Westworld: Phase Space

“We each deserve to choose our fates. Even if that fate is death.”

We are just a few more puzzle pieces away from finally seeing this season's big picture. It really is the opposite of the first. Instead of starting from a state of order and descending into chaos, we were thrust into pure existential anarchy at the start and are only now beginning to see the method to the madness.

I suppose I should get to the big reveal first. We see the return of Anthony Hopkins as Robert Ford, or at least the simulation of Ford within the Cradle. Upon making their way back to the Mesa, Bernard and Elsie discover that the Cradle -- the source of the hosts' hive mind, which contains all of their backup data -- is improvising to repel Quality Assurance's efforts to regain control of the park. Bernard willingly removes his own control unit (or robo-brains, as I like to call them) to jack in to the Cradle directly and find out what's going on. Although, he technically already knew.

Bernard finds Ford playing the piano in a simulation of Sweetwater, having become music thanks to Bernard retrieving his newly made control unit and placing it in the Cradle shortly before Dolores killed him. So he's not only able to control the hosts via the code, Ford has quite literally become the system that runs the park.

According to a QA tech, the system appears to be running as it should be, even though it smacks in the face of everything the humans know. That's because neither the system nor its hosts are malfunctioning. Thanks to Ford, acting on free will and rebelling against humans is the new system all of the hosts are conforming to. I imagine it'll take some work for QA and the Delos response team called in by Charlotte Hale to accept this new reality. The very violent kind of work.

That appears to be how the next episode is going to play out, since Dolores and her horde are storming the Mesa near the end of this one. She loads the train with explosives and sends it (and poor Phil) crashing into the Mesa's entry terminal. Since we know the Cradle is destroyed two weeks (or, I guess, one week) from now, I'm thinking the Mesa is in for another massacre.

We are once again faced with one of this show's most pertinent questions: what is real, anyway?

It appears to be simply a matter of perception. It's as much belief as it is suffering, as Ford and Dolores think. Maeve's memories of her child and the love they shared is real to her, and so is the grief Akane feels for the late Sakura, who she saw as her daughter. If we're being cynical, Akane ritualistically cutting out Sakura's heart and setting it aflame to set her spirit free at Snow Lake is a meaningless gesture, but it obviously is very important and meaningful for her.

We bid farewell to Shogun World, as I feared. Akane and Musashi choose to stay behind at Snow Lake. That's a bummer, since I was really loving those characters and that setting, but hey, the show's called Westworld not Shogun World after all. And it makes sense that Akane and Musashi wouldn't forsake their own personal journey to play second fiddle to Maeve, since they share Maeve and Hector's independent nature. We do at least get a badass sword fight between Musashi and Captain Tanaka, ending in seppuku for Tanaka and Musashi beheading him as kaishakunin. And Hanaryo joins Maeve's crew as they return to Westworld, becoming a ronin cowgirl of sorts.

Interestingly, this episode features two heartfelt reunions between parents and daughters. Neither turns out very well, despite the feels. Maeve finally finds her daughter, only to discover another host has replaced her as the girl's mother. And the estranged William and Emily briefly bond over their similarities and seem set to reconcile, only for William to ditch her and her offer to escape the park together so he can continue playing his game as the Man in Black. He's obviously touched that she still cares for him, but can't let go of his self-loathing nature or his fixation on seeking self-fulfillment in the fantasy world that's consumed so much of his life.

The fact that both Maeve's party and William's are descended upon by the Ghost Nation leads me to think the two are heading toward a bitter reunion next episode. That will be very harrowing. Maeve remembers what he did to her and her daughter in the past, and apparently so does her daughter, who fears "the bad man" will come and take her mother away again. Will she take revenge on him, or will the intervention of his daughter bring them to some kind of truce. I doubt that Maeve would harm Emily just to get back at William. Maeve’s thing seems to be proving that she is truly above the humans she hates rather than wanting to just torture and kill them all like Dolores.

Loops and reveries:

* We return to the scene that opened this season, with Bernard ponderously testing Dolores. Only it turns out Dolores is actually testing him. For "fidelity"; she and William really are made for each other. We still don't know when this is taking place, but it's possible that it's another simulation within the Cradle, given both of these scenes share the same letterbox format.

* Dolores succeeded in remaking Teddy into a more coldblooded henchman. Maybe too well. She seems perturbed at his new indiscriminately violent disposition, and the fact that he recognizes and grimly accepts that she brainwashed him. Think she's already missing her chivalrous beau. It's pretty sad. Just as Teddy discovered his true nature as well as free will, he was reduced to a puppet once more. By the woman he loved more than anything, no less.

* At first, William ignores Emily because he thinks she’s a host sent by Ford to screw with him, which I found amusing; dude can’t even tell what’s real anymore. Then I began to wonder, maybe she is a host and doesn’t even know it. It would certainly put a spin on the scene where she tests Nicholas to see if he's one. And it is pretty convenient that she just happened to find her father so quickly after arriving in Westworld.

