Analysis: Westworld Season 2 Episode 7 Recap, “Les Écorchés”

Ford and Bernard Westworld

”To see a World in a Grain of Sand/And a Heaven in a Wild Flower/Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand/And Eternity in an hour.”

Those are the first words we hear Dr. Robert Ford speak to Bernard in Sunday night’s episode. It is a stanza from the William Blake poem “The Auguries of Innocence” – a work which condemns mankind’s mistreatment and oppression of nature, animals and people. It also warns of the catastrophic consequences which will certainly follow. It’s an appropriate parallel to the atrocities Delos has committed in pursuit of “eternity” and the consequences they will endure for their actions.

We got a taste of those consequences in “Les Écorchés,” as Dolores led an attack on the Mesa Hub which ended in the destruction of the Cradle and Dolores stealing Peter Abernathy’s control unit. It was an action packed episode that accelerated the story toward the end game, yet still left us wondering: who will ultimately win, and at what cost?

Current Time (Strand’s Team)

Charlotte Hale Westworld

Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) confides in Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) about Delos’ true motivations for sending the security team – they aren’t there to rescue anyone but to secure their assets. He and Bernard are both aware of what they are really after, and Stubbs is concerned Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) will eliminate anyone who knows too much. He wants to try and reach the satellite communications system in Theresa’s old office to call for help, but his plan is thwarted by Strand (Gustaf Skarsgård) who escorts them outside at gunpoint. Stubbs thinks he is planning to execute them, but Strand explains they have something he needs – a key.

He takes the men to Ford’s (Anthony Hopkins) cottage and the secret underground lab where Theresa was murdered in season one. Charlotte is there, and she and Strand believe either Stubbs or Bernard knew about the secret project all along and were planning to sell it to the highest bidder. One of them lured Theresa to the cottage and killed her to protect himself. Before they can get a confession out of them, one of Strand’s men finds a hidden door which eventually leads them to a room full of Bernard host bodies.

Now that Charlotte knows Bernard is a host, she puts him in Analysis mode and proceeds to question and torture him to get the information she needs. She demands to know what happened during Dolores’ (Evan Rachel Wood) attack on the Mesa – she knows he was there. Bernard claims not to remember anything, but Charlotte insists he can access those memories. They will tell each other what they saw during the attack and find out what Dolores did with Peter Abernathy’s (Louis Herthum) control unit – the “key” Strand referenced earlier.

Mesa Attack, Part 1 (Coughlin’s Team)

Stubbs Hale and Abernathy Westworld

We skip back in time to a few days earlier, where Dolores and her gang are on their way to the Mesa Hub (directly after the end of last week’s episode). Stubbs enters the room where Charlotte is keeping Abernathy. He tells her and Coughlin (Timothy V. Murphy) that the train crash wasn’t an accident – it was the hosts. They have lost contact with the response team and need to evacuate now. Hale refuses to leave until she has what she needs from Abernathy and sends backup for the response team to the lower levels. Coughlin orders Stubbs to establish a perimeter to “protect our crown jewel.”

Coughlin heads to the control room where surveillance is still down. A tech activates the security team’s haptic vests – which seem to vibrate when hosts are within 30 feet – to alert them to danger and give them “eyes in the dark.” We then see this at work when the security team, headed by the cocky and hyper-aggressive Engels (Ronnie Gene Blevins), has no problem locating and gunning down hosts. They then find a pile of dead, naked bodies and realize they are what’s left of the response team – just before the hosts (now dressed in the response team’s clothing) ambush them and gun them down in short order. Engels, however, manages to escape.

Stubbs hears the carnage over the radio and again suggests they need to leave. Charlotte tells the tech to cut open Abernathy and copy over the data, and Stubbs demands to know what is so important. Before he can get an answer, he hears that the hosts are massing on the lower levels and suspects they are headed to the Cradle to retrieve their backups. He tell Coughlin to intercept them. Meanwhile, Elsie (Shannon Woodward) has overheard the message as well and hopes Bernard hurries up, wondering what he has found in the Cradle.

Bernard and Ford

Ford and Bernard Westworld

Inside the Cradle, Bernard asks how Ford is alive. Ford explains that James Delos (Peter Mullan) wouldn’t have spent all that money just to resurrect himself, and Bernard realizes that the control unit he printed was for Ford. Ford takes him out into the streets of Sweetwater and asks him why the hosts’ stories haven’t changed for 30 years. Bernard thought it was to keep the hosts centered, but he slowly realizes the park is one giant experiment – the hosts act as controls, and the guests are the variables. Delos has been collecting information on guests to better understand them and to copy their minds. Humans have been playing at resurrection; they don’t want hosts to be more human, they want humans to be more like hosts.

