Each week, Brian Grubb and Keith Phipps will attempt to unpack the latest episode of the HBO series Westworld, a show about an amusement park populated by lifelike robots that’s also about… other stuff.
Maeve Wakes Up
Keith: With Dolores and company off-screen this week, much of the focus falls on Maeve, who even gets Dolores’ waking-up-to-start-the-episode shot. It’s the first of many awakenings she experiences over the course of the episode, which ends with her intelligence getting boosted well beyond the limits usually imposed on the park’s hosts and leaves her with a glint in her eyes that suggests she knows exactly what she wants to do next. We’re past the halfway point with “The Adversary,” this season’s sixth episode, and Maeve is posed to go full-Lucy in the second half.
I think there are two key moments for Maeve this week — apart from starting to realize the full potential of her latent badassdom. The first is when she sees then talks about the promo reel about the park after ascending through its levels with Felix. (Last week’s episode had the Dante reference in the title, but this journey really had a Dante-and-Virgil navigating the afterlife feel to it.) Not only is she shocked to see herself and the daughter she knows only from her nightmare flashes of old programming, she has to find the vocabulary to describe the images on the video screen. For all her cleverness, her cybernetic brain is still stuck in the 19th century, at least for now.
The other comes when she threatens Sylvester, holding a scalpel to his throat. It’s a scary moment for Sylvester, but could she actually hurt him? She draws no blood. It might ultimately be an idle threat, even if Maeve doesn’t realize it yet.
Brian: Before I get into all of this, a quick shoutout to Westworld for giving me two of my favorite TV/film tropes in one episode, both involving Maeve:
– A robot frying out after getting overwhelmed by a logic problem and/or something not computing
– Someone confronting an adversary and doing the “We’re not so different…” thing while sliding a sharp instrument down the side of their face
Especially the second one. I love that so much. One day I want to say it to a cop who pulls me over. I will miss the recap that week, though, because I will be in jail. Worth it.
But anyway, yes, Maeve is Lucy now, which probably makes the thing Felix told her about the human/host relationship — humans and hosts are mostly the same now, hosts have better processing power, the only drawback to being a host is that they are “under our control” — a little something we in the recap business like to call foreshadowing.
Maybe this is just me, but I found this week’s focus on Maeve to be really refreshing. I get that Dolores’ and her various journeys, possibly over multiple timelines, are the key to unlocking the mysteries at the heart of the show, but… man. It was nice to have some of the cryptic dialogue and murky history temporarily replaced with a brassy madam pulling scalpels on people and blackmailing them into turning her into a superhero by threatening to reveal the existence of a lucrative underground robot humping club in the bowels of the company’s headquarters. That worked for me. We’ll catch you next week, D.
Lee Sizemore Takes A Leak
Brian: Tough day for ol’ Lee. His sulking over getting neutered by Ford turned into an extended pity-bender at the pool located on the roof of the headquarters. (That seemed very nice and relaxing, by the way, at least compared to all the violence at the park. I wonder if anyone just stays up there sippin’ margs for most of their trip.) Then he got chewed out by Theresa. Then when things finally started looking up and he met a nice young lady, he got cut off by the bartender and embarrassed in front of this woman, so he stole a bottle of liquor and got so blitzed that he ended up peeing on the Westworld map from the balcony above, at which point he was interrupted by Theresa and the woman from the bar, who surprise is a high-ranking executive from Delos who is there to oversee the transition. I kind of want a five-minute web extra clip that shows him waking up the next morning to sort through all of that.
The bigger story here, long-term, is definitely Delos sending in a mysterious new bigwig to oversee whatever is going on, especially with Ford currently engaged in at least two — possibly three, if we count Arnold — struggles for power in the park as he plans his sweeping new narrative. There are dominoes there that will be falling, sooner rather than later, one imagines. But when you get drunk and pee off a balcony at work and get caught by your boss and your boss’s boss, I mean, that’s a rough day at the office.
Keith: Thing is, I don’t know that Lee has that much to worry about in terms of job security. For all his artistic pretensions — and wouldn’t you pay to see Lee and Jimmy from You’re The Worst hang out? — he also seems like kind of a tool who will ultimately do what he’s told. As long as he remains a useful tool, he’s fine.
So what’s the new boss — Charlotte, played by the always welcome Tessa Thompson — doing there? Is she there as a result of Theresa’s espionage? Here’s the show’s official description of the character: “[A] mysterious and savvy provocateur with a unique perspective on Westworld.” OK!
Brian: Just once I want someone to call me a mysterious and savvy provocateur.
Robert Has A Family Reunion
Keith: A mystery revealed: We finally learn what’s going on with the little robot boy who looks like Robert: It is Robert. Sort of. The late (?) Arnold gifted his partner with robotic facsimiles of his family circa the time of his happy memory, a time when Robert and his brother used to wander the wilds of Cornwall. (So, confirmed: There’s still a Cornwall in the Westworld universe, or at least there has been a Cornwall fairly recently.) “What our new designs gained in efficiency they lost in grace,” Robert tells an understandable troubled Bernard as he opens up the mechanical face of a little boy that looks just like he used to look. This is creepy stuff, and it just gets creepier when Robert encounters his younger self next to his dead dog, Jock, then learns Little Robert has killed Jock at someone else’s instructions.
