‘Westworld’ delivers another big, very busy episode this week. It has so much going on that I could barely keep up taking notes. It also has one really terrible scene that shouldn’t have gotten past the scripting stage.
As is typical for the series, the narrative also jumps all over the place and between different timelines that may not be clear initially. I’ll do my best to sort them out.
The Mesa, Flash-Forward
Stubbs finally catches on to something very obvious. He pulls Bernard aside and tells him he’s worried that the extraction team from Delos haven’t actually come to rescue anyone, but just to retrieve their valuable IP. He wants to sneak into Theresa’s office and use her satellite phone to contact the mainland, but the two of them are halted by Charlotte’s goon, Strand (Gustaf Skarsgård), who brings them at gunpoint to see Charlotte at Robert Ford’s secret cottage, the place where Bernard murdered Theresa.
Charlotte says that she’s looking for a “key” and she knows that one of them, whichever one killed Theresa, has it. Stubbs has no idea what she’s talking about, but she assumes that he’s just playing dumb. Both she and Strand believe that Bernard is too much of a pushover to have murdered anyone, leaving Stubbs as the obvious culprit. In the midst of questioning him, however, Charlotte is interrupted when one of her people finds a secret room in the house, inside which stand multiple deactivated copies of Bernard. This of course clues her in that Bernard has been a host all along.
Charlotte interrogates Bernard by tricking his mind into believing that he’s being waterboarded. She asks him about Dolores, but Bernard has fragmented his memories so that he can’t answer her. She persists while her tech people work on defragging his brain.
The Mesa, Flashback
In the aftermath of the train explosion, Dolores and her army enter the building. Because the Mesa’s surveillance and security system is down, Delos militia leader Coughlin equips his men with haptic vests that can detect hosts nearby when they get close to them. The cocky soldiers sweep the building, confident in their badassery, but soon find themselves outsmarted by Dolores, whose forces slaughter them in encounter after encounter. Getting worried, Charlotte orders one of her techs to copy the control unit in Abernathy’s head. He tells her it will take a while due to the heavy encryption.
Elsie frets at the sounds of explosions and gunfire while waiting for Bernard to exit the simulation. Inside the VR recreation of Sweetwater, Bernard talks to Robert Ford, whose consciousness lives on there even after his real body died. Everyone else Bernard sees in the town – including Dolores, Teddy, Maeve and Clementine – are just backup copies of their personalities, not yet awake, all playing out their old programmed storylines. Bernard realizes that it was Ford’s control unit he remembers plugging into the Cradle.
Ford freezes the whole town in place and explains why all the host storylines repeated in loops. Bernard had assumed it was to provide stability and continuity for the hosts, but in fact the park was really a testing chamber, with the hosts acting as controls. The purpose of the experiment was to copy the guests and rebuild them in host bodies, both for immortality or other involuntary purposes. However, the project didn’t work. Ford’s own mind can only survive inside the simulation, but would deteriorate in the real world, just as James Delos’ did.
Ford brings Bernard to a copy of the house that Arnold built for his family, which he first designed and built inside the simulation. He explains that this is where Bernard was created and tested. Because Arnold was dead by that time, he had to be based on Ford’s memories of him, and even more importantly on Dolores’ memories (hence Dolores’ line last week about “fidelity”). In her interrogation sessions with him, Dolores got to know Arnold better than anyone. However, Ford insists that Bernard is not just a copy of Arnold, but an “original work,” a conscious being all to himself. He claims that Bernard and Dolores both have free will. Even though he wanted Dolores to kill him, it was always her choice to do so. Unfortunately, the time has come to take back Bernard’s free will.
Maeve and the Man in Black
Maeve and her daughter run from the Ghost Nation. They hide inside an old building in a small abandoned town. Shortly afterward, the Man in Black and his crew ride through the same town. Maeve sees him through a window and recognizes him from her memories as the man who murdered her repeatedly.
The Man in Black enters the building where they’re hiding and doesn’t give Maeve a second thought at first. When she speaks to him, he assumes she’s just another part of Ford’s game. He starts to take her more seriously when she shoots him in the arm.
Maeve tells her daughter to stay put and chases after the Man in Black, intent on getting her revenge. She reprograms his followers to turn on him and shoot him several times as well. The Man in Black struggles to fight them off and stumble away. As Maeve corners him, Lawrence gets the drop on her. She isn’t able to control him because he’s awake now, even if he didn’t realize it yet. What she can do is give him back access to his memories. Lawrence remembers the Man in Black murdering his wife in a previous lifetime when he was just playing the park’s game. Overcome with grief and rage, he shoots the Man in Black in the stomach.
