Barring an unexpected payoff later in the season, last week’s diversion into Shogun World seems more and more to have been a fruitless waste of time. ‘Westworld’ (mostly) extracts us from that storyline this week and tries to get things back on track.
This week’s episode opens, like so many do, with Arnold interrogating Dolores. However, the 2.35:1 aspect ratio of the footage is an immediate clue that something is different this time. Arnold expresses that he’s frightened of what Dolores might become, and has to make a choice between the unknown or “an end.” Dolores then flips the tables on the conversation and commands Arnold to sit down. She tells him that he misspoke a line, and that their conversation has been a test for “fidelity,” much like William tested the robot clone of James Delos. Arnold is not really Arnold. Does that make him Bernard? Honestly, I’m not sure.
The timeline for events in the rest of the episode is pretty confusing. It’s difficult to keep track of which storyline takes place before or after which other. I’m not sure when exactly this opening conversation takes place. For this recap, I’ll break things out by character group.
We’re not quite done with Shogun World yet, unfortunately. The last episode ended with Maeve readying herself for a major samurai battle. Rather than show any of that, we jump forward to the grisly aftermath. Numerous bodies litter the ground in various states of dismemberment, but Maeve is still standing. She watches madam Akane tearfully cut the heart out of her surrogate daughter Sakura’s body and wrap it in a cloth.
Returning to the very Sweetwater-like town, Maeve discovers that Hector and Armistice (as well as Hanaryo, the Japanese copy of Armistice) are prisoners of a gangster named Tanaka. Musashi (Hiroyuki Sanada) challenges Tanaka to a duel. Even though she has the power to put a quick end to all this foolishness, Maeve elects to let it play out. “We each deserve to choose our fate,” she says as she steps aside.
Things seem to not go so well for Musashi as the duel begins, but he eventually cuts off Tanaka’s hand. The other man defeated, Musashi tosses him a blade and allows him to commit seppuku.
Maeve, Akane and their respective entourages trek to Snow Lake, where they can see a full-size Mt. Fuji in the distance. (Exactly how big is this Delos island? This seems absurd, even if we buy into the notion that the company has advanced terraforming technology.) Akane cremates Sakura’s heart at a ceremonial altar, then tells Maeve that she and Musashi will not be traveling with her any further. They have their own story to lead. Hanaryo, however, chooses to tag along with Armistice.
Maeve and her group enter the park’s tunnel system, and Lee guides them to the homestead range that Maeve remembers very well. When she spots her old house, she asks to go alone. Hector is wary but agrees to stay behind with the others.
On the front steps of the house, Maeve finds and speaks to her daughter. The girl is polite to her, but then runs into the arms of another woman she calls “Momma.” Maeve is heartbroken.
Just then, a group of Ghost Nation warriors ride toward the house. Remembering her old storyline in which she was murdered (repeatedly) by the tribe, Maeve grabs her daughter and runs off, leaving the other mother behind. Hector and Armistice charge in and begin shooting, even though the Ghost Nation haven’t actually harmed anyone. One Ghost Nation warrior catches up to Maeve and asks her (in his language, which she can understand) to come with her, saying “We are meant for the same path.” Prejudiced by her memories, Maeve interprets this as threatening and refuses.
Watching the scene play out, Lee pulls out the walkie-talkie he snatched from a Delos soldier’s corpse last week and radios for help.
The Man in Black
Having unexpectedly run into his daughter Grace in the park, the Man in Black initially assumes that she’s really a host robot replica and is part of Robert Ford’s game for him. He’s not buying it. Grace explains that she was invited to the board gala by Charlotte Hale, but since things went to shit at the Raj, she came to bring her father home and won’t leave without him, nor will she allow him to “suicide by robot” on whatever crazy quest he’s fixated on now.
The Man in Black seems to warm up to Grace when she helps him avoid an ambush. He agrees to leave with her at sun-up. Of course, she wakes up in the morning to find her father and his entire crew, save for one man, already gone. He abandoned her again.
