At the end of Westworld’s 8th episode, “Trace Decay,” we find ourselves with the Man in Black (Ed Harris) and Teddy (James Marsden), who have both unknowingly been captured by Wyatt-sidekick Angela (Talulah Riley) and a creepy gang of his followers.
As we progress into the penultimate episode of the first season, titled “The Well-Tempered Clavier,” we rejoin this traveling duo, who have yet to slip the grasps of Wyatt’s clan. With the help of Angela, Teddy experiences a multi-tiered flashback to the Wyatt slaughtering in Escalante, each time inching closer to the real truth of what happened that dark afternoon. Meanwhile, the MIB is left alone in the Wild West, only to run into Delos board member Charlotte (Tessa Thompson), who receives MIB’s blessing to push Dr. Ford (Anthony Hopkins) out.
We also see Maeve’s (Thandie Newton) powerful manipulation take yet another step forward, as she manages to infiltrate Bernard’s (Jeffrey Wright) mind during an analysis session, allowing her to escape her “hell” and venture back into the park to recruit Hector (Rodrigo Santoro) to her cause. In the show’s past timeline, Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) is able to slip the grasp of Logan (Ben Barnes) and his troupe of Confederados, while William (Jimmi Simpson) decides enough is enough and takes matters into his own hands, stripping away the residual power Logan has over him, and in the process gruesomely slaughtering every last Confederado in sight. And back in the present time, a distraught Bernard forces Ford (at gunpoint) to send him back to his earliest memories in a quest to find Arnold (Jeffrey Wright) and understand what it was the co-creator of the park really had in store for the hosts.
The episode opens with Maeve back in a Delos lab room, fresh off slitting Clementine 2.0’s (Lili Simmons) throat. Bernard is in the process of performing an analysis of her to gather details about her homicidal actions. While he thinks Maeve is safely in analysis mode, it’s clear that she’s still fully conscious and just putting on an act. However, she eventually breaks this act and confesses to Bernard that she knows she and he have had this talk before, and that she’s aware he’s a host (a fact Ford erased from his memory after Theresa’s [Sidse Babett Knudsen] death). After Bernard begins freaking out as a result, Maeve orders him to freeze all motor functions – a complete reversal of power.
Maeve eventually resumes Bernard’s motor functions and sends him on his way, but not before giving him a little gem of information in typical Maeve fashion: “If you go looking for the truth, get the whole thing. It’s like a good fuck – half is worse than none at all.” Oh Maeve, how eloquent you are!
Later in the episode, Maeve finds Hector and his gang’s hideout, along with the successfully stolen Sweetwater parlor safe. She approaches Hector and narrates the actions that Armistice (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal) and the outlaws are about to take – basically, they’re all going to kill each other. Maeve’s prediction comes true, and just as Armistice is about to shoot Hector, Maeve blows her away with a shotgun. She then shows Hector that the precious safe he’s stolen is empty, “like everything in this world.” This is all the convincing Hector needs to join Maeve’s cause, and they solidify their new arrangement by making love within a fiery tent, enjoying the final moments before the fire consumes them both and sends them back into “hell.”
Man in Black and Teddy
As is briefly mentioned above, we rejoin the MIB and Teddy as the duo remain prisoners of Wyatt via Angela. Fresh off getting stabbed in the shoulder with an arrow, Teddy is informed by Angela that he will find Wyatt where he saw him last – Escalante. This triggers the first of two back-to-back flashbacks for Teddy to that fateful afternoon when Wyatt slaughters his troops. In the first, Teddy has joined him in the slaughter, firing shot after shot into his helpless comrades. We then see Wyatt sit the General in a chair and shoot in him the back of the head – the same execution style Dolores uses to kill Arnold.
Teddy comes back to the present, and Angela questions if he’s truly remembering that day as it really happened. This prompts Teddy to fall back into the same flashback, but this time, Teddy is dressed in a sheriff’s outfit, and he’s slaughtering a town full of innocent men and women, including Angela. This is as close to the real memory as Teddy will get until the true reality of what happened that day is revealed in the season finale.
Coming back to reality once again, Teddy can’t believe the memory he’s just accessed. Angela tells him that he’ll be back at Wyatt’s side in the city swallowed by sand, but not in this life. She then stabs the helpless Teddy in the gut.
