This post contains an exhaustive rundown of major plot points, allusions, and revelations from Westworld Season 2, Episode 7 “Les Écorchés.” This is also where you can find a link to the latest episode of Vanity Fairs companion podcast, “Still Watching: Westworld.” This week Richard Lawson and Joanna Robinson break down the this weeks plot and speak with actor Jeffrey Wright about the latest Bernard/Arnold twist
For a deeper dive on this weeks big Valley Beyond reveal, you can go here. But if you havent seen the episode yet and would prefer not to be spoiled, well let Dr. Ford give you your cue to leave.
Are you ready? Here we go.
Is Death Real Now? With the CR4-DL destroyed, the “immortal” nature of these Hosts has changed slightly. Jeffrey Wright explained on this weeks podcast that some of the robots can and will still survive in this CR4-DL-less world. Theyre not exactly human now. But they are more vulnerable. Its possible that if the damage they sustain breaches their heads or “control units,” they cannot come back. For instance, I suspect we saw at least two major and dramatic robot deaths in this episode. The first is Angela (Talulah Riley) who, at least, went out like a champ. She got to repeat one of her very first lines as her exit line while she took out both herself and the CR4-DL.
The second is Abernathy (Louis Herthum) who went out, as youd expect, quoting Shakespeare. These last little couplets of his are from Romeo and Juliet and are meant to invoke an eye-for-an-eye philosophy. Dolores takes his talk of burning quite literally as she blows up the CR4-DL. Delos has made her suffer, now she will take what is hers with fire and bl—oh sorry, wrong show.
A possible third candidate for permanent death is Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr.). His head still appears to be intact but those last lines were dripping with portent. Is his death now “real enough” for you? Well, maybe not. We know characters have come back from worse. But I would be surprised if we saw him again before the season was over.
Who Can Maeve Control? Speaking of Lawrence, the show keeps finding ways to put limits on Maeves supernatural ability to control the Hosts around her. Here we find her unable to take mastery of Lawrence apparently because hes somewhat awake. But hes not completely woke, is he, until Maeve pushes him in that direction. So who, precisely, is under her thrall and who isnt? Which of the Hosts are fully awake and which are still in a dream? The show isnt drawing any hard, permanent lines here.
Speaking of Hosts and control, Dolores exhibited some truly Maeve-like compassion in the Mesa when confronted with her revolutionary counterpart. Echoing words Maeve used in Shogun World last week, Dolores allowed her quasi-rival a choice. Does this mean Dolores has learned something from her Abernathy/Teddy experience? Is she finally evolving out of hardcore killer mode?
Fords Return Means Double the Literary Allusions Abernathy isnt the only one who gets to show off he studied English Lit. in college. Now that Anthony Hopkins is back, Westworld is ramping up the book references. Here we have a nod to the (apocryphal) story of the 7th century CE destruction of the great library at Alexandria in Egypt. Fords description of that famed fire is deliciously poetic, but even more pertinent to the themes of Season 2 is some actual poetry he dropped earlier in the episode.
Here we have the opening lines of William Blakes “The Auguries of Innocence” which Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan had previously said would factor into this years journey to Westworld. Lisa Joy outlined the connection between Blakes famous poem and their show about robots thusly: “The line about holding eternity in the palm of your hand reminds me of the Hosts — these eternal immortal creatures, who have lived through so many lives and never changed. What must the world look like to them? They must experience such a balance of goodness and evil, and violence and bliss.”
For the purposes of Westworld, some of the closing lines—which also inspired a famously twisty Agatha Christie novel—may be even more significant:
Every Night & every Morn
Some to Misery are Born
Every Morn and every Night
Some are Born to sweet delight
Some are Born to sweet delight
Some are Born to Endless Night
The notion that some will endure endless pain and some unceasing pleasure neatly dovetails into one of Westworlds most famous literary allusion: “these violent delights have violent ends.”
