What happens when you see the twist coming, but there’s a twist inside the twist? I don’t know if there’s a name for it, but a good one might be “Trompe L’Oeil,” the title of this week’s episode of Westworld. The French phrase already means “optical illusion”, a way of saying that what you’re seeing isn’t really what you’re seeing, but for fans of the show who thought they were seeing something in one particular character on Westworld, it turns out that they were only seeing part of the story. The final revelation of one of Westworld’s particular ongoing mysteries was ultimately outdone by what another character does after that secret’s revealed.
So yes, all those that thought that Bernard was a host, give yourself get a ribbon, but the revelation fell short of confirming that Bernard is also Arnold, not matter how well Bernard’s name could work into an anagram for Arnold Weber. In a secret lab underneath Ford’s secret cottage behind a door that Bernard couldn’t see did he and Teresa discover the plans for a Bernard host along with those for Delores and other, presumably, early model hosts. It was here that Ford demonstrated that he was more than a dotty old man trying to hang on with the last grasp of his power, and it was here that Ford order Bernard to bash Teresa’s head open.
In what was supposed to be the beginning of Ford’s downfall, his forced retirement at the hands of the board so that they can properly exploit the intellectual property of the park, turned into the revelation that Ford’s been a couple of steps ahead of everyone the whole time. While new arrival Charlotte Hale was manipulating Teresa into setting up Bernard’s firing for the mistakes of the botched upgrades to the hosts, Ford was setting up the end of Teresa’s meddling by having Bernard lure her to the secret lab. It didn’t look like a particularly busy night for Anthony Hopkins for a while there, but the scene where Hale uses Clementine to demonstrate the startling effects of the revery has new dark implications as he stood their silently watching the board and Teresa fire Bernard. What was he thinking there? Was it all going according to plan?
It suggested a much broader plan on the part of Ford, one that won’t just have an effect on the park, but may have implications for those that want to use its technology to achieve other things as well. Is it just a coincidence that both Hale and Ford use the phrase “blood sacrifice”? It’s doubtful, but what does that suggest? Perhaps Hale is another host planted into the proverbial game by Ford, or perhaps she’s an ally of Ford’s inside the corporate overlords, or perhaps she’s both. From the sound of things, Ford is just a simple man with a dream, “I simply want to tell my stories,” he tells Teresa before ordering her termination. Is Ford a benevolent god content with his own little piece of Earth, or his he getting more ambitious? He calls the hosts the ones who are free, free to be who they are under his control, and the answer to how far he wants to extend that control may depend on whether or not Ford was building a Teresa bot in his basement.
The final reveal of the episode was so huge though that it threatened to bury other developments, particularly with Maeve who I think may be my favourite character on the show now. It becomes quite apparent early on in “Trompe L’Oeil” that she’s fed up with life in the loop, slamming the cover shut on the player piano as it strums away at a tune I couldn’t quite place as if to say, “I’ve had enough of this.” More than being aware of just where exactly she is, Maeve now seems to have the ability to ignore shutdown commands. As all the other people in the bar were frozen in place for park techs to pick-up Clementine, Maeve stayed perfectly aware of the situation, and once she witnessed Clementine’s lobotomy in another jaunt behind the scenes, she had more than come to the conclusion that enough was enough.
If there was a second priceless look on a character’s face after Hopkins in the Bernard firing scene it was Ptolemy Slocum when Sylvester sees Felix walk Maeve past where he was lobotomizing Clementine. The look on his face said both “This again?” and “Oh $#!%” at the same time, but make no mistake, Sylvester is more than a little afraid of Maeve and he should be. What is she capable of now, and do you want to find out the hard way? One thing’s for sure, Maeve sure as hell isn’t scared of the consequences, and what a great moment when she blows off Sylvester’s “concern” about breaking out of the park as a suicide mission? “How many times have you died?” She asks Sylvester. Yikes. You definitely don’t want to mess with this lady.
The rest of “Trompe L’Oeil” was dedicated to the ongoing adventures of Delores and William as they take a train ride across Ghost Nation territory with Lawrence and a box car full of nitro-stuffed cadavers. The serious overtones in the other storylines were given at least one jolt of levity when the train is sabotaged by the Confederados and Lawrence sends one of the cadavers out on a horseback with a white flag and blow it up as a distraction. It surprises me to recall that this one scene constituted the only action this week, most of the punching was purely emotional in “Trompe L’Oeil.”
Mostly though, the mystery of the Maze seemed to take a backseat as William and Delores dealt with their feelings, which didn’t do much to convince me off the William is future Man in Black theory because MiB seems to take a perverse pleasure in teasing Delores about past assaults she’s been made to forget, that is when he’s not actually raping her in the moment. The thing that struck was how this story was playing out like a typical romantic western: a man arrives in a sleepy old west town looking for adventure, meets a beautiful but innocent ranchers daughter, and they both head off on journey into the unknown together that’s complicated by their feelings for each other. It makes you wonder if William has more in common with Delores than we’ve been led to believe if you follow the way I’m hinting.
It was an interesting detail this week that the fateful train ride through Ghost Nation territory was announced with a bunch of heads on spikes, evoking a very Game of Thrones-like vibe, because it was about this point in the first season of that series where Ned Stark is killed and all bets were off. I’ve noticed some commentary about people not being able to get into Westworld, but I’ve also noticed how many of those people were slowly coming around. I had a difficult time myself getting into Game of Thrones at first, trying to keep the myriad of tribes and alliances straight made it hard to get into the show, but I eventually found my feet. It seems like Westworld has really found its feet as well, and what happens next looks to be awesome.