The last couple episodes of ‘Westworld’ have made an interesting shift away from Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), who was the main focus of the early parts of the season, and toward Maeve (Thandie Newton). I wonder if this was planned all along, or if the story simply gravitated toward the more compelling character.
Dolores isn’t even featured in this week’s episode at all. Instead, we open with Maeve waking up in her bed. The last we saw her, she was fully conscious and wanted to have a chat with one of the engineers in the bowels of the park’s operations center. Now expected to go about her regular routine, she sidetracks things by telling the whore Clementine to take a break and offering to service one of the newcomer guests herself. She brings the man up to her room and gets down to business. Clearly having an unexpected agenda, she encourages him to be rough with her, and even puts his hand around her throat, goading him to strangle her while he fucks her.
The next think you know, Maeve wakes up back on a table in the lab with the engineer, Felix, standing over her. That’s a hell of a way to continue a conversation.
Felix explains to Maeve that she’s artificial. That’s an awfully big thing for someone to grasp and she doesn’t want to believe it at first. To prove it, Felix pairs his tablet with her CPU and shows her, in real time, how her brain is choosing the exact words she’s saying. Maeve experiences what the tablet describes as an “Improvisation Error,” glitches and freezes cold.
Felix panics. He desperately tries to reboot her before anyone notices what he’s doing with company equipment. After a couple frantic moments, Maeve eventually comes to and picks up talking as if nothing had happened. She says that she wants to see what’s going on upstairs. Even though Felix is scared, Maeve is very persuasive and has a powerful sway over him. Regretting it even as he does it, he walks her through corridors past various labs and workrooms, pretending to be controlling her with his tablet, as if he were simply transporting a ‘bot to another lab. Maeve sees the slaughter floor again, but also sees robots being built – not just people robots, but bison and horses and other animals too. She witnesses programmers testing robots and playing out scenes in glass-walled rooms.
After the design lab, where sculptors carve distinctive individual faces, Felix tries to shuffle Maeve into an elevator to bring her back where they came. Before she goes, she stops to watch a video wall with a park advertisement playing. Among the scenes showcased in the commercial are clips from her own dreams. Of all the things she’s seen, Maeve is most bothered by this. She asks how it’s possible. Felix explains that they’re not dreams; they’re memories from her previous builds. They’re supposed to be wiped from her mind with each new rebuild, and he doesn’t know how she remembers them.
After they return to Felix’s lab, his dickish coworker, Sylvester, catches Felix talking to Maeve. He also questions why she’s dressed. (It’s standard practice for the robots to be stripped while they’re examined or worked on.) He thinks that Felix has gone nuts and fallen in love with a damned robot. He threatens to report him. Maeve reveals that she’s conscious, grabs a scalpel and holds it at Sylvester’s neck. She says that she’s a businesswoman and they should come to an arrangement that’s lucrative for them both. She can either help him, or gut him, his choice.
Sylvester chooses wisely. As Maeve asks more questions about her condition (of being not a real person), they show her personality matrix, which determines her character traits. She says that she wants to make some changes. For example, she asks them to dial down her fear and pain response. As Sylvester works, he makes the very surprising discovery that she has already been modified by someone. (This would explain how she’s able to wake herself up in the lab, and retain memories that were supposed to be wiped.) Maeve tells them to jack her intelligence quotient to the maximum setting, far beyond the limits imposed on all park robots.
The Man in Black
As the Man in Black continues his quest for the mysterious maze, Teddy tells him that it’s just an old Native myth. They learn that the border is closed due to trouble in Pariah. (We’re supposed to believe that’s due to William’s misadventures in the town, but if the theory about these storylines taking place in different timelines is correct, then we’re just being misdirected here.) Teddy says he knows an alternate path to where they’re going, but it might be treacherous. However, he’s motivated to continue by his desire to rescue Dolores, whom he believes was kidnapped by the villain Wyatt.
The route Teddy leads them on requires passing through a Union Army camp. He and the Man in Black accost two Union soldiers and steal their uniforms, then try to saunter through the camp. Unfortunately, another soldier recognizes Teddy and causes a scene. Teddy tries to shoot his way out, but the both of them get caught and are tied up.
The Union soldiers call Teddy a murderer and threaten to brand him with a cattle iron in the shape of the maze logo. At this, Teddy suddenly has a flashback memory and we discover that in fact he was the psycho who went crazy and murdered his unit, not Wyatt. He has unlocked the secret backstory planted in him. He’s not a good guy after all.