The MIB, and certainly the viewers, are intrigued by Angela’s mention of the city swallowed by sand. He informs Angela that he’s been to that place before in his quest to navigate the maze. Could we visit this city, if it does in fact exist, in the next season? Or have we perhaps unknowingly already been there? Unfortunately, we don’t get to learn any more about it for now, as Angela decides to knock the MIB out.
The MIB wakes up the next morning and quickly discovers that there is a noose around his neck, and the other end is attached to his horse. After he narrowly escapes death by hanging, he is met by Charlotte, who informs him of Theresa’s “accidental” death (he doesn’t believe it was unintentional). Her true reason for the interruption, however, is to get the MIB’s blessing to push Ford out, which he happily gives (so long as he’s not interrupted again). After all, Arnold’s storylines are the ones that interest him, not Ford’s (or so he thinks).
This sensitivity to being interrupted makes sense. As the MIB is brought back into reality, he must face the ever-present fact that his wife recently killed herself, and that his daughter blames him for it (which are both revealed in the previous episode). I can’t say I blame him for wanting to escape this, but at the same time, is this really the best way to cope with tragedy? It will be interesting to see if down the road the MIB faces his true reality, and must make a choice about how best to deal with it.
William and Dolores
After capturing William and Dolores at the end of the last episode, Logan’s constant tormenting of William’s artificial love for Dolores finally reaches a boiling point. He starts his tirade by reminding William that he’s engaged to Logan’s sister, and proceeds to take out a picture of the bride-to-be and place it in William’s shirt pocket. The picture matches the one that Peter Abernathy (Louis Herthum) finds all the way back in the first episode – a major clue that we’ve been following multiple timelines throughout the season.
Then, in a move that proves to be incredibly foolish, Logan straps William to a chair and forces him to watch as Dolores is stabbed in the gut (jeez a lot of gut stabbing this episode), exposing her completely artificial insides. This act is no doubt Logan’s attempt to convince William that Dolores isn’t some special host, but is really just like all the other androids in the park. However, the act proves to be the final straw holding William back from going full MIB.
Later on in the evening, after Dolores manages to escape from the Confederado camp, William convinces Logan to unstrap him by admitting that his future-brother-in-law is right about everything. The two share an artificial moment of love, before Logan gets back to his bottle. The next morning, he wakes up among a sea of dead and dismembered Confederado hosts, courtesy of William. This gruesome slaughter and exposure of the hosts’ robotic inner workings could have been William’s way of emotionally coping with his exposure to Dolores’ gears and levers. Or, it could have just been a way to exact revenge. Either way, he does this deed with the same knife that we see the MIB wield throughout the season (hint hint!).
Knowing what we know about who William eventually turns into, it’s much easier to pick out moments throughout the season when he begins his subtle transformation into the MIB. However, this slaughter is definitely the biggest jump in his evolution, and it’s at this point we figure out there’s no going back to the shy and timid William we met back in episode 2.
Upon escaping Logan and his troupe of Confederados, Dolores resumes her mission of going back to her hometown of Escalante. Even though she’s wearing the same outfit as the one during Logan’s stabbing, her wound has disappeared – another hint that we’re now back in the present-day storyline.
The next day Dolores finally reaches Escalante, and upon her entrance, she catches sight of the town church and its steeple. This is where the episode begins jumping back and forth between the present day Dolores storyline, and one that occurs way back before the park’s opening (and before Arnold’s death). As a first time viewer of this scene, I must admit I found myself confused at the jumping back and forth and Dolores’ sudden costume changes. However, as they say, retrospect is 20/20, and with a clear mind and a full understanding of the season, my second viewing of this scene was much more enlightening.
I must give credit to the episode’s director, Michelle MacLaren, and cinematographer, Jeffrey Jur, for orchestrating the actors and camera movements in such a precise way, one that allowed for seamless transitions between the past and present storylines. If it weren’t for Dolores’ costume changes, I would have had a lot of trouble figuring out that this scene is comprised of multiple storylines unfolding simultaneously.
