**One Watch. Everyone knows the rules.** After the first paragraph expect SPOILERS. These are my thoughts and takeaways after one watch of WESTWORLD season one, episode seven.
WOAH. Anyone need an Advil? That wasn't the best episode of the series. Or the most detailed. But, it had the greatest pay off yet. First of all, the show's theme song is starting to give me chills and create that emotional response you get from Game of Thrones opening credits. Westworld show runners have been stupendous with creating themes for each episode that tie back into the main narrative and this might have been the best case of that yet. Furthermore, it's becoming increasingly evident that the humanity and emotion of the show sits with the Hosts. The non-human members of Westworld have consistently shown us the most humanity. The most heart. Whereas, the humans of Westworld are almost robotic and merciless. Before we get into spoilers I will say one important thing about the show as a whole. No matter what you want from your television shows, Westworld offers it. For people like myself that want to break down plot, storylines, theories, themes, character development---It obviously provides the opportunity. But, if you're just looking to kick back and enjoy a wild ride every Sunday night, it certainly allows for that also. On to the good stuff!!
The title of the episode is "Trompe-l'oeil". This translates to "deceive the eye". It's also the name of a French art technique comparable to "forced perspective". Does that sound like it relates to this episode? Not yet? Let me draw you a picture of how this title related directly to the theme of THIS episode and the show overall......
Ahhhhhh of course. Basically, the Hosts constantly experience forced perspective. It's part of their code. They take zero notice to things that wouldn't make any sense to them or even some things they're specifically designed not to see. We've seen this in previous episodes with pictures of modern cities or conversations that could distort their own reality. In episode seven this starts right away (after another Alice in Wonderland drop) with Bernard reviewing Hector after a "blacklisted conversation" wth a guest. "Did this cause you to question your world?" He show's him the awareness test and of course, "that doesn't look like anything to me". Hector then gets taken off to have some fun of his own, because who doesn't want to hook up with Karl. The most important takeaway from this first scene is that someone made it look like Elsie is on vacation and not missing.
O Elsie, Elsie, wherefore art thou Elsie?
Bernard spends a good portion of the opening scenes searching for Elsie. He calls and runs a search for her position in the park. Both turn up nothing. Not totally shocking since we saw her get put in a sleeper hold at the end of last week's episode. The most surprising part is that "according to the system" she started her leave today. Basically, someone covered it up pretty solidly. She can't be missing if she's on vacation. Especially since it seems like getting to and from Westworld's labs and park takes some effort. It's not like Philly to the Avalon. Or even Avalon to Philly. You know, when you think, "it's no big deal, ill just stay for Sunday night too but I'll go to bed early and get up early to drive to work". And then you realize you shouldn't have done that. Anyway........what does this cover up mean? To me, it implies there are larger powers at play here. She wasn't just grabbed by a rogue host off it's loop. Whoever grabbed her knew what she was looking into and has the ability and foresight to cover their tracks. Best bets for Elsie kidnappers are a host in cahoots with Arnold or Ford. Possibly Wyatt or even Arnold himself if still alive.
Maeve the Conquerer
Can we get Thandie Newton a supporting actress nomination, or what? After Maeve's hefty upgrade courtesy of the cartoon cat duo, Felix and Sylvester, she is fully aware of everything happening within her 'loop'. She shuts down the piano in the Mariposa to set the tone for the viewers. Not just a normal day for Maeve the madam. The Shades (park workers) enter to take a Host away and Maeve doesn't even respond to whatever signal freezes the rest of the Hosts in the area. The butchers take Clementine away, not Maeve, although she is very prepared for them to try. The most endearing thing in this scene is the exchange between Maeve and Clementine. Clem tells Maeve of her dreams to move her family from their farm and take her life away from the brothel. Maeve knows the reality of their situation and she can't help but feel sorry for Clem. Again, the Hosts show the most heart and compassion. Maeve ends up back with Felix and Sylvester soon after where she eventually says she's getting out of there. This obviously creates some big questions for her plan. We didn't know what her end game was last episode and I guess we're a little closer to seeing that now. But, how is she getting out of there? What's she going to do when she gets out? Get a job? We know she can manage people. Maybe manage a bar at an expensive hotel or something? I could see her being good at that. Is she planning to recruit other Hosts? I predict Hector playing a big role in Maeve's plan since their paths cross every time they run the Saloon safe heist narrative and they seem to like each other.
