Westworld: Season 1 Episode 7 Review – Trompe L’Oeil
From the very first episode Westworld has been a show shrouded in mystery, and one of its biggest questions revolves around whether people are who they say (or think) they are. Last night’s episode serves as a breakthrough on this front, as characters reveal their true natures and Westworld drops its biggest twist so far.
Below is our spoiler-heavy review.
So that’s why they casted Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Don’t get me wrong, Anthony Hopkins is a brilliant actor with many a great role on his resume, but there is no denying that the one he will always be remembered for is his terrifying performance in The Silence of the Lambs. With Trompe L’Oeil Hopkins can add another exquisite performance to that list. It may even be his most chilling turn since his famous Academy Award winning role. Hopkins is the master of unnerving yet captivating characters, so it is easy to see why he was deemed the right person to bring Robert Ford to life. Up until this episode, Ford had been a hard character to get a read on. He showed signs of sentimentality when talking to his younger host-self, but also a darker side in the dinner scene in episode 4 where he told Theresa to “not get in his way”. Up until now, we had yet to see him follow through on that threat, but last night he showed just how far he is willing to go to protect his dream. And it explains why he wears a black hat when going for a stroll in the park.
But let’s back up a bit. Before Theresa Cullen meets her eventual fate, she gets acquainted with the new executive board director, Charlotte Hayle, who herself is in the business of getting intimately acquainted with Hector Escaton, legendary outlaw and apparently part time sextoy. She is a woman who clearly oozes confidence, and she is here on a mission. According to her, she is here to extract information on Delos’ “little research project”, whatever that may be, and she wants Theresa’s help to make sure Ford retires without taking all that valuable information with him. The words she uses here are very interesting.
“I like you. Well, not personally, but I like you for this job, which is why I’m gonna give you another chance to get a handle on this particular bitch of a situation. But the gods… they require a blood sacrifice. We need to demonstrate just how dangerous Ford’s creations can be.” *Theresa looks at Hector* “No. No, nothing so obvious. We need someone thoroughly unexpected.”
During the episode it seems as if Charlotte is referring to their charade with Clementine, where they mess with her code in order to shock Ford and Bernard when she violently acts out on a grudge. It appears that Charlotte is talking about Clementine when talking about “someone thoroughly unexpected”, but actually it is foreshadowing the climax of the episode. When Ford effectively places the kill order on Theresa, this is the first time we have seen a host actually harming a living person. Maeve has threatened violence before, but has yet to follow through. To us viewers, this is the first actual demonstration of how dangerous Ford’s creations can be, and it is by the hand of someone thoroughly unexpected: Bernard.
The twist in the pilot where Teddy turned out to be a host had a function on an entertainment level, but it also invited the viewers to question the identity of every other character in the show. As a result, many Westworld viewers theorized that one or more characters would turn out to be a host, and no character more so than Bernard. All the clues were there: aside from Ford, he is the only person who has worked at Westworld for a long time without being shifted out, he was the one who could work with the old system, we learn about his family in the same episode where we learn about the hosts having personalized backstories, he mentions understanding the hosts and being confused by humans, and we see that he dreams about his son like the other hosts dream about their memories. This is a case where a fan theory starts to make so much sense that it becomes almost inevitable, so I am glad the show gave us the answer now instead of dragging it out too long.
The ability to inspire fans of the show to create and share their theories is one of Westworld‘s strong suits, but I cannot help but feel like it slightly diminishes the shock factor of the twist. However, the moment is so well acted by Jeffrey Wright, Sidse Babett Knudsen and Anthony Hopkins that it still works really well, and Theresa’s death is shocking either way. To see Bernard change from his usual calm demeanor into ruthless killing machine is horrifying, especially when Ford does not seem to care at all. Quite the opposite, he is revelling in his power.
Before Theresa’s death, Ford mentions to her the following: “The board will do nothing. Our arrangement is too valuable for them. They test me now and then, I think they enjoy the sport of it. This time they sent you. Sadly, in order to restore things, the situation demands… a blood sacrifice.” Both Charlotte and Ford use this phrase, “blood sacrifice”, a parallel almost too obvious to be insignificant. It seems a clear sign that Charlotte was doing this on purpose, knowing full well what Theresa’s fate was going to be. I wonder though what she could possible stand to gain from this. Was it merely to test Ford’s resilience? And what exactly is the information she needs? In any case, the ruthlessness of both characters is apparent. Their eventual clash is going to be big.
Like last episode, the Delos’ stuff was so interesting that I almost forgot to talk about some of the other storylines in the episode. Maeve continues her search for answers, during which she witnesses the lobotimization of her friend Clementine. Although she has mostly been on the sidelines so far, it is far too early for Clementine’s story to be over. I would not be surprised if we see Maeve make an attempt to save her friend in the near future.
This episode revealed the true identity of Bernard and gave us an insight into Ford’s disposition when his life’s work is being threatened, but they were not the only characters showing their true natures. Logan has been telling William that Westworld brings out your true self, and last night William seems to have found his. His attraction to Dolores has been apparent from the get-go, but loyalty to his fiancé in the real world has kept him from acting on it, until last night. William is starting to fully embrace the spirit of Westworld, finally having found a place where he does not have to pretend to belong. It could be the start of William losing himself in Westworld, getting so attached to this new life that going back to the real world is no longer an option for him. He could become like the Man in Black (leaving that fan theory alone for now), who seems to come back to the park as much as he possibly can, but right now he seems to enjoy the park as a realistic experience rather than a video game.
Exploding corpses aside, the main action piece was once again the least interesting part of the episode. Dolores, William and Lawrence manage to escape both the Confederados and Ghost Nation, but split up when they reach the place from Dolores’ painting. I am sad that the war storyline seems to be abandoned so swiftly, but curious to see what Dolores and William will find across that river. The fact that Dolores painted it could mean that she has been there before, adding yet another mystery to her past.
All in all, this episode shows that Westworld can confirm theories that are floating out there, and still be surprising at the same time. Crazy plot twists can be incredible television, but only if they are matched by the quality of the acting. If the acting of Westworld continues to be up to this high standard, I cannot wait to see what the writers have in store.
Image credits: HBO