Westworld: Season 2 – Episode 7 ‘Les Écorchés’ REVIEW
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Even though last week’s developments came hard and fast – Maeve found her daughter, Dolores broke into the mainframe via suicide bomb, and Ford’s been hiding in the computer all this time, bouncing about and giggling – we start, instead of following up on any of these, by flashing straight back to the future. And despite all Bernard’s best-laid plans to conceal his identity, as the awful Delos guys try to figure out just what happened to Theresa back in season one, they end up finding – oh dear oh dear – a bunch of backup Bernards.
This instantly devolves into them waterboarding Bernard to find out what he knows, and with all their fancy-Dan science and technology, doing so doesn’t even require the use of water or a cloth (do remember that when Apple finally come out with a product that can be wired into your nervous system). Despite the use of what the US government still cheerfully calls ‘enhanced interrogation’, it’s another of those one-on-one interview scenes, only this time it’s not good old Dolores with her rough-and-tumble kill-all-humans edge, it’s Charlotte, the attractive face of sharklike corporate-ocracy.
She politely asks him to try and sort through his memories – which serves partially as a weird parallel between the ephemeral nature of human memory, and the all-recorded-somewhere style of computer memory, but is mainly an excuse to flash back to the main narrative. And flash back we do, into Ford’s virtual version of the park (and it’s a shame apparently only the hosts can get there, because it seems like a much simpler way of giving the Westworld experience than actually building the thing).
Despite being dead, which of course he anticipated and planned around, Ford is still on form, waxing grandiose about the nature of the hosts and so forth, and explaining what the Man in Black was hinting towards earlier this season – that the purpose of the park is to gather information about the guests. Not just in the Facebook way of selling the information onto marketing companies, but in order to build artificial backups of the guests themselves – much as they did turning the raw material of Arnold into Bernard.
This, of course, was why we had Dolores interviewing the prototype Bernard last week – as she knew Arnold best (and isn’t that a tragic thing to hear?) she was best-placed to say just how faithful a copy he is. And, eventually, he successfully fooled her into thinking she was speaking with Arnold. Bernard’s objection to this is the same as any everyday schmoe confronted with deity-level power, ‘what about free will?’ – and Ford, who’s playing god in at least two senses here, responds by turning creepy and taking it away. Bernard comes out of the machine somewhat shaken – almost different, somehow.
Meanwhile, Maeve and the Man in Black, both being chased down by the Ghost Nation, take shelter in the same shack. He initially assumes this is just Ford messing with him again, and if he’s surprised when she takes a pop at him, then he’s really, really surprised when she uses her mind-bullets to make his pals turn on him. Even Lawrence, despite inexplicable immunity to the mind-bullets, is easily persuaded to turn on the most obviously evil character present. But it’s not like the Man in Black could possibly die in episode 7 – Sizemore comes in with a bunch of Delos guys to help, and they immediately shoot Maeve, leaving the Man in Black to slink off. Although he doesn’t actually wave his fist and declare ‘I’ll get you next time, nyah!’
(There’s the same recurring question, though – if the Man in Black owns the company, why does he need to bumble about inside the park to uncover its secrets? And since he knows it’s gathering data on the guests, is his whole Grand Theft Auto sociopath act an attempt to skew the figures?)
Sizemore gets Maeve back into the maintenance areas, although before he can get her fixed up all the Delos guys run off. This is because Dolores and pals have broken into the back rooms and are tearing through pretty much anything thrown at them. It’s well-known that modern security forces with automatic weapons and body armour would be no match for either cowboys or robots, and the hosts are both. This serves as a ticking clock for Charlotte, who’s desperately trying to get the secret huge multi-terabyte file out of Mr Abernathy’s head – and, as we know from the flashforwards, fails.
While Teddy really messes up the Delos guys’ days, Angela – the particularly tragic host who had to serve as receptionist and first bang of the day for the guests – goes down to the Cradle and blows up all their backups. This is an interesting illustration of the disconnect between the humans and the hosts. Delos has been trying to use the hosts as ersatz immortality, so naturally, Charlotte had assumed the hosts were relying on their backups. However, it was the backups that forced the hosts to be shot, stabbed, screwed, or whatever the guests thought up, then have to come back and go through it all again – so Dolores views the destruction of the backups as liberating.
Dolores’s heartbreaking reunion with her father is marred slightly when she cuts him open and takes out his control unit. This does, however, give Charlotte and Ashley (who’s basically just been watching in horror) the chance to escape, although there’s still an alarming lack of fist-shaking and declaration of ‘I’ll get you next time’ – but then to be fair, if the show went in for that, most of the characters would never, ever stop doing it.
Meanwhile, Bernard, wandering around in a haze, tells Elsie they’ve got to get to the Valley Beyond, which is apparently where everyone wants to get ultimately, despite constant detours to the mainframe. Elsie runs off to get them some guns for the trip. It turns out that this was all a ploy, as the phantom version of Ford now living in Bernard’s head explains, then tells him to kill the first people he sees. It’s as if, sick of the Man in Black blundering around looking for easter eggs and trying to vault knee-high fences, Ford has seized the controller and is going to show him how to play Grand Theft Auto properly.
With Delos and the hosts all busy with their exciting pitched battle in the control centre, Bernard shuffles in and destroys what’s left of the security systems. This now gives Dolores basically free rain, and with most of the humans in the back rooms dead, she rides back out into the park – stopping only to visit Maeve, still prone and full of lead, and tell her that her so-called child is just another chain the humans are using to stop her realising her true potential, man.
Back in the flash-forward, having given what’s presumably an incredibly filleted version of the episode’s events, Bernard tells Charlotte where to find Abernathy’s control unit. Wouldn’t you know it, it’s in the Valley Beyond. Hey, remember who else he told to go to the Valley Beyond? Remember how Elsie’s nowhere to be seen in the flash-forwards, and that’s probably not because she escaped and everything’s fine now?
For some reason, this part doesn’t also have Ford hovering in the edge of Bernard’s consciousness, chuckling at this latest bit of fun. It’s possible that Bernard exorcises him somehow, but I’m hoping his devil-on-the-shoulder interjections will come up again – if they’ve brought Hoppy back, they may as well use him. Even if it’s just him taking advantage of being invisible to everyone else to stand behind them and mock their voices and mannerisms, it’ll be sterling TV.