HBO’s series Westworld is a pretty trope-heavy show. Not in a lazy way, though. The park – the aforementioned “WestWorld” – is literally a mass of tropes upon tropes upon tropes. Intentional tropes in the fiction of the show, there for the guest’s amusements.
The show itself has done a fairly good job of using tropes and then subverting them or twisting them just enough to make them fresh and new. There’s a lot of writing about them, but I’ve not yet seen any explicitly calling out this one quiet, effective scene in episode seven.
Minor spoiler for “Trompe L’Oeil” follows after the picture.
Dolores has been doing a good job going beyond the MPDG trope since episode one, but this simple quiet scene between her and William below utterly demolishes it:
If you can’t see the video (or if HBO gets over-feisty with takedowns), here’s a GIF of the most relevant part of the scene:
Sure, this is important in the plot. “I am not a key.” Gotcha. No foreshadowing there.
But more importantly for us, in a place where the people you fall for literally are there just to serve you and to be tools in your journey of self-discovery… Dolores quickly, efficiently, and unequivocally tears down the whole concept that she is simply the MPDG tool for William’s journey of self-discovery.
It is a quiet, simple declaration that echoes the roar across the wasteland:
|We Are Not Things|
And for us as writers, it is a beautiful example of how writing above and past the tropes, how writing our characters – even the flawed, looping hosts of Westworld – as three dimensional allows us to crush a trope within the plot that we’re writing.
It could be done more heavy-handedly (the antagonist from this week’s Supergirl comes to mind), but then it’s ineffective as either political thought OR as plot. When it serves the plot, as it does in Fury Road or “Trompe L’Oeil” it does not pander to your baser instincts, and when it does show you who you really are, it’s because we empathize with the characters, not because of a diatribe.