REVIEW: Westworld – “Phase Space”

westworld-review

The following is a spoiler-filled recap and review of the sixth episode of Westworld: Season Two – Developed by Jonathan Nolan & Lisa Joy

In the sixth episode of the second season of Westworld (“Phase Space”), Maeve (played by Thandie Newton) leaves Shogun World to find her daughter, Dolores (played by Evan Rachel Wood) struggles with the newly rewritten Teddy (played by James Marsden), and Bernard (played by Jeffrey Wright) explores the Cradle.

After last week’s truly excellent exploration of Shogun World, this week’s episode caught up with all of the central characters for what is mostly a catch-up episode that sets up future conflict. As such, it works better as a part of the entire season than as a standalone episode. Unfortunately, that means that “Phase Space” ends the wonderful run of top-notch episodes that Westworld was on these last few weeks.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t some very strong things about this episode, I just wasn’t thrilled by the way some of it was executed, but I digress. Let’s start by talking about last week’s star: the all-powerful Maeve and her journey for her daughter, which was the most complete exploration in this week’s episode.

After Maeve finished a battle off-screen, the characters headed into town. My wishes weren’t granted, it turns out, as we eventually find out that Hiroyuki Sanada’s character wasn’t going with Maeve on her journey. That was a real ‘bummer,’ to me. But, at the very least, we did get to see Sanada’s character in one last samurai duel before his character bowed out of the show. It didn’t mean much, but it was cool to see.

Thankfully, as Maeve and her group leave Sanada’s character and Akane in Shogun World, it turns out that Tao Okamoto’s character is, in fact, going with the all-powerful host and her group of odd misfit characters.

Much later in the episode, Maeve and her group exit a Westworld outpost bunker, and find Maeve’s daughter. However, Maeve insists that she must go on her own to meet her little girl, and so she is by herself as the Ghost Nation natives attack.

But that she is attacked isn’t the most important thing about this storyline, rather it is the heartbreaking scene in which Maeve realizes that she has been replaced — it isn’t her daughter anymore. She was reassigned, and a new mother was assigned to her daughter. We all knew this had happened, but it meant a lot for us to finally see it.

“Can we stop playing around now?”

For a moment there, when Maeve and her daughter were attacked by the Ghost Nation, I actually thought that Maeve would run into William, which still may happen in a week or two. But it never happened in this episode. Instead, William — or the Man in Black, as I still refer to him as in my notes — was forced to accept the fact that it actually was his daughter who had found him in the middle of the park.

Interestingly, William has become so paranoid that he initially thought this was another one of Ford’s mindgames — that it isn’t his daughter, but just another host. But she sure is her father’s daughter, as exemplified by how she was two steps ahead of him in their first scene together, when she realized he was about to be ambushed. As she likely noticed, he is either becoming careless, or he secretly wants to die in a blaze of glory.

In a later scene, William’s daughter explains exactly why she has come. It isn’t to kill him. It isn’t to commit suicide either. Rather, it is to stop him from doing something definitive that would orphan her. She apologizes for having said that her mother’s death was William’s fault, and she teases her father about having enjoyed the pleasures of the park — it is a great scene and Ed Harris is terrific here.

Unsurprisingly, while they do agree to work together and eventually go home together, William will only do it his way. So, he leaves her and takes off in the middle of the night, and, naturally, he is eventually ambushed by Ghost Nation. Maybe he shouldn’t have left his smart daughter behind.

“I think I have a choice to make. Something I’ve been wrestling with.”

Just like in the season premiere, this episode opened with an altered aspect ratio, but, interestingly, this episode revealed that it was Bernard and not Arnold having that conversation with Dolores. This episode only made me more confident about my theory from a few weeks ago — that Bernard in two weeks time is actually Dolores or, at the very least, some other host implanted into a Bernard host body.

Shannon Woodward and Jeffrey Wright’s characters eventually make their way to what I presume is the data hub — or something like that — which they refer to as the Cradle. Back in the day Bernard brought someone’s pearl — the implantable identity data that is basically just a reddish ball — and placed it in the Cradle.

And in this episode, Bernard’s data is implanted into the Cradle, in a sequence that shows us that the altered aspect ratio scenes are set inside of the Cradle. We don’t really get all that many revelations about it — the episode is just setting the table in preparation for some important scenes. They do leave us in an interesting place, as the last thing we see is Ford’s reflection. Will Anthony Hopkins actually be in an episode this year? Only time will tell.

On top of all of this — which is to say the storylines that I find the most interesting — we also get a few glimpses of Dolores’ story. Dolores, in this episode, is struggling with this newly rewritten Teddy. Her inhumane — pardon the expression — treatment of her lover has turned him into a careless servant, an unrelenting gunslinger — he has become a hopeless bad guy.

All this episode does for Dolores, other than take her all the way to Mesa, is to give her the uninspired and uninteresting lesson that you can’t truly change someone. She just wanted him to go along with her plan and follow orders, she didn’t want to truly lose him.

This wasn’t a bad episode by any stretch of the imagination, but it never rose as high as the last three or four episodes have. With that having been said, I do think this is the first set-up episode this season that I didn’t love.

B

For my reviews of the previous episodes in the series, click here.

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen

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