Getting wish fulfillment is nice, especially on shows that pride themselves on having a grim and gritty reality, so this episode of Westworld was a real source of enjoyment. I believe “The Adversary” has given us the most “a-ha” moments compiled in under one hour, from a little bit of Robert’s backstory, to Elsie finding the villain’s lair, to Maeve having a big moment of agency.
I confess that when they started the episode with Maeve back at Westworld’s saloon, I had a huge feeling disappointment because of my fears of her taking several steps back each time that she goes into her loop. Then with the cool revelation that apparently she got this whole ‘wake up at will during sleep mode’ down, my contentment with the show surged to new heights.
Like, I seriously can’t believe how much progress she has done. Yes, most of it is off-screen and it’s hard to pinpoint how it all went down—how much did her code break episode by episode and how did it affect her?—but it is still my wish fulfillment. We saw a woman of color outsmart everyone and be awarded severe agency based on what she does and it’s glorious.
Gushing aside, “The Adversary” gave us another beautiful and meaningful sequence for Maeve: the moment when she walked through the aesthetically pleasing floors (Westworld hired some good architects) was so incredibly poignant. It felt so real and both Thandie Newton’s acting and that majestic score sold the scene. For the record, I RARELY notice scores of TV shows and movies, so I can’t describe how much this rendition of a Radiohead song I had never heard before made the sequence.
Basically, it was Maeve being confronted with her reality in a much less graphic and disturbing way, but still at a pace that is severely traumatic to her feelings. It all came as such a shock to her that it is hard not to empathize with a robot who thinks she is someone, but is having her bubble burst by literally stands and stands of similar folk being prepped for something that resembles a slaughter.
It was the bison being walked around. The guys playing poker, standing up with their guns, but going back to their starter position. The huge robots being pumped blood, with their white skin turning reddish. The escalators and the modern floors. The deer and the horse. The dead robots being washed. The girls kissing. It was that video clip that showcased her both her lives at the saloon and her nightmares with her daughter. It was live without limits.
I can’t stress enough how amazing that whole sequence was, epsecially from a Watsonian perspective. The idea that your life is a lie and you are nothing more than a puppet would not be handled so well by other characters experiencing this event in their lives so abruptly and alone, so I’m particularly happy we get to share all this with Maeve.
The thing about how her personality can be touched and tricked with a computer is also part of a wish fulfillment for the audience where we may want to change certain/many aspects of who we are, but it also comes as wish fulfillment for Maeve, who is literally having her already high intelligence heightened so she could see clearer.
It’s incredibly telling that she knows, now, that this is too big for her to deal without these tweaks. I mean, apparently, she had her paranoia levels changed—was this someone else on the computer or was it a consequence of the ‘violent delights’ code—so it makes even more sense that she gets to discover so much and that she will continue on this path, but wiser, painless and less trusting of the world.
I hold incredibly high hopes for what comes to Maeve from now on. With her 14-level of ‘Bulk Apperception’, she was already able to read the hell out of these guys and understand everything, so I can only expect her plot to rocket forward with a 20-level.
This week also saw the introduction of Tessa Thompsons’s character, Charlotte Hale (yay, more wish fulfillment!!). As predicted since episode four, she is the Executive Director the board had sent to oversee… something. Unclear what. Her interactions with Lee (who I just don’t think has any real substance to earn himself a paragraph) were interesting and it’s nice to see another talented actress joining the cast, even if only for three episodes. I don’t particularly think her plot is going to be life-altering to Westworld, but if there’s a time and space for surprises, it’s this one.
Onto the maze and how most of the other plots seem to include some notion of it, I find it stranger and stranger why it is getting so ubiquitous to the point where even Teddy knew about it and it was the mark he was going to be branded with. It kind of bring up the question of whether the Man in Black scalping that native American man in “The Original” was necessary at all.
Speaking of Native Americans, we are told that this Maze and/or the People In The Hazmat Suits are part of their legend. Why aren’t we exploring that, in the first place? Secondly, how do they know? Do all of them have the Maze on their scalps—is that why it’s their legend? We really should be getting some of them to be speaking on their own things, to be honest.
