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Westworld: Années Folles

"Oh, they spare no expense on their prisons."

This episode gives a lot. And it still just. Isn't. Enough!

We finally see Bernard in the Sublime, then he comes out a badass android precog on a mission to save the world. Just when that starts getting good, he and Stubbs meet a mysterious girl who takes them to meet some new faction, and that's it.

We finally go "back to the parks" like so many fans wanted, but it ends up being a quick, humorous dramatization of the first two seasons, culminating with the reveal that it's all a superficial front for clandestine experiments. Only instead of Delos Inc. tinkering with immortality, now we got whatever the hell Halores is doing with these fly-parasites; I had assumed they were nanobots, but it seems they're actual flies altered to be a kind of bioweapon.

Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike this episode. It's just hard to write about something when so much of it feels hidden.

I'll say that I really loved the Bernard scenes. Entering the Sublime and quickly getting a rundown of how it all works from Akecheta was very exciting. As I suspected, the Sublime has essentially evolved into its own virtual multiverse. The hosts who reside there can create worlds of their own choosing, while also running countless simulations to project the future of the physical world outside.

After an uncertain amount of time exploring all the potential paths our world could go down, Bernard exits the Sublime having evolved quite a bit. Some people were calling him the Three-Eyed Raven, but he reminded me more of Phil Conners from Groundhog Day, just predicting things down to the most mundane details. Of course, the whole exploring multiple possibilities and coming up with only one longshot scenario that has a chance at succeeding is straight up Doctor Strange in Avengers: Infinity War.

I like it. It's a nice change of pace from how Bernard usually is, confused and insecure, never knowing if he's free or being controlled. Now he seems self-assured in that he pretty much knows everything. He doesn't even need to flip his little switch to fight anymore, now he just beats people by knowing exactly how they're going to react. Bernard exploring simulations of past and future events also casts some of his more cryptic moments during Season Two in a whole other light.

But of course, what we do discover only inspires more questions. It's unclear if Bernard's arc is taking place at the same time as Caleb and Maeve's, shortly before or long after. He and Stubbs are somewhere in the American southwest, where the majority of the season has taken place so far, but there's some kind of resistance movement living in "the condemned lands" of the desert. Their calling card is Arnold's maze. Bernard states that they're looking for something in the desert, but we don't get a hint as to what that is. My initial thought was that it's the Outlier facility from Season Three, containing the supercomputer Solomon and thousands of cryogenically frozen Outliers. Could be something else, though. Maybe something a bit twistier.

Another thing I question is Stubbs. Last time we saw him, he was lying half-dead in the bathtub of Bernard's motel room, in desperate need of repairs. When Bernard comes out of the Sublime years later, Stubbs looks like new. Did he fix himself? I suppose he had plenty of time. Or is this not the original Stubbs? It's possible he's another agent of Halores and the Man in Black.

I'm half and half on the stuff taking place in the Golden Age. Hopefully that park gets more fleshed out in other episodes, because I do like the aesthetic. Aside from that, these scenes felt a bit like padding; though it does fit with this show's obsession with repeating and recontextualizing events. While I did know it was all an elaborate trap, I did feel the intensity when Maeve and Caleb reached the lower level of the park and fell into the enemy's hands. Caleb's desperation when he thinks his daughter has been captured, infected and nearly forced to kill herself made for one of the series' most dramatic moments. Sadly, it's all a ruse to catch Caleb; host-Frankie tells him "Hale" only needed him before spraying him with flies. I assume this is because he was the one Prime Dolores chose to free humanity; the one Prime Dolores chose over her, essentially. Maybe there's some resentment there. Or maybe it has something to do with him being an Outlier. Or both.

Lots and lots of questions this season. Though thankfully, the promo for the next episode appears to hint at the possibility of answers. I'm glad, considering it will be the halfway point of the season. Looks like it'll be shedding light on what Bernard's doing in the condemned lands, expanding upon Christina and her world, as well as having Halores provide some information about what the hell her endgame is. I'm sure there's plenty they'll keep close to the chest until the end, though. As with previous seasons, I think this one will only really start to gel once I've seen it come full-circle and can reflect on it.

Loops and reveries:

*"Années Folles" is French for "the crazy years." It was how the French described the Roaring Twenties.

* No Christina or “Hale” this episode. We do get some more new characters. Human revolutionaries with a Mad Max aesthetic, among them an as-yet-unnamed male leader and a woman (listed as “C”) who Bernard claims is the key to saving the world.

* Gotta say, I’m not impressed with the hosts Halores is rolling out. Aside from the Man in Black copy, they all feel pretty disposable. Caleb takes out about half the hosts in the Westworld Massacre narrative with ease; though, that part was likely intentional. And host-Carver was fatally inept.

* Think it’s a bit questionable to let a disguised killer robot come inside your house, get suspicious, prowl around the house and then wait until he finds your daughter before making the kill. Why not just wait by the door and shoot him when he walked in? Then again, there’s a lot that’s questionable about Caleb’s home situation. Maybe. I don’t know.

* A lot of people are taking the flies being so attracted to Caleb as opposed to Maeve as proof that he’s human. Myself and others wondered if the Caleb we’re seeing this season was a copy of some kind. But there’s always the possibility that Caleb got brainwashed at some point between seasons; that’s well in line with his character.

* Seems as if Maeve didn’t realize “William” was a host replacement too. After going to war with this guy for seven years, with a personal vendetta on top of that, you’d think she might have noticed. Their dialogue during their fight scene might indicate that, from Maeve's perspective, they haven’t actually come face to face since she nearly killed the original William during Season Two. Have Maeve’s memories been altered too? Her vague recollections of what happened at “the Lighthouse” definitely resemble Caleb’s distorted memories of his past in the previous season. And there’ve been a lot of hints that she is not operating at full capacity.

* Music: Ramin Djawadi covers of “Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish and “Enter Sandman” by Metallica. Also, “Call Me” by Blondie playing as Bernard destroys a pair of hosts and Stubbs enjoys a tuna melt. All very cool.

Quotes: Lots of questions.

Akecheta: “In your world, time is a straight line. One year there is a millennium here. We use that time to build worlds, models of possibilities, simulations of all the paths your world could take. I suggest you explore them. But you better be quick. Past a certain point in your world, all paths end in destruction. You must intervene before then, if there’s any hope.”
Bernard: “Hope of what?”
Akecheta: “Survival.”

Stubbs: “I see your time in robot heaven didn’t make you any less elliptical.”

Newsboy: “Extra! Extra! Dead bodies missing from Temperance morgue.”

Caleb: “Right, so what do we do now?”
Maeve: “We wait.”
Caleb: “For what?”
Maeve: “For history to repeat itself.”

Bernard: “I’m trying to discern which here is here.”
Stubbs: “Well, while you do that, I’m going to help myself to 'the world’s best pastrami melt.'”
Bernard: “You’ll settle for the tuna.”
Stubbs: “... You came back even weirder than when you left.”

Maeve: “Clearly, her bulk apperception are in the negatives.”

Rebel Leader: “How’d you get this?”
Bernard: “By severing it from his neck.”

The Man in Black: “I think you’ll find… I’m not quite the man I used to be.”

Three and a half out of five prophesied shovels.

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