‘Westworld’ Recap: “Trompe L’Oeil” – Blood Sacrifice

     November 13, 2016

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Westworld throws its first real mic drop in Season 1, revealing that Bernard is a host and Ford is more competently maniacal than the show has ever explicitly stated before. Elsewhere in the episode, Dolores lets William tag along on her hero’s journey, and Maeve knows a bad situation when she sees one. She’s getting out, and she’s going to get Tweedledee and Tweedledum to help her. Here’s everything that happened in “Trompe L’Oeil”…

Charlotte Hale teases Delos’ true interests.

Tessa Thompson continues to impress as a ruthlessly efficient executive Charlotte Hale, someone who doesn’t mind enjoying some of the Westworld product while she visits the park on business to make sure Theresa will get the job done. (Spoiler: She won’t. She’s dead.) What is the job exactly? Well, as Lee Sizemore and Theresa touched upon in the very first episode, Delos, the corporation that holds the majority of the Westworld pursestrings, is not interested in “tourists playing cowboys.”

Rather, Delos cares about the code hidden within the host’s programming for their own little side project. Though Charlotte doesn’t spell out what that side project might be, Ford’s later assertion that it is Delos who want to play god rather than him (when, really, there is enough god-playing to go around for everyone) implies that it might have something to do with creating eternal life via artificial intelligence. Or perhaps resurrection via artificial intelligence. Think Dollhouse, Season 2.

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Image via HBO

Theresa’s job was not only to run the park smoothly, but to “steal” the 35 years of raw information that is only stored in the park. Delos plans on “persuading” Ford to retire and, knowing the megalomaniac as they do (though obviously not well enough), they predict that he will try to erase all that information in spite. Which, let’s be honest, he would 100 percent do. Delos thinks they are one step ahead of him with their plan to use satellite uplink devices in the hosts to send the data out. What an arrogant mistake they have made.

Maeve hatches her escape plan.

Maeve continues to be the smartest character on this show. (Which, after last week’s upping of her base apperception isn’t a surprise.) While Dolores heads deeper into the game in an attempt to find herself, and Ford murders people at an unsustainable rate, Maeve sees the writing on the wall. She just wants out. No doubt this goal was already on her mind, but after seeing what happens to Clementine as part of Charlotte’s plan to throw Ford under the bus, Maeve demands Felix and Sylvester’s help to get out of Westworld.

With Clementine gone, is there anyone else Maeve cares about within the park? Hector, maybe? More than any other host, Maeve understands the full picture of her existence and she knows the end of this story: violent ends. She doesn’t want to stick around to complete this particular narrative loop — though something tells me she won’t have a choice. Either way, Maeve is willing to accept the potentially life-ending consequences of her “suicide mission”: “You think I’m afraid of death? I’ve done it a million times. I’m fucking great at it. How many times have you died?”

Dolores draws something new.

The further from Sweetwater Dolores and William get, the more they feel like they’re in their own TV show. It is a traditional western, aspiring to be something more with Dolores and (one gets the impression) Westworld has no intentions of falling short of those ambitions. “You’ve unlocked something in me,” William tells Dolores after they sleep together. He is sick of pretending. He wants to live. “I’m not a key, William,” Dolores tells him in reply. William still thinks that it is Dolores who is a character in his story, but it’s the other way around from where we’re sitting. And from where Dolores is sitting, it’s not a story at all. She’s done with those. She wants to live.

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Image via HBO

It says a lot about the significant thematic thrills of Westworld that arguably the least interesting storyline of the night involves a corpse being blown up, a horseback skirmish between our “heroes” and the Confederados, and the appearance of the mysterious Ghost Nation and their stereotypical ruthlessness. The thing is: we’ve seen all of this before. These are the narrative loops pop culture was stuck in for 20 years during the heyday of the western genre. These are emblematic of the narrative loops that still exist. Westworld has promised something different and to do something more: to reveal to all of us who we truly are.

Following an escape from both the Confederados and the Ghost Nation, Dolores and Will part ways with El Lazo, who is off to continue the rebel fight. Dolores has her own mission, to follow the voice in her head, and she is never going back. William is along for the ride.

Bernard is a host and Ford is a monster.

And now the storyline you have no doubt been waiting for: the reveal that Bernard is, in fact, a host. It’s been a popular fan theory from the beginning. We all figured that Westworld would be unable to resist hiding a host in plain sight and Bernard has always made sense. He is Ford’s minion. He has been at Westworld for awhile. And Ford tended to mention his son whenever he wanted Bernard to fall back in line, no doubt a form of the voice command cues we have seen Ford use on many of the other hosts.

The Bernard twist might have been predictable for some, but that didn’t make it any less effective. A big part of this is because, though the viewer may have had a hunch, neither Theresa nor Bernard did. Watching Theresa go from shock to horror to anger to desperation during her conversation with Ford was the perfect audience surrogate arc, which makes Theresa’s death all the more horrifying. She may have been set up as a quasi-antagonist at points in this story, but she has never been a bad person. She has been the person trying to hold this entire doomed operation together, negotiating with the Fords and the Lee Sizemores of the world while also struggling to keep Westworld operating while implementing Delos’ side project. She has always been critical of the purpose and methods of Westworld, even while she directly profits from it. And she has done it all with dry, even at times goodnatured wit. It’s sad to see her go. (Unless Ford has already created a host doppelganger of Theresa, in which case she will live on in some form).

