Sunday, May 27, 2018

REVIEW: 'Westworld' - Bernard and Maeve Experience Some Surprising Reunions in 'Phase Space'

HBO's Westworld - Episode 2.06 "Phase Space"

We each deserve to choose our own fate.

"Phase Space" opens on a very familiar scene. The audience is once again seeing a meeting between Arnold and Dolores where the two are talking about how much she is learning and just how far she can go. It's a sequence this season has already depicted with Arnold struggling to decide whether he should allow Dolores to become whomever she wants to be. But then, a twist occurs. The script is flipped and it's revealed that this Dolores is actually similar to the one of the present day. She's the one actually running the simulation. She is following a program and a script to see how Bernard would react. She is able to say "freeze all motor functions" and Bernard listens to her. It's then revealed that this is a test they have conducted on numerous occasions already. She is seeing if he can stick to a particular script without knowing that that's what she is looking for. It all plays as a memory. A piece of time that is just now being revealed to the audience to highlight the overall themes of the season. But now, it's clear that it's going to have much grander connotations on the remainder of the season. It feels eerily similar to the experiments that William was conducting on James Delos in the hopes of keeping his consciousness alive. The show has pointed out that Arnold and Bernard are two completely different people. But here, the situation presents as Bernard being the one acting out Arnold's memories. He's falling to do so just like James Delos always did. As such, it's clear that the ultimate goal is still far from being achieved. But it's such an ominous note to start the episode on. The rest of the hour spends no more time in that situation to better explain what's happening. Instead, it's staging a bunch of significant reunions throughout the park. But it's an important detail to be very mindful of moving forward - especially given what Bernard discovers at the end of the hour.

With the introduction of the idea that consciousness could be prolonged and made immortal being the Delos corporation's true agenda, there was always the sneaking suspicion that Ford wasn't as dead as he seemed. In fact, there has been speculation that the audience was being deceived the moment that Dolores shot him in the back of the head. That was her grand moment of awakening. His death allowed this revolt to begin. He transformed the code of the park so that the humans could finally face the consequences to their actions while giving the hosts every tool they needed in order to become sentient beings. Bernard has carried the story actually investigating what all Ford was doing in secret last season. He has a new companion in Elsie who is able to help him make sense of the world. Bernard frequently just stumbles around reacting to the changing world as well as getting lost in his memories. The two of them learn that the Cradle - aka the mainframe for host data and park maintenance - is somehow evolving and attacking any hack on the system by Delos. They aren't able to figure out how the machinery is doing so until Bernard goes into it himself. As such, his core essence is dug out of his skull and placed into this storage. Once there, he finds his consciousness in a new simulation of the park. He is walking around Westworld just as it was programmed to behave. And yet, some things are different. There is actually a dog wandering around. That's Bernard's clue that it will lead to the biggest anachronism of this place. That, in turn, reveals that Ford is still somehow present and making an impact on this world. He may have successfully been able to make his consciousness a part of this system as well. That's impressive and continues to show that he is playing this game so much better than anyone else. It shows just how easily he has been able to adapt to the changing stories throughout the park while also being dead. But it also presents a way for Anthony Hopkins to return and be able to play a character who may actually be forthcoming with answers now. It'll just be unclear if Bernard will be able to process all of this.

Ford's influence is still mostly being felt in William's storyline this season. Ford created this new game specifically for him. He was finally giving William the challenge he always wanted in this park. The stakes are real and there is a mysterious agenda he must complete. Sure, it's the most frustrating story of the season because it remains so cryptic about the destination William is heading towards. It's been billed as his biggest regret from his younger self. Right now though, it's more important for him to have a conversation with his daughter who has just showed up on this adventure. He initially reads it as just another one of Ford's tricks. He has created a host who resembles Emily and shares her memories but isn't actually William's daughter. The audience probably should be skeptical about her as well. She too could be like Bernard in believing she's human but is actually a host. Of course, it would be more significant if she were human because that would provide even more insight into William's life outside of the park. The show has hinted at his family drama. He wanted to present himself as the good guy in the outside world and the villain in the park. Westworld allows him to be his true self. Emily finally understands that and is even able to forgive blaming him for her mother's suicide. And yet, she also desperately wants to take her father home with her and get as far away from this park as possible. William and Emily no longer want anything to do with Delos and their objective. They are perfectly fine watching the park burn down. But William still has a mission he would like to complete. As such, he's okay with betraying his daughter once more and leaving her behind. It just further proves that he has become so fixated on beating the game within the park that it has completely ruined all of his other relationships in life. That's tragic while also seeming inevitable that William and Emily will need to count on each other in order to survive in this vicious new world.