The Reverie Glitch
The Reveries are a big impact on things that happen, not only in this episode, but on the series thus far. This show started episode one with the Reverie update and the glitch it created. We know Ford installed it on his own as a way to make the Hosts seem "more human", as if they needed that. We, as the audience, know this and it appears the Board and Theresa know this as well. Charlotte Hale, the young, mysterious, and apparently sexually experimental, Executive Director of the Delos Board plans to use this to her advantage. Charlotte has a very casual (read: naked) meeting with Theresa Cullen to explain Delos only has an interest in the Intellectual Property (IP) of Westworld. The code to the Hosts minds that was created by Ford and Arnold almost 40 years ago (I feel like they keep citing longer time periods). I imagine the Delos interest in the IP spans beyond theme parks to more profitable and real world applications. There is undoubtedly military application or something larger the tech could be used for. Charlotte needs cause for Delos to have unlimited access to the IP before Ford is forced to retire and deletes the data. The Board is willing to let Theresa see the job through but they require a "Blood Sacrifice" (very important to remember). The cause for IP access they seek comes from a demonstration of the possible dangers of the Host tech. Enter Clementine Pennyweather (now that's a name!).......
When Clem was pulled from the park it was to demonstrate the negative impact of the reverie glitch for Ford and Bernard. During the demonstration we're shown the most brutal and cringeworthy scene yet as Clem is beat mercilessly by a Tech Host coded to appear human (so thats a thing). There has been some weird and gruesome stuff on Westworld, but when she gets punched in the face and is crying for him to stop, its tough to watch. Upon wiping Clem's memory and re-simulating she recalls the event even after the wipe and reacts. She ends up bashing the guy Hosts' head in, which I guess is a move all Hosts love (you'll see). Bernard is chastised as the head of the Behavior Department for allowing and writing the Reverie update, even though Ford acted solo on that occasion. Ford doesn't step up to take responsibility and Bernard is TERMINATED! Bernard is very loyal......
William and Dolores
I'm going to make this one as quick as possible because it was fairly lackluster and the most dull story of the episode. Lawrence, William, and Dolores are on a train for a while going through the outer reaches of the park. They travel through Ghost Nation territory, which beings to the most savage group of Natives in the park. William tells Dolores he's engaged to a woman back home, which hurts her robot feelings. They talk and then Dolores and William finally consummate their love. The cool part about their story in this ep depends if we believe the two timelines theory. And I do. William's explanation about what he's getting out of the park sounds awfully similar to what the MIB wants out of the Maze. William got the feeling from books and the park brought it to life. MIB's gotten this feeling from the park for 30 years, and now he needs more. Also, Dolores has a dream about some crazy landscape, draws it, then they find it. Lawrence leaves them, but warns no one comes back from there. William and Dolores go forward. The end. Also, Hosts must be impervious to morning breath or something because no chance William has a toothbrush on that train and he goes in on Dolores with a full on make out as soon as he wakes up the next morning.
If this episode was a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, Bernard would be the very very VERY center of it. That part you save till the end because its the best part by far.
Bernard is a Host! I repeat, Bernard is a Host! Yes, this was under suspicion for a few episodes now, but it still serves as a pretty serious plot shake up. The last 10 minutes of this episode are about as important as the previous 50. Bernard, despite being fired, brings Theresa to Ford's hidden cabin in the park with the purpose of exposing his Host family to make the Board aware of the issue. So we think.........
Let's breakdown the beauty of this entire scene.
- In the elevator on the way down to the park Bernard tells Theresa, the longer he works at Westworld, the more he understands the Hosts and less he understands the humans. Interesting disclosure given the circumstances.