Teddy breaks his bonds and fights off the soldiers, then frees the Man in Black. They shoot their way through the camp until Teddy mounts a wagon with a hand-cranked machine gun, which he uses to mow down the rest of the Union troopers.
The Man in Black muses, “Think you know someone…” He doesn’t yet realize just how little he knows about Teddy.
Elsie, Bernard & Dr. Ford
Obsessed with the transmitter she found hidden in a robot’s arm, Elsie believes she’s discovered a case of industrial espionage, and that this must be tied to the glitchy robot behavior as well. She thinks the company will reward her with a big promotion when she blows the lid off this conspiracy. All she has to do is gather enough evidence to prove it.
Bernard tells Elsie that the “stray” that smashed its own head in was an older model robot with some redundant geocaching hardware that the current computer systems can’t read. He then makes a trip to the damp and dimly-lit basement level B82 to access an old computer – which is still very advanced by modern real-world standards, of course. (In the background of the scene, we catch a glimpse of an old robot that looks to be a nod to Yul Brynner’s character in the original ‘Westworld’ movie.) Bernard is not only able to track everywhere the stray went before it died, he finds evidence of five host robots moving in the park that are not registered with the new network. This troubles him very much.
The unregistered hosts are operating in Sector 17, an off-limits area that (to anyone else’s knowledge) has not had any recent visitors, either robot or human. He makes a trip there and finds a small house with a host family living in it. Rather than the Old West theme of the rest of the park, they seem to be Welsh, from approximately the 1940s. Bernard enters the house to observe. The father, who’s a hot-headed sort, sees this stranger wearing unusual clothes intruding into his home and moves threateningly toward him. Bernard attempts to freeze his motor functions but the robot won’t respond to his voice commands. Suddenly, Dr. Ford interrupts and restores peace. These robots recognize his voice.
Ford calls these robots “ghosts.” He explains that they’re first generation models built by his former partner Arnold as a gift to Ford many years ago. He has maintained them himself as his private secret. The scene they’re enacting is a story from his own childhood. The man is a model of his father, and the young boy named Robert is Ford himself.
Bernard expresses his concern about unmonitored hosts in the park, but Ford insists that they’re harmless and never stray from their programmed area. He asks Bernard to indulge him in keeping this secret.
Bernard returns to the control center and investigates whether any other unregistered first generation hosts may be operating in the park. Meanwhile, Elsie tracks down the source of a satellite relay transmitting data to hosts. She finds it in an old storage facility that is of course creepy and dimly-lit.
Bernard goes to Theresa’s room and begins to tell her that he’s worried that Dr. Ford is up to something. He’s interrupted by a call from Elsie, who claims that Theresa is the data smuggler who programmed the satellite relay. Bernard makes excuses to leave and call Elsie back. She additionally tells him that she’s discovered that someone is retasking hosts, overwriting their basic programming and safety protocols. Host robots could lie to their operators, or even kill real people in the park. Bernard asks who’s doing this, but Elsie says the only records she’s found point to the name Arnold. After their phone conversation ends, Elsie hears a noise in the spooky warehouse and gets jumped by someone unseen.
The next day, Dr. Ford returns to Sector 17, hoping to play catch with young Robert and his dog. However, the boy shows him that the dog is dead. Ford brings Robert to his lab and asks what happened. The kid claims that it was an accident, but Ford recognizes that this is a lie. He puts Robert into analysis mode and makes him confess that he killed the dog. When asked why he would do that, the boy says that a voice told him to – the voice of Arnold.
Lee Sizemore, the park’s head narrative writer, is fed up with the way his storylines are being vetoed or rewritten. He tries to drink away his worries at a spa facility that is either for senior executives or wealthy clients (or both). He flirts with a woman (Tessa Thompson) at the bar, blurting out the fact that some robots are going off-script, and venting about his frustrations with Dr. Ford.
Lee runs into the woman again when he makes a big drunken scene in the control room, peeing on the holographic map of the park. Theresa grabs him and introduces him to Charlotte Hale, a representative from the Delos Corporation board who’s come to observe park operations. Uh oh.
For me, this is the most interesting episode of the show so far. I’m intrigued by the way the mystery is playing out. The only thing I didn’t care for in this episode is Elsie’s reckless behavior, running off to investigate the conspiracy on her own, sneaking through an unlit warehouse where of course she’s going to get attacked. The way that plays out is a little too clichéd. Beyond that, I like where the show is going.
I also have to point out that the musical score in this episode, by ‘Game of Thrones’ composer Ramin Djawadi, is particularly lovely. His themes are especially evocative in the scenes where Maeve witnesses the reality of her world.