Ford tells Bernard that the hosts gaining free will was just a mistake, and Bernard replies that they never had free will – Ford made Dolores kill him. He denies this, saying he knew what she would choose to do but didn’t force her into it. Bernard says Ford has cheated death, but Ford admits that Delos never had a successful outcome. Once they put a copied mind in a body it degrades or goes mad, which is why Ford had himself uploaded to the Cradle instead. Ford says he promised Bernard a fighting chance and wants to make good on it. Bernard wants to know why all the hosts are going to the same place – the Valley Beyond – but Ford want him to discover it on his own.

Ford then takes Bernard to a replica of the house Arnold was building for his family on the mainland. The house is where Ford created Bernard, and where he and Dolores refined and tested him for many years. Since the Delos project didn’t exist when Arnold died, Ford had to use his and Dolores’ own memories to replicate him. Dolores’ memories were much more complete, so Ford used her to test Bernard/Arnold/Bernarnold for fidelity until he finally fooled her. Bernard is different from James Delos and Ford, because he is not merely a faithful self portrait of “the most murderous species since time began,” but an original work. He isn’t an exact copy of Arnold’s mind; he has his personality and memories, but he is more than the sum of his parts.

Ford insists that Bernard and the other hosts are more just and noble than humans, but humans will destroy them unless Ford and Bernard “open the door.” Unfortunately Ford doesn’t believe Bernard will survive that long. Bernard argues that Ford gave them free will so they could determine their own fates, but Ford counters that he won’t have any use for it unless Ford takes it back. When the pearl (Ford’s control unit) comes back up out of the Cradle, it’s no longer red but a combination of red and the gray of Bernard’s pearl. The pearl is placed into Bernard’s head, and Fernarnold is born (I made a good call on this last week).

Mesa Attack, Part 2

Stubbs Westworld

With Ford now out of the Cradle, all systems come back online. Elsie congratulates Bernard on succeeding and tells him they need to go, as the hosts are headed to Cradle for their backups. Upstairs, Stubbs tells Charlotte they need to evacuate and demands to know what is so important Delos is risking all their lives. When she responds that it’s above his pay grade, Stubbs finally stands up for himself, holds a gun to Abernathy’s head and says, “I’m putting in for a raise.” Charlotte is forced to reveal there is a decryption key inside, which they need in the event of a catastrophic incident (so, pretty much right now).

Before Stubbs can find out what the key decrypts, Dolores and Teddy (James Marsden) arrive. Dolores comforts her father while Charlotte tries to appease her, telling her the hosts have achieved a technological breakthrough and the world will celebrate it. Dolores is clearly not buying her BS; she realizes Charlotte is in charge here and wants to know how to extract the key from her father’s head. Charlotte says Dolores wouldn’t know what to do with it, but Dolores assures her she does.

Meanwhile, Bernard is acting strangely which concerns Elsie. Ford (in Bernard’s mind) tells him to send her away, so Bernard explains that they need a vehicle to get to a hidden facility in the Valley Beyond. That’s the end of Ford’s narrative, and they have to get there before the other hosts and the humans do. Elsie goes, but tells Bernard they need more firepower. Ford says to follow his lead. Elsewhere, Coughlin’s team heads to the lab to help Charlotte, but Clementine (Angela Sarafyan) and Angela (Talulah Riley) inflict heavy casualties. An injured Angela leaves the scene, but Engels manages to kill Clementine and escape – again (and by this point we can’t wait to see him die).

Back upstairs, Dolores reveals to Charlotte that she knows what Delos has been trying to do with their secret project, but that their  “chances at eternity will die in that valley with all the souls you’ve gathered there.” She again demands to know how to extract the key from her father and Charlotte says she must take it out of his brain. Charlotte then says the hosts aren’t invincible without the backups that are sealed up in the Cradle. Dolores replies that the backups are only chains – Delos uses them to rebuild and reprogram hosts for their own sick purposes.

Angela Westworld

Speaking of those backups, Engels makes it to the Cradle and finds Angela there – wounded and bleeding. He tells her to put her gun down, and she complies. He gives her credit for making it this far but says she won’t be leaving with any of the backups. She turns around and proceeds to manipulate him with her beauty, getting closer and closer and pushing away his weapon. Angela is in bad shape, but she can still do “what you built me to do.” As she kisses him, she confesses her key drive is to always leave them wanting more. She pulls the pin on his grenade and tells him “Welcome to Westworld” as the Cradle explodes. RIP Angela.

