This week in Westworld things were a little less depressing than last week when we got the ultimate episode of doom and gloom. Unfortunately, the writing leaves a lot to be desired this week and I ain't talking about the two dumb technicians. Dumb is possible to explain. You know what is not possible to explain? Big ass maze showing up in the field for no reason with Ed Harris standing there probably looking at it (we're not even sure), mesmerized, also for no comprehensible reason. I gave it a chance assuming that it is me who is stupid but after asking on reddit and getting no satisfactory answer I'm gonna assume that what is stupid here is the writing for this one particular sequence.
But let's start with everything else:
Bernard is still living a hellish life of being Ford's bitch - Ford orders him to clean up after Theresa's murder and he himself tells Hale and Stubbs that she fell off a cliff or something. Hale is suspicious but she has no evidence against Ford. Oh and before Bernard's memory is wiped he has a flashback of killing Elsie so she is probably dead meat.
Dolores and William reach a town with the buried church. They find a barely alive guy who tells them that he was supposed to ambush them and Dolores wants to help him and goes to fetch water. When she comes back the guy dies and William is giving serious 'I put him out of his misery also he wanted to kill us' vibes.
The whole time they are there Dolores is tripping balls going through God knows how many loops in her memory. In one loop she sees herself during host training with Armistice and Angela also being there. Then Dolores sees the carnage and her own self putting a gun to her temple - an action she repeats in front of William who tells her that this place is not good for her and they should leave.
Maeve is still terrifying the dimwitted techs and makes them give her admin privileges. That results in a very amusing and fun sequence of Maeve being able to manipulate the hosts in her narrative to do what she wants. We also meet the replacement for Clementine played by Lili Simmons from last year's excellent western/horror Bone Tomahawk.
Maeve also slashes Sylvester's throat after he tries to get rid of her and shut her down but Felix patches him up. She also wants to recruit an army.
The Man in Black continues his journey with Teddy. They find a host - and it's Angela, the one who greeted William to the park. Man in Black recognizes her and tells her that he thought they retired her a long time ago. DUN DUN DUN.
Anyhow as Teddy and Angela are talking a gigantic dude in scary Minotaur-like outfit attacks MiB. As he is dragging the dude away Teddy has flashbacks to MiB dragging Dolores away. So Teddy, in all of his wisdom, punches MiB in the face.
Meanwhile, Charlotte Hale comes over to Lee's office who is not wasted and not pissing everywhere. She needs his help. They go to the cold storage and Hale wants to smuggle the host out of the park to protect the data from Ford - she wants to use the host as a memory drive. And the host she chooses?
Well it's daddy Abernathy.
I'm sure this plan won't backfire.
Meanwhile, our geniuses Dolores and William are wandering alone, in the dark, in the forest. And there they meet Logan, hell bent on revenge. If the promo for next episode is anything to go by things will be very, very unpleasant. It really seems that whatever happens causes William to totally lose it - at this point I almost pray they simply kill Dolores and that's he snaps but I'm sure what actually happens will be so much more terrible than this.
We then see MiB again and we finally get to hear his back story. Or at least, what I'm hoping is just the beginning of it because it's insanely vague to the point where even someone of Harris' talent and charisma cannot make the gigantic 'WHAT?' go away with his performance.
It goes like this - MiB has had a wife for 30 years and they had a daughter Emily. A year ago MiB's wife took some pills and died and Emily thinks she did it on purpose and blames MiB for it. So MiB returned to the park and decided to see if he is really evil (he insists he never hurt his family but his daughter says living with him was 'sheer terror'). Apparently he thinks that what will decide if he is evil is killing a robot. OK. Let's just take a leap and assume that if you kill an innocent looking robot you don't think is sentient (he doesn't at that point or most likely any point) you are truly evil. So after his wife dies he finds Maeve and her kid and stabs Maeve and then shoots the kid and he says he felt nothing. Then Maeve slashes at his throat and grabs the kid and runs away and MiB describes this as miraculous and says the maze revealed himself to him. And we see Maeve and her dead kid lying in the middle of the actual maze.
As I was watching this I could almost imagine Ed Harris flying around next to bookshelves in space - it was Interstellar level of ridiculous.The whole maze deal, MiB's quest for it and reasons for that are some of the most important things in this series. And Nolan goes 'oh well...he gives off creepy vibe". What?
