Deadshirt Is Watching…is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt staff, contributors, and guests sound off on the television shows we’re tuned into, from intense dramas to clever sitcoms to the most insane reality shows. This week: Westworld and You’re The Worst!
Joe Stando is watching…
Season 1, Episode 5,” Contrapasso”
Now that’s what I’m talking about! I’d noted before that while Westworld is visually stunning and full of clever ideas and interesting concepts, it had been falling a little flat for me. I’m happy to report that this week’s episode was both impressive in the ways we’ve come to expect and full of some much-needed character development. In retrospect, I appreciate the slow burn of the show a bit more, now that we’re reaching moments like Dolores’s frightening vision or Maeve, awake and seemingly calm and in control on the body shop operating table.
A big theme of Westworld is “the deeper level of the game,” which is a metaphor I find applies to the show as a whole. While there have been some fun setpieces and impressive violence, it’s hard to invest in characters who will be killed and resurrected every week with no memories. Now that the consequences are beginning to unfold, the show’s Host characters are working on a more understandable level. A robot getting blown up and rebuilt doesn’t mean much, but a person, or a robot who thinks they’re a person, is an interesting story indeed.
Episode Highlight: There was so much good stuff this week, from lighter moments like all the shtick with the body shop guys to the long-awaited confrontation between Ford and the Man in Black. While everyone (especially Evan Rachel Wood and Thandie Newton) was great this week, my favorite element had to be the reveal that Clifton Collins Jr. was El Lazo, the criminal kingpin of Pariah. For one, I’m glad we get more of Collins, one of my favorite TV character actors, but beyond that, the juxtaposition of the character he’s “supposed” to play versus the weary, beaten-down version of him the Man in Black was hauling around is fascinating. As a fictional game, there’s not really limits to what Westworld can do, and seeing the depth of narrative texture that’s apparently programmed into it is great.
Chuck Winters is watching…
You’re the Worst
Season 3, Episode 9, “The Seventh Layer”
Last week I noted that this season, much as I was enjoying it, felt a little unfocused, and that the multiple story threads seemed like they were increasingly unable to converge into a nice unifying set of themes. So naturally, this episode was about Paul and Vernon getting lost in the woods.
The episode itself made a strong case for its existence, though. Right off the bat, Paul and Vernon are already responsible for the funniest scene of the series to date (the second season finale, Vernon busting in on Paul while he’s taking a shit, leading to a ridiculous slapfight). Pairing the two of them up for any extended story is, narrative complications aside, a no-brainer. It also comes at an appropriate point, though: Lindsey has been so horrible to Paul as of late that it became nearly impossible for me to watch last episode. (For some, it might have gotten there even earlier.) So it’s helpful to pull away from the main attraction and really focus in on Paul to figure out what the hell he’s still doing with her. As it turns out, a great way to do that was to put him with Vernon, who’s in a very similar situation with Becca, but has an entirely different outlook and a strong enough sense of self to realize what he’s stuck in.
Consider Vernon playing his beloved harmonica at the campfire across from Paul. His “blues,” the truth he sings about himself, are really just basic facts about his job, but he leans into them in ways that suggest so much about who he is as a person (”I am a doctor/I go ‘snip snip’/I rock that body/Or replace that hip”). When he throws it to Paul, though, all Paul can do is provide a very empty summary of who he is and what he does for a living. Paul has absolutely no sense of his real self, and as a result, he’s wrapped up in Lindsey and the baby, deluding himself into thinking that his stabbing was “an accident” because he is literally unable to reconcile Lindsey’s purposeful action with his loyalty to her.
Vernon’s got a different problem: He knows exactly who he is, and there’s a part of him that’s keenly aware that his marriage to Becca is a trash fire. His sabotage of his and Paul’s road trip to pick up the bassinet for his incoming baby is the last desperate act of a man who cannot fathom another second with a woman he knows does not truly love him (no matter how well they podcast together). No, he didn’t plan on getting lost in the woods with Paul, but he sees it as his chance to get out of his marriage for good and take a shot at real happiness, and he thinks Paul should come with him.
It’s interesting that Jimmy’s father comes up twice here, first as reasoning to leave (Jimmy is miserable because his father was miserable, thus if they’re clearly miserable, taking off would be for the best) and then as reasoning to stay (Paul realizes that Jimmy is miserable because Jimmy’s father squandered his opportunities with him, and he can’t bring himself to do the same). I’m not sure either of these are great excuses to abandon your child or uphold your loyalty to an unloving spouse, but in the end, the men choose loyalty — if not to their wives, then to their children.
The title comes from Vernon’s love of 7 layer dip-flavored Blammos: He’s impressed that he can identify each flavor of the dip except for one, which leads him to question what the 7th layer in any 7 layer dip is. Paul eventually tells him it’s “whatever you want it to be.” It’s by no means subtle, but honestly, when you’re this good at wearing your themes on your sleeve, subtlety becomes overrated.
Episode Highlight: Game ball goes to episode writer Stephen Falk for this impromptu birdwatching exchange:
“Vernon! It’s a squant-tailed bushtit!”
“Ah, man, I can’t even…”
That’s what we’ve been watching this week. What are you tuned into? Let us know in the comments, post on our Facebook page, or tweet us @DeadshirtDotNet!