Warning: This contains spoilers. Not caught up with Westworld? Read our spoiler-free review of Episode 1.
“I would’ve thought they’d retired you.” Those six words are perhaps the most revealing thing in Episode 8 of Westworld, as HBO’s sci-fi hurtles towards its final two episodes at a relentless pace – and with equally relentless complexity.
They are the remarks of The Man in Black (Ed Harris), upon stumbling across Angela (Talulah Riley) with Teddy (James Marsden) in the desert. Like him, we recognise her all too well – she’s the woman we saw back in Episode 2, when we watched her welcome William to the park. Yes, this is the latest evidence that the almost-definitely-correct theory about William being a young Man in Black is, well, almost definitely correct.
Episode 8 is our chance to really get to know his older incarnation, and Ed Harris enjoys the chance to be the one monologuing instead of Anthony Hopkins for a change. That monologue, delivered by a cliched campfire to Teddy with the kind of steely glint that makes cliches easy to swallow, reveals some of The Man’s backstory – namely, that he was married for about 30 years until his wife committed suicide, after discovering the kind of nasty man that lay beneath his wholesome, philanthropic surface. A kind exterior giving way to a darker interior, with a 30-year gap between the two extremes? It’s all but explicit confirmation that The Man was once the man we know as William – a guy who visited Westworld three decades ago, just as he was (yes) about to get married.
And so The Man, widowed, returned to the park to find himself – and, along the way, found a glimpse of Maeve as alive as a human, after he killed her daughter. That revelation led him to seek out the maze, which links back to Arnold and the mystery at the heart of his labyrinth, no doubt revolving around consciousness.
This, of course, is divulged as he and Teddy travel to track down Wyatt, coming across a whole heap of massacred bodies along the way – the point at which they meet Angela. In what we believe is another timeline, meanwhile, William and Dolores also come across a field of victims from the Ghost Nation. It’s that kind of echoing that Westworld does so well; it’s not just the intricate plot twists that impress, but the way that Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy present them, balancing past and future storylines, exposition and emotion, character and action.
And so, while we learn about The Man in Black’s past, Teddy also remembers a slice of his history, as he recalls that The Man in Black, once upon a time, kidnapped Dolores – the very thing that leads him to tie The Man up, so he can spend the evening monologuing. (In the past, meanwhile, we watch as William appears to kill the only survivor of the Ghost Nation attack, just to stop him and Dolores having to share water with them; a glimpse of the ruthless brutality of The Man in Black inside him.)
Dolores is more concerned, though, about her own flashbacks, which are prompted by the arrival of her and William in the hometown of her dreams – a hometown that has been massacred. But her visions see her as the one responsible for killing everyone there; is that just a nightmare, a symptom of her growing consciousness? Or is it a clue that, once upon a time, she was the one who went haywire, back even before William arrived in Westworld, around the time when Arnold was alive? If so, how does that tie into Ford’s new storyline and Wyatt, whom we already suspect is a representation of Arnold somehow. After all, don’t forget Dolores spoke to Arnold on the day he died.
Which brings us back to the other theory: that Bernard is actually the robot reincarnation of Arnold. Ford gives us some hint of that being true as well, as he reveals that he built Bernard to help him design the hosts, because the humans weren’t up to the task. It’s a perverse notion, as he suggests that Bernard, who is going through a massive guilt attack over his murder of Theresa, should be proud of the emotions he’s helped to manufacture. Jeffrey Wright is as brilliant as ever, capable of emoting, panicking, processing thoughtfully – and, at Hopkins’ command, freezing entirely. Hopkins, on the other hand, gleefully seizes any chance he can get to monologue once more, including a sequence from the past where he ‘helps’ Maeve, by taking away the pain of her suffering (by wiping her memory of her daughter being kiled).
With every passing episode, Ford looks more and more like a crazed scientist and Hopkins sure doesn’t skimp on the crazy, as Bernard asks his creator whether he has ever made him kill anyone else. Ford says no, but in a way that is clearly a yes – not least because we share in a flashback of Bernard choking Elsie, presumably to death. (We still haven’t seen her since that disappearance two episodes ago.)
How do you solve a problem like an insane, evil inventor with a god complex and an army of robots? If you’re Charlotte, you team up with drunken hack writer Lee Sizemore to reboot Abernathy from storage as a vessel for smuggling that data Theresa was trying to get her hands on (Charlotte, naturally, doesn’t buy Ford’s lies of Theresa accidentally falling off a cliff) – or, if you’re Maeve, you get Felix and Sylvester to bump up your powers once again and start amassing an army of your own.
“It’s time to write my own story,” she declares, returning to the park with a wonderfully creepy storytelling ability, which sees anyone obey her instructions, instructions that she delivers via an eerie third-person narration.
“There are things in me I’m designed to do that are just out of my reach,” she observes, just as the park sends out men to capture her. With two hours left on the clock before Season 1’s finale, things are beginning to converge at an increasing pace, with the stage seemingly set for some satisfyingly concrete answers. Things are just out of reach, but not for much longer; this is one show doesn’t deserve to be retired any time soon.
Westworld Season 1 is available to watch on-demand through Sky Box Sets. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it live and on-demand on NOW TV, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription. The contract-free service includes access to a range of Sky channels, from Sky 1 (Arrow, Supergirl, The Flash) and FOX UK (The Walking Dead) to Sky Living (Divorce) and Sky Atlantic (Westworld, The Young Pope). A 14-day free trial is available for new subscribers.
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