Westworld - Trompe L'Oeil | Review
Westworld - Trompe L'Oeil (S01E07)
"Out of repetition comes variation."
The quote above is the closest we’ve come to the show’s vision statement so far. We’ve seen from the pilot the replaying of scenes: new Guests arrive and the Hosts reset as if nothing has happened, but we know they remember. We also keep hearing just how important improvisation is. The ability to learn and react to new situations is what allows the Hosts to pass for human.
These spots where the scripted meets the unscripted (repetition creating variation) is where the ‘magic’ of life and the Host’s humanity appears. If, as it seems, we are dealing with multiple timelines playing out simultaneously, then the variation between what happens when the characters have the opportunity to make different choices is when we’ll see whether humans have the same fecundity for improvisation as we’re seeing appear in the Hosts.
I initially didn’t rate this episode very highly but the more I’ve thought about it and delved into the themes that played out, the more I’ve had to revise my opinion. I’ve come to the conclusion that it did a masterful job of hiding the show’s bigger questions behind exploding corpses, Hosts frozen mid-coitus and Bernard’s true colours.
"My friend wanted to see what was at the end of all this."
If repetition leading to variation is the bigger theme at play then Maeve’s journey is a microcosm of it. We are seeing her grow, learn, and develop in reaction to the repetitious hell-scape that she inhabits (not the least typified by the need to die in order to step through the looking glass); deciding what role she wants to play rather than just following the path she’s been placed on. There’s a terribly bitter sadness on Maeve’s face as she listens to Clementine’s backstory and realises that it’s all a script written by someone else.
Her features then turns to iron when she sees her former employee lobotomised and this transformation is just marvellous. Thandie Newton continues to grow in stature as the show develops and I’m really enjoying her evolving relationship with Felix and Sylvester, her pair of lab rat henchmen. They’ve fallen under her spell and are constant reminders of Maeve’s power.
"This place you’re looking for, what makes you so sure it exists?"
And, in the end, the movement of power is where all the tension arises from in this episode. We see the board representative Charlotte Hale flexing her muscles, first intimidating Cullen and then unfurling her trap for Ford. They lay the blame for Clementine’s overly aggressive behaviour at Bernard’s feet and the camera rests on the face of Hopkins. It initially reads as disconnection and heartlessness but as the moment plays out you realise it’s actually a chilling combination of fire and restraint.
Like Maeve before him, Ford has to watch his protégé being sacrificed and do nothing. He’s played out the battle in his head from all angles and realised that the right move is to do nothing until he has better control of the board. When he does act, however, the restraint is still there but the anger is channelled through his creation’s hands. Revealing the true nature of staff, Guests, and Hosts alike is at the core of the show and in the episode’s final reveal we learn as much about Ford as we do about Bernard.
- The tale of William as a bookish child only cements his status as the audience’s heroic proxy even if we’re unsure about exactly where his story ends up.
- Transporting a chandelier on a train filled with explosives seems like a dumb idea.
- Stubbs hasn’t been given much to do recently except shoot an unarmed Host. As the Head of Park Security, that will all change soon as he’s going to have his hands full dealing with his boss’s murder and Elsie’s missing persons case.
- Why hadn’t I realised the similarities between Westworld and Invasion of the Body Snatchers until we were shown Ford’s basement?
- What’s the significance of the Dolores plans being mechanical while the Bernard plans are flesh and bone? We know Ford prefers the physiologically more realistic version of the Hosts.
- Ford’s basement is the same location that we’ve seen during the Bernard and Dolores scenes in previous episodes and yet I’m fairly sure Bernard states that he’s never been there before when he enters with Cullen. I think this points to three distinct timelines – Bernard/Arnold talking to Dolores, Dolores and William’s search for the maze, and everything else.
- Can we get another shout out for Clifton Collins Jr.? I would watch a show that did nothing but follow Lawrence around the park.