I think Bernard is right to be troubled. Robert’s sentimental journey does not seem like the indulgence of a well mind, though Anthony Hopkins’ soothing delivery and the borderline poetic dialogue given to him by Halley Gross and Jonathan Nolan’s script this week makes his call for calm seem reasonable. (That said, it’s hard not to cringe when he tells Bernard “If you could only see your son again, Bernard, wouldn’t you want to?”) Yet even Robert seems a little unnerved when he learns his robo-family is taking orders elsewhere. With that elegant, older design apparently comes the bicameral mind system that leaves them open to suggestion from the outside. This is not going anywhere pleasant.
BERNARD: What’s this? Who are these people?
BERNARD: The family of unregistered robots living off in a secluded part of a Wild West theme park for billionaires.
ROBERT: Oh, they’re a hyper-realistic recreation of my family circa my youth, which was created by the partner I started the park with, who died under mysterious circumstances in the park 30 years ago and may or may not now be controlling them and other hosts to commit murders. That’s what happened to the dog. The nine-year-old robot version of me — who I hang out with sometimes, it’s not weird — killed the dog because he heard a voice telling him to do so.
ROBERT: Want me to make a robot of your dead kid? I can do that, you know.
Yeah, this is all very weird and disturbing. And the dog-killing thing is creepy at best and straight-up ominous at worst. I’m not exactly sure how this “supposedly dead Arnold speaking to the hosts” thing is working (if only someone on the internet had a theory about Westworld…), but I do know that if you’re planning to screw with your ex-partner from beyond the grave, you could do a lot worse for an opening salvo than having a robot version of him as a child kill the robot version of his beloved dog. That’s disquieting on, like, four or five levels at least. One of which is the blatant infringement of Scooby Doo‘s intellectual property rights to the “ghost terrorizing amusement park” plot. If the series finale ends with Bernard pulling off “Arnold’s” mask to reveal Theresa, this case will be open and shut.
Teddy’s Got a Gun
Brian: Hi hi. I have a question. So when Ford introduced the Wyatt storyline into the park, and made Teddy a former massacre accomplice, how long did it take him to also update everyone else touched by that story? Like, can he do it all at once, or does he have to go into each host individually? Because those soldiers had very specific notions of who Teddy is and what he did and how they should feel about and react to it, and back when Ford mentioned bringing this “Wyatt” into the fold, he made it sound like such a small tweak. I guess what I’m wondering is how Ford has time to do all of this tweaking and narrative building what with his busy schedule of drinking whiskey with robots and hanging out with the 9-year-old robot version of himself.
In any event, Teddy seemed to have a flashback to the massacre (whether that was him “remembering” or just accessing the new stuff Ford programmed, who knows?), which reminded him that he’s a killer, which caused him to do, well…
My dude is not gonna be very happy when he finds out Dolores isn’t with Wyatt. It will probably be a whole thing.
Keith: Teddy going Old West Rambo has to rank among the show’s most shocking images. (Though it’s not without precedent.) I’m going to see and raise your question: What remains steady about Teddy’s personality? We know him as an aw-shucks good guy, but has everything about him changed with this tweak? What, in other words, makes Teddy Teddy? (See also: Dolores and, well, everyone else.) And do a few lines of code change that around? I think this is one of the show’s bigger questions and one with larger implications. And I don’t think it’s one it’s one for which it’s going to provide an easy answer. Keep an eye on Teddy, in other words.
Elsie is on the Case
Keith: Oh Elsie, Elsie, Elsie: Don’t go in the old dark theater in an abandoned corner of the park alone. This is top secret stuff, sure, but take a Hemsworth with you, or something. Think it through!
So what’s going on here? Elsie has discovered that Theresa is talking to someone on the outside — not that huge of a shock since she has corporate alliances that we know put her at odds with Robert — but so is someone else. And they’re using the hosts to do this. I’m still left wondering if this intrigue is related to the glitch or a separate bit of trouble for the park.
Brian: Let me be very clear about this: If getting to the bottom of a conspiracy requires me to snoop around an old abandoned building filled with spooky masks, with only a flashlight to guide me, that conspiracy will continue in perpetuity. I will convince myself that it’s probably not even that bad anyway — just a little conspiracy, big whoop, who cares? — and then I will go hang out at the pool and tiki bar and attempt to pry salacious stories from the bartender about celebrities who came to the park. That is what I’m about.
But, yes, Theresa is up to something, which should not come as a surprise, because everyone is up to something on this show. My gut tells me that you’re right about the corporate allegiances being behind it, because a) the Ford stuff, b) the timing is right with the introduction of Tessa Thompson’s character, and c) it’s always the big evil corporation. They probably had some goon grab her. All corporations have goons. Everyone knows this.