But it's not just television writers who love birds. In her 1994 book on writing, Bird by Bird, writer Anne Lamott tells an anecdote about how her 10-year-old brother struggled to complete a book report about birds for school. He was overwhelmed by the materials he was presented with. Her father, also a writer, told the boy that he just needed to approach the report in a simple way, saying, "Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird." It's become a popular creative axiom, a phrase that can turn seemingly complicated projects into a set of approachable tasks. Lamott uses it as a way to demystify the writing process.
Critics of Westworld might say that the show struggles to take things "bird by bird." This is a series that roared out the gate with four densely plotted, theory-heavy, and often confounding episodes of television. (If these are birds, they are very, very big birds.) But, if "Contrapasso" had a slight edge over its predecessors, it was in the way the episode sat in moments and did normal television show things, like show us two low-level workers having a stupid conversation about ham sandwiches. It gave us an adventure to a dangerous town. It gave us a showdown between two of the show's biggest stars. It did basic bird things.