Ford seems to have a real connection with the maze as its drawing keeps showing up near him. Now, as much as that sounds interesting, the most important part of his screentime in “The Adversary” was definitely the confirmation that the kid was Robert himself. In terms of coolness, yes, his face opening up so we can see how one of the classic models works was tight.
However, in terms of significance, it was also very interesting to see that this is the only family Ford has left. He maintains a part of his childhood by himself even with what all the indications that his father was an abuser. From his tone, I think it is safe to say that all of them—father, mother, and brother— are all dead by now.
It’s also pretty worrying that, according to what the show tells us, the voice responsible for the hosts’ internal monologue is Arnold’s. I still am having some doubts on whether this is a legacy of his original coding or if someone is using his ‘voice’ to inflict damage on the hosts with a more personal approach.
Later on, when Robert was interrogating host!Robert, that conversation seemed a bit off. Anthony Hopkins’s acting was telling the audience that the interaction had dramatic significance. Sure, it’s hard to think that a ‘boy’ would kill a ‘dog’ due to a voice in his head telling him to because the dog was a killer and it couldn’t help. However, I think that there may be more—maybe he has heard that conversation before, perhaps he even had that conversation with Arnold when he was (presumably) alive.
On the more violent and action packed side of things, Teddy had his own revelation that, apparently, he is the bad guy after all—at least after Ford’s newest story appendage. I would say that, as twists go, this is a relatively good one. It tackles a little bit on repressed memories (or whatever the equivalent of this is for a host) and how, in the end, it is hard to know someone. This leads to a major display of Teddy killing people – a stylistically different one. In past times, Teddy killed people as mostly a defense mechanism. Now, he is just trying to go through all of these people no matter the stakes.
Teddy’s scenes with the Man in Black from “The Adversary” also shed a bit more light on the Maze. So they tell that on the center of the maze is a man who has died several times and came back to life—sort of like a host, really. This implies that either Arnold is not on the center, he is a host, or it is some deeper metaphor. Maybe the hosts will have to, physically, go through this maze to earn their full consciousness.
Back to the backstage of Westworld, we had Elsie and Bernard look separately into the incident with the stray and the data stealing device found on the woodcutter from “Contrapasso”. Long story short, Elsie discovered that Theresa and someone else (most likely Arnold) had been modifying the hosts. Now, I don’t know about you, but I feel like Theresa being involved in this is a classic misdirection. The character isn’t that fleshed out, but I have trouble seeing her have anything to do with this.
In terms of predictability, though, Elsie getting endangered was a no brainer, really. I was calling it when she said “I’m gonna transfer all the data and bring it to you”. There really was nothing else to expect, honestly. It WOULD BE nice if nothing happened, but after a couple of years consuming media, this sort of situation was a dead ass trope. As one of the most sympathetic characters of Westworld, I am obviously concerned with Elsie’s fate, but I don’t think she is going to die as much as I think whoever silenced her will not be a threat to her whatsoever. Again, misdirection.
- Was Evan Rachel Wood credited in the opening for that picture of hers on Bernard’s tablet thingy?
- Speaking of Evan Rachel Wood, do you guys think she is going to be a serious Emmy/Golden Globe contestant? I think her name is going to be pushed more than Thandie Newton’s for the main category which sucks because Thandie is giving the performance of a lifetime with good writing and direction. Anthony Hopkins is pretty much locked because the Academy and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association love to nominate these older and more established actors.
- Little thing though: Ford says his family are the only ones left in the park that Arnold built himself. Right. Okay. What about Dolores (aka the Original)? Is it safe to say that Arnold designed those 47 hosts from Bernard’s list, but not built them?
- “Straight up killing couldn’t hold his interest”–Teddy Flood. Meta line from the episode…?
- Maeve crashing when she seeing her patterns of speech was so perfect. It felt like watching an old Windows XP / Mac humanized.
- I find Maeve’s purposeful recklessness on teasing a man in order for her to die and go backstage hard to watch, but looking back at her chart, it may line up: she had a mild level of self-preservation and she really isn’t inclined to cruelty and aggression (despite shooting that one guy in the premiere). My particular pet peeve is if we will have to be subjected to this as much as we have seen Teddy being victimized. I want less lingering shots and more suggestion of it happening.
Images courtesy of HBO.