Following his reprogramming, Teddy has a decidedly darker edge. He says he’s “fixed” and is eager to get on the train to carry out Dolores’ mission. He even straight-up murders one of the prisoners from Delos with no provocation. This is no longer the sweet-natured Teddy we used to know.
The train gets underway and rides back toward the Mesa. As it gets close, Teddy hands a pistol and one bullet to the other Delos technician prisoner and tells him it’s “the last of my mercy.” Then Teddy locks him in the train’s lead car and decouples the back end of the train. He, Dolores and their other supporters drift to a stop as they watch the engine roar straight into the tunnel entrance in the Mesa.
Now that she has Abernathy in her possession, Charlotte sends out a secret message confirming as much and receives an immediate response that an extraction team has been dispatched. To make sure he doesn’t wander off anywhere, Charlotte has some of her techs literally bolt Abernathy into a chair. Stubbs finds this treatment troubling, even if Abernathy is just a host.
Later, Delos militia forces parachute into the park, led by a crusty Scottish commando named Coughlin. Initially, Stubbs is pleased to see some professionals take over and offers his help, but Coughlin treats him dismissively, declaring that “Amateur hour is over.”
After securing the Mesa, Coughlin’s men try to hack into the system but are rebuffed and can’t figure out exactly what’s wrong. They manage to get the 3D map of the park working just in time to see the train coming straight for them. As soon as it enters the tunnel, the train, loaded with all the nitro Dolores took from the Confederados, explodes.
It turns out that references to “The Cradle” earlier this season were not just another name for the park’s control center, as I previously believed. It’s actually a computer program that houses the memories and personalities of all the hosts in the park, for the purposes of creating a VR training and testing simulation. (This is where we saw Dolores and Arnold at the beginning of the episode.)
Elsie and Bernard walk along train tracks into the tunnel in the Mesa, which leads them to the departure center where guests first enter the park. Elsie logs into a computer terminal and discovers that the Cradle has somehow blocked attempts by the Delos “QA” security force to hack into it. Elsie is very shocked by this, as the Cradle itself is acting as though it’s artificially intelligent, which it shouldn’t be. She tries to investigate further but can’t access the Cradle remotely.
She and Bernard make their way to a room marked “CR4-DL.” Bernard remembers plugging a host brain into the computer there, but can’t recall whose brain it was. He tells Elsie that the only way to find out what’s going on is to connect himself to the Cradle. Against her objections, he tells her that he’ll be back in an hour, then hooks himself into a harness. A robotic arm cuts a hole in his skull and removes his brain core, then pops it into a device to read it.
Bernard wakes up on the train to Sweetwater – a simulation of it, at least. (The footage here is once again 2.35:1.) At his arrival, he sees Dolores and Teddy acting out their original storylines. Bernard ignores them and is drawn instead into the saloon, where he sees a familiar figure at the piano. Although we only glimpse his partial reflection, it’s clearly Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins). He greets Bernard saying, “Hello, old friend.”
For the most part, this episode is an improvement over last week’s. Frustratingly, all the events inside Shogun World are still terribly clichéd and pointless – especially the duel between Musashi and Tanaka, which serves no purpose at all aside from wasting a few minutes of screen time with a little mild swordplay. Now that we’ve left Musashi and Akane, I have to question why we ever met them in the first place. Maybe they’ll come back around later to justify their presence on the show, but until then their storyline feels like worthless padding.
Dolores has also been kind of a bore since going full evil. She was much more interesting as a naïve farm girl struggling to understand her place in a complicated world. She’s had much less to do since embracing the Wyatt personality.
Much of the plotting in this episode feels needlessly confusing. I don’t understand the purpose of introducing a VR simulation of Westworld inside Westworld itself, except to further muddy the distinction between what’s real and what isn’t. Does Bernard finding Dr. Ford in there mean that Anthony Hopkins will return to the show in a somewhat regular fashion? Maybe he’ll be able to answer some of these questions. Probably not, but one can hope.