Meanwhile, Dolores finds herself meeting Teddy again as if for the first time. It was heartbreaking for her to have to change his programming to ensure that he was less of a noble man. She needed him to be ruthless in order to continue fighting this war against their human enemies. She is focused on rescuing her father - who is now in even more pain as Charlotte literally has him bolted down to a table. Charlotte is also getting additional support from Delos because she has now secured the package. It's clear that this team won't last because Karl Strand and his team will still need to come into the park and clean things up. But it's exciting because Dolores is staging her grand attack on the Mesa. Charlotte and Stubbs believe it can be their base of operations to mount the counterattack to get the park back into order. They have the support to do so. But they don't have the map up and running until it's too late. They don't see the train coming right to their front door that's about to create one epic explosion. It's what Dolores deems necessary in order to rescue her father and escape from this world. She wants that more than anything else. She is willing to sacrifice anything in order to achieve it. Of course, it's also very interesting to see that Teddy remembers Dolores fixing him. He resents her for it. But he's still a loyal soldier. He may not show as much mercy as he did when he allowed Major Craddock and his men to go free. But he also presents a choice to the technician left behind on the train as it's about to explode. He can either die in the explosion or he can shoot himself and make it a quick and easy death. That's the version of mercy Teddy now delivers in this world. It's a subtle change to his personality. It's enough to create such immense distance in his relationship with Dolores. They are learning how to see and be with each other again. It's unclear if they can be after she messed with his head. That may be her greatest mistake. Or it could be the choice that leads to her freedom. Either way will be important for her story this season.

Of course, it also seems like Maeve is much more enlightened at the moment. She understands the importance of giving the other hosts a choice as to what they want their futures to be. Right now, Dolores is leading her army with the promise of escaping to a better world and creating a more perfect life. It's a mission that has already gotten so lethal. Meanwhile, Maeve is finding herself getting caught up in the programmed stories of other hosts. She is making such a huge difference because of her new power of getting into a host's mind without saying a word. She can easily turn her enemies against each other. But she also values the importance of choice. She could easily bring Sakura back to life or help Musashi defeat the Shogun's commander if she wanted to. But she also knows that would be her exploiting her powers in order to control this world. She doesn't want that. She wants to nurture and love the programming. She wants to help give the hosts want they actually want. Yes, it may be them marching to their deaths. It may just be a part of their programming. But she is still giving that choice to them. Musashi and Akane decide to stay behind in Shogun World but Hanaryo decides to join the group as they return to Westworld. That proves that this trip to Shogun World was nothing but a brief distraction in the middle of the season. And yet, it was such an important journey as well because it woke Maeve up to the true power that she had and knowing when and how to use it. She is leading this group to her daughter on the prairie. That's her personal motivation for doing all of this. She came back to the park in order to find her daughter again. And now, she understands that it's a journey she must complete on her own. Sizemore and Hector are able to get her there. But she needs to make those final steps herself. She wants to be with her daughter again and see the world through that relationship. It shouldn't be surprising to the audience to see that a new host has replaced Maeve in the role of mother in this story. And yet, it's absolutely devastating to her. She believes that everything would be alright in the world once more because she has the power to protect her daughter. Now, she has to confront the ugly reality that this life isn't the one that her daughter has known. It too is soon corrupted with the arrival of Ghost Nation soldiers. They don't strike until after Maeve is able to rescue her daughter. So, she still ultimately gets what she wants. And yet, this relationship is going to be so vastly different than what she was expecting as well. That is heartbreaking while also having the potential to reveal something new within Maeve.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Phase Space" was written by Carly Wray and directed by Tarik Saleh.
  • Maeve really shouldn't be surprised to see that her daughter has a new mother in the prairie life. She was there to witness the humans replace the role of Clementine with someone completely new. Now, there are two Clementines in this world. The old one is silent but lethal while the new one is sticking strictly to her code and not venturing beyond the brothel whatsoever. So, it may actually be beneficial for Maeve to break her daughter free of this environment. But it's bound to be traumatizing too.
  • It doesn't take long before Sizemore uses the technology he stole from a dead body in order to call for help. He gets Maeve to exactly where she needs to go. She is very appreciative of that and genuinely thanks him for helping her get there. Then, he's ready to escape this horrible imprisonment by turning on the hosts. It's a decision that Sylvester supports as well while Felix is horrified that they could turn on Maeve so easily.
  • It seems very likely that the Ghost Nation has a significant role to play in all of this. Their leader, Akecheta, has appeared numerous times already. He wasn't trying to kill humans. In fact, he only kills hosts when his soldiers attack William's group. But he also says that he and Maeve share a similar path in this world. She doesn't want to believe that. She just wants to escape and build a new life for her daughter. But this world probably has bigger plans for her as well.
  • Obviously, Ford's return is the most significant twist of Bernard being plugged into the Cradle. And yet, it's also important to see that Dolores and Teddy exist in this world as well where they are just following their programming and maintaining their stories. They aren't connected to the Cradle beyond just simple remote access. But it also serves as a reminder that this specific park holds so much significance to Ford. And now, he can begin sharing those truths with Bernard - so long as Elsie doesn't pull him out too quickly to avoid being killed by Dolores' soldiers.
  • Neither Charlotte nor the new head of operations is all that confident in Stubbs' ability to continue providing security for the park. They think it's all but inevitable that he will be fired from this job as soon as this mess is cleaned up. And yet, he's still around in the future. He's still a part of the team. As such, it's more important to see what happens to him than of these newcomers who seem bound to die in Dolores' assault on the Mesa.