REVIEW: Westworld – “Les Écorchés”

westworld-review

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

In the seventh episode of the second season of Westworld (“Les Écorchés”), Dolores’ train arrives at the Mesa Hub complex, Maeve (played by Thandie Newton) and William (played by Ed Harris) meet, and the illusion of free will is explored both inside and outside of the Cradle.

After last week’s episode — Phase Space — tried to set-up the collision of multiple storylines, Les Écorchés, the title of which I’ll get to in a moment or two, was exactly the plot advancement episode that most would’ve expected it to be. This episode advanced the plot greatly, in this season’s most consequential episode thus far.

In what was a fairly fast paced episode, the show took the time to both over-explain what many fans ought to have been able to predict at this point, while still being as confusing as ever. And while I absolutely was very entertained by this week’s episode, there were a couple of things that bothered me about it.

Let’s talk about the title. So, from what I understand, the title refers to a figure of a skinless body, which thus shows the muscles of the body instead. These figures are often drawn, sculpted, or the like. What this means for Westworld isn’t as clear, but I do have some guesses.

For one, the title could clearly refer to the drone hosts that we’ve seen in previous episodes. These drone hosts had no defined identifiable features except for ordinary host musculature. However, the title itself may also refer to the act of being in the Cradle — without skin (a body), but the muscles still work (Ford still controls as much as he would like to).

“I figured you would have some skeletons in your closet, Bernard. I didn’t think they’d be your own.”

First, we need to talk about Two Weeks Later-Bernard, whose scenes this week bookended the episode. After Stubbs voiced some concerns about Strand and the Delos soldiers’ true intentions, he and Bernard are taken to Ford’s Sector 17 Cottage Bunker by Strand, who has them at gunpoint. Strand and Hale want to find out which one of them killed Theresa and why, but before Bernard has a chance to admit to it all, the Delos men find a secret door that leads them to a room with multiple empty Bernard host bodies.

One thing that struck me as interesting about the opening scene in this week’s episode is that Bernard woke up with a photo of ‘his’ family in his hand. While I still to some extent believe there is a chance that my old theory that Two Weeks Later-Bernard isn’t actually Bernard (If I am right, then it is probably either Dolores or Ford implanted in his mind) could be correct, the photo certainly does suggest that it may still be Bernard, because if it isn’t, then why would he hold that photo in his hand? Is it just for show? And why would Bernard know — or be tricked into telling them — what happened to Theresa, if it wasn’t actually him.

Now, eventually, later in the episode, Charlotte Hale’s analysis interview is successful, and they figure out exactly where Abernathy’s core is located, and seeing Hale actually controlling Bernard is something I never expected to see. I also never expected to see Bernard be ‘virtually waterboarded’ by Delos.

“I don’t think God rested on the seventh day, Bernard. I think he reveled in his creation, knowing that some day it would be destroyed.”

But before all of that got to happen, Bernard first had to take that trip into the Cradle to meet ‘an old friend,’ and, yes, Anthony Hopkins is actually back in Westworld! This was a great surprise, because Hopkins truly adds a lot to this show. He is instantly believable as the egomaniacal creator of the doomed park. His is the most entertaining god complex.

Ford basically confirms all of our the most common fan theories: the park is an experiment, it is a testing chamber for intense observation with one goal in mind — to understand and copy the guests. As Ford also notes, Delos’ project hasn’t quite worked yet, because their ambitious experiment has only ever led to copies of living minds that eventually degrade.

“Isn’t the pleasure of a story, discovering the end yourself?”

I really do hope this scene was helpful to those viewers that don’t obsess over the show, or those who don’t write about it each and every week. But, for me, it didn’t add much, except for the above quote, which seems to be directly aimed at those of us that try to speculate about it all multiple weeks ahead of time.

Ford eventually explains that Dolores’ backup and Ford both were used to verify the fidelity of Bernard. This all makes a lot of sense, and it, basically, explains why the scenes with an altered aspect ratio saw Dolores testing Bernard and not the other way around.

“I keep telling you, Bernard. It is no longer my story, it is yours.”

And, then, in the episode’s most frightening scene, Ford removes Bernard’s free will by, basically, hitching a ride out of the Cradle with Bernard’s pearl (his core). And that is when the true illusion of free will is put to the test. Ford initially guides Bernard around to grant Dolores ‘free rein,’ before he takes complete control — locks out Bernard — and kills multiple Delos soldiers.

While all of this is happening, Maeve and Dolores both take part in the action. Maeve’s story is immediately more interesting to me. Last week made it appear like she and William would run into each other, and, indeed, they did. William’s paranoia made him suspect Maeve was just another Ford-host, but that was not the case, obviously. And, therefore, Maeve, who certainly does remember William, starts charging towards him with a gun.

William, in these scenes, gets shot multiple times by both Maeve, Lawrence, and other hosts, but somehow he seems to survive — even though he is left alone bleeding. We can probably all guess that his daughter will come to save him. It isn’t really that tough to figure out.

Maeve, on the other hand, is eventually taken out by the Delos soldiers that Sizemore called for. Sizemore does try to protect her, but he still gets in the way of her. One thing that immediately confused me about all of this was that, at least on my first viewing of the episode, the rest of Maeve’s group were nowhere to be found. Where were they? It didn’t make sense to me that they would let Maeve get taken by soldiers, or that they would just stand still after what happened at the end of last week’s episode.

Dolores has much more fun at the Mesa Hub. She easily makes her way up to her father, Angela has no problem blowing up the Cradle, and Teddy has no problem beating up the Scottish handlebar mustache Delos soldier. It all goes fairly well. Of course, Angela was on a suicide mission, and, honestly, that part bothered me. You see, why would a soldier who has seen his friends be gunned down by hosts be willing to let another host seduce him? It didn’t make sense to me. Also, while I did think Hale’s standoff with Dolores was a fair bit silly, it did lead to Abernathy having one last heart-to-heart with his ‘daughter’ before she cut him open.

This is an episode that certainly advanced the overall plot of the season, by that measure it is probably the most important episode of the season. The episode even left characters such as William, Bernard, and Maeve in horrible positions. None of them have died, however. And even if Maeve has shut off, she’ll be back before you know it. I also refuse to believe that William has been taken out.

Les Écorchés was all about plot revelations, plot advancement, and explanations, and it was sped-up to such an extent that I thought it belittled some of the more interesting plot elements from the last couple of weeks. They sort of just abandoned the idea that Maeve had to realize that her daughter had another mother. But it certainly was a very exciting episode, and most people will absolutely love it.

B+

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

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen

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