- Theresa asks Bernard why the cabin doesn't show up on any surveys of the park. Well, because they use Hosts for surveys of course. And hosts are programmed to ignore it. Even if they're staring RIGHT at it they wouldn't be able to see it. Theresa: "Whats behind this door?" Bernard: "What door?" If nothing tipped you off before that, that line is when the writers want you to start getting nervous. THIS is when the anticipation to the big reveal should start to build.
- Bernard and Theresa descend the stairs to a familiar looking room (more later) where we see a newer style Host being created in a slower machine. (Keep this in mind.)
- Theresa finds designs for: little Robo-Robert, original Host Dolores, and one more very important design.
- The big reveal. Theresa hands the above design to Bernard and his response is the familiar one we've heard many times before. "It doesn't look like anything to me". CHILLS. Fantastic build. Fantastic reveal. The beauty lies in the simplicity. There's no need to even use the words Host and Bernard in the same sentence. The reveal is made that much better when the viewer has to tie the pieces together in their mind. "Why would Bernard say that? That's what Hosts say! Is Bernard a....wait. Oh my god...whhhaaaaaatt!!"
- Enter Ford. This scene is Anthony Hopkins in all his Hannibal Lecter-y glory. Eerie and omnipotent. Gentle but terrifying. Threatening but subdued. That's how he won an Oscar with like sixteen minutes of screen time.
- Ford gives a detailed reasoning and psychotic rationale for his actions. "I simply wanted to tell my stories". Bernard has been under his control for years and even brought Theresa there because he asked. Under Ford's orders, Bernard takes off his tie and beats Theresa's head in. Because that's how Hosts like to take care of business.
Important Questions from this Scene
- Has Bernard ever realized he was a Host before?
- Bernard couldn't see the door. This explains how Ford appeared from nothing when Bernard was first in the cabin last episode. Can we ever really trust our eyes in Westworld?
- Ford uses the term "blood sacrifice". Charlotte Hale used the same term speaking with Theresa earlier. Can't be a coincidence, right? I assume Ford knew because Hector was in the room and he could have seen the meeting through him either during or after.
- I believe Bernard would have to constitute as Ford's greatest creation. Don't you think? A Host that is not only capable, but exceptionally adept at creating and modifying Hosts himself. The head of the Programming and Behavior Department. The one in charge of Host behavior is a Host himself. It's almost artistic. Beautiful, Dr. Ford. Just beautiful.
- What's Ford's plan for Theresa's body and the cover-up? He might not need to explain a missing person, because that new Host in the basement lab will be ready in a day. Could that have been Theresa's replacement being created as she was being murdered? Again, poetic if so.
- Speaking of that old basement lab....looks sorta familiar. Huh?
- Strap on your thinking caps-------The picture above is from an earlier episode in the season when we thought Bernard and Dolores were having a little clandestine talk about her reality and Alice in Wonderland. However, I propose to you that the picture above is actually a conversation between Arnold and Dolores. Not Bernard. The conversation above, and others we see like it, happened 30 years in the past on the hypothetical William Timeline. That would make Bernard a Host version of Arnold.
- The room above looks almost exactly, if not exactly, like the one we saw at the end of episode seven with the new age Host development machine. See the stairs in the background? The windows? The glass box? Same room. Located in the park where Arnold was probably living.
- Ford already admitted to Bernard that Arnold wished to create consciousness. For your consideration, I surmise Arnold noticed some self awareness in Dolores and prompted her to find the center of the Maze to be free. The conversation above, between Arnold and Dolores is what tipped the first domino of our entire William Timeline. The timeline is moving toward the "critical failure" that occurred more than 30 years ago and mentioned in the first episode.
- This would be the same critical failure that the MIB talks to Ford about and claims he was responsible for stopping.
- I imagine one timeline is heading toward the events of the critical failure by the end of the season. The MIB timeline has a few different possibilities, including Ford's story. Better be getting back, Bernard. We have lots of work to do on the new storylines.......
I think that's it for this episode. May you rest in a deep and dreamless slumber...........