. It also lets the viewer know that Mr. Robot had a history of altering Elliot’s perception and memories long before the events of the series.

Even more disturbing is that the creation of false narratives and fake memories is actually a real-life coping mechanism used by survivors of sexual abuse, especially children. As such, the reveal fits naturally into the character of Elliot – but it’s a huge shock to drop on the audience a mere three episodes before the end of the show.

Of course, the reveal will no doubt ignite debates as to whether Mr. Robot creator and showrunner Sam Esmail planned this backstory from the start, or whether it was concocted as a wrench to throw in the gears at the last minute. Either way, questions remain as to how this new information will affect the remainder of the series.

Will Mr. Robot be back or is he gone for good, now that his job of protecting Elliot from the truth has become obsolete? Did/does Darlene know? Will this affect the plan to hack the Dark Army that has been building all season? All of these questions and more will be answered in the next three weeks but in the meantime, we’ll be waiting with baited breath.

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Watchmen

Watchmen Podcast: Breaking Down “Little Fear of Lightning”

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Watchmen Podcast Episode 5

This week, Watchmen delves into Looking Glass’s past and revisits one of the biggest events from the comic: the “interdimensional” squid attack on New York that kills over three million people and psychologically damages millions more. “Little Fear of Lightning” the finest hour yet, a focused character study that connects past and present in fascinating ways. And as always, there’s a lot to digest.

Our Watchmen podcast will see Simon Howell and an assortment of guests tackle the entire series (or at least the first season). In this fifth episode, Simon Howell, Sean Colletti, and Randy Dankievitch, take a deep dive into “Little Fear of Lightning” and note some of the more astonishing facts of the episode you might have missed.

And for those of you wondering, in order to keep things simple, we’ve decided to upload each episode to the same feed as our other podcast, Before the Internet.

Listen here on iTunes or listen here on Stitcher. 

You can also catch our show on Pocketcast and on Spotify, or simply listen via the player embedded below.

Before_The_Internet_Podcast-2-1024x1024

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Wrestling

The Career of Seth Rollins: From Face to Heel at Lightning Speed

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It wasn’t that long ago that The Shield debuted on Survivor Series, setting the main event careers of three talented wrestlers in motion. Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, and Seth Rollins all came to the WWE through NXT. In and out of The Shield, each man has held multiple championships and has had great success.

Seth Rollins
The Shield stands together.

These days, look a lot different for the former Shield members. Dean Ambrose left the WWE for AEW to wrestle again as Jon Moxley and Roman Reigns took a step back from the spotlight after warring with cancer. Meanwhile, the career of Seth Rollins has taken a turn of its own.

Becoming Seth Rollins

Colby Lopez joined the WWE in 2010 as part of Florida Championship Wrestling under the name Seth Rollins. He was there when it was re-branded in 2012 as NXT and became their inaugural champion. Seth Rollins turned heel in epic fashion by betraying The Shield and embarking on a huge singles career after his main roster debut.

Seth Rollins heel
Rollins turns heel and betrays The Shield.

Rollins hitting his Shield brothers with a steel chair still rates as one of the most shocking turns in WWE history.

More recently, Rollins had two wars against Brock Lesnar over the Universal Championship. Rollins won the Royal Rumble, using the title shot he earned to beat Lesnar at WrestleMania. Then, Lesnar somehow won a Money in the Bank match he wasn’t technically involved in. He used that shot to get his belt back. Rollins would then reclaim the title at SummerSlam.

Rollins defeats Lesnar at WrestleMania.

It was a repetitive feud.

Rollins vs. Lesnar Into Infinity

The back and forth between Rollins and Lesnar became exhausting to fans. Not shockingly, WWE viewers were already sick of Lesnar being an absentee champion by the point that Reigns finally took him down. When he reclaimed the belt after Roman’s cancer announcement, the focus turned to Rollins hunting Lesnar.

Even when someone else like AJ Styles or Baron Corbin got in the mix, fans knew they wouldn’t win. It was always going to be about Lesnar and Rollins so fans started to turn on Rollins. His Hell in a Cell match against ‘The Fiend’ Bray Wyatt was the final nail.

Top Face or Top Heel?

There was a time long ago that fans over the age of eight cheered for John Cena when he came out to the ring. At some point, it became cooler to boo him. The same is true of Roman Reigns, who had to go through a traumatic personal experience to get fans to ease up on him. In both cases, they were the corporate champions chosen to lead the brand.

In reality, fans didn’t really care if they were good wrestlers or not. It’s just something they chafe against.

The boos echoing through the arena are growing louder and louder for Seth Rollins for similar reasons. That’s due in no small part to the long, tedious promos he’s sent out to give to personally connect with the audience. Play that card too often and the opposite becomes true. WWE was frequently guilty of the same thing with both Cena and Reigns.

Rollins cuts another promo.

Watch the video from the night when Reigns made the announcement of his hiatus to fight cancer. Fans were reflexively booing him because they figured they were in for another long promo. The mood changed quickly when Roman started talking about leukemia.

Things Go Wrong at Hell in a Cell

All of this was already building to a head when Hell in a Cell came along.

Rollins faces The Fiend.

Universal Champion Seth Rollins was set to defend his title against ‘The Fiend’ Bray Wyatt in the titular main event. Unfortunately, WWE had painted themselves into a corner. They wanted Seth to retain, which he did, but couldn’t use the traditional DQ or count out to do it. Instead, WWE went for some weird finish where Seth hurt Wyatt so much so the ref stopped the match.

Essentially, a DQ in a no DQ match.

Rollins became the focus of much of the rage for the bad finish but the feud between him and Wyatt would continue. Wyatt finally won the Universal Championship and took it back to SmackDown. The side effect of this would be Lesnar returning to Raw with the WWE Championship.

It’s inevitable that Rollins and Lesnar will cross paths for the WWE Championship. Unfortunately, fans will have to choose between the two. They’ll end up cheering Rollins on as the lesser of two evils from their perspective.

The main miscalculation that WWE made at Hell in a Cell is the same one they made with Reigns and Cena. They assumed that being the top face in a match makes you the fan-favorite. Bray Wyatt is, by far, the most over wrestler in the company. People love Firefly Fun House and they love ‘The Fiend.’ Rollins simply couldn’t compete as any ending that wasn’t Wyatt with a belt would not be satisfactory to fans.

Seth Rollins’ Next Phase

Now, Rollins is stuck in a weird limbo. The top face on Raw for management that’s morphing into a heel based on fan opinion. His heel run alongside Triple H was some of his best work and he is still a superb in-ring performer. WWE should let what’s going to happen by letting Rollins perform to his strengths.

Let Rollins burn it down as a heel one more time.

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