“You reap what you sow”
Catch up with our coverage of last week’s episode.
An ongoing curiosity though the first five episodes of Westworld has been the question of who, if anyone, is the show’s villain. There are mysteries a plenty and conflicting intentions to be sure, but are there actual “bad” guys and girls to be found? This week’s episode title suggests there’s at least one, but by the time the credits roll on “The Adversary” our suspicions are aimed in multiple directions.
First up though is the ep’s only innocent as Maeve (Thandie Newton) continues her eye-opening quest for knowledge. She has no proverbial apple to bite but easily manipulates the men in the lab into furthering her worldly awareness through both exposure and coding. We’re well past wondering how she remembers things she shouldn’t and instead marvel at a tenacity that sees her intentionally “die” just so she can return to Felix, Sylvester, and the truths they have to offer.
Newton’s performance grows increasingly heartbreaking as she sees the science that is “her” right before her eyes – the vocabulary, the personality traits, etc – and it comes to a head with a return visit to the lab’s hallways. She’s escorted this time meaning she gets to see far more of it from the creation to the carnage, but it’s every bit as haunting as she sees the models being designed, their programming being tested, and their bloodied carcasses being cleaned once again. You can see the effect it all has on her, but in a stark contrast to last time where she crumbled to the ground in shock this viewing instead inspires her to plan ahead.
Two questions arise from it all (not including just what she has planned going forward).
First up is the implication of the commercial Maeve watches on the wall. It features video of her and the female host who greets William in the second ep, and this seems to argue against the dueling time period theory doesn’t it? Westworld’s marketing wouldn’t be using the same models thirty years later – and before you point to someplace like Disneyland these are not iconic characters like Mickey Mouse or Goofy. The host models they use in advertising would change over time to continue to attract new customers and draw back old ones. Guests would grow tired of screwing and shooting the same faces again and again. I’m still not a fan, but the two timeline theory remains a possibility, but if true I think that leaves us with some sloppy writing along the way.
It’s worth noting of course that while I referred to Maeve as the ep’s only innocent and far more obvious potential villains are covered below, she could still ultimately be the adversary of the title. She’s well on her way to becoming a serious threat to the park’s human population, especially as she has the techs lower her loyalty and feelings of pain while increasing her intelligence. The second question becomes who’s been raising her paranoia and self-preservation levels?
The obvious answer is Arnold… or someone acting on Arnold’s behalf?
Speaking of Arnold, Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) – see what I did there? – and Elsie (Shannon Woodward) are still investigating the host issues and secret transmitter she found embedded in one of their arms. They divide their attention as he heads to the basement and she takes a trip to an abandoned theater. Both find surprises.
Bernard’s discovery of Ford’s (Anthony Hopkins) synthetic family reveals an even deeper yearning in the elder scientist for his past, and his continued preference for hosts over humans – a trait he previously ascribed to Arnold – is coming clearer too. The cabin retreat recreates the happiest time of young Ford’s life complete with robots gifted to him by his increasingly mysterious old friend. There’s also a nice nod to a previous Man in Black (Ed Harris) comment when Ford says newer hosts gained efficiency with their designs but lost grace.
Elsie finds even bigger truths though with the reveal that Theresa (Sidse Babett Knudsen) is the one accessing the transmitter while new code is affecting hosts to allow for lying, misbehavior, and even the possibility of causing violence towards humans.
I may be in the minority here, but this corporate espionage story line is probably the least interesting of the park’s mysteries even if it does seem guaranteed to have the longest legs series-wise. It’s a more generic thread, and while the specifics aren’t clear it’s likely that either profit or military tech is the motivation. And really, how can we be expected to care when our sweet and sassy Elsie’s been grabbed by someone in the dark? Any theories as to who it is who grabbed her and if she’s okay? My money’s on Ashley (Luke Hemsworth) as protection of some kind as opposed to a threat. The two have been buds before, and I’m hoping he followed her out to the theater. Look, I just want her to be okay, okay? Her curiosity and attitude are appealing and honest breaks from every one else’s air of mystery.
Elsewhere in the park, Lee (Simon Quarterman) is still bemoaning the cancellation of his epic narrative. You’re a more dedicated viewer than I am if his antics interest you at all, but the time spent on him is ultimately revealed as rewarding with the long-awaited arrival of Tessa Thompson as a Delos board member named Charlotte Hale. Her role isn’t fully clear yet, but it seems as if she’s there to assess Ford’s position with the company going forward. I suspect he won’t appreciate the infringement. I further suspect those first-generation robots who respond solely to his voice commands might serve a more violent purpose down the line if he’s pushed too far.
Last, but never least, the Man in Black and Teddy (James Marsden) continue their ride towards the center of the maze. They don’t get very far geographically, but Teddy makes some real progress in establishing himself as a changed man from the bullet fodder he’s been up until now. The maze is a myth, he tells the MiB, meant to symbolize “the sum of a man’s life, the choices he makes, and the things he holds onto.” These words of wisdom are followed by a skirmish with some Union soldiers who claim Teddy helped the villainous Wyatt with a past slaughter. Proving we really don’t know him at all, Teddy calmly mows all of the soldiers down with a Gatling gun saying this is him making piece with past indiscretions.
Dolores and William’s absence is felt this week as their path is the one with the most open questions, but Maeve’s rise toward becoming a sentient avenger goes a long way towards filling that gap. If the two timeline theory is correct, then we know Dolores fails in her effort to escape the shackles of slave to the whims of man – and we suspect that Maeve will carry that mission forward. Is she the ultimate adversary sanding against her human oppressors and the park’s progress? We certainly hope so.
But, and, what…?
- The opening piano cover is of Radiohead’s “Fake Plastic Trees” which is a pretty on-point pick for this artificial world, and the band (possibly) returns during Maeve’s incredibly affecting tour of creation with “Motion Picture Soundtrack.” Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on that second one.
- Bernard’s trip to the basement offers a glimpse of Yul Brynner’s android cowboy in the shadows. Very cool.
- A clothed Maeve convinces Felix’s bitchy partner Sylvester to go along with their scheme, but when we come back to their conversation later she’s naked. If this is the next day after she’s gone and died again it seems unlikely Sylvester wouldn’t have taken the opportunity to alert Behavior.
- For those still keeping score at home, we get yet another girl on girl shot as Maeve’s tour includes a look at two topless female hosts kissing. The look on Maeve’s face says it all.
- “Great artists hide themselves in their work.” Go on, Arnold…
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