On HBO's new series Westworld, guests have the opportunity to dress in (customized) 19th century clothes, and go visit a manufactured wild west, populated by incredibly lifelike robots called "hosts." The hosts are calibrated in such a way that they cannot hurt a living thing, not even a fly, not even if they are crawling across their faces as they inevitably, unsettlingly, do. Obviously, they cannot hurt the guests either, which seems to suggest that the guests are always perfectly safe. But are they? Can guests die in Westworld? The hosts can't kill them, but that doesn't mean nothing will.

On the Westworld website, which imagines the park is actually real, one must agree to certain Terms and Conditions before entering an email address, which are honestly a little terrifying if you read through them completely. This document promises that livestock and humanoid hosts are programmed to work to keep guests safe, "even when the narrative calls for them to appear to endanger guests." So this should be reassuring to anyone nervous around eerily lifelike robots. However this document also stipulates that accidental deaths have occurred in the park, due to "buffalo stampede, self-cannibalism, accidental hanging, drowning, 3rd degree burns, autoerotic asphyxiation, blunt force trauma, allergic reaction to non-native plant life, falling from great heights, common manslaughter, tumbleweeds."

The creators of Westworld and the people who run it can bleat that the park is perfectly safe all they want, but it is still extremely real in many particulars, and these could pose an actual threat to visitors. Much like accidental drownings occasionally occur at beach resorts. Then again, I've never heard of Sandals warning guests that they cannot be held responsible for a death due to self-cannibalism.


But weirdly, eating yourself to death is not really a guest's biggest worry at the moment. Let's be honest, that robot uprising is happening any day now. So far, no host has been able to kill a guest in the park, though many have probably longed to do away with the Man in Black played to sinister perfection by Ed Harris. But we did see Dolores, as soon as she had started to "wake up," actually slap the fly that landed on her neck. If Dolores can kill a fly, that could mean that that function that keeps her from injuring literally anything is on the fritz. And that means that maybe the next time someone tries to hurt her, she'll be able to fight back.