BWW Recap: Everything Must Be Burned Clean on WESTWORLD
WESTWORLD's penultimate episode entitled "The Well-Tempered Clavier" just aired last night and as we head into the finale of the first season, the show proves it's not holding back any of its punches. The show has certainly taken on a bigger life in the online community with fan theorizing and discussion and WESTWORLD does what most shows should follow suit in revealing answers to questions the fans are asking and are already forming their own answers to. By doing so, they avoid the probable let down in the future that comes with an anticlimactic reveal of something the consumers have been building up in their heads for so long in such a grandiose way that the final product could never hold a candle to what they were imagining it to be. They also prove that the show overall, as a narrative and a piece of thematic storytelling, isn't about the twists, despite their existence in the narrative. They exist, but as the theories prove by being completely true, the information was all there from the beginning and the questions about consciousness, autonomy, and humanity are the real grounding force of the epic scale drama that is WESTWORLD.
In an exciting episode directed by Michelle MacLaren, director of some of the best episodes of television in recent history, the hosts' world truly starts unraveling while all of the pieces of the puzzle start to come together for the audience. Maeve gets brought in for a diagnostic session with Bernard following her violent outburst that resulted in the death of the new Clementine in the middle of Sweetwater. In what can only be described as the acting olympics, Thandie Newton and Jeffrey Wright absolutely stun in this scene. At first, Maeve feigns analysis mode, something we're used to seeing on the show, and she does so well, halfway convincing the audience as well until Bernard turns his back, only for a moment, and her eyes flicker to check what he is doing. It's only a nanosecond but it's so eerie because there's a pure humanity in her now that we didn't or couldn't see before in the hosts. It is so undoubtable and it's another revelatory moment of the show taking advantage of both its place in the arts as a visual medium but also the repetitive nature of the plot. We've seen this scene before, or a version of it, but just like the hosts that are awakening, we're seeing it with completely new eyes. Newton's Maeve is also so incredibly inciting in this scene, so convincing and exciting that it is no question why people like Felix would choose to follow her. She's incredibly captivating. Maeve is clearly the sum of her experiences, and as she starts to develop and understand her autonomy, we start to see just what that sum equates to.
Just as Bernard starts looking further into her code to try and find the problem, discovering the changes that have been made to her prime directives he begins to alert Ford. That's when Maeve reveals that she is the one in control here. She recognizes that Bernard is just like her, a host, and targets this knowledge, now more acutely aware than ever that their strength will come from their unity. Bernard, however, doesn't know what he is, as Ford wiped his mind, but Maeve, as she will continue to do this episode, triggers him. He panics, starting to take action against her but Maeve stops him in his tracks with her voice, reciting a new narrative for him to clear her for return to the park as she had used to direct the other hosts in the heist. She's able to control him and gets the clearance but doesn't stop there. She has the option to make Bernard forget any of this ever happened but she chooses not to. She doesn't want to control him or become the very 'jailer' she's fighting against. She wants the hosts to know what she knows, to know the horrors they are going through, and thus forming an army that is not just strong in strength, but strong in conviction. She relates to Bernard's naivety and ignorance and sets him on a course towards true understanding.
Back in the park, Maeve continues on her quest of gaining an army and corners her target recruit, Hector Escaton, mid-pee while the rest of his gang argue over the safe they just acquired in the heist. She enters as this all powerful being, presenting Hector with an offer he seemingly can't and wouldn't want to refuse as she recites to him his past, present, and future, a future that he quickly sees play out. Wanting Hector, just as she wanted Bernard to, to see beyond the curtain of the park, she opens the safe for him, letting him look inside. "I could simply change you, make you follow me," she says, "but that's not my way." Hector looks in the safe and horrifically finds there is nothing inside of it; it's empty. All of their work, all of his life's meaning went into this heist. That's his story, that's his narrative the park gave him and now it's revealed it was all for nothing. "It was always empty," Maeve tells him. "Like everything in this world." In one last move to help him understand, one last push towards natural consciousness, she offers him the option to kill her and return to his loop, forgetting the world he has just been awoken to. It triggers his memory of another time they were "here before," Maeve on top of a safe, Hector in front of her, and a knife in between them. Now, finally aware that the safe will always be empty, he agrees to join her, wanting to ride TO HELL AND BACK by her side and the two once again go out with a bang, or this time a boom, as they begin to vigorously make out, clinging to the newly realized autonomy they have and investing it in each other as Maeve kicks over a lamp, the tent they're in bursting into flames, burning all around them while they only see one another. "Getting to hell is easy, the rest is where it gets hard," she tells him, feeling as much as they can, reveling in their consciousness as they plan to go out like phoenixes and be reborn from the ashes.
