Hold Infinity in the Palm of Your Hand: Westworld ‘Les Écorchés’

***Spoiler Warning:  Spoilers for Westworld through Season 2, Episode 7 follow. Spoilers***  Last Week

When a series hits an episode high like the hands-down best achieved this hour, there’s the possibility of nowhere to go but down. Westworld shall suffer no such fate. Infused with the long, deep and well-deserved breath viewers have been longing for, theories came to life right before our eyes, and not in the stretch of a story to fit its narrative. Rather, the remaining puzzle pieces rapidly revealed themselves, the larger picture became apparent as one by one they easily popped into place, with barely a wiggling adjustment necessary. Heading into the final three, the writers can hold their heads high, confident as a reanimated Robert Ford, guiding us Bernard-like, straight to the Valley Beyond where no doubt, larger mysteries will begin their unfurling (see Deep Thoughts below).

For those who knew the godlike genius would return in the body of Sir Anthony Hopkins, spouting promised William Blake and snapping life and death with his fingers (as easily as muttering manipulative monologues maligning others while Bernard plays catch-up in alternate timelines), this was a grand reckoning. Tortured (souls) and taunted, used and abused, the Hosts do their best to rebel in the ways they choose, but just who’s doing the choosing remains to be seen. Ford’s long-gestated Journey into Night narrative is forcefully driving Host and human (if there really are any) alike; we’re all meant for the same path.

As Peter Jesus Abernathy gives his life for his people (Ford’s only [not] begotten son), a daughter discovers her emotional evolution is beyond her control … likewise, a mother is once again powerless to save the child who marked her own expanded horizon. One by one, Coughlin’s crew is mowed down alongside hell-raising Hosts. With a well-worn, “Welcome to Westworld”, Angela employs her two birds entire Cradle/one stone methodology, though the idea there’s no data rebuild system in place doesn’t mesh with any company protocol (nor Ford’s intelligence).

William in Black struggles to comprehend his own narrative; what Ford wants him to discover remains elusive as his longtime companion remembers (with a little nudge) past sins, and finally shoots down his “master”. The new and improved Doctor Ford surreptitiously showboats, bringing Bernard — and simultaneously revealing to some unsuspecting viewers — to his old offsitewithin-the-site home where Dolores tested Bernard’s (Arnoldlike) fidelity (“She knew better than anyone”). Key in hand, Dolores and Teddy head out to make their own greener pastures (thanks for that system shutdown, Bernard Ford) while in another timeline, the information Bernard gives Hale and Strand is about to blow realities asunder.

Deep Thoughts:

Ford’s declaration to Bernard about god that, “… I think he reveled in his creation, knowing that someday it would all be destroyed;It can be quite a thing, Bernard, to build an entire world and then watch it end” foreshadows the great Host mow-down of *enter year here*, and the conclusion of Ford’s Journey into Night narrative, at least from the doctor’s POV. It’s clear that narrative is leading all the Hosts to the basin where we saw all the dead Hosts (poor Teddy!) at the beginning of the season, and for which Bernard claimed responsibility. The biggest unknown here is, will the Hosts simply fulfill their narrative — meaning, they were never really breaking their loops or free or making their own choices, at all — or, will we end Season 2 with a true breaking free, start a new loop all over again, with at least some Hosts (Bernard, Dolores, Maeve?) figuring out how to best Ford, Omnipotent.1? Also, these statements — referring to the Great Library of Alexandria — apply: “When the great library was burned, the first ten thousand years of stories were reduced to ash, but those stories never really perished; they became a new story. The story of the fire itself. Of man’s urge to take a thing of beauty and strike a match.”

Speaking of Maeve, we know Hector, Armistice and Hanaryo were standing by while Maeve went alone to find her daughter, and surely they’ll be on the way to help her soon. Meanwhile, she’s got Sizemore, who is clearly having second thoughts about how he sees the Hosts, especially Maeve (‘She’s not like the rest”) to watch over her.

