Westworld: 1.09 The Well-Tempered Clavier
This week's Westworld was a tightly round coil of intrigue and mystery, slowly unravelling to deliver shocks aplenty as revelation after revelation unfolded and long-running plotlines fell into place. There is still a lot of ground to cover in next week's feature-length finale but The Well-Tempered Clavier gave audiences plenty of answers while still ramping up the anticipation for the end of the season.
Few shows have generated as many fan theories in recent times as much as much as Westworld and of the three big ideas, two have come true. One of the humans is actually a host and Ford's mysterious partner Arnold is still alive. Well, after the shocking murder of Theresa Cullen at his hands two weeks ago, Bernard also filled the second quota too - of sorts. Arnold is very much dead and at Delores's hands (as many suspected given her status as the original host), but Bernard is a replica of Arnold too, created by Ford in some god-like belief that he can resurrect and have power over the dead as much as the living.
It seemed inevitable the moment Maeve took control of Bernard in the fantastic opening scene as he uncovered her programming and fell foul of her ability to control the narrative of other hosts. With the aid of a lobotomised Clementine and her wiped parameters he was able to hold Ford at gunpoint and go through a trip back down memory lane to find out who he really was and what he had done. Jeffrey Wright was simply outstanding as he discovered to his horror his actions including the probable murder of Elsie Hughes to cover up Ford's schemes. Though of course Ashley Stubbs went off to find her after her tracker was activated in the park; whether she is alive remains to be seen but he might not be after coming up against a band of host savages who would not halt at his command.
To get to that first memory and the moment he awoke as an artificial version of Arnold, the episode wove into the stories of Maeve, Delores, William, Logan, Teddy and the Man In Black, as Dan Dietz and Kath Lingenfelter's intricate script accelerated their stories while still leaving room for the finale. Logan revelled in the evils of being a violent confederate general, taking out his anger by gutting Delores and revealing her mechanical insides. It was a moment that pushed William over the edge, Jimmi Simpson dispelling the innocent charm of character as he slaughtered the entire army, proclaiming rather sinisterly "You said this place was a game. Last night I found how to play it.". The theories of him being a younger version of Ed Harris's Man in Black took a giant leap forward.
Keen-eyed fans would have noticed that Delores's insides looked very robotic too when Logan cut her open, another suggestion that the version travelling with William might be a host from the park's beginning. It might explain the sudden jump in time as her wounds vanished and she found herself back in the original town where the first massacre took place. It's a place linked intrinsically to Ford's Wyatt narrative but the twist might be that he's revisiting an early one. Both Delores and now Teddy have had visions of killing the citizens of the small town - Teddy remembering a mutiny led by Wyatt that left him shot, before a sudden flash of memory revealed it was men, women and children he shot, not the soldiers Wyatt and he betrayed.
And it was also worth noticing the sudden appearance of Talulah Riley's host Angela, who first introduced William to the park back in episode two, before joining Wyatt's group last week and stabbing Teddy to death here. Her connection to Ed Harris's character goes deep too, a lot of unspoken history noticeable in their interaction; again if he really is William, then Angela would have been the first host he ever encountered. As for him, we continued to get answers about him, as corporate stooge Charlotte Hale rescued him out in the park after he woke to a particularly tense situation where he was tethered to his horse, a noose around his neck. The man in black is on the board and Hale wants him to help oust Ford - except his interests lie on a different path to her hers.
The convergence on the maze was a great journey for both Delores and the audience as she found the secret lift in the confessional booth of the church and travelled down in the bowels of the original facility where the hosts were kept. Flashing between her new outfit and her Alice in Wonderland blue dress (the metaphors continuing to come thick and fast), she found the room where Bernard was questioning her...except is wasn't Benard...but Arnold. The idea that we have been watching multiple time periods seems almost definitive now and I am intrigued to see how all the plot threads tie together in the finale.
Her journey into the facility was pure horror, the dismembered bodies of the hosts littering the ground as she made her way to her old meeting place. There were some fantastic flashes to thirty years ago too, including another CGI'd version of a younger Hopkins as Robert Ford off to spar with his partner Arnold. We also got another version of Ford as Bernard relieved his first memory in a chilling role reversal of the scene where he murdered Theresa as Ford taught him to mimic Arnold and clean his glasses to 'collect himself'.
Even after the revelation that Bernard was a copy of Arnold and Delores had killed him, came the final cruel twist as Bernard realised that he had had this conversation several times. Except this time, Ford wasn't going to allow him to return to normal, taking over Clementine's narrative and Bernard's - his surprise at Bernard's actions being an act all along - and forced Bernard to shoot himself in the head as Ford calmly walked away. It was a powerful scene, with Anthony Hopkins delivering a masterful villainous performance.
And it would be remiss of me not to mention the star of the show Thandie Newton, who had just two but essential scenes. After manipulating Bernard into letting her back into the park, Maeve tracked down the gunslinger Hector Escaton and recruited him to her army. She proved herself by revealing the tragic narrative Hector followed, and changed his fate, delivering the brilliant line "Proposition. I want you to break into Hell with me and rob the Gods blind." On anyone else it might have come across as cheesy but Newton delivered it was such fiery conviction that she left a big grin on my face. Added to this the imagery of her and Hector having sex amid the flames in order to die and reach the facility, she will be a forced to be reckoned with come the finale. If anyone is going to be Ford's downfall, it will surely be her. As for the man in black and Delores, what will their encounter at the church mean for next week?
The Well-Tempered Clavier had plenty of twists as the revelations poured out and interconnected storylines converged in unexpected ways. Did I see some of them coming? Perhaps - but in a show that makes you think and pick apart every detail as Westworld does - there are always going to revelations you see coming. The joy of this episode is that they made a connective sense rather than a disappointment. What's more, these twists have raised plenty of exciting questions for the final episode. Westworld has a huge amount to resolve next week; I suspect the 90-minute finale will be packed with drama to the very end...