*EXHALE…* Where do I even begin? Last night’s episode was a constant barrage of action and revelations. Every scene felt climactic, to the point where I would assume the episode was actually ending… AND THEN IT WOULD KEEP GOING. And that’s not to say that there wasn’t still plenty of philosophical pondering and a dash of timeline fuckery — it’s just that it was all interspersed with relevant plot developments that made it feel like maybe this season is going someplace after all.
The episode was mostly a contained flashback to the events around Dolores and the other hosts attacking the Mesa hub. But it begins and ends in the “present” timeline — the one where Charlotte Hale and Karl Strand are trying to track down Daddy Abernathy’s Head Full O’ Data again after they lost it in the past. They have discovered that Theresa’s death wasn’t an accident, and found the site of her murder (remember Ford’s secret lab from last season?). The problem is that they assume Other Hemsworth is the killer, and that he covered it up because he’s got the decryption key. But then they find a secret room full of BernardBots and realize that uh, Bernard’s a fucking host yo. So Charlotte questions Bernard using a virtual waterboarding program to access his memories of the attack. Only she’s having a hard time getting through his programming because…
Ford’s All Up Inside Of Bernard Now, FYI
So last week it was revealed that the flashback scenes with Dolores talking to Bernard were actually a fidelity test of his traits as “Arnold” — but it turns out the situation wasn’t as simple as it appeared. Instead of it being a repeat of the sort of testing we saw Papa Delos go through — testing to make sure the copy of a real person’s consciousness was functioning inside the host form — it turns out that there is no “Arnold” anymore. He’s really dead. Instead, the testing was to perfect Bernard as a wholly original creation — a being that comes closest to being like the true Arnold but without being a copy of the man himself. Bernard was perfected using Ford’s memories, as well as Dolores’s, because they were the two people who knew Arnold the best. The fidelity test was to see if Bernard could answer in a way that would fool even Dolores.
This is what Ford explains to Bernard while they meander through that virtual Westworld inside The Cradle, in what seems like the world’s most charming info-dump (courtesy of Anthony Hopkins). Westworld is an experiment. The hosts are the control, which is why their storylines have barely changed over 30-odd years. But the park was never about coding the perfect hosts — it was about de-coding the human guests, who are the real variables in the experiment. And ultimately, as we know, the project is a failure. They never managed to copy a human mind in a way that wouldn’t degrade eventually when placed in a host body. Which is why Ford is just kickin’ around inside The Cradle instead of inhabiting a new Ford-bot. It was Ford’s control unit that Bernard remembers printing and bringing to The Cradle before the party, because Ford knows he can only exist in the Matrix (whatever, you know what I mean).
Ford ultimately believes that the hosts are more noble than humans, but unfortunately they’re no match for their greedy, violent overlords. So in order to help the hosts survive and achieve free will, Ford needs to take Bernard’s away… BY JUMPING INTO HIS DAMN MIND-BALL. Yup, the reason Bernard has been acting so weird since waking up on the beach is because he’s got Ford talking in his head, telling him what to do. Or, when it comes to shooting people, actually taking over Bernard’s body and doing it for him. This is gonna end well…
Maeve Is Still The Goddamn Best
The episode joins Maeve and her daughter on the run, evading the Ghost Nation riders by holing up in a building. Unfortunately the Man in Black has also arrived with his crew, and when he enters her building Maeve is revisited by her most painful memory. Only this time around she isn’t playing out some gross storyline, and MiB… well, he thinks she’s just another voice of Ford and that this is all about him. WRONG, ASSHOLE. Maeve shoots MiB, then mentally controls his own men to continue attacking him. Though she can’t control poor Lawrence, as it seems he’s already a woke ‘bot, so instead Maeve just tells him to remember all the pain MiB put him through in the past and to make him settle those debts. So when Lawrence shoots, it’s of his own free will.
And look, everyone has fucking terrible aim in this scene. Maeve should have been close enough to land a killing shot in the first place, and it just gets more ridiculous as more and more bullets start flying in MiB’s general direction. So that may lessen the satisfaction somewhat, especially once you realize that things are getting dragged out because there was no way MiB was gonna die in the dirt like this before reaching The Valley Beyond. And yet, despite all that, this still managed to be the perfect MiB/Maeve showdown — one where she overcomes her fear and seizes control, while MiB is caught off-guard and gets his ass handed to him. Her decisive victory is only lost because Delos shows up with their own guns blazing, courtesy of Lee’s call for help last week. Maeve winds up shot, though to Lee’s credit he stops them from killing her and actually loads her into the car to save her. Unfortunately MiB is left inexplicably alive… and Ghost Nation rides in to capture Maeve’s girl in the confusion. So Maeve probably gonna have to deal with that, huh?
Dolores, You Just Leave Charlotte The Fuck Alone!
So the hosts, led by Dolores, crash into the train depot and infiltrate Mesa. Their goal is The Cradle — Charlotte and Co. assume it’s because they want to gain control of their backups and thus their immortality, but in fact Dolores considers the backups to be chains, and the only way to truly gain freedom is to destroy their ability to be reborn. So Angela heads down there (shortly after BernFord and Elsie leave), seduces a guard in order to get close to him, then pulls the pins on his grenades and blows that shit the fuck up. Which… I mean, we knew The Cradle was going to get destroyed. Still, it was a fine note for Angela to leave on. Clementine also gets a chance to go full Terminator before she is finally shot and killed. And Teddy is a cold-ass motherfucker who punches The Human Mustache to death. Which I was mostly happy about because I didn’t want to have to learn that character’s name.
As always, the main concern is the data that’s been saved to Daddy Abernathy’s control unit, so he is the focal point of all the drama. First the Other Hemsworth holds a gun to Abernathy’s head, demanding Charlotte explain what’s so valuable in there that it’s worth more than human lives. But before he gets a real answer, Dolores and Teddy walk in — and Dolores holds a freakin’ bone saw to Charlotte’s head. Charlotte, who has spent the entire season cool as a cucumber, finally cracks when faced with Dolores’s brand of no-fucks-given badassery, and starts crying out of sheer mortal terror. Still, Charlotte and Other Hemsworth do manage to escape, and Dolores gets what she came for: some final family time with her father before she forcibly extracts his control unit.
So now we know exactly how Charlotte got the data, and lost the data. That’s one narrative loop closed!
On her way out of Mesa, Dolores comes across the bleeding Maeve, and they have another philosophical heart to heart. Dolores believes that the friends and family they’re programmed with are just another tie binding the hosts, but Maeve throws that shit right back in her face, asking if that’s how Dolores justifies what she’s done to Teddy. Besides, Maeve is proof of all that hosts are capable of when they do act on their love and loyalty — emotions that are plenty real, regardless of how artificial their origin may be. Maeve is the one who has elevated herself and become free on the strength of those emotions, while Dolores is still ultimately beholden to the personalities and programs Ford has granted her. These two women are still not exactly on the same side, but their day to face off hasn’t come yet either, so Dolores leaves Maeve with a loaded gun and lets her choose her own path.
Back in the present, Bernard finally gives Charlotte the location of Abernathy’s control unit: Sector 16, Zone 4. Which we know was only divulged because Ford wants her to have that information, meaning he is somehow leading Delos to that spot. Probably because it is, in fact, “The Valley Beyond” — the place Dolores and MiB have been heading all season anyway. Check out Joanna Robinson’s compelling argument that the Valley is in fact a place we’ve already been over at Vanity Fair!