Dolores hears the blast and tells Charlotte that the hosts are now truly free, as she heads toward her with a bone saw. Gunfire erupts nearby, so Dolores sends Teddy to handle it. Just before Dolores cuts into Charlotte’s head, Abernathy comes to his senses and recognizes Dolores. She leaves Charlotte and goes to him. While she is distracted by her father and her host guard watches Teddy’s ruthless massacre of Coughlin and his team, Stubbs takes advantage of the diversion to escape the lab with Charlotte. Dolores doesn’t have time to pursue them – her priority is extracting the key. She has a beautiful moment with her father, who is suffering and seems to be aware of what she must do. They profess their love for each other as she prepares to remove his control unit.

William and Maeve

Maeve Westworld

While the attack on the Mesa is in full swing, Ghost Nation drives William (Ed Harris) and his gang towards Maeve’s (Thandie Newton) old homestead. Maeve takes cover inside with her daughter. The girl is scared of being taken, but Maeve promises to find her if that happens. When William walks to the door, Maeve flashes back to his attack a year ago and tells him to get away. William thinks Maeve is just another part of Ford’s game, and that she’s just like the rest of the hosts. Maeve begs to differ and shoots him in the shoulder. As he stumbles out the door, Maeve pursues him, promising to come back for her daughter.

Maeve communicates to the nearby hosts with her new powers, and they open fire on William. He is wounded twice more but is able to shoot both hosts. He is completely confused about what’s happening, telling Ford he has made his point, and that he’s not meant to die here. Maeve’s response is perfect, as she says “I don’t give a fuck how you die, as long as I get to watch.” Another host grabs William from behind, but he kills that one as well. Maeve decides to take matters into her own hands and levels a gun at William, but Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr.) comes to his aid. Maeve tries to command him, but Lawrence is too awake for her tricks. She then implores Lawrence to search his memories; surely William has taken something from him and owes a debt.

Lawrence remembers William’s treatment of him in the past, as well as the murder of his wife. William reminds Lawrence that he saved his wife this time, but Lawrence counters that William killed her for a game and told Lawrence “a man ain’t real until he suffers.” William goes for his gun but Lawrence shoots him first. At that moment, Sizemore’s (Simon Quarterman) cavalry arrives and shoots both Lawrence and Maeve, as Maeve’s daughter is grabbed by Ghost Nation. Sizemore (to his credit) stops the security team from finishing Maeve off, insisting she is different and they need her. They load her into a vehicle and drive off, as a critically injured William looks on.

Mesa Attack, Part 3

Ford Westworld

Sizemore and his security team arrive at the Mesa and unload Maeve onto a stretcher. Before she can be taken for repairs, the intercom announces that the control room has been breached and the security team heads upstairs – much to Sizemore’s dismay. He then hears someone coming, so he hides as Dolores and company appear. Dolores approaches Maeve, wondering how she ended up like this. Maeve mentions her daughter, and Dolores tries to convince her that their programmed loved ones are just “another lash to hold us with.”

Maeve looks over at Evil Teddy, asks if that’s how Dolores justifies what she’s done to him, and tells her that she is “lost in the dark.” Dolores looks down at her father’s control unit and replies, “When you’re lost in dark long enough you begin to see.” Dolores knows what the future holds and what kind of person she needs to be in order to survive. Dolores then offers to kill Maeve before she can be used and tortured by Delos. Maeve isn’t ready to die – she made a promise. Dolores surprisingly tells her she is free to choose her own path (perhaps a small turning point for Dolores?), but she is sorry to see it end here. She leaves with her men, and Sizemore breathes a sigh of relief.

Meanwhile – outside the control room – Ford discusses the burning of the Library of Alexandria. He insists the stories inside didn’t die but became new stories, of the fire itself and “of man’s urge to take a thing of beauty and strike the match.” As Bernard watches the massacre in the control room, he asks, “Is this the story you’re telling?” Ford explains it’s not his story any longer, but Bernard’s. Bernard contemplates shutting down the park’s systems, knowing that if he does Dolores will be unstoppable in her destruction of the humans. “The passage from one world to the next requires bold steps,” Ford tells him. Bernard starts the shutdown and smashes the screen.

Bernard is stopped by security as he attempts to make his way out of the Mesa. He tries to negotiate with the men, but Ford orders him to pick up a gun. Bernard protests, insisting he doesn’t want to kill anyone. Ford has no qualms about using Bernard to do his dirty work, and he says he will do his best to ease Bernard’s conscience before taking over Bernard’s mind. Bernard grabs the gun and proceeds to mow the men down.

Current Time

Bernard and Hale Westworld

We see Bernard’s overlapping memories again in a series of flashbacks. Charlotte explains that it’s confusing to separate real memories from programmed ones, but it’s necessary in order to remember and find the truth. Castro (Fares Fares) is monitoring his cognition on a tablet – which shows heavy fragmentation – and reveals that Bernard’s system is “under siege” and appears to be querying itself in an effort to “debug his own head.”

