Monday, June 4, 2018

Westworld, Season Two, Episode Six: Phase Space

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This episode is really about the choices that the hosts and the guests make and the consequences and rewards that result. In Sho Gun word, a heartbroken Akane cuts out the heart of her daughter. It's graphic and painful.  Hosts die all of the time on Westworld but because the game is always moving and there's a limitation in the programming, there's never time allotted to grieve. Maeve and crew return to Akane's brothel where Musashi, having created a distraction in the previous week is now waiting for them as a captive.  Maeve is determined to get the hell out of dodge with Akane but of course what's left of the Shogun's men won't let them leave. Rather than Maeve using her secret power, Musashi duels the leader of the Shogun's men and emerges victorious, freeing them all to leave for good. For the first time, there are no humans with enough power to limit where the Hosts go. The group travels through Westworld until they reach a hidden entrance to the back of the house so to speak. Akane pauses to burn her daughter's heart and she and Musashi decide to end the journey with the others right there. For Musashi, there is no freedom if he cannot defend his own home and therefore he sees no sense in running and attempting to create a new world.

William meets up with his daughter and because Hosts can be so lifelike, he believes that she isn't real, even after she kills a Host who almost shot him.  They finally sit for the night and William listens as his daughter reveals that her mother never believed that this place couldn't actually hurt someone and as we can see from the park's current state, it would seem that William's former wife was absolutely right. Firmly believing that Emily is a Host, Williams asks her a series of questions designed to ferret out her identity, which Emily easily passes. Emily apologises to William for blaming her mother's death on him and makes it clear that she wants him to return home with her. Though Emily is willing to forgive her father this much, it's clear from the fact that she was visiting pleasure palaces at the age of 12, he was at best an absentee father. Williams eyes seem to fill with tears though none fall as he realises that this is a chance for a fresh start and so promises to leave with his daughter in the morning, rather than going out in "blaze of bullshit glory". Of course, when Emily awakens, not only is William gone but he has taken her horse so that she cannot easily follow him. It seems once again, William has chosen to get lost in the park and avoid reality, even if it means hurting someone who loves him.

Dolores hasn't been interesting to me as a character for much of this season. Her burn it all down attitude leaves very little room for nuance. Westworld actually opened this week with something we have become familiar with - a conversation between Dolores and Arnold. It's only when Arnold doesn't repeat the conversation verbatim that the action stops. It turns out that Dolores was not engaging with Arnold but with a host built to look like Arnold/Bernard and was actually testing for fidelity, a concept we became familiar with when William tried to bring back his long dead father in-law. Because timelines are constantly shifting on Westworld, we don't know if Dolores actually helped Ford build Bernard, or if she built herself her own Bernard. If it is the later, it means that Dolores just might get a little more interesting because there will finally be something about her plot line more interesting than setting the world on fire.

Last week, Dolores made some alterations to the words kindest cowboy Teddy, which means that he is hyper confidant and generally speaking lacking empathy for others. The first indication that Teddy has changed occurs when he kills a man in cold blood simply because he is irritated with him. While this is what Dolores wanted, it's clear that she misses the host that she used to know and for his part, Teddy has no interest in discussing his former vulnerable self. Teddy sees his former self as someone who was born to fail and he is quite right in that assessment. This new Teddy may very well challenge Dolores for leadership of the hosts based on his ease in telling Dolores to forget about his former self. Teddy even goes as far as to snark about his new desire to leave the park, making it clear that this is Dolores's work. The only time Teddy does show a little mercy is when he leaves the human tech a gun and a single bullet, when the hosts decide to unhook part of the train on their journey inside the mountain. Things are about to get real.

Maeve's goal for much of this season has been to be reunited with her daughter.  I have to say that this plot line to me feels like a waste of an awesome character, even if Thandie Newton owns every damn scene that she is in. When Maeve finally arrives on what I assume to be the far reaches of Westworld, it's a homecoming, with the time flipping back and forth between present day and the past.  Maeve greets her daughter who doesn't recognise her and it's not long before Maeve realises it's because Westworld simply built a look a like robot to replace her. Maeve barely has time to assimilate to the idea that she was deemed easily replaceable before Ghost Nation shows up. Ghost Nation surrounds the Maeve replacement, as Maeve and her daughter take off running.

Watching from a distance, Lutz tries to convince Lee to help him save Maeve but Sizemore is done playing Maeve's game and uses the communicator he stole in the last episode to call for help. This also means that Lee is more calculating than we originally thought. Sure, Maeve humiliated him and made me him strip. Maeve ordered Lee around, treated him as though he were disposable and even generally put his life at risk but one thing is absolutely certain, there's no way that Lee didn't know that Maeve's character had been replaced and that she was headed for this disappointment. Lee decided to play the game and let this all play out which leads me to believe that there's more to him than meets the eye.

Maeve is quickly surrounded by the Ghost Nation and it seems that this time, Akecheta hasn't come to kill Maeve but to team up with her. For her part however, Maeve wants no part of this partnership. I have to pause here to question why Maeve is running in the first damn place? It's been well established that Maeve can simply think and have people react. We've seen time and time again Maeve force hosts who oppose her fight each other while she walks away without getting her hands dirty.  Clearly the writers didn't think this through when they made Mave super powered. The only explanation for Maeve's reaction is that she ran because she always ran in this situation but I still see this as a point of extremely bad writing. Even the idea of Maeve simply panicking because that's what a human would do and she's evolved now doesn't really hold water with me. Perhaps Mave is defaulting to programming because as Lee has been hinting at for quite some time, she's not nearly as sentient as she presents herself to be.

Finally, I just want to say for the record, I knew it. I knew damn well that Anthony Hopkins was too big of an actor to simply go out in a blaze of glory at the end of season one. We've seen all along that he's been manipulating the game and engaging in a game of cat and mouse with William. What his end goal is however is still anyone's guess.  I know I jumped the gun here, so let's look at how the big reveal happened. Bernard and Elsie make their way to the cradle, the place where all of the hardware is kept which keeps Westworld moving and the hosts functioning. It's essentially the heart of Westworld. Throughout the season we've seen a very confused Bernard flip through the timeline, never sure if he is remembering something or actually experiencing it. It's Elsie who realises that something is improvising inside of the cradle, or fighting back as it were. Bernard decides that the only way to get answers is for him to enter the mainframe itself, even though this is going to cause him extreme pain. If you think about it, the fact that Bernard actually feels the pain, rather than merely imitating what pain, shows just how cruel humans have actually been to their creations. It means that every time Delores was raped by William, she felt every second of the pain he inflicted upon her. The reveal of a pseduo alive Ford means that  he ordered Bernard kill all the techs and then download his mind into the mainframe. When we see Ford, he's playing the piano which is carefully a metaphor for all the strings he's pulling to control Westworld and to keep QA from getting control of the park.

Now that Bernard knows for sure what is going on, the question of course becomes what is he going to do with the information? Bernard is going to have to choose whose side he's on and what sides actually exist. We've been led to believe that the hosts have become sentient but Sizemore has shown us by repeating Maeve's signature lines that this supposed sentience really only goes so far. With Ford in the cradle, it could well mean that the hosts aren't nearly as independent as we've been led to believe. Could Dolore's desire to burn it all down actually originate with Ford? Does this explain why Maeve's only motivation is to reunite with her daughter, a seemingly innocuous drive given what this character seems to be capable of?