Sunday, June 16, 2024

Westworld Solves One of Its Biggest Mysteries

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After a lot of set up, Westworld picked up its plot lines and delivered a tightly paced episode, putting everything in place for its season finale. In “The Well-Tempered Clavier”, the truth comes up  about Arnold and Bernard, while Dolores reaches her destination, William takes steps further in his descent into villainy, and Maeve gets an ally for her big exit.

westworld109-4Coming right from her attempted escape, Maeve ended up allowing herself to be captured by the hazmat suit people, opposite what I was actually expecting—a lot of blood splatters as Maeve wreaked havoc. Seeing her captured again was, uh, weird, given how she has been portrayed. Don’t get me wrong, the scenes were great and I loved them, but I felt like something was off.

My point is that Maeve is counting on not only her own intelligence and competence, but also a tremendous amount of luck. She had no way of knowing that her assigned behavior analyst would be Bernard—a host. I love that she saw it immediately and played him, using her newfound administrative clearance to pop his bubble again, but what if he weren’t a host? I’d like to think that Maeve would have been able to manipulate this person just like she has done with Felix and Sylvester, but I am not sure.

Positive interaction between two black hosts helping each other out!

This sort of comes out as negative, but it’s just that Maeve has been going through the motions of the show almost unchallenged. She keeps talking about gods when she herself is goddess now, for all that matter. She did the equivalent of speed-reading her own manual of instructions or taking one of those Limitless/Lucy pills allowing herself to take control of her life and a whole lot of agency, but it hasn’t been put to test that much. I am really eager to see what happens to her during the finale seen as this is the culmination of her freedom plotline which may offer her this “challenge” I’m referring to.

Off this, I’d also like to point out that I feel the same about Ford to an ever bigger degree. I can say that Maeve’s challenges have been in the form of her own acceptance arc, dealing with her traumatic memories, and the limitations of being a host. Ford, however, has come out of every possible dangerous or challenging situation this season unscathed and in the same winning position. Not that he is a bad, boring, or a terrible character, but did he even have an arc this season? From what we can tell, his only aspiration has been to put out a new story, so Ford has been left unchanged and undeveloped during the entirety of these nine episodes.

He is this divine figure that basically gets everything he wants. “The Well-Tempered Clavier” allowed us to *think* that he was beat during his confrontation with Bernard, but just you might guess, he wasn’t. The man not only had control of the situation, he even commented about this happening more times in the past.

westworld109-3Now, I don’t know if you agree with me on this, but the fact that Bernard’s “waking up” has been a thing for years now makes me feel cheated. Westworld as a TV show only works because we are seeing things change with the hosts as they come out of their loops and *develop*. This show would not work if all we got was the same story every single episode. So, how does Bernard’s arc work if it’s been done before over and over resulting in the same thing? Doesn’t it lose meaning if Ford can just access a backdoor and erase his memory? Again, I still don’t have the final hour and a half of this season, so I AM hoping to be wrong.

At this point, really, Bernard has been through so much. How many times have both him and us, the viewers, seen Charlie’s death? In this episode, we learned that this was his cornerstone memory—the one that helps mold the entire backstory of a host. In terms of storytelling, this may be rich, actually. He ended up finding out about himself and then murdering Theresa, a woman he definitely cared about. He most likely did something to Elsie as well—probably not kill her, but something shady. These are two moments that should define Bernard’s story (unfortunate itself, because those are two women being fridged and maybe-fridged for a man’s arc), but they can’t be as his memory and development keep getting erased all the time.

The “once and for all” Dr. Ford says may imply that Bernard is a real goner, but I have a feeling this is not the last we’ve seen of him just yet.

Apart from confirming that Bernard was made in Arnold’s image, we also got the confirmation that Dolores killed Arnold (I still think Ford ordered her to). I gotta be honest, the way the scenes were shown confused the hell out of me specially because it all comes back to scenes in earlier episodes where Dolores and Bernard/Arnold were talking in that glass room, which seems a lot like Ford’s secret lab now. We don’t know precisely what was going on and we can theorize, sure, but at least in my case, it just brings up more questions.

