Westworld Episode 7 Review: Trompe L’Oeil
A major twist leads us further down the rabbit hole as Westworld starts gearing up for the end of the season.
This Westworld review contains spoilers.
Westworld Episode 7
“The longer I work here, the more I think I understand the hosts. It’s human beings who confuse me.”
These are the words of Bernard Lowe moments before a shocking revelation. Perhaps the shocking revelation of the whole first season. And to be honest, I was nodding in agreement when he uttered these words, because the robots are much more human and sympathetic than their flesh-and-blood counterparts. I’d even go so far as to say the only truly likable human amongst the whole downstairs cast was Bernard… so we really should have seen this coming, right?
In fact, if I may gloat a moment, I did. Ah, that feels good.
So yes, “Trompe L’Oeil” was where at least some of the cards were placed on the table. In spite of Bernard opening the episode with bitter dreams of his dying son, the hour ended with what I estimate is only the first of several major game-changers in relation to the Jeffrey Wright animatronic. The moment was so powerful, as was the cruel fate of Theresa, that I am going to break format for this review and start with the implications of that final scene.
It’s a grim moment when Bernard leads Theresa into the House of Ford. I’m sure many were already suspicious of his choice to do so after she blatantly threw him under the bus, engineering an obviously phony scenario that led to his termination from the park. Despite her fear about him not being able to stay professional after their breakup, it was her choice to scapegoat him in order to save her own career, which likely wasn’t winning her any audience favors. That was also smart misdirection for us, so we’d be less suspicious of Bernard’s bizarre insistence that he show her a glimpse into Ford’s madness while not bringing a single security guard. There was the first red flag.
Next, I imagine warning bells went off for most viewers when they were inside Ford’s childhood home, and Theresa could see the door leading into the basement… and Bernard could not. More disturbing still is that Bernard had no idea where they were when it is clearly the space that Bernard (or who we think is Bernard) had conversations with Dolores in strangely placed scenes throughout the season.
This scene then finally, and tragically, reaches its inevitable conclusion after Theresa discovers the blueprints for Bernard-bot, and Anthony Hopkins materializes to go the full Hannibal Lecter.
Frankly, it’s a little surprising it took Theresa almost the whole scene to deduce that she wasn’t intended to ever leave that room alive. If she had been more thoughtful, she would’ve run before Ford could flip Bernard into “murder mode.” Alas, Ford monologues just enough to reveal (or hint at) a number of fascinating facts.
First of all, he rambles on about the unlikely theory that all of human achievement is accomplished as a kind of mating dance. But as Ford himself is an old man holding onto his power and continuing to build with no intended mate in sight, this is again misdirection for the viewer. The more intriguing aspects of his speech are that he repeats Charlotte Hale’s words to Theresa from earlier in the episode: the gods need a “blood sacrifice.”
This raises the question of whether Charlotte herself is another off-the-books host engineered by Ford to test Theresa’s loyalty. I’ll consider that more in the moment, but the implication is obvious: he has more than a few hosts walking around who don’t know any better. Which brings us back to Bernard. How exactly does Bernard have a wife and son if he is in fact a host?
Well, let’s revisit my theory that I’ve been hammering in these reviews for three weeks now: Bernard is a replica of Arnold Weber. Again, Bernard Lowe is an anagram for Arnold’s full name (which is never spoken), and even more oddly, we don’t see Bernard’s name (or any other) on the sheet about Bernard’s construction, like we did for Dolores. Perhaps when he was built, Ford was simply obsessed with bringing his pal Arnold (or some form of him) back to life.
Similarly, when Theresa brings up the subject of Arnold, she asks if Ford had Bernard kill him. Ford dismisses this by saying that Bernard was not here when Arnold died. On the one hand, this is a classic case of pivoting since he does not deny he had Arnold murdered. But more importantly, Bernard wasn’t here at the time, because his construction was done in reaction to Arnold’s death.
Hence, I again submit that Bernard is a version of Arnold, and the original Bernard/Arnold did have a wife and son. As Bernard told Theresa, this hidden facility was from the park’s early days, yet Bernard himself is oblivious to this particular room’s existence (he couldn’t even see the door in plain sight that led to the space). But in near contradiction, it is also likely the area where Arnold had discussions with Dolores. This is because the clothed Dolores chats occurred over 30 years ago when Arnold, grieving the loss of his son, turned to Dolores for paternal companionship in that very room. We are simply seeing those scenes—as well as Arnold talking to his wife over hologram—presented out of order, creating a false sense of linear storytelling. And if there is an “Arnold” consciousness in the machine, as Elise alluded to last week, perhaps he is placing thoughts of his actual son’s death in Bernard’s archives, much like how he has been placing lines of Shakespeare about “violent delights” into Dolores and Peter Abernathy’s heads.
Speaking of Shakespeare, Ford himself quoted the Bard again as a seeming signal for Bernard to murder Theresa. The exact line is from Hamlet where the melancholy prince muses, “For in that sleep of death what dreams may come.” Could this mean that Ford is causing his robots to be infected with sentient thought? I doubt it. It’s probably just a nice thematic irony that Shakespeare prompts homicidal robots.
As for the death of Theresa itself, the scene is a heartbreaker since in his own mechanical way, I think Bernard, who is beautifully played as always by Wright, really did care for her, and she for him. Even after she threw him under the bus, he didn’t try to take her down with him by pinpointing just how self-evident her faux-malfunction of the reveries were. Sure, Tony Hopkins had a look on his face that said, “I’ll get you all before the week is out, and your dog too!” but that isn’t what drove Bernard. In many ways, this is the scene where Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy got to go one moment farther into the future than Ridley Scott did in Blade Runner.
