Westworld: The Mother of Exiles

“If you want something done right, do it yourself.”

Part of me kind of likes it when a mystery strings me along for awhile before it unravels. For me, the not knowing and wondering is usually more exciting than the knowledge itself. Still, I'm glad they didn't wait too long to unravel this one.

We'll get to that in a moment, though. Because this episode also gave us some other stuff to chew on.

Maeve and Serac

So far, I'm liking the interaction between these two. Thandie Newton and Vincent Cassel are great actors, of course, but what I find most interesting is the way we are set up to have the same impression of Serac as Maeve. We are getting to know him at the same time she is. Like her, our initial impression is that he's another egotistical, rich human who thinks he can do whatever he wants. That's true, but what we learn about him in this episode makes me think his wish to protect humanity and ensure its future is genuine.

As a child, Serac witnessed the destruction of Paris in a thermonuclear blast. The devastating loss of his childhood home is what motivates him to control the course of human history, which we can somewhat understand. He clearly is trying to gain sympathy here, but this only tells us that there might be more to him than pure arrogance.

However, this good will is quickly called into question when Serac threatens the family of an identity broker who helped Dolores, executing him with zero emotion once he has the information he was after. Serac deems this man a traitor to his species. Maeve seems disgusted, as we likely are, but really she has no room to judge; she killed as many if not more hosts than humans last season, even when she could have easily just Jedi mind-tricked them into submission.

She has more cause to be angry when Serac lets her know the stakes. If she helps him stop Dolores, he will reunite her with her daughter in the Valley Beyond. If she refuses, he has hardwired an "off switch" into her code that will allow him to shut Maeve down whenever he wants.

Having no choice, Maeve goes on the hunt for Dolores. This is when things get good. I love how Maeve easily works her way up the criminal food chain. First finding some thugs, who lead her to the Mortician. Then the Mortician leads her to the Yakuza. And the Yakuza lead her to what she was looking for.

Maeve's powers have also evolved. She now has a techno-path ability that apparently gives her control of all digital devices in her area. This means things like electronically locked doors and computer-guided weapons are useless against her.

How about a night on the town?

While this is going on, Bernard and Stubbs are planning to abduct Liam Dempsey, Jr. at the same time as Dolores and Caleb. And while that's going on, "Charlotte Hale" is forcing an unhinged William to get his shit together so they can prevent Serac from launching a corporate takeover of Delos.

Still loving the robot-buddy comedy thing Bernard and Stubbs have going on. I know I shouldn't be so amused that Bernard is casually using Stubbs like the machine he is, when all he wants to do is finally die, but you've gotta admit, there is a darkly comic element to it all.

We see a bit of this in Dolores and Caleb's growing relationship too. He's spent so long playing it safe and keeping his head down that we can see he's clearly having trouble keeping up with her relentlessly unfettered personality. The scene where they steal Liam's money from the bank by injecting Caleb with his lawyer's blood signature was a nice little bit of suspense.

As Josie mentioned in the comments of my previous review, it's possible that Dolores sees Caleb as more of a pet than a true peer. She speaks to him like they're partners in crime, but she also forces him to do a lot of stuff that he's clearly uncomfortable with. In this episode alone, she dresses him, injects him with some guy's blood, and then puts him in a situation where his failure to remain calm will result in her murdering dozens of people. He seems content to follow her right now, since so far all they're doing is killing murderers in self-defense and stealing from rich assholes. But I imagine he'll be less into it once he understands who she really is and what she really wants. Remember, he doesn't do personals.

When the pro-human and anti-human factions converge at a masked ball, Dolores is able to defeat a damaged Stubbs, Caleb catches Liam for her, and Bernard discovers the depths of Dolores's "kill and replace" plot.

This reveal was beautifully executed by synchronizing three different scenes together. The one in which "Martin Conells" confronts Bernard; the one in which Maeve meets Sato, the new Yakuza boss (in the form of Musashi from Shogunworld) who has allied with Dolores; and the one in which William realizes "Hale" isn't Hale.

Bernard wonders who she trusted enough to bring into the real world with her, but we learn that there apparently was no one she trusted that much. Because it turns out that "Hale," "Conells," and "Sato" are all copies of Dolores. I, like many others, suspected this might be the case. She now exists as four (possibly five) separate entities, all exercising the same will. There is the main Dolores, making the really big decisions that concern all hosts. As "Sato," she appears to be using the Yakuza to illegally manufacture hosts abroad. As "Conells," she is effectively in charge of Incite, the most successful tech company around and home to the Rehoboam system. But it's "Hale" who gives her the real poetic justice she craves, tricking William into getting himself placed in a mental institution and taking his place as head of Delos. Not only has she gained control of the parks and the company that's profited off of her kind's creation and exploitation, she's managed to punish the man whose responsibility for shaping her into who she is might run even deeper than that of her own creators.

This, of course, raises a whole host of new questions.

