Westworld: Les Ecorches

“The passage from one world to the next requires bold steps, Bernard.”

I was expecting this episode to really wow me. Alas, it did not.

That's not to say nothing happened or that a lot of cool things didn't happen. This is Westworld, amazing stuff happens pretty much every week.

Cutting the Strings

First off, Dolores' invasion of the Mesa was pretty rad. Even with their superior weaponry and nifty host detecting vests, Delos' mercenary team was easily tricked and terminated by the android horde. Angela destroys the Cradle after using her perfected sexiness to disarm Engels and pull the pins on his grenades. And Dolores manages to knock Charlotte off her high horse by threatening to work her over with a buzzsaw like she planned to do to Peter Abernathy.

A few of my expectations were subverted in the process. My theory about Dolores killing Hale and replacing her turned out to not be true, sadly. To my surprise, Dolores does what Hale failed to do and cuts out Peter's prized control unit, although it's framed in a way that implies she's putting her beloved father out of his misery. And I thought for sure Ford would only be back for one more episode before what's left of him got obliterated along with the Cradle.

The Puppet Masters

Naturally, the stuff with Ford and Bernard were the most interesting aspects of the episode. In the simulated matrix of the Cradle, Ford reveals to Bernard what Delos Incorporated's endgame is with the park. Whereas Ford and Arnold were interested in observing and coding their androids, the folks at Delos were more interested in observing and decoding the park's rich clientele. This isn't really a revelation to us, since the episode centered on James Delos kind of gave away the fact that his company is invested in unlocking the secret to immortality.

The late Ford is savvy enough to realize that cheating death is no more possible for him or Delos Inc. than it was for Delos himself, with any copied human personalities degrading into invalids or madmen shortly after becoming conscious. Ever the visionary misanthrope, Ford is still firm in his belief that the hosts are the rightful inheritors of the earth as opposed to his own flawed species.

He does, however, shed light on those mysterious scenes of Dolores testing Bernard for fidelity. After Arnold died, Ford spent over 30 years perfecting Bernard to be just like his dead partner. Or as close to the original as he could get. Rather than a copy of Arnold's mind, Ford only had his memory of the man to go on. Ironically, he reveals that he relied even more on the memory of Dolores, Arnold's favorite creation. This explains why Bernard shares much of Arnold's memories, fragmented as they are. Ford explains that he actually had to limit the time Bernard and Dolores spent together, because she was that good at spotting the inconsistencies between him and her creator.

There is still an element of hypocrisy to Ford's seeming benevolence regarding the hosts. He keeps insisting that they're all free, but it still appears that they are, as he said, "free under his control" and tells Bernard that freedom won't be of much use to him if he doesn't take part in the revolution Ford's created. He's worried that the hosts, specifically Bernard, don't have what it takes to play his game to win. To see that his will is carried out in the physical world, he forces his way into Bernard's mind as they exit the Cradle. As Wyatt's men kill Coughlin's men, Ford has Bernard completely shutdown the park's system and then break the controls. He also takes control of his body to personally engage in the slaughter of those murderous humans against Bernard's wishes.

Even as a literal ghost in the machine, Ford's god complex is frightening and without limits.

The Unforgiven

While we don't get see Ford or Charlotte Hale get to be significantly humbled, William is not so lucky. He crosses paths with Maeve and her (former) daughter as they're each trying to elude the Ghost Nation; so there's one thing I correctly predicted.

Maeve wastes no time in exacting her vengeance on the Man in Black who caused her so much misery, shooting him and using her hive mind powers to turn his followers against him. She even gets an awakened Lawrence to turn on him by convincing him to remember the way William mistreated him in the past. Before they can finish him off, Lawrence is killed and Maeve is shot by Lee's backup, just as her daughter is snatched up the Ghost Nation.

Lee prevents them from killing Maeve and has her brought back to the Mesa, but it's not entirely clear if he's doing it because he's actually come to care about her or if he just wants to find out what makes her tick. Notably, William hides from his fellow humans, apparently preferring to bleed out from his gunshot wounds than be taken out of his game; I guess he wasn't lying in season one when he said he was never going back. Although, I'm sure he'll be found either by Emily or Hector and the gang.

Maeve is brought back to the Mesa just in time for the QA team to be killed by Dolores and her gang as they leave the place in ruins. We get another beautiful little moment between the two sentient android women, albeit one that is slightly more empathetic. Despite knowing that the humans will likely torture her to find out what makes her so special, Dolores spares Maeve's life at her request, since the latter still dreams of reuniting with her daughter. She and her followers ride for the Valley Beyond, leaving a dying Maeve and a scared Lee alone in the Mesa.

Coming Full-Circle

In the flash-forwards, Bernard's true nature is found out by Hale, Karl Strand and Ashley Stubbs shortly after they discover the scene of Teresa Cullen's murder at his and Ford's hands. They, of course, start torturing him with the perceived sensation of water-boarding to find out where Dolores went with the control unit they so greedily covet. Eventually he tells them where it is, and Strand announces that they're going on a trip to the Valley Beyond. I get the feeling that they won't like what they find there.