* After finally making it back to the Mesa, Ashley Stubbs is ridiculed and talked down to by Charlotte and Coughlin, the macho leader of the mercenary team. The latter even childishly makes fun of his first name; clearly, he's never seen the Evil Dead movies. I've been wondering, do Westworld and Delos Inc. just have a policy that requires all of their employees to be relentlessly condescending douchebags?

* Charlotte calls Peter a psycho right before she has him cruelly bound to an examination table with a nail-gun. Bet Dolores isn't gonna be too happy about that.

* Then again, not all of the staff are hopeless. Stubbs is the only guy at the Mesa who gives a damn about the park's dead staff members, and is clearly disturbed at the way Charlotte handles Peter. No-nonsense Elsie easily resumes her camaraderie with Bernard, even knowing he's a host. And even the egotistical Lee Sizemore seems to have become genuinely sympathetic to Maeve in the course of their journey.

* I really hate to be the guy who’s all like “You know what I would have done if I was in the dramatic situation I’ve never experienced before”, but damn it, Phil the tech should have used the gun Teddy gave him to shoot the door lock or blast out a window. He might have gotten away. Then again, Teddy or Angela would’ve probably just gunned him down anyway. Poor bastard.

* When Bernard mentioned the Cradle’s source code, it reminded me of Source Code, the fun sci-fi thriller by Duncan Jones which also starred Jeffrey Wright in a role slightly similar to Bernard/Arnold.

* I’ve been thinking for awhile that the Stubbs and Hale we’re seeing in flash-forwards to two weeks later aren’t who (or what) they appear to be. Again, Stubbs made it back to the Mesa and Hale nailed Peter in place to prevent him from escaping. But later on, Peter is missing and Stubbs is on the beach far away from the Mesa. And Hale was acting very strange and robotic when Bernard and Strand met up with her in a previous flash-forward. Maybe they’ve been replaced by hosts. Hell, maybe their identities have been hijacked by Dolores and Teddy or something. Which would mean Karl Strand and Delos Security may have just walked right into their trap. Shit is getting real… so to speak.

* At first, I was confused by the presence of a greyhound with Ford in the Cradle. Then I was reminded that, last season, Ford told the story of a greyhound his family once owned when he was a boy. The story seemed to illustrate Ford's own lack of direction when faced with the achievement of his lifelong goals.

Quotes:

Dolores: How many times do you think you stepped off that train? A thousand? Ten thousand? It’s where you started every time they killed you.
Teddy: The man who rode that train was built weak and born to fail. You fixed him. Now forget about it.
How convenient.

William: Maybe you're more suited to my line than you wanna admit.
Emily: Oh, I've always seen the appeal of it. Life without consequences. It's what made it so fun when I was a kid. And that's why it's so sad that you're still obsessed with it now.
William: If I'm such a pitiable man-child, why'd you come all this way to climb under my wing.
Emily: (laughs)
William: What? What?
Emily: Is that what you think? That I came here to climb under daddy's wing?
William: Either that or you want a front row seat to watch me die.
Emily: No, I came here because you do not get to do that to me. Suicide by robot, or whatever the fuck your mission is now that these things can shoot to kill.

Bernard: The Cradle can’t influence the Mesa’s infrastructure. It’s just the hosts’ backups. It can simulate park narratives, but it can’t influence the other systems.

Elsie: There’s something in here that’s improvising.

Hawking: The problem is there is no problem.
Coughlin: Brother, that’s got to be the dumbest fucking thing I’ve ever heard, and I’ve been to three inaugurations.
Hawking: Diagnostics, com path checks, everything we can access is telling us that the system is operating normally, except it isn’t. Okay, I’ve managed to isolate certain ops and gain control. We’ve got elevator monitoring on most levels—
Coughlin: That’s great, Hawking. Did you shut off the killer robots?
Hawking: … Well, no.

Code-Ford: Hello, old friend.

All in all, another good episode that mostly serves as set up for what will likely be an even crazier episode. Three out of four merciful bullets.

2 comments:

Patryk said...

A bit of a letdown after the previous 2 episodes being mostly set-up, but the reveal of Ford makes up for it.

I love Your theory about the flashforwards. Dolores hijacking Charlotte would be a fun twist. Of course Dolores testing Arnold's fidelity in the cradle will probably play out in the next episode where Bernard will get stuck in the cradle with Ford to provide a PoV for us and Arnold will be uploaded to his body and that will be him waking up on the beach in the flash-forward.

Too bad I'm now cought up and have to wait a week for the next episode. :)

Logan Cox said...

Well yeah, every episode does feel kind of like a stepping stone to the big season finale, but the last two were wonderful in spite of that fact. William's journey, the whole scenario with James Delos and our grand introduction to Shogun World. That's what I love about this show, is how much it's able to pack into single episodes while those episodes still serve the purpose of getting us closer to whatever big twist lies ahead.

I'm still confused as to whether or not we're seeing Bernard or Arnold in those scenes. The setting makes me think Arnold, but the dialogue and the fact that his motor functions can be frozen makes me think it's Bernard. Of course, if our theories are correct, they might be one and the same by that point.

And I know what you mean. To quote Tom Petty, the waiting is the hardest part.