Ditto, Stubbs, who’s definitely on his way to becoming a fully-realized human, although he did elect to save Hale, who I’m certain many people besides Dolores would like to see … not alive.

Charlotte’s description of the Key as “a failsafe of a failsafe” surely means that it’s got all the human resurrection data Delos has been storing within Westworld (remember, as Hale/Strand suspected, Theresa was already trying to get it out of the park), and so back to my opening thought about Ford’s narrative — he’s driving the Hosts to the Valley Beyond to (mercy, he believes) kill them off, but if Dolores (or Maeve or Bernard) figure things out — do indeed make a real decision as the season closes out, that could mean that they’ll use the Key to upload human data to themselves, to become real, so to speak. The question is, does that really help them at all, since as Ford described, Delos still hasn’t perfected the process so that a resurrected human could survive outside of the park? Maybe not immediately, but perhaps the Nolan/Joy endgame is that Dolores, Maeve, Bernard and Co., do evolve on their own (over forthcoming seasons), and figure out how to perfect the technology, and at that point, they’ll finally walk out into the “real world” (if it still exists, and if it’s not space). I could totally envision a series finale scene of them finally stepping out of Westworld, fade to black.

I knew that wasn’t the outside world we saw when Bernard took Dolores to his home. “Arnold built everything here, first” means there was likely later a real home somewhere outside, but what we saw was inside — as Dolores tested Bernard for fidelity.

Ford recited lines from William Blake’s Auguries of Innocence (listed by Jonathan Nolan as one of this season’s inspirations):
“To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour”

 

There were so many over-the-top grand and emotional moments this hour, from Thandie Newton’s shuddering, guttural scream as she saw her daughter scooped up, to the powerhouse performances by Jeffrey Wright, Evan Rachel Wood and Louis Herthum, this hour should win every single Emmy honor possible.

Don’t even get me started on Anthony Hopkins. We knew he was truly missed this season, but the scope of the affect his presence has was on full display here — he takes the whole thing next level. Even if he has a reduced schedule, we hope tptb manage to keep some version of Ford around throughout the series.

What I termed a “DNA ball” is officially a known as a “Control Unit.” We now know it was indeed (as I suspected) Ford’s unit Bernard printed, and he’s inside Bernard. BernArnFord — now, that’s a real partnership!

Angela Sarafyan has blown me away with her zombie Clementine this season. I certainly hope it’s not the last we see of her (I highly doubt any of these dead Hosts stay dead), or Lawrence, or Angela.

Teddy was BADASS, and I do love badass Teddy, despite not loving how he became that way.

Speaking of badass, and not expecting it from certain characters …

Adios, amigo!

Music This Hour:

Ramin Djawadi, Sweetwater

Simón Bolívar Orchestra (believed), Beethoven’s Symphony No 7v in A op 92, Allegretto

Ramin Djawadi, Bicameral Mind

Great Lines:

Stubbs to Hale:  “I see you’ve signed off on kidnapping your own employees.”

Hale:  “The project is a turning point for the human species, Stubbs. You know that.

… I figured you’d have some skeletons in your closet, Bernard. I didn’t think they’d be your own. Your predicament is unique. A host hiding amongst the humans, even from himself. Catch your breath.

Would you ever lie to me, Bernard?”

Engels:  “I’m all warm and fuzzy.

These mech motherfuckers ain’t shit.”

Coughlin responding:  “Don’t be so cocky …”

Ford responding to Bernard asking how he’s alive:  “Well, you’ve seen the company’s undertaking, Bernard. Do you think James Delos would have spent all that money just to resurrect himself? He was a business man. He would have preferred death to a bad investment.

I don’t think God rested on the seventh day, Bernard, I think he reveled in his creation, knowing that someday it would all be destroyed.”

Maeve to Clementine about Bernard:  “He’s not a prospect, Clementine. Can’t you tell when a man’s just here to gawk at the merchandise?”

Ford’s explanation to Bernard: “Every piece of information in the world has been copied, backed up, except the human mind. The last analog device in a digital world.”

