Season One, Episode Seven — “Trompe L’Oeil”
By Brandy Dykhuizen. The assumption that Bernard Lowe was a host all along went from “fan theory” to “pretty likely scenario” sometime within the past few weeks, so it wasn’t so shocking to discover that poor Bernard has always been at the mercy of Dr. Ford’s whims.
What was affecting, however, was witnessing sweet, docile Bernie carry out Ford’s dirty work by ruthlessly murdering Theresa, whom he had once cared for so tenderly. Now that Bernard has been fired, Ford can presumably do whatever the hell he wants with him, keeping him as hired muscle in his secret cabin or stashing him away in a yet unseen area of the park. Throughout the sequence that lead up to Theresa’s demise, we saw a host-producing 3D printer about halfway through spitting out a new body. Was Dr. Ford preparing a new Theresa before he lured her to her death? How else could he possibly explain her disappearance to the board and her subordinates?
A similar fate could have been suffered by Bernard, with Dr. Ford leaving his human memories partially intact to keep him from questioning reality, and to keep his real-world wife from suspecting that anything was amiss. The thought of Dr. Ford as some creepy serial killer using Westworld’s technology to cover his tracks does add a compelling dimension to the park’s fate.
Elsewhere in the park (and perhaps in time), Dolores’ and William’s love story played out with all the sophistication of a young adult novel, even amidst the backdrop of explosions, scalpings and high adventure. Dolores’ naivety is of course scripted and contained, though she has tried her best to break the hell away from all of that, even without the ability to comprehend where and what the boundaries are. William, on the other hand, has clearly shown that he’s had an epiphany, and has grown past being the schmuck everyone uses to get their ways. Rather than take that knowledge to the next level and work with Dolores to come up with a plan, he feeds her lines about how her importance lies in helping him realize things about himself, and blah blah blah.
“I’m not a key, William,” Dolores said, as she painted a gorgeous landscape she’d never seen before. It will be a while before William understands it’s not all about him. In the meantime, he finds it completely prudent to wander off into the desert alone with a robot, chasing after the real-life landscape she painted on the train (which has suddenly, conveniently, appeared before them), perfectly willing to pretend that’s not all somehow scripted and preordained.
The big question to ask during these last few episodes is, “Why does Delos want Dr. Ford’s code?” Their desperation to retrieve the technology (at this point they’ve been perfectly happy asking for espionage and blood sacrifices) points to something much larger than the park. What greater end could the host technology be used for? Clearly Dr. Ford has honed his craft so well that even members of the board can’t tell when they’re speaking with a host or human. Is the endgame here to achieve immortality? To recreate yourself in code so you can never really die? As the first host William encountered tells him when he asked whether or not she was real, “If you can’t tell, does it matter?”
“You think I’m scared of death. I’ve done it a million times. And I’m fucking great at it.” – Maeve has a Lady Lazarus moment with Felix and Sylvester. I’ve no doubt she will rise and eat men like air.
“Maybe you got more of an appetite for this than you think.” – Lawrence, to William.
“I guess I just want to find out what it means.” – William, describing how he needs to get to the center of things. Because he’s the Man in Black?
“Adios, motherfuckers.” – Lawrence, to the Confederados.
BEST MOMENT: Honestly, there were a lot of big moments in this episode, all of which were carried out deftly. But Westworld has a tendency to make everything feel scripted, and while the big reveals require us to move on to the next level of the maze, they are foreshadowed so heavily that excitement always gets lost in the proceedings. It’s the little surprises that keep me most engaged with Westworld. This week, it was Dolores being taken out on horseback by a branch, directly after being just a little too good of a shot for someone who was just given a gun. And also Maeve, slamming the player piano shut in a Groundhog’s Day moment, on what must be the thousandth rendition of the theme song. These scenes provide that bit of meta-textual reality a show like Westworld demands. Makes me feel like I’m being let in on a writer’s room joke.
EPISODE’S MVP: Bernard. Those were his circuits that nearly shorted out as he came to terms with being a host. Where did his memories come from? Was he once a real person, and Dr. Ford created a new Bernard to cover up a past death? Are the memories of his son a mere program? Whether or not Bernard’s reveal as a host came as a surprise to you, it forces us to confront one scenario: Was Dr. Ford directing Bernard to talk to Dolores, so he would know if Dolores was lying to him in their later conversations? Or do both Arnold and Dr. Ford have the power to manipulate him?
DOWN THE BARREL:
– One wonders if Hector is as robotic or he seems, or if his world-weary apathy simply leaves him without the motivation to escape. Does he know what’s coming, or is his “This world is as doomed as ever” talk mere programming?
– Elsie is still out there in the ether. She “started her leave today,” ominously enough. Hopefully she’s as smart as she thinks she is and will pop back up with some more answers.
– Gatling guns are pretty fun. I’m glad we got to see another one in action this week.
– Sending the nitroglycerin-filled corpse into the Confederados and blowing it up was a nice little parlor trick. Lawrence seems like he could be a lot of fun if he’d just stop getting killed all the time.
– How many times is Felix going to be able to parade Maeve around without consequence? I guess Dr. Ford had bigger fish to fry this week, but it’s getting harder and harder to buy Maeve’s little struts around the facilities each time they happen.
– It seems particularly sinister that Dr. Ford chose Bernard to carry out Theresa’s death. Bernard was a sweetly loyal friend to Theresa up until the end. Dr. Ford clearly has an issue with loyalty – he craves it for himself but feels a bit insecure with anyone else on the receiving end. Perhaps this is how Arnold met his end?
7 out of 10
Next: “Trace Decay,” soon.
Before: “The Adversary,” here.