Westworld: Season 1 Episode 9 Review – The Well-Tempered Clavier
Watching Westworld is almost like doing a jigsaw puzzle. The show presents these random pieces that somehow fit together, and leaves it up to the viewer to figure out how they are all connected. In this week’s outstanding episode of Westworld those pieces start coming together, and we get an idea of what the complete picture might look like when everything falls into place.
Below is our spoiler-heavy review.
Last week I mentioned that I felt that Westworld was stalling some of its plotlines, most notably those of Dolores and Maeve. This week is the perfect response to my lamentations. Not only do we get details that fill out the larger story, like who the woman on the photograph from the pilot is (more on that later), but also huge revelations, like who Arnold was and what happened to him.
Dolores has clearly been reliving the same loop in different time periods, and in The Well-Tempered Clavier we finally get to see where that loop leads: the mysterious church, which itself is an entrance into what looks like a Delos facility. One of the time periods we see, as evidenced by Dolores’ changing attire, looks to be right after the incident. Or at least an incident, considering the amount of bodies that adorn the hallway floor. We can assume that this is the incident that happened 30 years ago, and likely involved a host-uprising of some sort. It is here we learn what happened to Arnold: Dolores killed him.
In typical Westworld-fashion, her motivation remains a mystery though. Was it her own decision, did Ford order her to kill his partner, or could Arnold have wanted it this way? Considering the attachment Ford still clearly feels for Arnold, even going so far as making a host in his mirror image, him being behind it does not seem likely. We have seen Dolores shooting other hosts in cold blood and in this episode she hurts a living being for the first time since the fly in the pilot as she takes her knife to Logan’s face. But killing a human, her creator no less, of her own volition is in a whole different ballpark. That leaves Arnold himself. Ford states that Arnold “wasn’t interested in the appearance of intellect. He wanted the real thing.” Could he be willing to go that far in order to achieve it?
Dolores discovering the Delos facility below the church is a great scene in and of itself, but what makes it even better is the intercutting with Bernard’s memories. Jeffrey Wright is once again spectacular, exhibiting a wide spectrum of emotions ranging from confusion to overwhelming sadness, and from to determination to desperation. Upon learning that he was made in Arnold’s likeness, Bernard feels the need to continue where Arnold left off: to find the sentient hosts and set them free. He orders Clementine to shoot Ford, but Ford has continuously outsmarted everyone and does so again. He has Bernard turn the gun on himself to make him forget their conversation, as he has done many times before. Ford is once again cold as can be, but when Bernard uses Arnold’s voice in a last attempt to make him reconsider, it is enough to make him stop, if only for a moment. It is a haunting moment, and it further emphasizes Ford’s ruthlessness when he has Bernard carry on with the unwanted suicide.
Another character who shows his vicious side this week is William. Logan has captured him and Dolores and in a misguided attempt to show that it is all just a game, he slashes open Dolores. You could argue that his intentions are good, but he shows a clear lack of understanding of what makes William tick. But truth be told, it does have an affect on William, though for Logan this might be a case of ‘be careful what you wish for’. In the review for episode 7 I discussed how William was perceiving the park as more of a realistic experience rather than a game. In this episode that changes. William kills every single one of Logan’s men and even puts a knife on the throat of his soon-to-be brother in law. He has become unhinged and is edging ever more closer to Man in Black-territory. The change is somewhat sudden, but the groundwork is there. His empathy for hosts not named Dolores has slowly been dwindling ever since he shot the Union soldier in episode 5, and his interaction with the dying soldier last episode was an early sign that this was coming. It speaks to the quality of Westworld that the show is able to show a shift in alignment for a character, without being too on-the-nose with it.
Another piece of the puzzle came in the form of a callback to the photograph from the pilot. We now know that the woman at Times Square that send Abernathy into his existential crisis was William’s fiancé. The only difference is that here the photo is new, whereas the photo found by Abernathy was old and worn-down. If anyone was still in doubt over whether we are watching different time periods, here is the conclusive piece of evidence. Whether you are a fan of the theory or not, it is still ambitious storytelling to keep it going for so long. However, so much of its success depends on the reveal, so it is still to early to pass any judgment. Let’s see where we stand next week.
The penultimate episode of a season is usually the one that brings the fireworks as the season ramps up to its close, which is why expectations are always a little higher than usual. The Well-Tempered Clavier has not only met those expectations, it has exceeded them. This week’s episode featured high-class storytelling and acting all around and if this is only the preamble to the finale, we cannot wait to see what the final picture looks like when every piece has fallen into place.