by Josie Kafka
This hallucinatory penultimate episode, directed by Michelle MacLaren, confirmed yet another fan theory while developing the theme of identity and memory for not just the hosts, but also the humans.
Like William, who has finally learned how to play the game. Both he and Logan have disintegrated so much since they arrived: two weeks ago, William abandoned Logan to a gang of Confederados who tortured him. This week, Logan tied up his prospective brother-in-law. Neither of them are acting like reasonable, kind humans, perhaps because this park is meant to reveal who people really are: base jerks who find any excuse for violence.
William’s excuse is Dolores, and he certainly enjoyed his violence this week (because he doesn’t realize, as we do, that two men fighting over Dolores is just two men pursuing the same tired narrative.) After pretending to agree with Logan (just to get untied), William slaughtered all of the Confederados. He did it so Logan would have no backup. So he could pursue Dolores without interferences.
But he also did it, I think, out of the same malicious curiosity that leads small children to burn ants: what will happen? What does it mean that I can make it happen? If William is the Man in Black—and I think we’re safe assuming he is—this might be the birth of his fixation on their bodies in both their early, mechanical forms and their later flesh-and-blood iterations.
Maeve, too, has learned to play the game. Her scene with Hector was wonderful (those two have so much sexual charisma), and I loved that the safe was empty. Of course it was empty! Like the frequent shoot-outs that lead to its capture, the safe is a metaphor for the hollowness of violent narratives. In easier stories, we are meant to want to watch people pursuing a McGuffin; we want the violence more than the McGuffin. It’s all sizzle, no steak. Like Westworld the park, it’s violent delight without consequences. But Westworld the show adds human complexity to elevate its scenes: Maeve and Hector having sex while a fire rages around them is a beautiful image, but it’s one with significant meaning.
Maeve’s scene with Bernard showcased just how incredible these actors are. Her little gestures as she feigns analysis mode and sleep mode were lovely, but her power to act as Bernard’s narrator were the most shocking, especially to him. Did Bernard wipe knowledge of his own hostness out, along with his memories of Theresa?
Probably, since Bernard is like a palimpsest: he has a stable personality—it’s Arnold—but he is constantly being overwritten, erased, and rewritten. His struggle with Dr. Ford to regain some measure of control, to simply access his own memories and know his own identity, was an exercise in cruelty, and the best I can hope about the end of that series of dialogues is that Bernard didn’t really kill himself, which is a sad hope. Then again, I suppose he could just be rebuilt, since Bernard is Arnold 2.0, Arnold with added memories, Arnold with new experiences, but still Arnold.
Or not? The internet seems so excited by this reveal—that “Bernard is Arnold!”—but I feel like I need to protest: no, he isn’t. He is a new being, Bernard, whose basic personality is inspired by Arnold’s. One’s identity can be situated in a variety of places: the body, memory, temporal existence, cultural discourse, and social structures. Bernard is different from Arnold in each of those respects, but especially in the way that he can fully live his memories, experiencing them as vibrantly as the present.
Which is what Dolores does, and which is why her scenes were the most hallucinatory. Throughout this episode, more blatantly than previous episodes, she slipped in and out of the various stages of her development: before the park’s opening, her adventures with William, her conversations with Arnold. Her clothes, her stomach wound (or lack thereof), and the places she interacted with all helped keep most of the timelines straight (although I’m still confused about whether the dead bodies we saw in the underground lab in the park’s earliest days were human, and if the hosts killed them). But that's part of the point: the timelines are not clear to Dolores. Each of them is alive to her in a way our memories are not alive to us.
In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, MacLaren described her process of exploring Dolores's journey through her own memory: “It's challenging in that you're jumping through her memory and you're making those transitions, and you're trying to make sure people can follow and understand as she's realizing where she is, what's going on, who she is, and who can see what in that moment. There's a moment in the scene when a young Robert Ford walks past Dolores. He doesn't acknowledge her, because for him, she's not there. There are these little things that transpire that we needed to transitionally make sure people could follow along at any given moment.”
I think that’s an important thing to remember, and an important thing to pay attention to on a rewatch: “He doesn't acknowledge her, because for him, she's not there.” What we see is not always reliable. The camera typically acts as a narrator. Here, though, the narrator is both unreliable and limited to character p.o.v. in an exciting and unusual way.
But we do know a few things: the town of Escalante, where the hosts were trained, is no longer under sand. Dolores, in her present-day self, remembers what took place there. She thinks William has come for her, but the Man in Black walks in instead.
Oh, and Hemsworth is missing.
It should be an epic season finale.
• Dolores: “If it’s such a wonderful place out there, why are you all clamoring to get in here?” I wonder if this is a hint that we’ll start to see the outside world in the next season. (Because I can’t imagine how this show could continue to be set just in the park.)
• I don’t have a lot to say about Teddy this week—may he rest, yet again, in peace—because I’m still not clear on which of his memories are accurate and how Dolores and Wyatt fit into those memories.
• The scene of the early hosts talking to themselves in church because the bicameral mind instructions were making them slightly crazy was fascinating. It ties in with the language Maeve uses with Hector—going to hell, gods—and which she took from the information he gave her about the kachina dolls the “natives” use to indicate the techies in their space suits.
• Even Hector began to remember things this week.
• Oh, so Charlotte really does think Theresa died smuggling information out of the park for Team Corporate Takeover? Like the Man in Black, I am not overwhelmed with the caring.
• In the same interview, MacLaren said that, after one attempt with a stuntman, Ed Harris did all of the noose/horse stuff himself.
Three out of four limbless Confederados
Josie Kafka reviews The Vampire Diaries, Game of Thrones, and various other things that take her fancy. She is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)