Westworld: 1.07 Trompe L'Oeil
Hot off the heels of the season two renewal and Westworld continues to be must see television. And this week Trompe L'Oeil delivered a stunning cliffhanger as the audience discovered that one the humans working at Westworld was a host itself. It was a plot twist that we all suspected would happen - my money had been on Theresa Cullen after Robert Ford's chilling manipulation of her three weeks ago - but the fact that this had to happen was no less impressive when that revelation finally came true.
The arrival of Delos representative Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) last week and the discovery that Cullen was transmitting a signal out of the park set in motion a gripping powerplay. While she looks far too young to be a board member, Thompson proved she could be the biggest bitch of them all, cutting Cullen down with her demand for a blood sacrifice. The board doesn't care about the park or its employees; they want Ford's code for their own secret project and they are ready to quietly 'retire' him to get it.
This lead to the dramatic demonstration where it became clear to all in power that the hosts had gone rogue. It was quite uncomfortable to watch host Clementine Pennyfeather (Angela Sarafyan) beaten in the face several times by her opponent. But it was when she was 'reset' that the real fun was had, Clementine fighting back against her attacker after remembering the previous assault and then moving to attack Ashley Stubbs when she refused to shut down. We've known for a while that Arnold's code was an attempt to create host self awareness, and Ford's latest update was to stop it, but in the eyes of Hale, Ford was a failure. His update was blamed, a sign of his incompetence, while poor Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) was fired. This should have been the big twist in the episode but there was far more to come.
After telling Cullen that the malfunction of the hosts went wider, he led her to the cottage deep in the bowels of the facility where Ford had kept his fake family. I clicked that Lowe might be a host the moment he failed to recognise the door to the secret lab, but it was the moment he picked up the schematic for the Bernard host that the chilling realisation came. A host controlling hosts, all under Ford's watchful eye, it was a great turn of events, particularly when Ford stepped out of the shadows. If there was ever a question over Ford's villainy, that was completely dispelled as he had Cullen trapped in his secret lab, with no contact to her allies above.
"The board will do nothing our arrangement is too valuable to them. They test me now and again I think they enjoy the sport of it and they sent you. Sadly in order to restore things the situation requires a blood sacrifice. Arnold and I designed every part of this place, it was our dream. Did you really think I would let you take it from me?"
Anthony Hopkin's performance was mesmerising, reminiscent of the cold menace of his iconic Hannibal Lecter role, as he revealed to Cullen that she had no hope of stopping him, that all these power plays meant nothing to him. Sidse Babett Knudsen was perfect too, as all her power was stripped away and panic set into her eyes. And Jeffrey Wright's delivery was creepy; calmly removing his glasses, tie and jacket before he closed in on his 'lover' and bashed her head against the wall killing her.
Elsewhere we saw a self aware Maeve (Thandie Newton) finally take action. It was interesting to see her reactions to the world as she woke up in her role, fighting against the mundane nature of her life, predicting her programmed speech patterns and reacting with sadness as Clementine told her her life story, Maeve knowing it was all just an act. But it was the scenes in the labs that were the most powerful as Maeve forced Felix to march her naked through the facility to find Clementine and then watched in horror as she saw her 'friend' lobotomized. Her self awareness has already made living in Westworld an impossibility and her threat to Felix and Sylvester to get her out was fantastic. “You think I’m scared of death - I’ve done it a million times, I’m fucking great at it. How many times have you died? Because if you don’t help me I’ll kill you.” Newton continues to amaze her performance.
With so much drama happening in the human world, the scenes set in Westworld could have been far less interesting but there was such an epic grandeur to Delores and William's story this week I was just as absorbed. Travelling through native country, William finally admitted his feelings for Delores, realising that this place doesn't bring out the darkest elements of humanity, it brings out your true self. This life of adventure means far more to him than anything outside this world, including the fiancee waiting for him back home.
And what an adventure it was; the attack on the train by the confederates and the horseback pursuit was exciting stuff, particularly the moment Delores fell from her horse and was rescued by William. The arrival of the natives, slaughtering and scalping the confederates and Lawrence's' men alike upped the ante further. I was sad to see Lawrence go, who has quickly become one of my favourite minor characters on the show, but at least he survived to fight another day, leaving William and Delores as they ventured off into the epic, uncharted wilderness where no one has ever returned from. There was no man in black or Teddy this week, though given what Delores and William went through this episode, I imagine they might run into a few troubles when we return to them next week.
There are still so many questions we have as the first season enters its final run of episodes. How will the death of Cullen be managed and how will Ford fight off the threats of Hale and the Delos board? Will Lowe realise he is a host? Will Maeve find her freedom and will Delores reach the same self awareness? Just what is the man in black's end game? Is Elsie Hughes still alive? Westworld continues to thrill and challenge the audience and thank god we'll be getting a second season, even if we'll have to wait until at least 2018...