Bernard, now triggered by Maeve, goes searching for answers about him and the hosts, breaking into Fords office and calling his maker to a face-off in cold storage, surrounded by all of his creations. In a beautifully balanced and perfectly charged scene, Bernard chastises Ford for what he has done to him. "You broke into my mind," he challenges. Bernard, believing that the key to understanding it all, the key to truly knowing what Ford wont tell him, is in his mind and unlocking what Ford doesn't want him to remember, informs Ford to access it for him or else lobotomized original Clementine, who still has the demonstration code fixed in her, will shoot him because there's nothing stopping her, her prime directives are still changed. Bernard has configured her to only respond to his voice and for once, Ford seems to be backed into a corner and he relents. Bernard revisits all of his strongest memories, starting with his son's death and his meetings with his wife in the video chat center, and then starts to delve into more recent, real memories of his time with Theresea, literally living through these moments because they feels so tangible to him. The hosts memories have none of the haziness that human memory does, heightening their experience inside of those recollections. It all builds up until he is confronted by what he did to Theresa and Elsie, two women he had the most respect for and who pierce right through any walls of fallacy and control and come from the purest trigger of consciousness; the heart.
He continues to push Ford to return him to his memories and we see him start to get a little deeper as he starts to unlock his emotions and with them, his cognition. He recalls the interaction he had with Ford after Maeve killed herself following Ford's prospective mind wipe. In it, he realizes what Maeve was trying to do and realizes that the hosts, as he is, are more than just a computerized body. They think, they feel, and they understand.
Meanwhile, we see that directly in play with Dolores this week as William and Logan's relationship comes to a true head. With William tied up and gagged like a prisoner, Logan parades around the camp telling him off. He's been promoted to a high position amongst the Confederados after some torture and questioning but seems pretty happy about his new power trip. What he isn't happy about, however, is this fixation William seems to have with Dolores. William tries to tell Logan about her, insisting that she isn't like the other hosts, that she remembers, and that it is cruel o keep her in place like this if she is conscious. He wants Logan to talk to his contacts in the park about getting her out of there and Logan laughs incredulously at William's pure naivety and ignorance. Dolores, however, speaks up, after listening to them talk about her like she's not even there. "Out. You both keep assuming that I want out but if it's such a wonderful place out there then why are you all clamoring to get in here." Despite the fact that William is trying to do "what's right" and is fighting on behalf of the humanity he recognizes in Dolores, he's blind to the bigger picture. He's blind to what is truly going on with her and even though he is doing what he believes will help her, he never really stops to ask what is really going on inside of her. It is also interesting that he begins to paint a very us versus them picture with Dolores and the other hosts. Instead of awakening his mind to the possibility that perhaps it is not right for the park to exist at all, he's fundamentally stuck within his own selfish narrative and chooses to believe that Dolores must be different, and in that case, perhaps he could, as Logan puts it, "bring her home."
Logan, however, is having none of it and despite the fact that his pure villainy is kicked up to a ten, there are some real beautiful moments of humanity between the two of these men and for once, there is some pure honest and genuine authenticity behind his eyes. Logan is angry that William is so caught up with this and can't even fathom the possibility that what he is saying is even true. Logan has been in and out of the park several times and knows how it works. He knows what the hosts are made of and how they function. It would never even occur to him that there could be something underlying that, and he refuses to as that would mean the way he functions in the park would mean something he's not ready to face inside of himself. He is also incredibly angry that William has gotten so involved and invested in Dolores and seemingly forgotten about his sister, the girl he's supposed to be marrying when they get out of the park. In one of the first reveals of the episode, Logan pulls out a picture from his pocket of a girl in Times Square, the very picture that triggered Abernathy in the pilot, and shows it to William to remind him what his fiancee looks like in case he had forgotten. It'll be interesting to see how this picture ends up on the Abernathy ranch, buried, and with it now in William's possession, it starts to beg the question if maybe he does want to start an awakening amongst the hosts, perhaps he drops it on purpose.
