Westworld: 1.06 The Adversary
There was no Delores, William or Logan this week but it didn't matter as the focus was all on Thandie Newton's Maeve Millay and it was magnificent. Along with Delores, we have seen Maeve grow in her journey towards self awareness over the course of the season and The Adversary took that path in an intriguing new direction as she began to exert some control over the people who control her. In the opening scene she forced her 'guest' to strangle her to death mid-sex, forcing herself to wake up on the table in Felix Lutz's lab and picking up where she left up in last week's cliffhanger.
I've always considered Newton to be good actress but never an amazing one, but this episode changed my mind and if she isn't in the running for an award or two after season one of Westworld I will be very surprised. She stole every scene she was in, whether it was her seduction of Felix, rubbing his hand gently as she coaxed out the secrets of the park or held a scalpel to Felix's surprised colleague Sylvester. There were some great dialogue and the suggestion that her artificial brain is even more powerful than Felix's natural one set the stage for a great uprising further down the line. Even naked, she quietly commanded every conversation and upon learning how her personality settings worked, took control of her own destiny by upping her own intelligence to genius levels while drastically reducing her compliance to her masters. I can't wait to see what powerplay she makes and the havoc she will surely wreak when she is back in the park.
But the best scene of the episode was Felix walking her through the levels of command centre; not a word was spoken but the emotional, gut wrenching reaction from Maeve said it all. The episode had already made great use of Radiohead's Fake Plastic Trees on the piano in the opening sequence (an apt song title if ever there was one), but it was the use of Radiohead's Motion Picture Soundtrack that blew me away, adding an emotive punch to the scene. She wandered past the bloody remains of decapitated hosts, saw the artificial cattle and horses, the paint being pumped into the white skeletal host; Maeve also found herself confronted with her 'memory' that of her daughter from a previous storyline on the video advertisement for Westworld playing on the large screen wall. Her whole existence became terrifying clear and she will surely use that knowledge to her advantage, shaping a destiny not scripted by her human makers.
After two heavy-Western episodes, the evolving narrative this week focused on Ed Harris's man in black and James Marsden's Teddy who were given small but significant roles. Tracking Delores outside Pariah they realised they would have to fight their way across the border. After their attempts to disguise themselves as soldiers failed, we saw a new Teddy - one that even impressed the main in black - as he broke free of his bonds and gunned down the soldiers in spectacular style. This isn't the lovesick guest we saw back in the pilot, but a man weathered by his experiences with new villain Wyatt and forced to go to great lengths to try and save the woman he loves. It is a great role for Marsden, playing two versions of the same character in just a handful of episodes, but such is the richness of Westworld that all the characters and performances are of a high standard.
Except perhaps Simon Quarterman's narrator Lee Sizemore, last seen humiliated by Ford in the second episode. His performance sticks out like a sore thumb, an angry, loud, overly British voice of descent, raging against his bosses. It's not that Sizemore is a bad actor, more that his character's actions feel out of place among all the subtleties at play. Sidse Babett Knudsen's Theresa Cullen recruited him to upset Ford's plans, though his drunken antics, pissing against the glass wall in front of his colleagues failed to impress...particularly Tessa Thompson as executive director of board Charlotte Hale. I failed to see what Cullen could get from him, but perhaps bringing him back in was a desperate act on her part after being threatened by Ford a couple of episodes' earlier. She was quick to end her relationship with Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) for fear of undermining her position and we later learned that she was playing a bigger game, sending a signal outside the park, potentially committing industrial espionage.
This is where things got really interesting; Shannon Woodward's Elsie Hughes continued her investigation into the mysterious signals being transmitted into the older hosts, a voice other than Ford's. I've suspected that his partner Arnold might be alive for a short time now and Hughes believed it too as she stumbled across the mysterious device in the old abandoned theatre before she was attacked. Is she alive? Is it Arnold? And is he someone we've met? The tension is rising as we head towards the final four episodes.
As for Lowe, he delved deep into his investigation into Ford too, stumbling across the house filled with a family of hosts, including the young boy (Oliver Bell) who has been a presence in several episodes. It turns the hosts are a recreation of Ford's own family, including his brother that died in childhood and his drunk of a father. There was a couple of really cool references to the 1973 film, with what looked like Yul Brenner's decommissioned host behind some plastic sheeting and the boy's face opening up like the old style robots. Ford too learned that the boy was hearing a voice other than his own, suggesting again that his old partner is not as dead as he was led to believe.
The behind the scenes politics really came to the fore in The Adversary as Ford, Lowe and Hughes began to uncover the clues of another controlling force in the park while Cullen's true allegiances became suspect. With the exception of Simon Quarterman, every performance was mesmerising, none more so than Thandie Newton who stole the show as Maeve becoming aware of the real world and her creators. Things are starting to fall into place, even if there is potentially years of material still to explore. If things continue at this consistent pace, Westworld season one could be very special indeed.