HBO's latest dramatic offering Westworld finally premiered on Sunday, October 3rd, after a series of postponements, but the wait seemed to pay off. The pilot was strong, and definitely set up a lot of intrigue and complex storylines in the combination sci-fi/western. Westworld follows a futuristic theme park catering to the ultra-rich, which is inhabited by animatronic "hosts" of a Western town. "Newcomers," or the tourists who pay to enter, are dropped into the park and allowed to engage with the hosts' storylines however they choose. But viewers might be wondering: what do the flies mean on Westworld? There seem to be a great deal of them pestering the population.
The most obvious significance points to them as a plot device for being able to tell the difference between human newcomers and animatronic hosts. While humans swat the flies away (like humans do), the hosts don't seem to have an aversive reflex against them. The hosts don't flinch, for example, even when flies are crawling around inside their eyeballs and across their faces. Vulture speculates that the flies might be carrying some sort of plague that infects the hosts and helps them become self-aware (inciting eventual violence and riot against the creators of the park). This may be true, but, in the pilot, at least, the flies' biggest moment comes at the hands of Dolores, the oldest host in the park.
We begin to realize in the first episode that she's becoming self-aware, and sentient enough to hide that fact from her creators. As she's having a diagnostic test run on her, the engineer who's interviewing Dolores proudly boasts that she's the been fixed so many times, it's almost as if she's brand new. He demonstrates how loyal to her programming she is by asking what she thinks of her world, and she gushes that it's wonderful, assuring him that she wouldn't hurt a fly. But the pilot ends with a sequence of her back in the park, repeating her usual morning track, when a fly lands on her face. Instead of ignoring it, like we've seen the hosts do several times, she smacks and kills it. This could mean a few different things.
It could be that Dolores is actually feeling human reflexes and impulses now that she's questioning her reality, which leads her to notice the fly and kill it. Or, it could be that the hosts have become so technologically advanced that they're actually capable of picking up and mimicking human behaviors from the newcomers, which could eventually help them blend in with other humans, should they ever plot an uprising against their creators. Whether or not the flies continue to be significant past the first episode, they definitely served a useful purpose in helping us witness the shift between a happily functioning robo-host and a confused, semi-woke humanoid who may pose a threat to all humankind.