Westworld Episode 8: The Human Heart Is Elusive and Unnecessary

By  · Published on November 21st, 2016

“Now it’s time to recruit my army.”

Catch up with our coverage of last week’s episode.

This week’s Westworld answered a couple question and raised a few more, but while the unknown gnaws at our collective curiosity it’s this episode’s definitive reveal that weighs the heaviest on both specific characters and the show as a whole.

Theresa (Sidse Babett Knudsen) is gone for good. We knew she was dead, but any hope she – and therefore Knudsen – would be back as a replacement robot is crushed by the discovery of her body and the belief that it was an accident. It’s confirmed that Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) also nabbed and probably killed Elsie (Shannon Woodward), and while there’s a slim chance her synthetic version could still appear before the season ends it seems likely that she too is done.

And that’s a damn shame as it means we’ve lost two compelling female characters and the two actors who brought them to life.

That’s bad enough on the face of it, but the last few episodes (up to and including this one) have also been pushing Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) down from the heights she’d previously achieved. She was barely present last week – and spent part of that time boning William (Jimmi Simpson) – and now she ekes slightly closer to her mysterious end goal only to let William lead her away from the possibility of answers at the church steeple. She says it reminds her of where she went to meet Arnold – a comment that seems to solidify that Bernard is modeled after Arnold and that her meetings with the former were actually flashbacks to her meetings with the latter.

The tantalizing tease towards her story line does offer a brief glimpse of a memory wherein she slaughters a town’s populace before turning the gun on herself. It’s curious that this fractured recollection – she was part of a mass murder – is so similar to Teddy’s (James Marsden). There may or may not be a connection, but if not it suggests a somewhat lazy approach to teasing out these characters’ mysterious memories. The final insult to her character comes when Logan (Ben Barnes) and a half dozen hosts presumably capture them saying “Man, are you two fucked.” Why would they let that happen? William can’t be killed, and Dolores has already shown she’s a badass with a gun. It’s almost as if she’s regressing all over again.

Thankfully, as the show’s other strong women are murdered, abducted, or left to grow less interesting, Maeve (Thandie Newton) is heading towards a one-woman revolution. Her compulsive arrangement with Felix (Leonardo Nam) and Sylvester (Ptolemy Slocum) continues – I still don’t understand why Sylvester in particular has gone along with it, but at least this time he makes an effort to stop her. His mistake is trusting Felix of course.

It was incredibly satisfying seeing her slice Sylvester’s throat wasn’t it? Both because it shows she’s capable of attacking humans – a necessary skill for the war to come – and because that guy is annoying as hell. Her visible excitement at his spurting blood is terrifically captured by Newton, and it serves as sharp contrast to the memory of the last time she sliced a human’s throat. We’ll get to that below, but the main takeaway for Maeve is that she was a violent, free-spirited troublemaker prior to being triggered by the spoken virus.

We learn that all hosts have an explosive charge in them triggered to explode if they take a step outside of the park, and that’s just one more thing Maeve is hoping to have fixed before making her escape. It’s her other upgrade that promises change though – she can now control other hosts with her voice. Newton again shows real delight as Maeve walks through the bandits’ assault shifting the outcome at will. Her fun comes to an end though when she unintentionally kills (the new) Clementine after recalling that earlier neck slash.

We see that memory play out as the Man in Black (Ed Harris) shares the incident with Teddy (James Marsden) in a rare glimpse behind the curtain. He says after his wife’s death back in the real world – a suicide per his daughter in an effort to escape him – he returned to Westworld intending to confirm what kind of man he was. Stabbing Maeve (in her motherly incarnation) and shooting her daughter was that confirmation, but after Maeve struck back and carried her daughter’s corpse outside he realized… something? That hosts have emotions? That they border humanity? That there’s more to the park than simple role-playing adventures?

I’d argue this is more evidence against the popular theory that William is the MiB. I’ve been against it all along – admittedly in part because I simply don’t like it and I’d rather he turn out to be Logan – but if true it would mean that nothing William experiences with Dolores matters. None of the wonder he’s sharing with her, none of her enlightenment, none of her revelations apparently pushed him towards seeing the hosts’ humanity or growing curious about Arnold’s secret game. It would mean after everything we’re seeing between his supposed younger self and Dolores he went about his life for three decades before finally being triggered instead by this brief incident with Maeve.

That’s nonsense.

It was fun watching Teddy get to knock the MiB around a bit after remembering his treatment of Dolores. Calling Teddy the game’s designated loser probably wasn’t wise either. That said, the poor guy bites it again (or is at least poisoned) when Wyatt’s terrifying foot soldiers move in from the shadows.

For all that does happen this week, the episode’s best moments belong to the quiet sadness stemming from Bernard’s realization of what he’s done. Wright delivers a man torn asunder with guilt and pain, and that power remains even after Ford (Anthony Hopkins) erases the memory. Watching him burn love letters and tell Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) that he barely knew Theresa is heartbreaking.

Ford tells Bernard that his anguish is beautiful and that he should be proud of feeling shades of emotions – it’s something Arnold always pursued, but it took Ford and his robotic friend here to perfect it. It’s small comfort though and leaves the robot’s question hanging in the air regarding the difference between his pain and that of an actual human. If both of their suffering is processed and controlled by the brain does the human heart even play a role?

It seems less and less likely.

But, and, what…?

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.