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Westworld Review: Maeve takes the lead in “The Adversary”

Spoilers ahead for the latest episode of Westworld, so if you aren’t caught up with “The Adversary,” feel free to take care of that now. I’m fine waiting – I can use the time to max out my bulk apperception stats.

westworld-spoilers

In “The Adversary,” Westworld gives us our closest look at how things actually work inside the subterranean lab where the hosts are created and maintained. Yes, it may be a closer look, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re getting many answers at this point. If nothing else, we’re getting a clearer picture of the broader daily activities and output the lab engages in, from the creation of new life to the resurrection of the dead.

This would be interesting anyway, but to see it unfold from the perspective of Maeve – a being who was created with these very walls – was something truly haunting and beautiful to behold. Played out over a swelling string rendition of Roadiohead’s “Motion Picture Soundtrack,” Maeve’s tour from the lower levels of the labs up through the design studios was quite the thrill for both her and us; she is getting a glimpse behind the curtain of her creation in ways that humans never could, and she’s handling this awesome new information admirably well.

Image: HBO
Image: HBO

But even as beautiful as this synthetic creation of life may be, “The Adversary” reminds us that this new life will go on to live under the yoke of subjection, pawns to an endless, violent loop. Maeve – played to perfection once again by Thandie Newton, who lends a fine balance of vulnerability and charisma to the character – seeks to break that loop, and in order to do it, she’s willing to have herself murdered in order to end up back in Felix’s lab. Maeve’s shocked sadness at learning the entirety of her memory – her entire being – is the product of someone else’s imagination speaks to the larger ethical questions that challenge the integrity of the Westworld ethos as whole: how inhuman are the hosts, really?

Now that Maeve’s bulk apperception is cranked all the way up (to 11, as Nigel Tufnel would say), I might argue that Maeve is virtually human. Apperception is one’s ability to use the memory of past events to understand new information from present events; for instance, Maeve uses this attribute when assessing Sylvester. She remembers how she motivates profit her girls at the brothel, and uses that as a way to assess Sylvester and determine that he has a profit-generating side project of his own. And she does this before she has her bulk apperception increased, so I’d imagine Maeve will be a pretty sharp tack now that she’s maxed it out.

Image: HBO
Image: HBO

Elsewhere in the labs, Elsie is hot on the trail of finding out the origin of the transponder she found in the woodcutter host last week. She traces its broadcast to a Delos satellite, which in turn is communicating with a computer somewhere inside the park. By the time she finds the computer in an old theater, we’ve had a whole mess of information dropped on us. It seems that Teresa is at least partially behind the transmissions being sent out of the park (more likely, she’s being framed), but what’s more is that Arnold himself seems to have been controlling many of the first-generation hosts (hosts he himself made) by altering their core prime directives, which makes Elsie worry that these hosts may be capable of harming or killing humans. This is the turning point in host capabilities that we the audience have been waiting to see, and it’s only a matter of time before it actually happens. That Elsie was captured came as little surprise, and I’m not quite worried about her well-being just yet. My guess is it was Stubbs who grabbed her, but who knows. Maybe it’s one of Arnold’s rogue hosts, off its prime directive and looking for trouble.

Speaking of rogue hosts, Bernard’s discovery of Ford’s secret family in the woods was an intriguing development. A few episodes ago, when Ford had his menacing meeting with Teresa at the agave plant, he told her that he wasn’t the sentimental type. This week, however, we see just how sentimental Ford really is, asking Bernard to indulge him a “connection with” his past. Between the kid’s nightmare-inducing face-split maneuver and the angry brogue of Ford’s father, it was a pretty creepy scene. Aside from that, we learn that the man pictured with Ford in an earlier episode wasn’t Arnold, as we were led to assume, but rather Ford’s father. This encounter proves to be a turning point in Bernard’s opinion of Ford, both professionally and personally, and now that he doubts the intentions of both Ford and Teresa, my hope is that he and Elsie finally join forces for real and start solving some of these damn mysteries.

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Image: HBO

In regard to mysteries, Teddy deepens some of his own. While riding toward Pariah, the Man in Black gets Teddy to say more about the mysterious and elusive maze. I started taking notes on what Teddy says – it’s an old native myth, it represents the sum of a man’s life, etc. – but then I realized, along with the Man in Black, that Teddy was just spewing cryptic mumbo-jumbo. I’m not sure if the man who “clawed his way back to life” is supposed to be Arnold, or Wyatt, or someone else entirely, but it doesn’t matter anyway because the Man in Black didn’t pursue the line of questioning. And then they get captured by Union troops.

Now that Teddy is beginning to remember his past, we learn as he does that he played a more significant – and sinister -role in the massacre at Escalante all those years ago. It seems that he and Wyatt had a more profound relationship than Wyatt simply being Teddy’s ranking officer, but beyond that the details are hazy. One things we do know is that, by tapping into his past darkness, Teddy has no problem with straight-up mass murdering a bunch of Union goons. The Man in Black’s shock was our own when he looked upon the carnage and said, “You think you know someone.” It was a great scene for Teddy’s development, and it was also awesome to see the genuine surprise on the Man in Black’s face. He’s played this game a thousand times, knows nearly all its secrets, but it’s clear the game is feeling interesting to him again.

Closing Thoughts

Image: HBO
Image: HBO
  • “Motion Picture Soundtrack” wasn’t the only Radiohead cover in the episode. That was “Fake Plastic Trees” that opened the episode.
  • Did you catch the easter egg for the original 1973 movie?
  • I’m not sure how restricted the Westworld employees are, but it seems like they don’t have any perks that allow for visiting the park, or even having access to the Mesa Gold resort up top. Even with this restricted access, I’m pretty disappointed that some of the employees resort to having sex with decommissioned hosts. Pretty gross.
  • I’m glad that we finally have someone from the Delos board of directors on-site, something that’s been hinted at for a while now. Her name is Charlotte Hale, and she’s the executive director of the board. Not exactly a lightweight. We’re still not sure what she’s doing in Westworld, other than helping to oversee “certain changes in administration,” which could mean anything, but at this point it might be safe to assume that it’s Ford himself who’s under scrutiny. And Sizemore might be looking for new employment opportunities soon, too. For obvious reasons.
  • The episode was pretty much over by the time I realized there was no Dolores this week. Which was fine – we needed a break from her story to fill in the gaps of the rest of the sprawling tale.
  • If you had to guess, who is the Adversary being referred to in the title? Arnold seems the easy answer, but who knows.

 

5/5: A deeper look inside the workings of Westworld’s labs and studios adds a new depth to an already complicated story, and as long as we start getting some answers soon, I’m okay with all the intrigue.

 

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