Many of us to this day suspect Harrison Ford’s Deckard is Replicant in that movie. After all, hunting dangerous robots and terminating them is risky work that could end in your demise. Plus, it’s glorified assassination scuzziness. So send a machine to do the job. Giving so many other Replicants Turing tests, including the one he fell in love with, Rachel, Deckard never actually realized he was judging his brethren, much like Arnold’s ironic patronizing of Hector earlier in this episode about not “questioning your world.”
So it is with having a machine programmed to watch over all the other machines, and thus give Ford someone he can always trust. But as awful a fate as it is for Theresa, I do not suspect we’ve seen the last of Sidse Babbett Knudsen on the series. Rather, if you are wondering who that new undocumented host is that Ford is cooking up, look no further than some of the final shots’ juxtaposition. After we glance at her dead body, with the head brutally smashed in, we now see another skull being constructed in mint condition.
How better to not rock the boat with one more missing personnel than to have Theresa, or a version of her, walking around who is suddenly compliant? After all, it arguably has worked with Arnold, and maybe Ms. Charlotte Hale too. The real Theresa might’ve never warmed to Westworld, but the next one will love the spot so much that she’ll never leave. Hell, Ford might be so kind as to implant that childhood memory of visiting the park with her parents. He’s sentimental like that.
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But speaking of poor Charlotte, we got a lot more of Tessa Thompson this week, and I really do hope she winds up being another secret android. And I write this, because her character is starting to fall into the Lee Sizemore camp. Thompson, who is superb in Dear White People and Creed, plays a pretty generic antagonist that seems written for network television standards. Despite being in her early 20s, she is dubiously placed in a high position inside a corporate hierarchy, to the point where she gets to mock and fire men and women who have decades of experience on her, and doing chintzy power moves like answering the door for a meeting while naked and in mid-coitus.
It is all a bit too cute and out-of-sync with the rest of the series. Although, she helped confirm why Theresa was smuggling code out of the park; she isn’t working for a competitor, nor was she a disgruntled employee. Theresa was smuggling code, including from the Stray, to Charlotte and the rest of corporate because they wanted to have a contingency plan in case Ford wiped all the hosts when they inevitably force him to retire. Yeah, good luck with that. Still, it gives us a peek inside the board’s thinking, which probably has a lot more to do with the future of robotic self-awareness than it does with the Westworld theme park.
In that vein, Charlotte and Theresa try to humiliate Ford and Bernard by having Clementine supposedly malfunction and attack another host she’s programmed to believe is a guest. This is also again a scene where the series is playing with fire. There’s a disturbing menace to the blatant sexual violence of a man beating a woman to death as she begs for help, and it falls on deaf ears while Ford, Bernard, Stubbs, and all the other men stand idly by, watching with an inferred sense of disinterested superiority. Even Charlotte and Theresa aren’t shaken. This is expected for them too. If a man assaults a woman, things are going according to plan. It’s normal.
Given the rhetoric floating around the country this week, it’s a chilling thought about how true that might just be.
However, the acceptable abuse of Clementine extends beyond her demoralizing suffering here. She might just have been written out of the show when Sylvester “follows orders” and decommissions the host. With this action, poor Sylvester also sealed his fate, because, oblivious to him, Maeve was watching. At that moment, no matter what comes next, as soon as Maeve decides she no longer needs Sylvester, he is going to meet his one and only true death.
Maeve implies as much when she is talking with Sylvester and Felix in Thandie Newton’s own little showcase of the hour. She knows that she’s really good at death (and she is). She can’t wait to share it with these boys if they don’t help her escape. Sylvester nevertheless does offer one good point: everything in and around her is meant to protect corporate IP, including her skin. Could this imply that to escape Westworld, she’ll need to rip off her flesh in a kind of reversal from the finale to Ex Machina? If so, that presents its own problems since she’ll have a devil of a time assimilating in the real world while looking like what I can only presume is a milky T-800.
The episode also included some classic Western clichés in the William and Dolores subplot. I very much enjoyed the shootout at the train holdup, and Lawrence getting to use the explosive gels being placed in dead bodies—which unto itself must create a helluva clean up job for the butchers if all those exploded hosts are meant to be put back together again—as well as finally getting to see the “Ghost Nation” attack in a game of Cowboys and Indians. But much of this just felt like our action quota for the hour. Not that I’m complaining. Those panoramas of what I assume is Utah are obviously breathtaking.
On the character side, we finally did see William consummate his relationship with Dolores. I standby he’s not the Man in Black, but he really is falling pretty far down the rabbit hole now. Dolores is showing genuine signs of self-awareness. She seems to be really into William for more reasons than her programming. And William confessing he is getting married and then admitting that Westworld is more real and freeing than the constraints and pressures of living in corporate politics is perhaps too much information for a vactioner to be spilling. He might love Dolores… and maybe even she loves him (however unlikely that might be). But that he is starting to talk to her, and wax poetic of this place, like it’s somewhere he’ll never have to leave? Well, this isn’t going to end well.
If he doesn’t want to believe me, just ask Theresa or next week’s Robo-Theresa. When that happens, I can’t wait to see how demented the politicking of Westworld gets from there, especially as Maeve’s revolution inches ever closer to fruition.