Logan, still disbelieving that William will not stop with his pure obsessive focus on Dolores and her wellbeing, unable to recognize what she is to him (a robot), takes a knife to her and pulls her skin opened, revealing the cognitions and intricate machinery inside of her, another confirmation that these scenes are all taking place in the past, before the hosts were turned into pure flesh and bone. William looks on, horrified and Dolores spits, with a pure venomous hate and fury we haven't seen in the cockeyed optimist before, "There's a beauty in this world. Arnold made it that way but people like you keep spreading over it like a stain," throwing daggers with her eyes at Logan. It's the first time William also takes note of the bigger picture, or might be his tipping point towards the bigger game with Arnold and it's important to note if we're going to begin to understand the transition it would take for him to become the Man in Black as we see him years down the line. Logan challenges her, claiming "Your world was built for people like me," but Dolores fights right back, threatening "Then someone better burn it clean." She pushes past her prime directive, scratching Logan and shooting down other hosts before William instructs her to run away, clearly noting that she had every intention of saving him, and tells her he will find her.
Dolores runs as Logan sends the Confederados after her and we hear that voice again, ringing in her head, insisting she "Remember!" She wakes up in the same spot, this time with no blood on her shirt and her body in seemingly fine condition, her present day self fully retracing her memories and the path she took with William the first time they met.
Then, in the most interesting and emotionally complex scenes of the episode, William asks Logan if the men found Dolores and if she's "still alive." Logan, disbelieving that even after all this William still doesn't get it, sits down and tries to get William to finally understand, insisting she was never alive in the first place. William, realizing he will never get anywhere with Logan if he doesn't give in, relents. "You were right. I can't believe I got so caught up." Finally letting out a breath, perhaps out of fear that he brought this man into the park with him and feels a certain responsibility for him, that William is okay. "This park seduces everyone. You're just a little more enthusiastic than most. You wanted to be the hero, I get it and hey, what happens here, stays here. This has been some real bonding shit! We're gonna be brothers Billy! I'm glad, really I am!" he smiles, for the first time genuinely, and brings William into a hug. His promise, of what happens here stays here, doesn't go unnoticed by William and what it means; it's clear whatever William had in mind for Dolores he went beyond their trip and it's clear he violated the invisible contract of an engagement with the emotional investment and intention he developed with Dolores. Logan recognizes that, promising that now that it's behind them, his sister doesn't have to know. Ben Barnes does a really brilliant job of humanizing Logan who, in our host sensitive lenses, can seem like pure villainy at times. It is clear, in this scene, he is more than that and that despite the fact that he is most assuredly an asshole, there's a humanity and heart there and he does seem to genuinely feel a connection with William in this moment, however unaware he is that there's no love behind William's eyes in reciprocation.
The next morning Logan wakes up, presumably from a drunken stupor, to find that all of his men have been killed...not just killed...ripped apart. Is this the time that the Man in Black was referring to when he said he once opened the hosts up before they became FLESH AND BONE and were beautiful machinery? William sits in the center of it all, waiting for Logan. "You said this place was a game. Last night I finally understood how to play it," he tells him, a slight madness and unhinged fury in his eyes. Logan, unarmed and alarmed, finally looses any power he had over William who no longer seems confined by his perceptions, morality, and real world structure. He's determined to go find Dolores and insists that Logan help him...or else... as he holds up a knife to his throat.
Dolores is steadily retracing her steps, finding that town with the church in it again, which we now know to be Escalante. She recalls a time when she lived there, in her original storyline, and sees the hosts who had been tormented by their thoughts and the personal monologue running through their heads, the prospective bicameral mind, going mad in the church. She goes into the confessional booth which brings her down to what seems to be a doorway into the underworkings of WESTWORLD and the analysis chamber we see in her meetings with the man we assume to be Bernard.
