(Fair warning: This recap contains Westworld spoilers, and you can’t see anything that can hurt you.)
We’re in it now. Seven episodes into a ten-episode season, “Trompe L’Oeil” finally dropkicks the first domino in the series. We’ve speculated and hunted for the tiniest of clues, and now we know one thing for sure: Gatling guns are super inefficient.
Also, Bernard is a Host.
It seemed clear from nearly the beginning–unless you were occasionally, like me, imagining a double bluff where he was too robotic to actually be a robot. Then again, the title of this Westworld entry refers to the artistic technique of making a flat image appear to be three-dimensional, so maybe this is a message about how far we should trust the straightforwardness of how these characters are presented. It turns out that the mechanical man was a Host all along.
On the other hand (there’s always another hand), the French of the title translates literally as “Optical Illusion,” so we’re back into the Mystery Box once again.
Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) opens the episode dreaming of his son’s dying day. This, and his entire existence, really, point toward Ford (Anthony Hopkins) toying with memories/reveries for a lot longer than we knew. Bernard is fired summarily after an obviously faked demonstration of a violently glitching Host, but he refuses to throw Ford under the bus (thanks to programming), and then he draws Theresa (Sidse Babett Knudsen) to the cabin where Ford’s robo-family lives.
That moment with the basement door triggers the first hairs on the back of your neck. Immediately after explaining that Hosts are programmed to be blind to the cabin, Bernard is unable to see the door Theresa goes through. “What door?” he says, before tentatively following her down. Of course, in the DIY robo-construction zone, Theresa finds the blueprints for Bernard, and she becomes the blood sacrifice eluded to at the beginning of the episode.
Farvel, Theresa (that’s Danish). We hardly knew you, but you brought a steely determinism to a world dictated by a mad scientist. It’ll be sad to see Knudsen go because of the depth she brought even to the simple act of dragging on a cigarette, but it’s not like the show is lacking in stellar acting talent, either.
Her death opens up a truckload of new questions about the future. How does her murder satiate the board? How will it be explained? Why was it necessary? Did Ford see her as that big a threat to his empire? Or as the main threat to it? Who will the board get to smuggle DELOS tech out of the park in malfunctioning robots now?
What’s most incredible about Bernard’s revelation and Theresa’s demise is how Ford essentially degrades her humanity just as she’s about to lose it. He acts as though all active things are dictated by their programming–remarking that a peacock is essentially a dirty, dull thing consoled by its own beauty. Theresa feels betrayed by her intimacy with Bernard Bot, but it’s all just ones and zeroes and DNA and instinct, after all. A dance of seduction that she succumbed to because she had no choice. Are we puppets or puppeteers? If you have to ask, does the answer really matter?
The revelation also shows how little Ford is worried about other Hosts gaining some kind of sentience. Bernard was the head of a department! With a budget and everything!
Also, turns out Ford’s sort of crazy after all. That’s great news. Hopkins can freeze water by talking to it, so it might have been a waste to make him this benevolent inventor just trying to navigate the harsh world of big business.
Speaking of which, it’s still unclear whether the board is going after Ford, or whether Ford’s estimation is right. If it’s the latter, they went to decent lengths to try to trap him, and Hale (Tessa Thompson) is clearly focused on retiring Ford whether he wants it or not. She’s also pretty cool about scheduling business meetings during her robot sex sessions.
Hale confirms that the data is more valuable than the park and its silly cowboy-playing denizens. No surprise there. It’s imagination-shattering tech, but they’re using it in the same way you’d dangle keys in front of a toddler. As ever, the people (and their information) are the product.
The test with Clementine (Angela Sarafyan) was an odd descent into the horrifying possibilities we’ve considered since the creepy deep freeze storage area in the first episode. What if the Hosts turn violent and we can’t shut them off? Never mind that she was clunkily programmed to attack by Theresa and Hale; her superhuman ability to fight back was unnerving (and almost definitely a portent of things to come). Plus, everyone seemed fantastically comfortable with a Host acting as a security tech. How does anyone working there not walk around constantly wondering if they’re a robot?
On the other side of the menagerie, Maeve (Thandie Newton) has decided to escape after seeing Clementine lobotomized. Will the deep freeze come into play for that escape plan?
She slices through the brutish Sylvester (Ptolemy Slocum) with his puny misgivings about it being a suicide mission by reminding him that she’s already died millions of times and giving him a choice between helping her or losing his heartbeat permanently. It’s an easy choice for Sylvester, even though his whining excuses for lobotomizing her friend reek of Nazi complicity. “I was only following orders,” taken to its natural conclusion. Felix (Leonardo Nam) is even easier; a squeamish mass of infatuation, he’s terrified that one of the bosses will notice how often she’s backstage, but he’s too weak-kneed to do anything about it anyway.
She’s in charge.
Last but not least, Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and William (Jimmi Simpson) go for a wild ride and also get chased through the forest on horseback. The consummation of their relationship is still clouded by the illusory nature of the park, though. What if Dolores is exactly what William is looking for? What if this is the entertainment he paid for? William remarks that he thought the park was meant to show you your darkest self, but instead it’s meant to show you your deepest self, which, frankly, is nonsense. It’s meant to be whatever you want it to be, and his pheromone-triggered epiphany doesn’t escape the loop of desire.
His future brother-in-law wanted to fuck his way through each town and drain all the booze, but how is that desire any less “real” than the one William is feeling? A desire, by the way, which means he’s cheating on his fiancée, after all–he’s even insidiously excusing it by “falling in love” and learning “something real about himself.” At least Logan (Ben Barnes) can own up to his darker drives. William wants to throw on a Dashboard Confessional album and pretend he’s noble.
Dolores doesn’t want to live in a story, but she’s found herself in a soap opera. One about the nice guy who protects her, the adventure they go on, and the new life they build at the edge of the known world. William wants a life where he doesn’t want to pretend, but he’s still just playing cowboy.
That’s the cynical view. It’s also a limited view because, once again, if they’re happy with lying to themselves, what does it matter? Don’t they shape their own reality, even when someone else is behind the scenes? Aren’t they the ones who have to live in their own minds?
After painting something new, they both decide to stay in unclaimed territory.
SOME STRAY THOUGHTS:
- How many times do they have to repair that bullet-riddled train?
- Why aren’t there multiples of each Host? Or are there? Again, if I’m paying good money to spend the day with Dolores, but she’s out on a week-long journey with some other guest, I’d be pissed. I’ve been planning this trip for a year!
- It’s crazy that these Hosts aren’t in the real world, doing literally every job.
- This is supposed to take place in the future, but no one is vaping. Where are your multiple timeline theories now?
But let us know what you thought in comments.