Westworld, “Trompe L’Oeil” Review: And in Their Sleep, What Dreams May Come

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***Spoiler Warning:  Spoilers for **Just Renewed for a second season** Westworld through Episode 7 follow. Spoilers***

In the art world, Trompe L’Oeil literally means “to deceive the eye” and in art technique, refers to creating an optical illusion, whether in painting or an architecturally “forced perspective”. As Westworld‘s audience, we’ve fully accepted that deceit, spent countless hours trying to figure out who and what are “real”, as well as how many timelines might ostensibly play out as one. Despite knowing the endless possibilities — in theory, everyone could be a Host — the moment this hour’s reveal came was still a breathtaking shock; the actions he took, beyond even our (and Theresa’s) wildest dreams. This slight of body is a new twist on the “anyone can die” trope, and could end up dizzying in scope, leaving viewers in a constant state of paranoia, squirming in the palms of deft writers’ hands.

Bernard’s sad dreams are as real to him as the narrative he’s been given; upon reflection and reviewing, it was obvious from the Clementine assault scene. Sorting through the room’s reactions to her horrifying beating and begging, after Ford’s initial surprise, Theresa is really the only person to react … obviously, leading only to more questions.

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(Ford’s expression is more, “Oh, so this is where you’re going … “)

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It’s easy to suspect everyone of being a Host, we rabbits running down an endless hole, stuck in our own loop. If you will indulge me though, there are odd clues pointing to other characters who may be more machine than human. On the heels of their indifference, how can we not take closer looks at Charlotte Hale, the fearlessly, perhaps tellingly, openly nude board representative, and this strange, new William, Teddy-like and entirely caught up in his new narrative? With later revelations of Ford’s basement replacement lab, the idea that multiple copies are running around gains new ground. In addition to multiple timelines, it’s possible — dizzyingly– we could be watching multiple Hosts in multiple, contemporaneously running storylines. For example, Dolores 2.0 (is this 1.0?) could be in the ranch loop with a particular Teddy and the Man in Black, and Dolores 3.0 could be on the narrative with William who seemed so very different from the William we’ve seen up until now. His pauses, his reveries, were changed. Envision a series end where your screen begins splitting from one scene into unending multiples, with Host copies playing out different scenarios; an alternative version of this shot of Westworld’s seemingly infinite escalators:

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The one way I could find the William is the Man in Black theory plausible is if Ford has been quietly converting guests to (replacing guests with) Hosts — for example, as we saw William acting oddly different this hour, consider him now a Host in a new narrative with Dolores — and in another narrative an aged William who, like Bernard, believes himself human and to be on this maze quest. When he finally gets to the middle, the Man in Black will be as stunned as the rest of us to find that he’s been a Host all along (“I lack the imagination to even conceive of someone like you“), driven by his creator to discover his true self and find his freedom, watching onscreen versions of himself (as William) in the same loop of endless narratives the audience simultaneously sees. (

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Beginning with Angela Sarafyan’s alternately crushing and kickass powerhouse performance, the hour was permeated by incredible actors, each doing their individually amazing thing. Sidse Babett Knudsen took Theresa to a broken, vulnerable place we hadn’t experienced before, and Thandie Newton’s parade of emotions played out a plainly as the notes on Maeve’s player piano. The way Jeffrey Wright subtly unveiled Bernard’s awakening — “I can’t be” — was simply perfection, shut down in the blink of a command — “That’s enough, Bernard” — uttered in Anthony Hopkins’ chilling, a step beyond Lecter affect. In Trompe L’Oeil’s terrible final moments, the true depth of Ford’s machinations become clear, and despicable as he is — “You’re a fucking monster” — its difficult to deny some of the truth in the Doctor’s words. “I simply wanted to tell my stories; it was you people who wanted to play god with your little undertaking”. Just as surely as Theresa paid for her role in Westworld’s warped barbarism, so will Ford’s creations break from his perceived control and have their own revenge. His final Shakespeare quote (from Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy) will haunt until they’re uttered by a Host back to Ford, “And in their sleep, what dreams may come”.

Deep Thoughts:

That Hamlet quote though, is missing a key two words:  “… and in their sleep of death …” My prediction is that Dolores will utter the full quote when she kills Ford.

This episode provides evidence that Ford and Arnold may be related, are quite possibly brothers. However, instead of Arnold having gifted Ford his Host family (as Ford explained to Bernard in The Adversary), Ford probably made them himself; his way of keeping the happiest time of his life — when he and his brother were still close and young — before the real Dolores came between them. Note Ford has drawings of himself as a boy, and of Dolores (as well as Bernard).

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Recall the George Eliot quote from Adam Bede, the one Dolores heard while walking through the Pariah parade, and how Eliot’s story was of two men in love with the same woman. I believe Ford was in love with Arnold’s wife, a woman who died and that Arnold tried to recreate in the form of Dolores. That act came between Ford and Arnold, so Arnold killed him or just as he did with Theresa, had him killed, and Ford consoles himself with his Host family memories of how he and Arnold used to be.