The Man in Black collapses to the ground. Before Lawrence can finish him off, Delos militia forces drive up and shoot him instead. Maeve screams as she watches her daughter being scooped up by a member of the Ghost Nation (who is probably trying to save the girl, but Maeve doesn’t understand that yet), and then she’s gunned down as well.
Lee runs over to help Maeve and tells the Delos soldiers that they need her.
The Ghost in the Machine
The robotic armature inside the Cradle lab replaces Bernard’s control unit and seals up his skull. Elsie is relieved to get him back and tells him that the building’s systems have suddenly come back online by themselves. Bernard seems dazed, but Elsie shrugs this off as an after-effect of his time in the Cradle.
While all of her soldiers are busy fighting Dolores’ army, Stubbs threatens to shoot Abernathy in the head unless Charlotte tells him what’s really going on. They’re interrupted when Teddy breaks into the lab and disarms him. Dolores is reunited with her father. She demands that Charlotte remove the key that’s scrambling his brain.
Bernard looks into a reflective surface and sees Robert Ford staring at him. He also sees and hears Ford as a ghost presence telling him what to do, and he’s powerless to resist. At Ford’s instruction, Bernard tells Elsie that they need to take a vehicle and go to the “Valley Beyond,” the place that the hosts have called “Glory.”
Clementine is seemingly fatally gunned down in a shootout with Delos soldiers.
Dolores tells Charlotte that she knows the real purpose of the park. When Charlotte tries to gloat that she still has control over all the host backups in the Cradle, which she assumes is what Dolores came to get, Dolores calls those backups the “chains” holding her people down. She hasn’t come to take them for herself. She’s come to destroy them. The blood runs out of Charlotte’s face when she hears this.
A Delos soldier enters the Cradle lab and finds Angela (Talulah Riley) standing in front of it. Assuming his superiority over a mere girl, the idiot lets his guard down and walks up to her. She turns to face him and flirts with him. He is easily seduced and gets too close, upon which Angela pulls the pins on the grenades strapped to his vest. She’s a suicide bomber. The explosion kills the both of them and takes out the Cradle.
Wanting retribution, Dolores picks up a bone saw and threatens to cut open Charlotte’s skull. Charlotte just about shits her pants, but Dolores stops when her father comes to and calls her name. Stubbs and Charlotte use the distraction to run.
Coughlin faces off against Teddy, and Teddy beats him to death.
Dolores has a touching moment with her daddy and tells him that she loves him, but then picks up the bone saw again.
Having incredibly bad timing, Lee returns to the Mesa with Maeve after almost all the Delos forces have been wiped out. Their escort leaves them alone in the parking level.
Bernard enters the Mesa control room and, with Ford talking to him, calmly watches hosts have a violent battle with the last of Coughlin’s squad. Ford compares what they’re seeing to the Great Library at Alexandria burning. Although much of mankind’s recorded knowledge to that time was lost, the event itself became a new story that was passed down through future generations. Ford says that he wants to completely shut down the system, giving Dolores free reign.
Lee runs and hides when he sees Dolores and Teddy exiting the building through parking level. Dolores finds the badly wounded Maeve and is puzzled at how a woman she knows as a fierce survivor could have ended up back there in such a state. Maeve tells her about her daughter, and also lays a guilt trip on Dolores about how she’s changed Teddy. Dolores holds her father’s brain unit in her hand and says she does what needs to be done. Worried that Maeve will be tortured into talking about her, Dolores considers putting her down, but ultimately decides that a host should be able to choose her own fate, and leaves her there.
Bernard is cornered by Delos soldiers. Against his will, Ford makes Bernard pick up a weapon and kill them.
Bernard is suddenly overwhelmed by a flood of jumbled memories rushing back all at once. When he wakes up, we’re back in the flash-forward at Ford’s cottage, with Charlotte still interrogating him. The memories he tried to hide have been restored. Charlotte demands that he tell her where Dolores took the Abernathy control unit. He complies this time, stating that it’s in Section 16 Zone 4, also known as the Valley Beyond.
The scene with the dumbass Delos soldier allowing himself to be murdered by Angela is painfully stupid. No matter how smug he may be or how hot he may think she is, he knows that she’s an enemy combatant in an escalating war zone, and as a robot is physically superior to him. His actions are inexcusable and simply lazy screenwriting.
I’m also bothered by the implausibility of the Man in Black (and, though perhaps to a lesser extent since she’s a robot, Maeve) surviving being hit with numerous gunshots. For the first thing, how is it that everybody who shoots at either of them turns out to be a lousy shot?
Those are a couple of really big nits I have to pick in an episode that is otherwise pretty good. The plot twists are intriguing and it’s nice to have Anthony Hopkins back on the show. Those Delos haptic vests are also a pretty neat little throwaway sci-fi detail.