As for Bernard, who acts mostly as a background player in this scene, it is easy to feel similarly horrified on his behalf. If we are being asked to call into question the nature of consciousness and what makes someone human, then Bernard is as good a case study as any. It’s unclear what he feels, though the flashback to his son dying certainly suggests that there is more going on beneath the surface than Ford believes, but we have come to know him as a human by some definition of that word. He has always at least pretended to be empathetic, curious, caring, and vulnerable to pain. If Bernard does or ever will suffer consciousness, then he will be horrified by what he has done to his former lover.

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Image via HBO

Ultimately, that final sequence was the most illuminating for Ford’s character. Anthony Hopkins and this show’s writers have done an amazing job keeping Ford’s ethics and culpability somewhat opaque. It’s hard to imagine that a man who helped to create this problematic theme park world would be without his own questionable ethics, but, in a TV show populated with characters who are degrees of culpable in this ethically-compromised world through their participation as employees or guests, it is hard to differentiate the lazy villain from the active villain. With his murder of Theresa at Bernard’s hand, Ford falls firmly into the latter category, and Hopkins more than lives up to his reputation as an actor capable of bringing intelligent, charismatic monsters to life.

From Ford’s thought-provoking rambles about peacock feathers and progress to his matter-of-fact delivery of why Theresa had to die, Hopkins makes us believe in Ford’s twisted logic. When someone tells you who they are, believe them. This is a man who has been too long allowed to play god and to live amongst his creations. He orders Bernard to kill Theresa as easily as he orders his employees to deactivate a host. For someone who sees hosts as free, he certainly doesn’t seem to perceive much of a difference when it comes to his own power over life and death. He snuffs Theresa’s life out as if it were his right to do so. As if he were a god not only in Westworld, but of whatever larger world lies past it.

Whether Westworld is the story of Ford’s creations rising up and bringing their maker to justice, or the story of Ford’s continued successful attempts to play god and exert his considerable power remains to be seen. Whichever storytelling path the show chooses, one thing is for sure: Delos has seriously underestimated Ford’s determination to hang onto this world he has created: “I simply wanted to tell my stories. It’s you people who wanted to play god with your little side project … It was our dream. Did you really think I would let you take it away from me?”

Rating: ★★★★ Very good

Miscellanea

— So, did Lee Sizemore quit? Was he fired? Is he still working at Westworld, presumably more sober and clothed than when we last saw him.

— Bernard’s flashback memory to his time at his son’s deathbed-side is the first time we’ve seen a host with modern memory. They feel even closer to human than before.

— Elise “went on leave.” Did Bernard take her to Ford at the end of the previous episode? Did he kill her? Or perhaps the mysterious Arnold somehow snatched her up before Team Ford could kill her.

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Image via HBO

— “I see why you took these up again.” — Charlotte, to Theresa, suggesting they have known each other for awhile.

— “I like you… well, not personally, but I like you for this job.” — Charlotte to Theresa

— “I’m gonna get my family out of the desert. We’re gonna go someplace… cold. Someday.” — Clem to Maeve. There’s that word again: someday. Dolores tells us never to trust it and, with the case of Clem, it’s good advice. Clem is never going to take her family somewhere cold. She might not even have a family.

— “I don’t want to be in a story.” — Dolores

— “What’s out that way?” “You’re gonna have to ask the dust. Ain’t nothing ever come back from there.” — William and El Lazo

— “Always doing things for other people, aren’t you?” — Maeve to Sylvester

— Sylvester claims that every part of the hosts is made to keep them in Westworld. What does that mean exactly? And does Maeve stand any chance whatsoever of escaping? Discuss in the comments below.

— “At first, I thought you and the others were gods. Then, I realized you’re just men.” — Maeve

— “The more I work here, the more I think I understand the hosts. It’s the human beings who confuse me.” — Bernard, seriously trolling the audience moments before the reveal that he is a host.

— Ford can render new hosts in a few days time. Who has he been creating in his remote facility? Has he been replacing members of the Westworld employee roster with host copies? Or perhaps he has been bringing in new employees who are actually hosts?

— “You’re a fucking monster.” “Am I?” — Theresa and Ford. Um, that’s not a denial.

— “It’s all just an elaborate mating ritual. Maybe it doesn’t matter that we’ve accomplished so much for the basest of reasons.” — Ford, on human progress

— “The hosts are the ones that are free. Free, here, under my control.” — Ford.

— Theresa tries to get the truth about Arnold’s death before Ford has her killed, bless her. Frustratingly, Ford continues to be vague about the subject, even when he intends to kill the questioner. Theresa asks Ford if he had Bernard kill Arnold. Ford simply says Bernard wasn’t around back then.

— “I’m afraid our guest has grown weary, Perhaps you can help her, Bernard?”

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