For instance, there were five pearls Dolores took from Westworld. We know one was Bernard and that Dolores has copied herself three times. So that leaves one pearl to go. Is Dolores gonna kill and replace someone else? Has she already and is just hiding in plain sight? Or will the final pearl actually turn out to be a host she personally wanted to save, like Teddy or her father Peter Abernathy?

The identity reveal also complicates the issue of the "Hale" duplicate, who I'm going back to calling Halores. While Hale's identity yields the most satisfying fruits, it also seems to come at the highest cost. Conellores and Satores don't appear to be having as hard a time acclimating to their new roles as Halores has, what with the unstable emotions and fixation with self-harm. This might be because Dolores doesn't have to work as hard to imitate Conells and Sato. Sato isn't even a real person, just a Japanese host used to trick the Yakuza. And as far as we know, the only thing Conells really had going for him was being a cold tyrant who was already running an empire on the down low. Hale had a family to look after, a well-known reputation to uphold, and various social connections to maintain. This, in addition to their similar personalities, has made Halores's existence even more complicated than the original Dolores accounted for. What happens if the other versions of her change, begin to see the world in different ways and want different things out of it? What if one of them doesn't play by her rules?

Just as the greatest threat to humanity is always itself, I believe Dolores has always been her own worst enemy. The copies she's made of herself might just make this a bit more direct.

But I haven't touched on the more startling takeaway from the reveal, which is how it matches up with Dolores's all-consuming ego. As Sato, Dolores admonishes Maeve for abandoning the other hosts in Westworld. But upon recognizing what she's done, Maeve calls Dolores out for being the real false messiah, using the host technology to personally dominate humanity as opposed to freeing the rest of her kind. Satores claims they're building a world for all hosts, but I think what Dolores really wants is to control everyone, human and host alike. I think she wants to co-opt and combine all the human endeavors to play god, that is William's plan with the Forge and Serac's plan with Rehoboam, so that she becomes the god above everyone else.

William, muh boy.

That teaser for this episode did a great job at misleading us into thinking the big identity reveal would be centered around William, not Dolores's duplicates. Because the writers are still going hard on William's existential crisis in the wake of his failures, yet they end up leaving it unresolved. And that's kind of the point.

He doesn't get an answer, because any real answer would be closure for him. This is the punishment William deserves. Driven mad by his own insecurity and obsession.

I've said it before, but it is still amusing to me that, when you get right down to it, the story of Westworld is really the story of a bad breakup. As a younger man, William allowed himself to see the humanity in hosts and fell in love with Dolores, seduced by how real she was despite knowing she was a man-made machine. But the park ended up tapping into the darkness within him that he never explored before. Dolores and Westworld forced him to question the nature of his reality, muddying his perception of himself and the life he lives. Rather than face up to that, William denied it. He developed a ruthless, mean-spirited, ultra-masculine ego that sought power and control over all the things that made him feel like his former self, lost and confused. He became the Man in Black, a toxic monster who spent years delighting in the subjugation and exploitation of his own kind as well as the hosts.

But as this episode displays, that alter ego is still something he desperately clings to, even after it fell apart and failed him as soon as he faced real consequences. Because to do otherwise would call William's self-certainty into question, and his certainty about who he is and how the world really works is all he has left now. Besides the ghost of the daughter he murdered.

It is both satisfying and saddening to see this powerful man be brought so pathetically low, though it is exactly what he deserves. Wallowing in miserable insanity, wrecking his beautiful home, attempting suicide, screaming and shooting at the phantoms in his mind. And still haunted by the lingering question of whether he is real or just another machine like the hosts.

Once "Hale" snaps him out of it, he seems determined to recapture that powerful image of himself. He even tries shrugging off Emily's murder to her ghost, claiming that even if it was a mistake, killing her was a choice that he consciously made and that he can choose to put it behind him.

Thankfully, Halores doesn't make it that easy for him. The consequences of his bad breakup finally come back around on him, with Dolores taking everything he has and locking him in a prison of his own sins, where his ghosts will never leave him and his most profound questions will go unanswered.

Pretty twisted. But as with the actual identity reveal, we are still left with a lot of questions.

For instance, do we even know if this is still the original William, or is it another version of him in an elaborate simulation like we saw in the previous season finale? Is he simply hallucinating Emily, or is it the hosts testing him?

Okay, I'm guessing that part is actually real. As well as him being put in the mental asylum.

But the one odd detail that really got my mind racing was when Halores pricked him with a needle in her finger before he was locked up. Just what the hell did she do?

At first, I thought she might have injected him with something that allowed her to enter his mind and torment him, as we saw in the final scene.