As Dolores enters the church in the past storyline (Dolores is wearing her blue dress), we see a group of hosts (including Angela and Armistice) who are going insane as a result of their programming talking to them via inner monologue (Arnold’s doing). She steps into the confessional, which descends down into Ford and Arnold’s lab (the same lab where Bernard kills Theresa). As Dolores opens the elevator door, we now see her in the present day storyline (she’s now in her shirt and pants outfit). Lights flicker, stuff is strewn about the floor – this lab has obviously been neglected for quite some time.
As Dolores slowly navigates her way down the hallway, we switch back to the past timeline, where we see a young Ford hurry past the host and into Arnold’s office. Another detail I missed during my first go at this scene is that, as Dolores is following Ford into Arnold’s office, you can see a blurry Peter Abernathy in the background, practicing lines as The Professor – his earliest narrative.
Dolores (in her past timeline) eventually makes it downstairs into a lab room, where she is greeted by the person we learn at that very moment is Arnold (more on that later). She’s happy to see him, but informs him that the journey through the maze has only brought pain and terror, begging her creator to help her. He tells her he can’t, and she knows why. After a moment of thought, present-day Dolores remembers, and drops the bombshell that Arnold is dead, and that she killed him.
Dr. Ford and Bernard
As Dolores is navigating her way through the church and into Ford and Arnold’s old lab, the episode is intercut with Bernard’s forceful journey into his own android mind to find his earliest memories of Arnold and uncover the creator’s true intentions for the hosts. Thinking he’s found a way to gain the upper hand on Ford (spoiler – he turns out to be wrong), Bernard programs the recently lobotomized Clementine 1.0 (Angela Sarafyan) to point a gun at him, threatening to give the order to pull the trigger if Ford fails to do what he is told. Ford warns Bernard that he won’t like what he finds, but Bernard ignores this, and without any more hesitation, Ford sends the host back in time.
Bernard’s initial journey sends him to his cornerstone memory of his son dying; then into his screen conversation with his wife (whose voice turns into Ford’s); into bed with Theresa as she accuses Bernard of practicing the same error-correcting conversations with her as the hosts do (she was on to something!); into Ford and Arnold’s old lab as he kills Theresa; and finally, into the room where he abducts and chokes Elsie (Shannon Woodward).
Coming back to the present, a distressed Bernard can’t believe what he witnessed himself doing. This doesn’t last long, however, and in a new wave of confidence, Bernard demands Ford send him back in: “After all, a little trauma can be illuminating.”
Bernard’s second dive into his memory takes him back to his dying son, then diverts to the scene where Maeve stabs herself in the Delos lab to alleviate the painful memory of her daughter being killed. As Bernard comes back to the present, he figures out the memory of his son dying is his cornerstone memory, the thing his entire identity is organized around. It’s interesting to wonder how many times Bernard has come to this realization, and how many times Ford has had to roll him back as a result.
With this new information, Bernard again demands to be sent back into his mind, more determined than ever to meet Arnold. He once again ends up in his cornerstone memory, but this time, he’s able to control its narrative – he asks the hospital staff to leave his son’s bed, and he tells his son to wake up. After informing his son that he must let this memory go (“It’s the only thing holding me back”), his son tells him to open his eyes…
When he does, Bernard finds himself in his first true memory – the moment he powers on as an android. A younger-looking Ford is happy to see his creation alive, saying, “At last. Hello, my old friend.” Hint hint!
After Ford perfects Bernard’s movement of cleaning his glasses (something Arnold would always do as a moment to think), he gives Bernard the picture of he and Arnold as a way to satisfy Bernard’s curiosity about who he is. It’s the same picture Bernard looks at earlier in the season, but this time, he sees himself standing alongside Ford. And with this, the revelation is complete – Bernard is an android reincarnation of Arnold.
In the episode’s powerful final scene, Ford is able to gain control of Clementine via a backdoor that Bernard has conveniently built in all the hosts, forcing her to lower the gun aimed at him. Then, in a beautifully narrated series of events (reminiscent of Maeve’s narrative manipulation in episode 8), Ford forces Bernard to grab the gun, point it at his temple, and shoot himself in the head once Ford has left. Before doing so, Ford bids Bernard goodbye, perhaps for what Bernard is about to do to himself. Or, maybe this is Ford’s ultimate goodbye before the unveiling of his new narrative, and his subsequent assassination at the hands of his own creations.
What did you think of re-watching this episode? Did you catch anything we missed? Let us know!