Speaking of the scene where Bernard discovered Ford’s secret family, why then? If Bernard was a Host all along, why did that scene occur at all? The only thing I can come up with is that Ford wrote it into Bernard’s narrative as part of a false history for Bernard’s sake (odd), or that along with other multiples, there are more than one Bernard, and we’re yet to understand that scene. It makes little sense that Bernard was acting independently, experiencing his own glitches, since Ford clearly knows Bernard found him; Ford would already have had to fixed that glitch if he’s letting Bernard operate as usual.

Our own Oohlo Labs expert, Craig noticed, that downstairs room in Ford’s hideaway is the same place Bernard has been having secret conversations with Dolores … with a Dolores (who knows how many there are?).

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As creator, Ford has already made use of his authority to remove the Hosts’ primary directive not to harm humans. Likewise, the programming group is able to change perception of a Host to read human. Interesting, since a Dolores has seemingly been able to adjust her own permissions (she couldn’t shoot a gun, and then she could), or again, there might be multiple Dolores with different permissions.

Ford has clearly been monitoring everything. Or, Ford is also a Host. Yes, of course we’ve all contemplated that before and as I mentioned in the main part of the review, it’s easy to spiral down the rabbit hole. WHAT IF THEY’RE ALL HOSTS? Seems unlikely that every last “person” is, but it is absolutely possible. We could discover near the end of the series that everyone we know are Hosts, and they’re working their way to overtaking the rest of humanity outside Westworld. That would be an acceptable and ultimately satisfying outcome (for me), but I’m not sure what the odds are. That said, if Ford is a Host, everything happening at Westworld could instantly be available to his knowledge bank. He knew (warned Theresa episodes ago) that Bernard and Theresa were sleeping together, and about the “new” conversation Charlotte and Theresa had. Ford repeated Charlotte’s “blood sacrifice” line to Theresa to indicate her impending death. Is he just watching everything on monitors, or is he in the mainframe (so to speak), himself? He knew what Theresa and Charlotte were plotting; his facial reactions to their “show” were interesting.

Is Charlotte Hale a Host? Her lack of reaction to the Clementine demonstration, and the shots of Hale nonchalantly naked (just like Hosts) were purposeful.

When he sees Charlotte in the demonstration room, Ford says “Miss Hale, I was not aware those with your level of insight needed any more reflection“. Oh yeah, she’s a Host.

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Charlotte’s comments about the board and their interests in Westworld’s intellectual property — aka the code — remind of that conversation between Theresa and Sizemore. The board, management, and guests all have their own motives. What is the board’s end goal here? Immortality? That would be my guess; a wealthy one percent who wants the ability to download their minds into a body with infinite life.

The show’s level of detail continues to amaze; you can actually see the movement of Sylvester’s device way up inside Clementine’s nose (visible through her skin). *shudder*

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The one person I don’t suspect of being a Host:  Elsie.

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Great lines; Lawrence to the Confederados:  “Vaya con dios, motherfucker”!
Lawrence to Dolores and William:  “If I had to do it over again, I’d fuck you both over just as hard”.
Lawrence to Dolores:  “Don’t pretend you’re so innocent”.
Lawrence to William:  “Maybe you got more of an appetite for this than you think”.
Charlotte to Theresa:  “I don’t give a rat’s ass about the Hosts”. (That one’ll bite you in the ass, Ms. Hale.)
Charlotte to Theresa:  “And due to the lack of foresight of my predecessor, 35 years of information, raw information, exists here and nowhere else”. (Well, not anymore. Theresa was smuggling out that data … to whom? Logan’s company? Competitor? Probably not the board, since Charlotte seems unaware.)
William to Dolores:  “The only thing I had when I was a kid were books. I used to live in them. I used to go to sleep dreaming I’d wake up inside one of them, to give my life meaning. This place is like I woke up inside one of those books”.
Dolores to William:  “I don’t want to be in a story”.
Maeve to Sylvester:  “Always doing things for other people, aren’t you?  Time to do one more thing”.
Maeve to Felix and Sylvester:  “
At first I thought you and the others were gods. And then I realized you’re just men, and I know men. You think I’m scared of death? I’ve done it a million times. And I’m fucking great at it. How many times have you died? Because, if you don’t help me, I’ll kill you”.
Bernard to Theresa:  “The longer I work here, the more I understand the hosts. It’s the human beings who confuse me”.
Bernard to Theresa:  “Who would we trust? I thought I could trust you, for instance”.
Bernard to Theresa:  “What door”?

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William’s quick change of heart was no less than eerie. After telling Dolores he was engaged to Logan’s sister, that he couldn’t stay in Westworld with Dolores, a quick run to another car and a few tears later, he has a complete turnaround. Updated narrative, anyone? “I’ve been pretending my whole life. It’s a good life, the life I always wanted. But, then I came here and got a glimpse of a life in which I don’t have to pretend. How can I go back to pretending when I know what this feels like”?

The familiarity of this week’s tune is making me crazy — has anyone figured it out?

Cindy Davis

Cindy Davis

Cindy Davis has been writing about the entertainment industry for ​over seven years, and is the ​Editor-in-Chief at Oohlo, where she muses over television, movies, and pop culture. Previous Senior News Editor at Pajiba, and published at BUST.

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