Eddy Gardiner reviews the eighth episode of Westworld season one…
“Out of repetition comes variation”.
This was a line delivered by Bernard in last week’s episode, but it seems to be taking on more and more meaning with each passing minute in Westworld. The hosts have been repeating themselves day after day, year after year, for our amusement, and finally it looks like they’re ready to variate in the form of some kind of uprising. They’re waking up. They’re improvising. Only, the interesting thing is, that specific line perhaps has more context than its surface suggests. In ‘Trace Decay’, Dr. Ford (Hopkins) suggests that while we humans profess to have a freedom that’s alien to the hosts, in reality we’re just as programmed as them: we tend to stay in closed loops, repeating our daily routines and habits with minimal improvisation. That the real world isn’t really so free.
So who’s really posing the danger here?
After episode 7’s huge and brilliant revelation (I won’t spoil it, just in case), the show has taken on a somewhat capricious nature to answer that question; a Game Of Thrones–esque anyone-can-die unpredictability. This, of course, can only improve drama, and ‘Trace Decay’ wastes no time in toying with our collective theorizing. Particularly intriguing is William’s (Jimmi Simpson) quest alongside Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood). He’s suddenly (but subtly) gravitating towards a darkness; his expressions are deepening and his willingness to help others is deserting him – all alluding to a popular fan theory, though certainly not confirming it.
Meanwhile, The Man In Black (Ed Harris) is spilling his guts to Teddy (James Marsden, who’s had a glimpse of an old life like Dolores and Maeve), and it’s the first time we’ve really seen him exposed. We’re finally given some detail into his life in the real world and why he’s so desperate to find this mysterious, elusive maze. A character that was initially introduced as unapproachable and cold is slowly becoming a relatable enigma.
But it still makes little sense to me why Lutz and Sylvester are conspiring at Maeve’s behest. This subplot, complete with Maeve’s backstory with The Man In Black, is clearly one of the big ones that’s going to lead to the show’s anticipated denouement, but it’s also becoming a slightly irritating one. Why did they listen to her in the first place? Surely they had her at command before increasing her stats? Though I should say it’s not irritating enough to siphon the quality of Thandie Newton’s performance.
Quibble aside, it’s yet another triumph amongst triumphs. Curiously, the show still holds me at a short arm’s length, to the point that I can’t quite fall in love with it, but I’m so intrigued by everything it’s saying. Indeed, it seems that each week yields the most revealing and contemplative episode yet, but in the case of ‘Trace Decay’ that really does seem to be the case.
Eddy Gardiner – Follow me on Twitter