What is the significance of flies in Westworld?

Posted 2016-12-23 318 0

The flies appear 4 times in the pilot, and each time their meaning changes slightly.

The fly below lands on the sheriff’s face at the split second he glitches. The fly is real (the sheriff looks right at it) but this is also allegorical - here the fly represents a software bug - this host is not behaving as intended. He is broken.

The next appearance is when Teddy is accompanying a group of guests, who treat him as if he is a thing instead of a person. One guest says Teddy “creeps me out” while another guests suggests they shoot Teddy if he bores them.

Teddy shows no signs of hearing any of this - which is strange for a real human being. We don’t ignore such comments, they make us uncomfortable. Teddy is the perfect actor, he responds only when the guests stay in character. Here the fly highlights the inhumanity of this lifelike doll.

Might Teddy also be glitching like the sheriff? That is a strong possibility. The hosts won’t kill a fly, but a more realistic response would be to shoo them away.

The pilot’s very first appearance of a fly is striking as it crawls across Dolores’ motionless face. Dolores is having a conversation with Bernard, but her lips never move. Is this a memory?

The intensely unsettling feeling we get while watching the fly creep across Dolores’ eyeball is merely a distraction. Many of the show’s bigger mysteries are hinted at in this scene.

We can tell from the red marks on her cheeks that this is the same scene where Ashley Stubbs, Westworld’s chief of security, questions Dolores at the end of the episode. Stubbs asks identical questions as Bernard’s, so perhaps this is a script to diagnose the hosts.

However, Bernard throws in a twist in his version, by breaking Dolores’ fourth wall:

What if I told you that you were wrong, there are no chance encounters. That you, and everyone you know, were built to gratify the desires of others who pay to visit your world.

Two things are happening, which we don’t understand until later episodes. Dolores is remembering a previous conversation, perhaps to coach herself to lie to Stubbs. The hosts are not supposed to have such memories, and we see later in the show that these memories start to spiral out of control.

Dolores is also remembering one of her secret conversations with Bernard, possible the very first one. We know from later episodes that Bernard uses this secret chats to talk openly about the fiction of her world. Here he tells Dolores what she really is.

Which leads to our last appearance of the flies, when Dolores kills one at the end of the pilot. Here this is clearly a glitch, an unintended consequence. Dolores just disobeyed her programming. She can now kill living things, and the human guests are the only other living things in the park. This Disney princess is also a Terminator.

(The flies are also a “meta” moment when the writers have fun with themselves, squashing an allegorical idea and the audience’s expectations along with it. The flies are dropped after the pilot, their intended function completed. )

I’ll draw your attention to one last instance when the flies do not appear - when Dolores’ father, Peter Abernathy, seems to lose his mind.

Abernathy’s motions are identical to the sheriff’s - he moves in an unatural, robotic and repetitive manner. He is unable to follow his programming - but there is no fly. Is this breakdown intentional? Sabotage by someone yet unknown? After all, someone planted the photo which triggered this result in Abernathy.

Is Dolores truly becoming sentient? Five episodes in and I still can’t tell. Her father whispers to her “The violent delights have violent ends” which Dolores later passes to Maeve. I suspect this is part of the hosts’ programming, a trigger phrase just like “deep and dreamless slumber.” Each phrase has an intended consequence, which means they are not software bugs.

We witness what might be a 3rd control phrase at the end of episode 5, when Ford tells Teddy “We must look back and smile at perils past.” Afterwards, Teddy seems rejuvenated.

Bernard also whispers a possible trigger phrase to Abernathy right before he places himself in storage and shuts down. In his last steps, Abernathy appears to be sad, almost crying. This emotion wasn’t present before Bernard talked to Abernathy.

The point of all this is that you should never trust your instincts with this show. We still don’t know when Dolores is breaking free from her controls - or when she is simply a mindless robot acting like she is breaking free.