Clones in the Closet
This week’s episode of Westworld Season 2, episode 7 is called Les Écorchés, and yes, it pulls off the skin to reveal what lays beneath it.
Deep within one of the park’s many control center/laboratories, Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) has gathered Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) and members of the security team. “This project is a turning point for the human species,” she proclaims, before discovering a secret door within the facility that leads to a room full of copies of Bernard. “I figured you would have some skeletons in your closet,” she muses, “I just didn’t think they would be your own.
Somewhere else in both the facility and the timeline, emerging from a cloud of fire and smoke, Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) leads her army towards the cradle. This is main command center and sole back-up of all of Westworld’s hosts’ minds where Bernard — one copy of Bernard — explores what could be causing the system’s problems. Here, he has found Ford (Anthony Hopkins) — or at least the consciousness of Ford –inside the Saloon, a robot sitting at the old West’s other prevalent robot: the player piano. “Don’t you understand at last, Bernard, what this place really is?” Ford asks. Ford and Bernard proceed to spell out the riddle of Westworld. The park is a test; the guests are the variables, the hosts are the controls. Every storyline, every choice they make, reveals an aspect of the guests’ consciousness. “We weren’t here to code the hosts, we were here to decode the guests,” Bernard realizes. “The human consciousness is the last analog piece of technology in a digital world,” Ford affirms.
Ford reveals that his mind works only in the cradle, not in the real world (see Delos’ many iterations), and Bernard is a nearly perfect copy of Arnold, one of the parks now dead founders. Bernard protests when Ford suggests he has not passed Dolores’ fidelity tests, and Ford threatens to revoke the host’s free will. When Bernard emerges from the cradle, he can now see Ford and hear his instructions back int he real world. Even more, Ford can take over Bernard’s body at times.
Dolores Decodes the Game, Too
Dolores and her cohorts invade the facility and easily disarm the “recovery team.” Even Hale is unsuccessful in attempting to dissuade Dolores from her mission. Dolores has also figured out the game — the Delos company is playing at immortality. “You made us in your image, and now you want to become like us,” Dolores points out, before assuring Hale that she won’t let this continue.
The hosts — some disguised as recovery team members, some still in their original costumes but armed with modern day weaponry — are shockingly good at fighting the recovery team despite never having used their guns before. The recovery team is seduced by the hosts who play them like villainous Bond girls. One makes it to the Cradle and explodes a grenade. The back-ups own. The idea of a single point of failure is somewhat absurd — most companies as large and revolutionary as something like Westworld purports to be would have a robust disaster recovery system in place in the event of a total system failure. And indeed perhaps this still exists somewhere inside Abernathy’s head. Earlier on in the episode, Charlotte begins analyzing Bernard to determine what Dolores did with her father’s control unit.
I’m Nothing Like the Rest of Them
Back in the park Man in Black (Ed Harris) chases Maeve (Thandie Newton) and her daughter into the homestead cabin where they so often lived, died, and repeated their own brutal massacre. But this time. Maeve’s memories of these previous atrocities matched with her new powers made it possible for her to defend herself and her progeny. Man in Black assumes that it is Ford acting through Maeve that gives her such newfound capabilities. But just before she can execute Man in Black, Lawrence appears to defend him. Maeve cannot control him because her powers only work on hosts that are not yet “awake” to their won memories and consciousness. Maeve manipulates him in a new way — by asking him to remember the things the Man in Black did to him. Lawrence turns on his former master while Maeve watches. “Is that real enough for you?” Lawrence asks, aiming a final bullet at the Man in Black’s head. Before he can fire the swat team arrives and handily disarms the hosts.
So much of the mystery in this season of Westworld has to do with understanding where in the timeline the storytelling is taking place. It has been clear since the first episode that the season is unfolding in a nonlinear fashion. Such a technique is successful in building suspense but also makes for a confusing viewing experience. Many outlets are even creating timelines on their own to try and understand where events are unfolding. While this kind of participatory viewing experience can be rewarding for some fans, it’s frustrating for others who want to watch the story progress more straightforwardly. Finally getting answers is satisfying, but the style in which they are being relayed isn’t as complex as the timelines structuring the narrative. Simply having the mastermind reveal his evil plans is a trope common to stories far less interesting than Westworld’s.
Westworld continues Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO. Missed last week’s recap? Catch up here.
Les Écorchés was written by Gina Atwood, Ron Fitzgerald, and Jordan Goldberg and directed by Nicole Kassel.
Photo and video credit courtesy of HBO.
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