Westworld - Trace Decay | Review

Westworld - Trace Decay (S01E08) 

Spoilers ahead

I feel like I’ve been here before.

This episode felt a bit like the line from the elder Nolan brother’s film Inception – Wait, whose subconscious are we going into exactly? There was exposition and a bit of a reveal but otherwise it was just moving from scene to scene, encountering a number of different players all claiming to be or acting as gods. It was fun to see the details but felt like filler as we move towards the last two episodes.

The Man in Black tells Teddy he’s a god and in a way he is. An experienced gamer (or one with the cheat codes), he is able to execute manoeuvres and access areas out of the reach of other mortals. He acts without thought for how his actions will impact others and has no concern for the stories going on around him. And yet, he’s still searching for meaning. This isn’t a very omnipotent approach.

He talks a good talk but he’s no god. He’s still playing the game albeit a rather exclusive one and this is what keeps him a compelling character. There was a bit of his backstory revealed and if the split timelines William/MIB theory holds out it feels like we got a bit closer to seeing how he turns to the dark side. If Dolores's quest for the maze goes wrong and William loses the love he thinks he’s found then not only will he end up reaching for the black hat in game but you can see how the darkness would spill into his life outside the park.

Time to write my own fucking story.

In Maeve we get someone that wants nothing more than to see exactly what life beyond the park is. After she gets Felix to provide her with admin privileges there’s a lovely scene with her wandering about Sweetwater issuing god-like commands. Almost as if she were a Guest – the fools paying to play god with the lives of the Hosts.

If a bit of tappity-tappy off-stage is all it takes, what exactly is the difference between a Host and a Guest? Self-awareness? Memories? The ability to issue commands to other Hosts? If that’s all it is then what’s left? Maeve, with her stats raised to 20 is the master of all she sees until she crosses a line and kills. Since when is the Host’s inability to kill supposed to be the line that divides? That hasn’t been true since the fly-swat in the pilot. 

Lifelike but not alive.

This episode revolves around one of the show’s tentpole arguments, making a point that there really isn’t any difference between Hosts and Guests. This is something that we see in Ford. He doesn’t discriminate as he treats Host and Guest with equal levels of detachment. He disposes of Cullen without emotion and then, with the same level of detachment, he instructs Bernard to dispose of the evidence (though Ford forgets that as a host, Bernard is prone to developing memories). The way Ford elevates himself above everyone around him and only concerns himself with what he want to do is actually the most god-like action on display in this episode.

Like all classic myths and legends, Mount Olympus is built on a foundation of treachery and betrayal. Ford and Arnold fought and their internal struggle is what gives us the problems we face in this episode – who has admin privileges and how they’re used.

Random thoughts

  • Okay, maybe we’re dealing with four separate timelines:
    • Arnold/Bernard’s therapy sessions with Dolores in the basement below Ford’s childhood home before the park opens.
    • William coming to the park and helping Dolores in her search for the maze.
    • The MIB working with Teddy to find the maze.
    • Upon finding the maze the MIB begins ‘waking up’ the Hosts and Maeve starts her revolt.
  • I hold out hope for Elsie - We saw Bernard grab her but we never saw a body.
  • We see Bernard removing himself from the camera footage. Has Ford used the same technology to alter the photo of him with Arnold that he showed Bernard back in episode three?
  • Stubbs, assuming he’s not a Host, might just be the one good man left in the whole of Westworld.
  • Stupid-British-Guy is really now nothing more than a plot device. 
  • If the Hosts can be defined by a set of attributes and the code that sits behind them then what’s keeping them locked in a meatbag Host body? Could Arnold be sitting in the background of the park’s computers, manipulating the staff, running around behind Ford’s back, and compelling the hosts to do things?
  • The new Clementine is disturbing and wrong.


Author: George Langlands

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