Eddy Gardiner reviews the sixth episode of Westworld….
As Westworld enters the second half of its increasingly excellent debut season, it looks like things are finally beginning to stir up a little faster in one of the more revealing episodes so far.
Not that the show has been dull up to now, of course – it’s been quietly engaging, curious and intelligent science fiction, reminding me often (with its elegant writing rather than thematically) of True Detective’s superlative first season which built engagement almost solely through character. But it’s been without any tangibly “wow” moments. The kind of explosive plot turns we generally expect in TV drama these days (not that they’re essential, of course). In ‘The Adversary’, it’s the first time Westworld has left us something resembling an actual cliffhanger.
Thandie Newton’s performance as Maeve, a host who’s gradually discovering her reality, origin and general existence, continues to be one of the most impressive things in an impressive show. In this episode particularly, she absolutely nails the shifting “human” to robotic emotions inherent in playing an AI (if emotion is the right word). She’s so good, in fact, that I’m never far from believing that she is actually artificial. It’s really great to see her character becoming one of the show’s focal points after the pilot cast a few doubts regarding her screen time.
Although, unless I completely missed something, this week’s episode confused me slightly as to why Lutz, one of the few Livestock Management employees who doesn’t seem to be a jerk or have sexual relations with the bots, pressed on with showing Maeve the behind-the-scenes of the complex and telling her everything about where she comes from. Can’t he just shut her down or erase her memory? Yes, he stole a coding console specifically to experiment in private (hence the little bird), but when one of the hosts is telling you to significantly (and potentially dangerously) increase her knowledge capacity, it may be time to hit the breaks. Perhaps he just enjoyed seeing her stick a knife to Sylvester’s throat – I know I did.
Part of me also can’t help but feel that the sequence with Maeve walking through the facility would have had (even) more of an impact had it been the first time the audience had seen it too. But that’s nitpicking – getting 6 episodes in without showing us where the robots come from would require some serious storytelling wizardry, even by a Nolan’s standard. And it’s still an excellent sequence, set to a beautiful string composition of Radiohead’s ‘Motion Picture Soundtrack’. Newton’s expressions are heartbreaking.
Meanwhile, inside the park The Man In Black and Teddy continue on their quest to find the elusive maze – only here their roles appear to switch, if only fleetingly. Upon being captured and (almost) branded by a Union outpost Teddy betrayed in an old storyline, The Man In Black watches on while Teddy rips free of his bonds and proceeds to slaughter the entire platoon. Whether this is something that’s been written into his code, or he’s expressing more free will in a genuine quest to find Dolores, we just don’t know. Though I suspect, like the increasing uncertainty all around the park, he’s beginning to stray off-script.
There are further revelations into Dr. Ford’s ambiguous intentions, with Bernard discovering an unregistered host family living in the park who don’t respond to his commands (dangerous territory). Then there’s Bernard’s right-hand-girl Elise, who’s been given a few problems by an unknown assailant (that’s the cliffhanger). Overall, ‘The Adversary’ is another mighty strong episode. With all the theory’s flying around the internet it’s hard not to get caught up in trying to figure everything out at once, but personally I’m enjoying the clever, methodical build-up to what’s sure to be an exciting payoff.
Eddy Gardiner – Follow me on Twitter