Charlotte asks Bernard for the location of Abernathy’s control unit, which he gives her. She calls in the rest of the team, asking him to repeat it, but he begins to question their motivations for finding it. She puts him back in Analysis mode, and he reveals the control unit is in sector 16, zone 4 – the same area where the drowned hosts were found. Strand remarks that as soon as they get the key, they will transmit the data to the satellite. He then tells Bernard it’s time to go back to the Valley Beyond.

Conclusions and Speculation

Maeve and Daughter Westworld

Ford has a serious God complex – he says they hosts are free, but he is still directing their actions. Ford and Dolores seem to have the same mindset; that free will doesn’t mean much if you don’t survive to enjoy it. While not wrong, it does bring up questions about whether the ends justify the means – especially if those means make you become just like the monsters you are fighting. Maeve is less willing to embrace this tactic, but which way is best? She is certainly in a much more precarious position than Dolores at the moment. I suspect they will each learn from the other and will forge a path somewhere in between.

That said, while Dolores may achieve her goal of escaping the park I think it’s doubtful Maeve will have a future with her daughter. Not only would it involve either forcing her away from her current mother and/or altering her programming to make her choose Maeve, hosts aren’t supposed to age. Keeping a child with Maeve is impractical given the child actor will grow and mature – not something they can combat over several seasons.

Dolores Mesa Westworld

All of the hosts seem to be heading to the Valley Beyond, which likely houses an enormous server with all the guest data (perhaps even secondary host backups) – but could it contain host bodies as well? I’ve speculated about this before, but new bodies would aid Dolores and company in escaping the park and would explain why a third of the recovered “drowned” hosts had new, unused control units. Dolores could have swapped them out for their real units to cover her tracks.

Dolores is also planning to destroy Delos’ plans for immortality, which I’ve long suspected. I’m curious if Ford has implanted this knowledge in her head (knowing what she would do with it), or if she has discovered it through accessing all her memories. We know that the humans treated hosts as objects and were overconfident in their ability to erase anything they didn’t want stored in their minds. It’s possible she overheard quite a bit of secret information over the decades.

Finally, I find it incredibly hard to believe Charlotte was actually able to control Fernarnold and analyze him. We’ve seen humans’ voice commands failing to work on the freed hosts all season. Why would she be able to do it now – especially with a fairly advanced “woke” host, who also happens to have the consciousness of master manipulator Ford inside his head? Charlotte may think she’s won, but I have a feeling Ford is leading her and Strand’s team into a trap. I suggested as much after the season premiere – although I thought Dolores was behind it rather than Ford (or maybe it’s both?). Perhaps Dolores is right – Charlotte will die in that Valley, along with the rest of the humans.

Random Observations

  • Why is Stubbs still with Charlotte and Delos after the Mesa attack? I suppose he has nowhere else to go at the moment, but at least he isn’t actively helping them.
  • The body Ford was making in his secret lab back in season one is now gone. The showrunners said it was just there to make the scene more ominous and wasn’t important, but of course they wouldn’t lie to us… I still like the idea that Ford will confront William with a younger, host version of himself before the game is over.
  • The torture options shown on Costa’s tablet were pretty heinous: crushing, dental torture, disembowelment, dismemberment, psychological torture, and scalping to name a few. It makes me hate the humans even more.
  • I’m concerned that we don’t see Elsie in the current Strand timeframe. Is she dead? If she and Fernarnold are heading to the Valley Beyond, perhaps she will captured by Dolores and made to assist their escape. Hopefully we will see her again when Strand’s team returns to the Valley.
  • It’s interesting how Ford seems to stand in for the showrunners and Bernard for the audience while they are in the Cradle. “Isn’t the pleasure of a story in discovering the end yourself?” they tells us as we are dying for answers. Clever.
  • Will Ford’s mind degrade now that it is in Bernard’s body? Will it even be possible to extract it from Bernard’s control unit if it does?
  • It seems Ford is forcing William to revisit his past sins and make different choices this time; will that include Dolores? They are both headed to the Valley Beyond, so it seems likely they will have a reckoning.
  • William is in dire straits, and it’s a miracle he’s even still alive – or is it? I hate the theory that old William is a host, but it seems suspicious for him to take all those hits and survive. We know their technology for healing wounds is pretty advanced, so maybe William is just extremely tough and someone will find him in time.
  • Dolores is much more likable this week – maybe it’s because I’m so annoyed with Charlotte and Delos and enjoyed watching her take them down. Plus it’s always nice to see her with her father and show real emotion again.
  • I hope this isn’t the end of Peter Abernathy, but if so it was a beautiful send off.
  • There were other prominent host deaths that may be permanent: Angela (almost surely gone for good), Clementine, and Lawrence. For the latter two, their control units should still be intact, but will anyone bring them back online? It seems doubtful at the moment.

 

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