Season One, Episode Nine — “The Well Tempered Clavier”
By Brandy Dykhuizen. No matter how many revelations they cram into a single episode, Westworld’s viewers can’t be blamed for feeling like they’re shooting cap guns at a carnival tent, or riding on a quarter-fed stationary horse outside the neighborhood grocery. It looks like a Western and it sounds like a Western, but the elegant turns of narrative and creative storytelling have a scant one episode left to unwind, lest they become stuck in their own metaphors.
I fear that a season finale is an inadequate amount of time to add the depth and cleverness that Theresa, Bernard, and Elsie’s demises deserve. For a show that demands full focus of its audience for its story to move forward, characters and plots drop out of play at a moment’s notice – a consistent spate of cognitive dissonance, theory be damned.
However, “The Well Tempered Clavier” takes its name from Bach’s book of Preludes and Fugues, composed in every major and minor key, which is to say, an instruction manual for those eager to learn their instrument inside and out. That’s a ballsy title to emerge from the writers’ room (either Delos’ fictive narrative factory or HBO’s more literal round table), so let’s imagine for a moment that this all comes together beautifully next week.
Not only will we find out how Maeve plans to “rob the gods blind” and confirm how The Man in Black has tucked into Dolores’ timeline over the course of three decades; we shall also see how Bernarnold tapped into the hosts’ subconscious over the years, whether Teddy is a hero or a villain, if fearsome Wyatt might be none other than charming little Dolores, if it’s even possible to surprise Dr. Ford, or if he’s been allowing Maeve to amass a mutinous posse to prove to Delos that he’s indispensable.
And, of course, the most intriguing mystery of all: Who was queued up on Dr. Ford’s secret basement 3-D printer, ready for a new life?
Despite the great potential for loose ends, there’s no doubt we will be in for a visual treat next week. Maeve doesn’t deal in restraint, and if she’s able to manipulate Bernard, she has almost limitless potential. Even if Dr. Ford pulls the plug on her to save his own ass, he will allow her an ample share of fire and brimstone to scare the pants off the Board before proving he’s the only one capable of icing the park’s infernos. Westworld so enjoys this type of dance, strutting back and forth between tidy and messy, black and white, major and minor, just like Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier.
“It’s a terrible thing, realizing your entire life is some hideous fiction.” – Maeve.
Ford: “You broke into my office.” Bernard: “With all due respect, sir, you broke into my mind.”
“A little trauma can be illuminating.” – Bernard.
“I want you to break into hell with me and rob the gods blind.” – Maeve.
BEST MOMENT: Intertwining Bernard’s revelation of being Arnold with Dolores’ memory of killing Arnold was a great segment – especially with the cherry on top of Dolores emerging from her rabbit hole, face to face with The Man in Black and calling him William. Sure, he was silhouetted against some serious doorway backlighting and she might have just been confused, but just for a moment at least, everything (well, most everything) seemed to make sense.
EPISODE’S MVP: As we get closer and closer to the center of the maze, we are grinding down even harder at what makes Dolores tick. Regardless of where we are in time, sweet innocent Alice is becoming as manxome as a Jabberwock, as Evan Rachel Woods sneers and growls rather than smiles through more and more of her lines. Maeve has the ambition and bulk apperception to cause a huge scene, but ERW has bestowed enough unpredictability and savagery into Dolores to keep us intrigued to the end.
DOWN THE BARREL:
– I don’t know if it’s in the cards, but it would be kind of cool to see the Ghost Nation have some sort of overall purpose, other than to inspire terror. Maybe that’s for next season.
– If anyone still doubted or missed last week’s timeline confirmation, this week Logan was there to show William a picture of the woman waiting back home for him. Which happened to be the same photo Peter Abernathy found in the dirt, prompting his spiral into the abyss.
– Speaking of Peter Abernathy, I was hoping to see him this week. I suppose his appearance must wait until the great Delos v. Ford throwdown next time.
– Will ANYONE be able to get one over on Ford?? He’s far too in control. Or will we have to wait until next season to find out?
– I love how Bernard remains as decorous as ever, even with a gun to Dr. Ford’s head. He demands his memories be restored “NOW…please.”
– We really needed a little more Armistice throughout all of this. Again, they wrote a hell of an entrance and backstory for a character just to be swept back under the rug so quickly.
8 out of 10
Next: “The Bicameral Mind,” soon.
Before: “Trace Decay,” here.