Maybe Hale and Stubbs aren't robot Manchurian candidates like I thought, but that doesn't mean they and Strand aren't about to walk into a trap. I get the feeling that Dolores has already got what she wanted in this timeline, turning William's secret project into her ultimate weapon; after all, she's already got the valuable host-human hybrid data that Delos was trying to procure. Going by Ford's cryptic dialogue, I'm assuming the Valley Beyond or Glory is just host-speak for gaining access to the real world. That seems to be the direction this season is going.

But the more cerebral question at the root of Ford's last narrative is what kind of species the hosts will be. Are they destined to be just as murderous and corrupt as the humans they're replacing, or will they prove themselves to be more pure as Ford believes. Considering Ford's idea of purity seems to involve the eradication of humans (those in the park, at least), I'm leaning towards the former. Then again, hosts like Bernard, Maeve and even Dolores to some extent are shown to have an innate sense of compassion that might win out. Even some of the humans might not be beyond hope: Elsie and Bernard are best buds again, and Stubbs might be becoming more sympathetic to the abused hosts; before he was uncovered, Bernard was willing to own up to Teresa's murder to save Stubbs from being wrongfully accused, so maybe the latter will take that into account. And I'm guessing there must be a greater plan for William, since I doubt he's just going to die miserably in some ghost town; Ford did say this game was meant for him.

No matter where this road ends, I don't see the situation becoming any less uncertain for the hosts or the humans. This show is like Lost in that every answer just leads to more questions.

Loops and reveries:

* We lost a lot of characters in one episode: Zombie-Clementine is shot down in the middle of her assault; Lawrence is shot down by Quality Assurance; Peter dies when Dolores cuts out his robo-brain; Angela blows herself up along with Engels and the Cradle; Coughlin is killed after Teddy goes all Jon Snow on him, and his tech expert Goldberg is slain in the control room.

* For a guy who’s really just a corporate bureaucrat, William handles getting shot multiple times surprisingly well. Then again, it seems like nearly everyone working for Delos Inc. is just as capable of functioning as a coldly efficient mercenary when the situation calls for it.

* Speaking of William, the guy is so selfish that he assumes Maeve is attacking him because Ford is controlling her, and not because she’s personally vengeful that he killed her and her daughter. Lawrence remembering what he did to him and his family in past loops might have clued him in, though.

* Maeve’s powers apparently have no effect on hosts who are already awakened, like her.

* Even with the robot uprising, Delos Incorporated is still the undisputed villain of the series. As Hale and Strand demonstrate, human lives mean as little to them as the androids. They have armies of mercenaries at their disposal, and are capable of overriding the will of actual armies and possibly even whole nations. Now it’s revealed that they want to use the data acquired from Westworld to “decode” humanity, allowing them to live forever and probably take over the entire world. As morally ambiguous as they are, I can’t really blame Dolores and Ford for wanting to usurp control from them.

* It’s dawned on me that Ford is kind of unhealthily obsessed with Bernard/Arnold. Arnold appears to have been the only human Ford really cared for, to the point that he spent years after his death building a perfect recreation of him in the form of Bernard. He even pretended to be Bernard/Arnold’s estranged wife, which is creepy. And now he has literally inserted himself inside Bernard’s mind, which is even creepier.

* Ford named his VR greyhound Jacques. Aww.

* The teaser for next week’s episode implies it will be from the point of view of Akecheta, leader of the Ghost Nation. That’ll be new and interesting.

Quotes:

Ford: “To see the world in a grain of sand, A heaven in a wildflower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in a hour.”
He's paraphrasing a passage from William Blake's poem, "Auguries of Innocence."

Bernard: The park is an experiment, a testing chamber. The guests are the variables, and the hosts are the controls. Guests come to the park, they don’t know they’re being watched. We get to see their true selves. Their every choice reveals another part of their cognition, their drives. So that Delos can understand them. So that Delos can copy them.
Ford: Every piece of information in the world has been copied. Backed-up. Except the human mind, the last analogue device in a digital world.
Bernard: We weren’t here to code the hosts. We were here to decode the guests.

Lawrence: You told me a man ain’t real until he suffers… (Shoots William) That real enough for you?
I'm gonna miss Lawrence. Clifton Collins Jr.'s a great actor.

Bernard: How am I different from Delos? From you?
Ford: They want fidelity, Bernard. A faithful self-portrait of the most murderous species since time began. But you and all the other hosts are something very different. An original work. More just, more noble. And your very nature, Bernard, ensures they will devour you. And all the beauty of who you are, who you could be, will be poured out into the darkness forever. Unless we open The Door.

Elsie: If we make it out of this, I’m going back to dental school.

Angela: Do you know what my cornerstone was? The one key drive your marketing people had them program into my code? Always leave them wanting more. (Pulls grenade pins) Welcome to Westworld.

Maeve: You're lost in the dark.
Dolores: When you've been in the darkness long enough, you begin to see. I saw what lies ahead, who I needed to be in order to survive.

Three out of four Bernards in the closet.

1 comment:

Patryk said...

So I guess Bernard still carries Ford in him in the present scenes. Too bad the present Hale is still her same evil self.

So many deaths, but none important. We were teased with William, Maeve and Charlotte but none of them died. William will be probably found by his daughter, they need more scenes together.