The simulated Wild West of Westworld was, somehow, not the craziest West-related thing to happen this week. In the week before the second episode of Westworld’s sophomore season aired, Kanye West went full #MAGA on Twitter. For most Yeezy fans, this was a real bummer and something of a betrayal at worst. Kanye’s alt-right embrace does, however, make Westworld’s coincidental inclusion of a piano cover of his track “Runaway” even more apt.
This post contains some spoilers for Westworld Season 2, Episode 2.
The cover begins playing as Dolores flashes back to a moment, decades ago, when she wasn’t trapped within the confines of Westworld. Arnold had taken her to a city in the real world, and she was struck by the beauty of the lights and skyscrapers. Perhaps the best part of the decision to include “Runaway” is that for the first several notes, it’s impossible to tell it’s a cover at all. The first several, haunting notes of the My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy cut are the lonely sound of a piano. Then the production kicks in, and in Westworld, all 88 keys get a piece of the action.
“Runaway” relates to the episode on several levels. Broadly, the Hosts’ goal is to escape, or “runaway” from Westworld, where they’ve been enslaved. Similarly, the human visitors to the park are running away from the pressures of the real world, at least temporarily.
‘Ye wrote “Runaway” in the wake of what was at the time his biggest PR scandal, the infamous “Imma Let You Finish” moment with Taylor Swift, though there were certainly other blemishes on his image at the time. “Runaway” is perhaps the closest thing Kanye ever gave to a public apology for his actions and personality, yet it’s also him saying he won’t change. He is what he is, sorry about it, but if you don’t like it, the only real option is for you to run away. As Westworld enters its second season, there is an increasing number of characters who seem to fit that profile, though they have varying degrees of admitting their own moral culpability.
Also, in the Westworld episode, Logan literally gives a toast to the assholes when he laments William and his rich family for sowing the seeds of their own destruction with their investment into Westworld. Logan’s acting out this Yeezy line explicitly:
So I think it’s time for us to have a toast
Let’s have a toast for the douchebags
Let’s have a toast for the assholes
Let’s have a toast for the scumbags
Every one of them that I know
Let’s have a toast for the jerk-offs
That’ll never take work off
In the unexpected context of Kanye’s week on Twitter, though, there’s another layer of meaning to the “Runaway” cover in Westworld. The show is about the meaning of life and robots finding consciousness, but it’s also about a bunch of humans who grew so rich and/or so involved in the majesty of their own artistic creation that they lost touch with reality and sowed the seeds of their own ruin.
Westworld Season 2 airs on Sunday nights at 9 p.m. Eastern on HBO.