If repetition is the mother of all learning, then “Westworld” has a big-time mom fetish. Scenes played out over and over again, bits of dialogue repeated ad nauseam — those are the show’s secrets hidden in plain sight. Whenever you see or hear something in “Westworld” that you’ve seen or heard before, pay attention. That’s the trail of breadcrumbs for you to follow.
Easier said then done, as “Westworld” spends so much time dropping hints. For instance: “The pain is all I have left of him/her/them.” We heard Bernard say that in episode two about the death of his son. Then we heard Dolores say it in episode four about the death of her parents. Because “Westworld” has made such a point of showing us the host’s scripted responses, maybe we should have realized long ago that Bernard was actually a host. But we didn’t.
That seemed to be the signal we were being sent when, toward the the end of “Trace Decay,” we saw Maeve in flashback pleading with Ford not to erase her memory of her murdered daughter. “The pain is all I have left of her,” Maeve says. But it’s Bernard’s pain that we open with. “Bring yourself back online, Bernard,” Ford says. Bernard then begins to freak out, which you probably would do, too, if you’d just discovered that you were a robot and then killed your girlfriend. Ford forces Barnard to increase his chill, then launches into a lot exposition, as he has proven himself wont to do when Bernard is around. This used to bother me, but now that we’ve seen just how crazy and isolated Ford is, I’m fine with it. We learn that Ford built Bernard so that he would have an engineer capable of making the hosts as emotionally complex as he wanted them to be.
“You should be proud of the emotions you’re feeling,” Ford says. “After all, you’re the author of so many of them.” We get some dimestore philosophy on the nature of consciousness, which serves to reveal the depth of Ford’s misanthropy. We get another peek later when, after Bernard asks Ford if he’s ever made him hurt anyone before, Ford says “of course not,” and we get a flashback of Bernard attacking Elsie. (“This is encouraging news for those who believe that an Elsie-free “Westworld” would be a better “Westworld.”) After cleaning up what he believes to be all evidence of his relationship with Theresa, Bernard has his memory of said relationship and the subsequent murder wiped out. No more pain.
Dolores is experiencing lots of pain — mostly the pain that comes with losing your mind. Her flashback to what appeared to be host training sessions had a charming feel that this show rarely tries for. More important were her references to Arnold. Dolores spoke about him with William openly. “I was certain that was the place,” she said. “Arnold would meet me there. He’d help.” Because William is basically a guy in high school trying really hard to prove how nice he is when he’s not actually that nice, his response is some version of, “Hey, baby, don’t worry about this Arnold cat. I’m here now. Now gimme some sugar.”
Speaking of pain, seeing Maeve inflict it on Sylvester felt like the culmination of a dance they’ve been doing for weeks — a dance that Sylvester has been stumbling through. Of course Sylvester tried to double-cross her. Of course Maeve caught him in the act. As Maeve says, even when her intelligence hadn’t been amped up, she was still more than a match for Sylvester.
About Maeve’s escape: It appears at first glance that she got caught by accident. But why would she have run back to her room after killing New Clementine and setting off that gun battle? Did Maeve want to be captured? Is that part of the plan? One possible answer is yes. The other possible answer is that Maeve is actually dumber than Sylvester, which seems unlikely.
Now to MiB and Teddy. “That’s what this place does, right?” MiB tells Teddy as he monologues by the campfire. “Reveals your truest self.”
That is awfully close to what William said last week about the park revealing “your deepest self.” We’ve talked here about the fan theory that the show is taking place on multiple timelines. Jeffrey Wright has even tweeted about it. What we haven’t mentioned is that a key piece of that theory is that MiB is actually William, 30 years after the William-and-Dolores scenes. If you’re looking to back that theory up, there is ample evidence in episodes two through seven. Episode eight has plenty as well, but does nothing to confirm it. MiB’s familiarity with the blonde captive who we also saw greet William upon his arrival in Westworld back in episode two is as strong a hint as we’ve received yet.
As for MiB himself, he stopped just short of saying, “My name is William.” With his revelations to Teddy about his personal life, we continue to get spoon-fed just enough information about him at just the right intervals. And the idea that the maze is Arnold’s game and one in which the stakes are real makes sense if MiB is indeed William, who we can imagine is going to chafe at the park’s restrictions now that he has given himself over so totally to its fantasy.
But the big revelation was that MiB had murdered Maeve and her daughter in cold blood, and that he had done so just so he could watch them die. We’ve seen fragments of that moment throughout the show. But it appears now that that moment was the beginning of Woke Maeve. And Woke Maeve might be the crux of everything left to come in this season’s final two episodes.
Some more thoughts:
• That shot with the host Ford is building in the foreground and Ford and Bernard in the background felt like the show’s way of saying, “Hey! You! Don’t forget that Ford is building a new host over here!”
• Good bet someone’s body ends up in that biohazard disposal unit before the end of the season.
• I laughed out loud when Logan told William and Dolores, “You two are so f—ed.” It’s not a great line, but it works on Logan, who is fencepost-dumb and full of phony swagger. That is exactly what he would say and how he would say it. Count on next week being heavy on William-Dolores-Logan drama.
• No, you idiots! Not Abernathy’s brain!
• The sheriff tipping his hat to Armistice and Armistice shooting him in the back was hilarious. Some viewers might call it gratuitous. But at this point you either accept the show’s violence or bail. I’m way more comfortable with the show’s moments comic wild-west gunplay (anything involving Hector in his game) than I am with the moments when it seems to wallow in its own nihilism (the killing of Maeve’s daughter).
• Felix cauterizing Sylvester’s neck was one of the most gruesome things we’ve seen on a show that isn’t shy about showing gruesome things.
• William totally killed that guy. If Dolores is nice to you when William is around, just count on being dead soon.