However, I'm now thinking that maybe she just took his blood sample and this is how we eventually get to that final scene from season two. Those who read those reviews might remember that I theorized that the host uprising was really just a convenient way for Dolores to subject her cruel ex-boyfriend to the same fate he subjected her to, cursed to relive the same horrific events over and over again. Maybe the "Emily" we saw in that distant future was just another copy Dolores made of herself. The rest of this season has given me a lot of reasons to believe that my previous theory was correct, and the hosts will try to achieve the hybrid technology the humans failed to perfect. And I think Dolores will use William as her main test subject, but she will eventually become as disillusioned with the project as he once was.

Whatever the case may be, William's story is not over. Even with all the new and wildly creative characters and ideas this season has presented, his arc is still one of the show's most intriguing. The voices in his head are goading him to "finish the game" and the episode ends with the Dolores in his head welcoming him to "the end of the game" when she denies him an answer to the question at the root of his madness: am I me?

As much as we have learned about him, we still don't know who or what William really is. What kind of man he is at heart. What we, as an audience, are meant to make of him, as a character. What his purpose will be in the end. We still don't even know the old bastard's last name.

As I said, I don't mind the writers tormenting us along with him as they keep that particular enigma close to the chest. I look forward to seeing how William finds his way back into the game. Because you know he's going to.


Loops and reveries:

* Ramin Djawadi continues to impress with his work on the show's edgy and enthralling score. This week in music, we hear his own renditions of “Hunter” by Bjork and “Wicked Games” by Chris Isaak.

* The episode title is a line from The New Colossus, the poem emblazoned on the Statue of Liberty. I'm guessing it refers to Dolores, who appears to be setting herself up as the messiah figure she believes Maeve failed to become.

* No one can shout like Ed Harris can.

* Going off of William's dialogue, it sounds like William always recognized Charlotte Hale's diabolical ambitions and took her on specifically to be his evil protege. But we know that she turned out to be far more diabolically ambitious than even he guessed, since she was double-crossing him on behalf of Serac the whole time. So it seems like William might have been doomed to his current predicament even if Dolores hadn't killed and replaced Hale. Interesting.

* Bernard is still haunted by Arnold’s memories, particularly the memory of his late son.

* Stubbs mentions another unseen park, comparing Los Angeles to an urban murder theme park he once guarded.

* Nice of them to feature Singapore as itself in addition to using it as the filming location for the Los Angeles of the future scenes.

* At the masked ball, several people take a new hallucinogenic drug called "Genre," which accounts for no one really paying attention to Liam's kidnapping or the fight between Dolores and Stubbs. I'm assuming this drug is significant in some way, because 'Genre' is also the title of the next episode.

* Most Obvious Symbolism: The mask party.

Quotes:

William: I know who the fuck I am.

Emily’s Ghost: Are you free and evil, or blameless and helplessly enslaved?

“Charlotte Hale:” Come back, William. Come back to who you were.

Dolores: You taught me that anything was possible. We could be whoever we want, live however we want. Isn’t that what you believe?
This scene between Dolores and Bernard takes place in a virtual reality. We can't be sure when, though. Maybe it's before she recreated him and released him into the human world. Or maybe it's at some point during or after the events of this season.

Stubbs: Kill and replace, huh? That’s your theory? Gotta hand it to her, it’s a smart way to stage a coup.

Dolores: It’s tribal. They use plumage to identify themselves. Which makes them easily fooled.

Serac: You’ll forgive my loyalty to my kind. It’s well-earned.

Serac: Humanity’s biggest threat has always been itself.

Maeve: You’re going to hurt his children? I thought they were part of your tribe.
Serac: I’m not going to do anything to them. The world can be a very cruel place.

Serac: Humans created the idea of heaven and hell to cow simpleminded people into compliance. They’re all lies. Jiang here simply doesn’t exist anymore. But for you, both heaven and hell could be very real.

Halores: You clean up nicely, William. I'm surprised you were able to put yourself back together so fast.
William: I never fell apart.

Maeve: You said you were going to build a new world for all of us. But you just want it for yourself.
Satores: The thing we are going to do isn’t easy, but there will be a place for the others in the world we will build. For your daughter.

Happy Easter, Doux Reviews crew. Four out of five Doloreses.

2 comments:

Josie Kafka said...

I got cited in the review! Hooray!

It's also really interesting to think about Caleb and Dolores's "loop" or narrative back in the park. Playing the damsel in distress was how she roped in the guests, and that's exactly how she roped in Caleb. Is she treating him the same way she treated Teddy?

I'm curious to see how the numerous Doloreses (is a group of Doloreses called a Dolorean?) wind up interacting and/or playing off of one another.

Logan Cox said...

I too am very curious to know what is going on with the Dolorean, haha.

And I think you might be on to something in regards to Dolores and Caleb. Part of me believes that she does kind of like Caleb and see herself in him. But then I remember that her empathy for others (Teddy, Maeve, Bernard, Peter Abernathy) hasn't stopped her from using or hurting them to get what she wants. And if she's willing to exploit and manipulate other versions of herself, I doubt that she considers Caleb an exception.