Westworld: No One Is Safe In “Les Écorchés”

"And now we're truly free."
Bernard And Ford

“And now we’re truly free.”

It’s finally happened. My bold theory from this season’s first episode has come true this week, but it’s far from the episode’s only shocker. We also get some surprising deaths (and near deaths), more park revelations, and the return of a man named Ford. There’s a lot to take in, so we’re gonna dive right in.

Let’s take a look at season two, episode seven of Westworld: “Les Écorchés”

Until now the only living person who knew Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) was a host was sweet and salty Elsie (Shannon Woodward), but that changes in this week’s opening. Charlotte (Tessa Thompson) has her people secure both Bernard and Ashley (Luke Hemsworth) on the suspicion that one of them killed poor Theresa last season. Bernard is the guilty party, of course, and along with his recollection, he also leads the others to a storeroom containing more Bernards than you can shake a dongle at. This reveal forms the framework for one of the episode’s threads as Charlotte tortures him — via virtual waterboarding — into remembering where Abernathy’s control unit is.

The end reveal is a bit suspicious though. Charlotte gets him to say where the unit is, but while we see him mouth it we can’t hear him. She then calls in the others and asks him to repeat the location, but why go through that unless there’s some funny business going on? Either Charlotte’s up to something on her own, or Bernard is somehow manipulating her. Either way, we now have a few more characters heading to the promised land.

Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) apparently got her hands on her dad’s unit — to what end we’re not yet sure — and as we watch that unfold we’re treated to a few more juicy bits. First up is a terrifically tense face-off between Dolores and Charlotte as the host tries to help her father and remove the decryption key that’s stored inside (and destroying) Abernathy’s “mind.” Charlotte’s only hand left to play is in regard to the cradle and its enormous backup of all the hosts’ personalities and memories. She thinks it’s an advantage, but Dolores reveals one of the key reasons for the assault on the base was actually to destroy those very backups. “They’re chains,” she says, tools used to control and rebuild the hosts on a whim.

They’re ultimately what separates the hosts from the humans as they offer a sense of eternity, and one fantastic scene later — they’re all gone. Angela (Talulah Riley) reveals her final role in the assault was to infiltrate the cradle and blow it the fuck up. It means, for now at least, that when a host dies they’re dead for good, and that doesn’t bode well for our other favorite leading lady.

Last we saw Maeve (Thandie Newton) she was with her daughter and on the run from Ghost Nation warriors. The pair reach a deserted town and hide in one of the buildings, but their arrival coincides with that of old William (Ed Harris) and his bot posse. The two have a shared history involving his acts of cruelty against both her and her daughter, and while William thinks their reunion is part of Ford’s special game Maeve is giving no shits about his delusions. She shoots him, she has his own host helpers shoot him, and she even talks Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr.) into shooting him — William’s shot four times and left for dead.

And then Maeve is riddled with bullets too.

It’s always been the wild west, but post-rebellion it’s become a true wild west meaning there’s no quick fix for injured humans or hosts. There are no doctors out in the field to patch up William, but Judas aka Lee (Simon Quarterman) takes Maeve back to the base meaning some techs may be able to lend a helping hand. Dolores sees her on the way out, though, and after offering to put her out of her misery suggests the alternative is torture at the hands of the humans. These two would make such a formidable team if they could just get on the same page.

Last, but certainly not least, the episode finally followed through on my suspicions from the beginning of the season that Bernard in the most current timeline is not alone inside his own body. His visit to the cradle’s virtual hub sees him cross paths with our old friend Ford (Anthony Hopkins). He would degrade in the real world, just like we watched happen with the James Delos hybrid, so for now he’s living it up in VR. He describes it beautifully as the human mind being “the last analog device in a digital world” and one they’ve yet to figure out how to copy.

Ford drops a few bombshells on Bernard, and while most of it is old news for viewers it’s clearly having an effect on our eternally befuddled host. “Don’t you understand what this place really is?” he asks, and Bernard realizes that rather than being a fancy robot lab storing visitor DNA the park has become an experiment where the guests are the variables and the hosts are the controls. Delos is studying real people to make the hybrid ones better.

That’s all well and good (and fairly straightforward), but none of it really explains why Ford is back. He says he wants to make good on his promise for Bernard and the other hosts to have a fighting chance at survival, but right after saying it’s their story now — he takes control and climbs inside Bernard’s head. Ford ended last season with his own self-realization and a perfectly poetic death, and his return here feels disingenuous and unnecessary. Rather than let Bernard and the hosts have their day in the sun he’s returned to take control of their fates yet again.

For a season that’s really started moving forward, this feels like something of a step back.

But, and, what…?

  • “Catch a breath.”
  • Still no direct confirmation as to why Maeve can’t control members of the Ghost Nation, but I’m forced to suspect it’s because they’re all conscious and awake. If that’s the case, though, why are they all still following their narratives?
  • “If we survive this, I’m going back to dental school.”
  • I know why they’re doing it, but the idea that Bernard sees Ford in addition to hearing him feels like a cheap way to get Hopkins back on the show. (Not cheap budget-wise, but narratively.)
  • “We weren’t here to code the hosts, we were here to decode the guests.”
  • We knew hosts could be rebuilt, but a room filled with Bernards suggests rooms filled with multiple other characters.

Keep up with our Westworld coverage.

Rob Hunter: 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.