“I don’t want to be in a story.”
Catch up with our coverage of last week’s episode.
Surprise… Bernard’s (Jeffrey Wright) a robot! Who could have seen that coming? I kid, obviously, as his big secret has been one of the most widely-believed fan theories on the show so far, and this week’s episode confirmed it in gloriously sad and violent fashion. But is it good for Westworld in the long run?
First the details. The episode opens with one last reminder of Bernard’s humanity and grief as he dreams about being bedside when his son died. He wakes up distraught, and his losses keep coming. Inquiries into Elsie’s (Shannon Woodward) whereabouts reveal that she “started her leave today,” which of course means whoever grabbed her last week is enough of an authority at the park to affect her status in the system. A likely suspect emerges in the episode’s back half as Bernard is witness to a staged demonstration of his team’s failings – Ford’s (Anthony Hopkins) coding is to blame, but Bernard takes the fall.
He’s fired by the new board representative, Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson), while his on again off again lover Theresa (Sidse Babett Knudsen) stands unable to make eye contact and Ford does his best Anthony Hopkins impression. Bernard makes one last effort to convince Theresa of both his own value and Ford’s troubles by taking her to Ford’s off the grid shack, but she discovers too late it was a ruse set up by the park’s cruelest villain.
Bernard’s a robot! The reveal hurts due in large part due to Wright’s performance, but it’s more confirmation than surprise – the clues have been there whether we wanted to believe them or not. Theresa’s murder though, shown just out of focus and with terrifying build-up, is both shocking and the show’s most frightening moment since Maeve (Thandie Newton) first witnessed the lab slaughter.
But where does this leave us just three episodes from the season’s finale?
The two people investigating the improper shenanigans, Bernard and Elsie, are no longer in the picture. She’s gone, and he’s an assassin robot doing Ford’s bidding, so there’s no longer anyone opposing the plot which could be troubling down the road. The second half of the Bernard as robot theory posits that he’s basically a copy of the mysterious Arnold. That would seem a bit too unlikely to me logic-wise (but not TV show logic-wise) as it’s difficult to believe no evidence of the man exists in the world, but if not Arnold then who? He’s quite possibly a copy of a once-living Bernard who Ford previously murdered before replacing with the automated lookalike, and if so should we assume the host being crafted on the 3-D printer will end up looking like Theresa?
Do we think Elsie’s still alive? Knowing what happens to Theresa I’d say there’s no reason to expect that, but if she does return we’ll be faced with that simple question. Is she real, or is she a replacement robot meant to fool other characters and audience alike?
And that’s the biggest problem with this Bernard reveal. Where previously we were told there were ways to distinguish the human from the host, now we’re left realizing that’s not the case. If he can be a robot literally any other character can be too, and that’s not fun for viewers as it negates our connection with them and leaves us feeling a bit less invested. Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse ran into this problem, and even the Mission: Impossible films (the second in particular) suffer from too frequent reveals of “it’s a mask!”
“This place, the people who work here, are nothing,” says Charlotte to an incredulous Theresa, and while the attitude makes sense for a board member those of us in the audience need these people to be something.
Maeve and Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) are our only hopes now, but it’s unlikely either will succeed in their quests. For Maeve to escape HBO would need to move the action out into the “real” world, and not only would that begin to lose the focus of the show (and its title) but be a budgetary expense I don’t see the network pursuing. And Dolores? If her story line truly is unspooling thirty years in the past then we already know she doesn’t find escape either. Her dream is doomed by our knowledge that in the show’s present time line (again, if there are two threads running) she’s back to being a defenseless rape victim.
Maybe I’m reading too much into it, or maybe I’m just thinking HBO has learned from their monster hit Game of Thrones that audiences respond to downbeat outcomes and tragedy by returning for more. Prove me wrong HBO… give at least one of these robotic ladies a happy ending.
But, and, what…?
- There were no re-imagined pop songs this week, but it was fun seeing Maeve slam shut the saloon’s automated player piano to silence its repetitive sounds.
- It’s going to suck if neither Elsie nor Theresa return – we’ll be down two great characters *and* two fantastic female actors.
- Is the use of the phrase “blood sacrifice” by both Charlotte and Ford meant to imply they’re working in collusion here? I don’t see how Ford killing Theresa helps Charlotte… does it?
- Maeve’s blackmail of the two techs seems necessary to her escape plan, but what exactly is she holding over them? Why are they obeying? Can’t they just lobotomize her or tell a higher-up?
- I still don’t care about the corporate espionage angle, but I am more curious as to who Theresa was sending data to in secret. I’d think she could transmit it properly without anyone knowing… she’s an executive!
- William (Jimmi Simpson) don’t do much this week aside from seal their fleshy love pact aboard a train before discovering the valley in her dreams is real.
Follow our ongoing Westworld coverage.
Related Topics: HBO