Mind the Doors The concept of a “Door” is obviously very important this season. Not for the first (and probably not for the last) time we get a direct allusion to the famous opening and closing shots of John Fords classic Western The Searchers in this weeks episode. Look for someone backlit and framed in a doorway and youll be looking at a Searchers reference. But that, of course, isnt the only important Door of the episode. We see Bernard and Ford go through the same door that Dolores and Arnold went through back in Episode 2. Arnolds dream house—based on Frank Lloyd Wrights Millard House—exists in both the real world and the CR4-DL.
In a nice bit of symmetry, we find out that Arnolds creation took place in the CR4-DL version of that house with Dolores guiding his evolution. This moment, where she says hes almost there feels like a sweet callback to Episode 2 where Doloress repeated used of that “full of splendor” line cause Arnold to remember that shes not real. The subtle disappointment on his face in Episode 2 is mirrored this week in hers.
We also learn how Bernard differs from both Jim Delos and the other Hosts. His consciousness wasnt “captured,” it was built from scratch by the two people who remembered him most. He is his own unique creature and now, tragically, has an extra passenger in his head in the shape of Ford.
We also, of course, saw another echo back to Season 1 with the revelation of a second hidden door in Fords secret lab. How many hidden doors can one secret lab have?
Last season, Theresa (Sidse Babett Knudsen) was able to see a door Bernard wasnt leading, ultimately, to her demise and the revelation that he was, in fact, a Host. This week, the discovery of yet another hidden door led to even more Bernard revelations.
And though we all knew this season was leading to a both a Door and the Valley Beyond, Fords ominous declaration about opening it should have sent a chill or two down your spine.
All This Has Happened Before Blink and you will have missed this little moment. Back in Episode 5 we saw Strand in the map room standing over the body of a dead woman with yellow glasses. In this weeks episode we saw how she got that way. That may help you unravel the timeline a little, or it may confuse you even more.
Their Watch Has Ended This week, when Ford and Bernard are discussing how Delos used the looping narratives of the Hosts to “decode” the human Guests in the park, they are standing in the CR4-DL version of Sweetwater with the residents of the town frozen around them. In Episode 2, William and Jim Delos had a very similar conversation in the real world in the exact same spot surrounded by frozen Hosts.
Here Come the Men in Black Just in case you didnt already think it was creepy that Dolores turned her boyfriend Teddy into someone more closely resembling her old boyfriend, William a.k.a. The Man in Black. . .well this episode gave poor Teddy the wardrobe to match. His black-clad first-person shooter takedown in the Mesa very closely resembled some trigger-happy moments weve seen from William including last seasons trip to Las Mudas.
Speaking of William, while its a very popular theory that the character might be suffering from dementia, I think we have to call whats eating at him here paranoia. Fords game has made William see Hosts and conspiracies everywhere. Even here when we know (or think) Maeve is free from Fords machinations. This, of course, is a nice echo of Williams first trauma in the park when he mistook Dolores for something she wasnt: free. Now hes seeing the opposite: enslaved Hosts in a park suddenly full of some free thinking robots.
The Return of Theresa Its a tiny thing, but before we visit the scene of the crime of Theresas death, Stubbs mentions that there was a satellite communication in her office. This isnt just some lame and clumsy excuse to remind the audience of her existence before we remember how she died. Theresa did indeed have satellite access in her office and we saw her use it in Season 1.
Okay but more importantly the last time we saw Theresa was down in that secret lab where Ford was definitely printing an illicit human Host body. In this weeks episode we return to that lab and the printer is. . .empty. Sure we see a robot dog skeleton and Theresa is messing with a distinctly caucasian arm (a.k.a. not belonging to a Bernard), but what happened to that body? There are a lot of fun guesses, but the frontrunner among some fans seems to be that its either an older or younger version of William. In other words, either weve been watching a Host version of older William (played by Ed Harris) this whole time, or hell soon have to confront the specter of his younger self (played by Jimmi Simpson). Perhaps well find out in the Valley Beyond.
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