Monday, November 21, 2016

Westworld, Season One, Episode Eight: Trace Decay

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I'm not quite sure what to make of Trace Decay.  We ended up with a big reveal about the MIB, Maeve's rebellion and Ford's perspective on the soul and William and Delores essentially went nowhere.  Clearly, this episode is a placeholder for what is to come while Westworld builds up for its big finale, which hopefully will come with some answers.

In opening scenes we see Bernard struggling with the knowledge that he is responsible for killing Theresa.  His anger at Ford is palpable. For his part, Ford feels no guilt for his part in Theresa's murder and is in fact fascinated by Bernard's response. Ford finds Bernard's grief and rage an example of just how far he has come making hosts more real.  The earlier hosts were only able to express and explore base emotions while Bernard is capable of far more nuance.  This has clearly been Ford's shining achievement.  Ford orders Bernard to go back and clean up his mess, promising to erase his memories as a reward for his actions.  Even as Ford dangles this carrot, he seems to fail to recognize that deleting Bernard's memories also works for him because it erases his connection to Theresa's death.  Bernard goes about his task in an emotionless fashion, as he collects the remnants of his relationship with Theresa and deletes any evidence that they were together from the the video feed before returning to Ford.  Bernard questions if Ford has ever made him kill someone before and Ford says no, but I most certainly do not believe that.  Ford grants Bernard the comfort of forgetfulness but not before he remembers choking Elise.  

The erasing of memories really is a theme throughout this episode.  In the MIB's confession he talks about killing Maeve and her daughter just to see if he felt anything.  It's the first confirmation we get that what Maeve remembers in fact happened.  Maeve is brought back to the lab and is freaking out so much that the techs cannot calm her.  Having tried to escape with the body of her dead daughter in her arms she is absolutely traumatized.  Ford makes an appearance and on his orders, Maeve calms down though she is clearly still upset. Maeve begs to be allowed to keep the pain she feels because it's all that she has left of her daughter but Ford removes her memories and says that he will move her to a new storyline while will allow her to put this episode behind her.  This is how Maeve moved from being a small homesteader to a Madame.  

Memory also plays a role in Teddy's interactions with the MIB.  Teddy helps the MIB fight off one of Wyatt's people and in the process, he remembers the MIB dragging Delores across the ground.  This is important because Teddy's entire reason for being is to want to be with Delores, something he is destined never to do.  This memory is enough for him to knock the MIB out and tie him up.  This is interesting because hosts aren't supposed to be able to hurt guests but it's clear from Teddy's actions that there's some flexibility where this is concerned.  There's a direct correlation between Teddy regaining his memories of the actions of the MIB and the MIB's confession about his treatment of Delores and his identity outside of the game. 

It's Delores's memories which lead her to the town that Ford had razed to the ground in previous episodes.  Lost in memories, Delores relieves an earlier version of Westworld and even places a gun to her head.  Delores feels that she was driven to this location by Arnold but since its a wasteland of sorts, there are no answers there for her.  Delores is left wondering if William is even real because she cannot tell the difference between her memories and reality.  Delores is actively scared that she is losing her mind and even asks when she and William are, thus affirming my belief that we have actually been watching several timelines roped together to equal one.  

Then we have Felix who explains to Maeve that human memories are quite different from that of Hosts.  When Hosts remember they do so in perfect clarity which is why when they do remember something they become lost in it and relive it.  Humans remember things in shades of grey and over time, the memory fades and becomes less vivid and less real.  The perfect clarity of memory that hosts maintain is what makes them a danger because as we have seen, humans don't value their pain and suffering; they are disposable.  It's why Maeve ends up killing the new Clementine when she remembers the MIB attacking her.  It's what makes Maeve so very lethal.  

Speaking of Maeve, we have to talk about her interactions with Felix and Sylvester.  First off, the names Felix and Sylvester (both cats) clearly aren't by accident.  It heavily implies that Maeve is the mouse playing with cats; however, I think that this is a distraction of sorts, though Westworld is clearly counting on viewers to focus on this.  Maeve, unsurprisingly wants even more power than she has because she wants to leave.  Sylvester tells her to try and do so, unaware that Maeve is aware of the fail safe bomb attached to her spine.  Maeve's big plan is to recruit an army and as we've seen, given the number of hosts, this is certainly possible.  Sylvester wants to use the opportunity to shut Maeve down and break her for good.  Felix seems like he is going along with the plan but what he actually does is accede to Maeve's requests.  Maeve, who is aware of Sylvester's treachery, thanks to Felix, punishes Sylvester by slashing his throat.  Felix is shocked by her actions and this puzzles Maeve because he should be aware that she is duplicitous.  Maeve actually has to order Felix to save Sylvester which he does by cauterizing the wound.  

We are expected to root for Maeve for various reasons but in her interactions with Sylvester, it's all about the fact that Sylvester is a bully and has been making Felix's life miserable for quite some time. The fact of the matter is that it makes sense for Sylvester to try and break Maeve and what does not make sense is for Felix to give Maeve everything she asks for.  Why exactly is Felix risking himself? We know that Felix's not rich, a fact made clear by his admission that he cannot afford to visit the park himself and therefore, he must need this job.  Why exactly is he doing whatever Maeve wants him to do? It's not enough for his actions to be about pushing back against a bully because there are better ways to do that than risking your livelihood. Felix simply doesn't make any sense to me.  It also complicates the issue of Ford being the spider spinning his web and capturing all inside of it.  If the hosts rebellion occurs because Felix tinkered with Maeve, how effective does that really make Ford? 

The one interesting occurrence we did get this week was the results of Maeve's boost in her programming. For the first time we got to see someone move through the park in a manner similar to Ford.  Maeve whispered into the ears of other hosts to get them to do her bidding.  This might all be for naught however because the techs have noticed that something is off about Maeve and have come to collect her.

In a final note, Abernathy is about to return to the park courtesy of Charlotte. It's clear that she thinks that Ford has something to do with Theresa's death but at this point is powerless to do something about it.  The way both Charlotte and Ford talk about Theresa is enough to make me wonder if Theresa was a host under the control of the board.  At any rate, after getting Lee to upload information into Abernathy, she orders him placed back in the park.  Clearly the selection of Abernathy - Delores's father, is not at all accidental but we will have to wait until next week to see where this is heading. 

With two episodes left in Westworld, all we can do is hope that the answers the writers provide to the questions they have asked are worth the wait.  This is often the problem with a show like this.  The reveal had better be a good one because otherwise Westworld might well find that it has outsmarted itself.