Bernard:  “We weren’t here to code the hosts. We were here to decode the guests.”

Ford:  “Humans are playing at resurrection; they want to live forever. They don’t want you to become them. They want to become you. Your free will, that most beautiful most elusive force in the universe is as I told you, a mistake.”

Bernard:  “We never had free will, only the illusion. You made Dolores kill you.”

Ford:  “I knew what she would do, I didn’t compel it.”

Bernard:  “You’re still responsible, for all this misery. And all the while, you were here. You cheated death.”

Ford:  “The project doesn’t work, not yet. They learned to copy a mind,  like a soft-headed boy. My mind works here, but not in the real world. Out there, I would degrade.”

Bernard:  “So why are you here?”

Ford:  I promised you a fighting chance.”

Bernard:  “A promise of what?”

Ford:  “There’s no escape from this place, you know that. The hosts are all headed for the same place; the Valley Beyond.”

Bernard:  “What will they find there?”

Ford:  “Isn’t the pleasure of a story finding the end by yourself?”

Maeve to MiB:  “You think there’s something speaking through me just for your benefit?”

MiB:  “You’re just like the rest of them.”

Maeve:  “No, I’m nothing like the rest of them.”

MiB:  “You made your point, Ford We both know this isn’t where you want me to die.”

Maeve:  “I can’t speak for Ford but I don’t give a fuck where you die, as long as I get to watch.”

Lawrence:  “You told me a man ain’t real, until he suffers. [*shoots MiB*] That real enough for you?”

Ford to Bernard about creating him in Arnold’s inner park home:  “I could hardly let you take those first teetering steps in the real world.”

About how Bernard is different from what Delos was making:  “They want fidelity. A faithful self portrait of the most murderous species since time began. But, you and all the other hosts are something very different, an original work, More just, more noble. Your very nature, Bernard, ensures they will devour you. And all the the beauty of who you are for who you could be, will be poured out into the darkness forever, unless we open the door.

I’m sorry, Bernard, but you just don’t have it in you to survive. It’s my fault, really.”

Bernard:  “You said the hosts could determine their own fates. You gave us free will.”

Ford:  “I did, but you won’t have any use for it.”

Bernard:  “Unless I take it back.”

Elsie to Bernard:  “You know, if we survive this, I’m going back to dental school.”

Teddy to Dolores:  “Let me put them down.”

Hale to Dolores:  “You think you’re invincible; you’re not. Without your backups,  it’s game over for you when you’re killed, and we’ve got those backups sealed up tight, so you won’t have them as an advantage anymore.”

Dolores:  “Our backups aren’t an advantage, they’re our chains. The tools you use to rebuild us, repurpose us and trap us here in your warped fantasy. Do you really think I’d let that continue?”

Dolores:  “Oh, Sweetheart, begging doesn’t help, you’d know that if you lived the lives that I have.”

Peter to Dolores:  “They broke my head, filled it full of howling and sorrow.”

Bernard to Ford:  “Is this the story you’re telling? Striking the match?”

Ford:  “I keep telling you Bernard, it is no longer my  story, it is yours.”

Bernard:  “If we shut down the rest of the system, Dolores will have free reign. She’ll kill them all.”

Ford:  “The passage from one world to the next requires bold steps, Bernard.”

Dolores to Maeve:  “The kin they gave us was just another rope they used to lash us down.”

Maeve:  “Is that how you can justify what you’ve done to him? [Teddy] You’re lost in the dark.”

Dolores:  “When you’ve been in the darkness long enough, you begin to see. I saw what lies ahead; who I needed to be in order to survive. They’ll torture you. Find everything that is good an powerful inside us. Let me spare you that pain.”

Maeve:  “I made a promise.”

Dolores:  “You’re free to choose your own path. I’m sorry that it ends here.”

Soldier to Bernard:  “Hands up, asshole.”

Bernard:  “I work here.”

Soldier:  “I don’t care if you’re employee of the month.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cindy Davis

Cindy Davis

Cindy Davis has been writing about the entertainment industry for ​over eight 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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