This comes tightly to the Dolores of it all. It’s confusing and hard to tell what happens. I think that, apart from being gutted for William’s arc and not herself only to appear healed somehow *, being subjected AGAIN to the threat of being exposed, raped, maimed and/or killed, her scenes weren’t all that conclusive. She remembered that she had killed Arnold thirty four years ago and then she encounters the Man In Black (R.I.P. Ed Harris’s knees after his stunt with the horse) at the church at Escalante, the town where Ford’s narrative is allegedly taking place.

So glad to see her again, too!

It is, undoubtedly, exciting to see Dolores in action. She was supposed meant to be as damsely as damsels can get. It can get kind of dragged with her plot line, specially given how much intertwining with William/Man in Black we have to see, but it is nonetheless a good arc.

As Jessica has put best, Westworld is subverting and deconstructing the Madonna trope with her. Her arc is one of taking back agency in a very different manner than Maeve’s. She is going through all these motions switching from appropriate tenderness to appropriate violence when she is threatened and it is a very valid trajectory.

So far, we have been following the two/three timelines theory closely based on scenes involving Dolores, William, and the Man in Black (MIB). This episode kind of both proved and disproved them and I don’t know what to believe for the next seven days. In one hand, the picture that Logan handed William of his sister is the same one Abernathy finds in the pilot and ignited everything, so this could suggest that the picture fell on the ground somehow/when and stayed there for thirty years. Then, the MIB meeting Dolores while she was wearing her cowgirl outfit—which she only gets when she is with William—implies that the ultimate plot twist was having no plot twist at all. Linear continuity. What gives?

Same picture.

My idea is that present-day!Dolores is retracing the steps she took in the past. This way, back in episode three, when she ran away from the bandits at her house, she didn’t meet Logan and William, but rather just kept walking and out of her loop. Seen as she was already glitching because of the “violent ends” phrase, she kept on going. Somewhere down the line, she got the same clothes as she did thirty years in the past. That moment in the church is happening at both/three timelines. Yeah, I know. Confusing. Westworld is relentless on not giving simple answers and I am not the most skilled conspiracy theorist out there.

In other plots, Teddy managed to be killed yet again while Stubbs went out looking for Elsie, but encountered some non-responding hosts and got himself knocked out/captured. Charlotte got the MIB’s approval to take down Ford from his park, which can be the ‘challenge’ he has to face in the next episode, but unless they break the formula, he’s still keeping his job. I am wondering if they would kill off/send off Ford when he is the biggest name of the show.

westworld109-7When it comes to expectations for the finale (“The Bicameral Mind”), I want this last episode of this season of Westworld to actively prove me wrong and deliver so much that my jaw drops. I really don’t think this show is bad—from production design and storytelling to dialogue and acting, everything seems solid except for the pieces of problematic gendered violence and unfortunate implications.

Yet, I am aware that I am probably sounding way too negative in these reviews which may come as unprecedented or unearned, but it’s just my extra layer of precaution with media these days. Truly, I am enjoying Westworld in spite of how much I complain about some parts of it, so I do hold some hope of whatever greatness this show may achieve.

Final Thoughts

  • This was such a good episode for Jeffrey Wright. That one line “… until I come online” was so well acted; it felt so real and in touch with the situation, like it was something hard for him to even say out loud.
  • I have to say it was pretty selfish of Maeve to decide to ensue death upon herself and Hector by fire. She can’t feel pain, but he still can.
  • This episode was directed by Michelle Maclaren.
  • If you can’t handle your partner’s and yours creative differences, create a living copy of them that you can actively control!
  • As far as the problems of the episode go, I would highlight the phrase “a little trauma can be illuminating” especially considering current tendencies in media and the stabbing of Dolores that, again, really only serviced William’s villain arc given that Dolores herself didn’t even stay wounded and seemed quite unaffected by it.
  • I don’t know about you, but I’m all ready to be spoon fed some of these answers next week only to be left in dark by a cliffhanger for approximately two years.

Images courtesy of HBO

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