This week’s episode of Westworld began weaving together some of the plot threads it’s been unravelling this season. Suspicions were confirmed, goals were realized, and yet as always the “plot” was almost secondary to the “theme” of the episode. And this time around, the theme was all about choosing your own fate.
On a grand scale, self-determination is what the struggle has always been about for the hosts — but it also becomes a useful lens through which to analyze every character, humans included. Choosing your own fate is what ultimately and explicitly separates Akane from her sister-from-another-park, Maeve, as the former decides to remain in Shogunworld to grieve the loss of Sakura. In fact, as Maeve & Co. prepare to take the bloody chute outta town (no really — their exit strategy is an actual goddamn dead host drop point), their Japanese friends all choose to stay in their homeland. All except for the Girl With The Dragon Tatoo version of Armistice, who follows her Westworld comrades into the unknown.
Sure, it’s a bummer that the detour into Shogunworld didn’t last longer (personally, I was NOT done with Musashi, though at least I got to see him SLICE A MOTHERFUCKER’S HAND OFF before he was left behind), but in exchange for all that samurai action we got something else we’d been waiting for: an end to Maeve’s long journey. After emerging topside from the Delos bunker Lee had lead them to, Maeve finds herself in familiar territory. Specifically: the quadrant where her long-ago farmstead stood, and the place where she hopes to find her daughter still living. Now, I knew things weren’t going to be so easy for Maeve. She may have chosen her path, but that doesn’t mean the end of the road would suddenly be smooth. I was figuring her daughter wouldn’t be there, but it turned out she was… with a new model of Mommy Maeve. Which makes sense. The storyline still exists, with a new host playing that role. Somehow Maeve, for all her new Matrix powers, hadn’t foreseen that possibility — and Lee didn’t bother to warn her.
Another thing Maeve didn’t anticipate? Arriving RIGHT when the Ghost Nation riders were going to descend on farmstead. So she attempts to save her girl, abandoning the girl’s new her/mom. And in the process she rejects Akecheta, who believes they may share the same path and wants her to come with him. Nuh uh, buddy. She’s choosin’ her OWN path, dang it! And so is Lee! By using that stolen device to call for help and, well, abandoning Maeve. Dick bag.
(To be fair, I’m sure Akecheta is right and people really need to start giving Ghost Nation the benefit of the doubt here)
Dolores is also choosing her own fate. Or, like, Wyatt’s maybe? Or maybe she’s choosing whatever path was secretly programmed into her by Ford? Whatever the fuck she’s up to, one thing is for certain: she’s not letting Teddy pick HIS path. That whole personality reprogramming she instituted last episode has left Teddy cold, ruthless, and… I mean, kinda hot, to be honest. But mostly the ruthless part. And it’s not just his outlook that has changed, but his goals as well. As he tells Dolores, “I never thought I’d wanna leave, but I suppose you fixed that too.” Dude is now ready to follow Dolores to hell and back without whining about settling down somewhere and being happy — and to her credit, Dolores seems to be starting to regret changing her lover so drastically. She spends most of the episode looking at Teddy with an expression I’d describe as “Damn, I should really stop sucking this lemon and also I’ve made a HUGE mistake.”
Of course, she’s looking downright pleased with herself in the beginning of the episode, when she’s being questioned by Bernard/Arnold. It’s the same set up we’ve seen in earlier episodes, but the flashback perhaps isn’t as far back into the past as we might have expected. Because the twist is that really, it’s Dolores that’s testing Bernard… only it’s actually a “fidelity” test meant for “Arnold”, measuring his responses to make sure the personality has been programmed correctly (the same thing we saw William go through with Papa Delos). It’s clear that Dolores is working through a previous conversation she’d had with the real Arnold, which means that at some point there will be a host-Arnold (distinct from Bernard). Everyone speculating that it was Arnold who woke up disoriented on the beach in the first episode of the season is likely patting themselves on the backs right now. But the way in which this “Arnold” failed his test is also interesting in light of the episode’s theme. “Arnold” is struggling to make a choice about what to do with Dolores herself — but where this version differed from the real thing was that the real Arnold never doubted whether he had the right to make such a choice, just what he SHOULD choose. Essentially, real Arnold believed he had the right to determine Dolores’s fate, but host-Arnold doesn’t take that for granted. Is Dolores mirroring Arnold in how she treated Teddy?
Now, we’ve seen Bernard struggle with his agency all season. With all the things he only barely remembers doing while under Ford’s control, the question of whether he’s in control of himself now that Ford is gone is an uncertain one. And it only becomes more uncertain when Bernard heads to The Cradle with Elsie and plugs himself into the system. The Cradle is sort of like the master server bank-cum-hive mind, holding every host consciousness. But something in The Cradle is also preventing the Delos QA people from overwriting whatever code Ford had added that caused the systems to go haywire. It’s fighting back. It’s improvising. And it may have something to do with that consciousness-ball that Bernard remembers making on Ford’s orders… and delivering to The Cradle.
So Bernard hooks himself up to The Cradle for a (very painful) auto extraction. Which I think basically dumps him inside The Cradle’s system? He wakes up on the Sweetwater train, just like Teddy always did, and arrives in town. He passes Dolores, and Teddy, and everyone else going on about the usual Westworld host storylines. Until he sees who is playing at the piano…
Because it’s Ford himself. Turns out there is a ghost in the machine, and it’s Anthony Hopkins. Which was a big reveal, until you remember that plenty of “hosts” have been talking as Ford this whole time (mostly to torment the Man in Black). So this twist is mostly just a confirmation of something we should have been expecting all along.
And speaking of the Man in Black, he’s been deciding his own fate for awhile now — or maybe tempting fate is a better way to put it? Grace thinks he’s attempting “suicide by robot”, but will reuniting with his daughter make him alter his path?
Um… no. Duh, of course not. Dude is hardcore. But for a minute there, it seemed like she might have a shot! After Grace convinces her father that she’s not a host, they have a heartfelt chat where she explains what really brought her into the park (a personal invite to the Gala from Charlotte Hale herself). When the shit hit the fan and she found herself washed up in Westworld, she decided to try and collect her dad and gtfo. She also confesses that she regrets blaming her dad for her mother’s death, which brings tears to MiB’s eyes. It’s, like, super heartwarming.
And then he abandons her in the middle of the night, leaving her to wake up alone. WORST. DADDY. EVER.
So everyone is either deciding their fate or having it decided for them, and somehow Robert fucking Ford is still meddling. And as for those converging threads? Well, Dolores and Teddy have slammed their host train into the main bunker, where Charlotte has Papa Abernathy fucking bolted to a fucking chair. The big battle is about to kick off, which means we’re close to finding out how Charlotte lost Abernathy again… and how Teddy wound up floating dead in the lake.
Line of the night: “Pain is just a program.” Sure, Bernard. Sure it is. If that helps you get your head opened like a jar of jam, then you do you.