Let's set aside what I really wanna write which is 'she is married to Ed Harris and offs herself?! No one would do that!" and focus on these issues:
1. If by his own admission MiB doesn't hurt his family, then what is that 'sheer terror'? Yes, I am well aware that people can be creepy enough for others to run away but I can sense what Nolan is doing here. He is trying to make it more complex than MiB simply being violent. You say he was violent, you say he comes to the park to be violent - all the problems with this scene go away. Nah, that's too easy - OK so we are gonna say he never actually hurt his family! Because his true nature only shows in the park! So people will just 'sense' things about him for no reason! Anything would be better! Hell, telling Harris to break a phone like he did on the set of The Rock in a flashback to his family life would be better than having this 'sheer terror' following 'never hurt my family' line.
2. Why did it take this long for his wife to snap and what caused it? Why can't Nolan just come out and say it so that we have one powerful scene instead of whenever and if we find out?
3. What exactly is so damn special about Maeve crying after her kid? We saw Dolores do the same for her dad. Am I supposed to believe than in 30 damn years MiB never saw a host crying for someone else or 'refusing to die'?
4. What is up with this gigantic maze in the grass? Was this an illustration of events for the audience benefit or was it actually there?
5. How did he come up with the connection of some chick dying to some maze? Did he see it? Did the park simultaneously changed to show a maze? WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?
OK. Let's try to give the writers the benefit of the doubt and assume that what mesmerized him so was Maeve refusing to die. But the maze? The wife of 30 years taking the pills all of the sudden?
I sincerely hope Nolan has something more to say about all of the above because otherwise this is not good. This is episode 8! It's hard to think that this isn't actual MiB's back story and just something he makes up to tell Teddy. I like the idea of MiB lying because Ford may be listening which one fan proposed as solution but it's probably not it.
But maybe there is more. Maybe, because Nolan is an extremely capable writer and we got another proof of that with this incredible exchange between Ford and Bernard:
- I wonder, what do you really feel? After all, in this moment, you are in a unique position. A programmer who knows intimately how the machines work and a machine who knows its own true nature.
- I understand what I'm made of, how I'm coded, but I do not understand the things that I feel. Are they real, the things I experienced? My wife? The loss of my son.
- Every host needs a backstory, Bernard. You know that. The self is a kind of fiction, for hosts and humans alike. It's a story we tell ourselves. And every story needs a beginning.
- Your imagined suffering makes you lifelike.
- Lifelike, but not alive? Pain only exists in the mind. It's always imagined. So what's the difference between my pain and yours? Between you and me?
- This was the very question that consumed Arnold, filled him with guilt, eventually drove him mad.The answer always seemed obvious to me. There is no threshold that makes us greater than the sum of our parts, no inflection point at which we become fully alive. We can't define consciousness because consciousness does not exist. Humans fancy that there's something special about the way we perceive the world, and yet we live in loops as tight and as closed as the hosts do, seldom questioning our choices, content, for the most part, to be told what to do next. No, my friend, you're not missing anything at all.There are such provocative and quite depressing ideas here. They could have really expended on that somehow before we saw MiB shooting that little girl...I don't know, this whole thing involving the most intriguing character in the show was underwhelming, amazing performance aside.
Anyways after MiB is done with his story we see Maeve being taken to Ford who wants to wipe her memory so she doesn't remember her daughter's death. Maeve doesn't want him to do that, mentions how the pain is all that she has left and in a stunning act of defiance she kills herself. And then we see present Maeve - remembering MiB attacking her....and re-enacting the scene with her attacking and killing new Clementine. She then runs and the park employees are dispatched to get her.
The episode ends with Angela killing Teddy and a group of guys in scary costumes emerging from the woods and appearing before her and MiB. I have terrible feeling about all of this.
Next week it's Well-Tempered Clavier. Maeve approaches Sweetwater's longtime outlaw Hector with a bold proposition. William tries to convince Logan to help liberate Dolores. Teddy and the Man in Black get closer to what they're looking for. Stubbs's suspicions are aroused. Ford cautions Bernard against seeking answers to questions best left unasked.
1x01 The Original
1x03 The Stray
1x04 Dissonance Theory
1x06 The Adversary
1x07 Trompe L'Oeil