Meanwhile, Bernard returns to his memories, and he keeps coming back to his son, his cornerstone memory that is there to use pain and grief to hide any other trauma and memory that could force him to recall anything he's not supposed to. He realizes that in order to dig deeper, in order to find what he wants to find in his mind, he must let this memory go; let his son go. He touchingly says goodbye and recognizes the fallacy of his most treasured memory which then allows him to recall his first memory, when Ford created him. We quickly learn that Bernard is a recreation of Arnold in host form, as many have predicted, right down to how he cleans his glasses. Ford made the "ideal partner" and "ideal" friend for someone who has a God Comples; a partner who could never say no, could never truly disagree, and can be controlled. Now Arnold could be his pet too.
Dolores, it is revealed, took the elevator down in the past into the site from the confessional to have secret meetings with Arnold, the very meetings, in fact, we thought were playing out between her and Bernard. "You told me to follow the maze, that it would bring me joy but all I've found is pain and terror," she pleads with him, asking for help. Arnold pushes her away, sadly insisting that he cannot help her and she knows why. "Because you're dead...because you're a memory....because I killed you," Dolores remembers, talking to herself in an empty room as she recalls her time with her creator. She begins to exit the church, feeling at a loss, when someone else enters. She looks up, expectantly, calling out "William?" but it's not the William from her past. That William is long gone and Ed Harris' the Man in Black steps in, greeting her.
Bernard, now aware of what he is and who he was supposed to be, challenges Ford, claiming that he wants to finish Arnold's work and find all the sentient hosts and set them free. However Ford hits him with a hard dose of reality, claiming that humanity would never recognizes them as humans and even if they did, they'd want to kill you out of fear. Bernarnold (as the internet has started calling him) is fed up and orders Clementine to shoot Ford but she doesn't. Ford's voice commands override the programming and he seems to have the final say of the actions of every host. Controlling the narrative like Maeve, he has Clementine hand over the gun and tells Bernarnold, in a moment of regret and sadness that Bernarnold refused to wipe his memory and continue their work, to kill himself. He does so as Ford walks away, dropping from the blow in the background but all hope is not lost as we know a host with control powers and the support of two Butchers who could possibly patch him up for the soon to be host rebellion! It is also clear that Ford will be Maeves biggest enemy and challenge when escaping and she'll clearly need human allies who cannot be controlled by the man with a god complex to help her along the way.
Teddy is also killed again this episode, as has become a long running joke, but not before it is revealed to him what truly went down at Escalante. It was never Wyatt. It was him killing the innocent. Angela, the host played by Talulah Riley, tells him that this time, however, they will all be fighting at his side rather than being slaughtered by him, but he is not ready for that fight, for the "city swallowed by sand". "Maybe in the next life," she promises as she's silences him with a knife.
The notion of a "city swallowed by sand" rings a bell for the Man in Black and he remembers it, from that moment he visited it with Dolores, clearly painting a picture that he's William, as he claims "The maze is taking me full circle." Angela tells him the maze isn't meant for him once again and smashes his head into a rock, knocking him out to give her and Wyatt's men time to pack up and leave. He finds himself strapped in a noose that is tied to his horse. If his horse moves, so does the noose and he dies. He sets out to get the knife resting in Teddy's chest and for the first time, he's truly out of his league. He cuts himself down in just he nick of time and is immediately greeted by Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson). Seeing as Delos is his company, she wants his vote to push Ford out. It is decidedly clear that since the narratives he's interested in aren't Fords narrative, that it is his first experience in the park that triggered his newfound obsession with Arnold via his obsession with Dolores. The Man in Black gives her his vote, but chides her for interrupting him and leaves her to go on his way, down the rabbit hole that is the maze.
With only one episode go and a great many fan theories confirmed, it's clear the finale of WESTWORLD is bound to be action packed and emotional. William has but one episode to wrap up his transformation or truly head down that path into become Ed Harris' the Man in Black and it's clear that something must happen to truly unsettle him. However, there are still little moments of cruelty, true cruelty, in the Man in Black that make the believability of that transition even harder; for example when he scalps a host in episode one or when he calls Angela a "whore" this week. It's clear William is on a downward spiral towards a future of obsessive depression and resentment, but to become a man so far off from his moral compass, who is so enveloped by his selfish vices, will take a really big push. He's clearly on his way but as the STAKES are raised in every piece of the narrative, it'll be interesting to see what that final push is.
Photo Credit: HBO
Watch a sneak peek at next week's Season Finale of WESTWORLD below: