A lot of familiar faces returned in last night’s episode of Westworld (Stubbs! Hector! Lee Sizemore! Those two lab techs whose names I can never remember, so I look them up every time and… oh yeah, Lutz and Sylvester!), but the biggest surprise was probably the face that nobody saw coming…
Yes, that’s really Dany’s favorite dragon, and I know because those two lab techs in the room with him are played by Game of Thrones showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff. And yes, it’s clearly nothing more than a too-cute throwaway cameo which doesn’t really require additional unpacking… except that maybe it does, after all. Instead of being a simple background visual gag, it’s actually a little scene that plays out: the men discuss selling Drogon to a buyer in Costa Rica (a reference to Westworld creator Michael Crichton’s other theme park disaster, Jurassic Park), then approach the dragon with buzzing circular saw because the only way to transport the robot there is in pieces. On the one hand, having Benioff and Weiss cut the head off the beast they created is at least symbolically interesting, if not downright cathartic (especially considering the contentious reception their Game of Thrones finale got) — though in that sense it’s more their cameo than Drogon’s. Instead, I’m actually more interested in the idea that Westeros was a Delos attraction all this time, and that this was a crossover more than a cameo, because… doesn’t that just make a beautiful kind of sense? What if Game of Thrones was written by a hack like Lee Sizemore, with plenty of gratuitous nudity and morally questionable violence designed to entertain depraved rich people? What if the sudden and baffling personality shifts we witnessed key characters make in the final seasons were just tweaks to their core drives? What if Littlefinger was Maeve all along?!
OK, I’ll admit that I’m reading way too much into this — though if I’m being honest, I’d have traded Drogon in a heartbeat to get that lute player to start strumming “Toss A Coin To Your Witcher”…
Anyway, Dolores is nowhere to be found as this week’s episode shifts focus to Bernard and the totally not-dead Maeve, who you may recall awakened in War World at the end of the season premiere. And the good news is, this episode was basically a microcosm of everything that makes Maeve the best character on the show: namely, her zero-f*cks-given attitude and whipsmart problem solving skills. She quickly encounters her old flame Hector (Rodrigo Santoro), and later meets Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman) in the Mesa, and what’s notable about both of these returns is that Hector and Lee died last season. Sure, maybe if one of them happened to miraculously survive the massacre it’d be believable — but I’m pretty sure Maeve herself is the “one miraculous survival” allotment this show gets. Things get even fishier when Maeve encounters her two friendly lab techs, Lutz and Sylvester, and neither of them remember her, but it isn’t until Lee starts pushing Maeve for information about the Forge and the whereabouts of Host Heaven that Maeve finally realizes that things are even less-real than they normally are. She’s not in a Delos facility at all! She’s in a simulation of a Delos facility, designed for her benefit alone, by someone who clearly doesn’t know her OR Delos very well at all. So Maeve does the most Maeve-y thing she could in this situation: She overtaxes and crashes the program, then hacks it so she can access security cams and see where she is, THEN hacks into a maintenance droid and has it steal her pearl and make a run for it. The bot is sadly gunned down before completing Maeve’s daring escape, but the upshot is that the next time Maeve wakes up, she’s in a new body in the real world — facing Engerraund Serac (Vincent Cassel), the mysterious mastermind behind Incite’s fancy computer and the man trying to stop Dolores from destroying mankind. Serac wants to convince Maeve that their interests are aligned, and until then he’s not afraid to use his master control button to keep Maeve from stabbing his ass because… really, why should she trust him?
Have I mentioned that Maeve is the absolute best?
As for Bernard, he takes his hired boat across the South China Sea and lands on the banks of West World, because apparently that’s a super easy thing to do these days since everybody, you know, died. He’s looking for anything that can help him face off against Dolores (Maeve! He needs Maeve! DUH!), but first he finds… Stubbs (Lesser Hemsworth), who by the way is totally a Host, in case you hadn’t figured that out last season. Stubbs was created to protect the other Hosts, but since all the Hosts either crossed over into Host Heaven or left the park, his mission was accomplished — and so he went to Ford’s secret lab and tried to kill himself. Good thing he failed, though, because now that Bernard is back Stubbs can keep on doing his job! The pair make their way through the Mesa, where they discover that Maeve’s pearl is gone and also take a detour so Bernard can run a diagnostic on himself (free from Dolores’s influence), which reveals some of Bernard’s fractured memories — including memories of himself as Arnold. More importantly, Bernard remembers which client books Dolores read in the library last season, which gives him a big clue on how to track her in the real world. Then as he prepares to leave West World again, he reprograms Stubbs’s core drive so that he’ll protect Bernard instead of trying to commit suicide again.
So, to recap: Bernard has a bodyguard, and Maeve has a body, and somewhere out there Dolores has a cute new friend. Too bad there’s a war brewing, because I could get used to seeing these crazy robots just living their best lives!
— Is War World an actual Delos attraction, or was it created solely for Serac’s simulation? On the one hand, it makes sense that Serac would have used reality as a basis for the simulation rather than having to program a scenario from scratch, but on the other hand Maeve wouldn’t have known the difference since she hadn’t seen all of the other parks. And on the third hand: REALLY? A NAZI-THEMED AMUSEMENT PARK? It’s not that I can’t believe people would pay to go there, it’s that I can’t believe people would admit they paid to go there. Even if they did get to punch some Nazis.
— It was great to see Hector and Lee again, but I’m very glad that the show found a way to bring them back without completely undermining or undoing their deaths. The simulation was a nice twist to keep us questioning reality, but the sacrifices of last season still stand.
— I’m impressed again by how relatively straight-forward this season has been. Sure, we’re not dealing with tangled timelines anymore, but more importantly the show is offering answers faster than it is positing new questions. We know how Maeve survived, we know who really is behind Incite, and now the next big question is whose pearls Dolores smuggled out of West World with her. Based on the teaser for next week’s episode, it looks like we’ll at least learn more about whoever is pretending to be Charlotte Hale… and it really just might be Teddy.
— I’m curious to see how the upcoming robot ideology war takes shape, because it’s all still a little iffy to me. Does Dolores want to dominate humanity, or does she just want her own people to survive? Does Bernard, who still thinks he’s human half the time, even HAVE an ideology at the moment? Will Maeve really stand up against Dolores, knowing that Dolores is the person responsible for saving Host Heaven (and by extension, Maeve’s daughter)?
— When are we gonna catch up with the Man In Black?!
Header Image Source: HBO