Westworld S01E08 “Trace Decay” REVIEW
Essential Plot Points:
- Bernard talks to Ford, freaking out over killing Theresa. Ford reveals to him (and us) that he originally built Bernard to give the hosts emotions, as it was something he couldn’t seem to do himself. Irony, meet Bernard.
- Ford orders Bernard to cover his tracks and come up with a way of explaining Theresa’s death. He does. He makes it look as though Theresa was following the stray’s path out of the park to deliver confidential data to someone, then slipped and fell down a hole in the rock, just as the stray did. Charlotte Hale isn’t convinced by this explanation at all.
- Bernard is reinstated, as Ford tells everyone he found proof the Clementine attack was a hoax.
- A new Clementine appears in the saloon, much to Maeve’s sadness. But she’s soon distracted by yet another flashback to the little girl who was her daughter in a previous storyline.
- In the lab later, she is a woman possessed. “Time to write my own fucking story,” she says, announcing that she needs an army. She can’t escape Westworld, though, as all hosts have a charge in their spine that will explode if they leave the grounds. She asks Felix and Sylvester to help remove it.
- Sylvester decides to double-cross her, convincing Felix to “brick” her when she’s turned off for the procedure.
- Will and Dolores come across some bodies by a riverbank that have been killed by the Ghost Nation. They talk to one guy still left alive and discover Logan was the one who ordered the ambush on the train. What a git.
- Teddy and the Man In Black find a pile of dead bodies after an attack by Wyatt, plus a female host the Man In Black seems to know from the past. Someone attacks them and it takes a lot to bring the guy down.
- Teddy sees the Man In Black grappling with the stranger and suddenly has a flashback of him hurting Dolores. Once their attacker is despatched, he knocks his partner out.
- Maeve is turned off for the procedure but wakes up as Sylvester is trying to persuade Felix to kill her. She slits Sylvester’s throat – Felix double-crossed him and turned off her “mustn’t hurt humans” code!
- However, she relents and allows Sylvester to live, as he may be useful.
- Maeve goes back to her loop, but now she’s the narrator – she can control what the hosts do! She helps Hector defeat the lawmen when he attacks the town, enabling him to steal the safe he’s always wanted.
- Dolores and Will arrive back in Dolores’s old home – or so it seems to her, for a few moments, as she has a flashback to the hosts there being taught how to dance and interact.
- And then, suddenly, everybody is dead, and she’s the killer!
- Will wakes her up. There is no town. She thinks she’s going mad.
- And then… Logan rides up. “Man, are you two fucked!” he says. Uh-oh.
- Charlotte and Lee go to a lower level to find old hosts. Charlotte wants Lee to dump all of Ford’s code inside the head of Dolores’s old dad (the first host to have a breakdown), then to get him on the train and out of the park. So she’s the one who was working with Theresa to steal data, then! That way, Delos won’t need Ford anymore.
- Ashley bumps into Bernard and offers condolences for Theresa, as he knew they were having an affair. Bernard is baffled, as Ford wiped that from his mind. So is Ashley, by Bernard’s clueless response. He also wonders where Elsie is… and it seems that Bernard has killed her.
- Teddy manages to get the Man In Black to open up at last! We hear how he came to the park to find out what kind of person he was, after his wife committed suicide and claimed it was because of his behaviour. He tested out his limits by shooting dead Maeve’s daughter and killing Maeve. Only Maeve wouldn’t quit, and the Man In Black’s interest was piqued by her incredible emotional response to her child’s murder.
- He reckons if he gets to the centre of the Maze, he’ll find the line between “human” and “host”. (Or something like that, anyway; it’s all a bit confusing and soul-searchy.)
- Maeve, meanwhile, is just preparing to escape when she hears a gunshot. It causes her to have a flashback to fighting back when the Man In Black attacked her and her daughter. As a reflex, she lashes out with a knife, accidentally killing Clementine.
- She runs away, and the techs come to get her.
- We see that when Maeve lost her daughter in the past, she refused to allow her memory to be wiped by Ford – she stabbed herself instead. “This pain is all I have left of her,” she says.
- Teddy tries to kill the Man In Black, but can’t.
- The woman they rescued suddenly stabs him. “Wyatt will need you soon,” she says, and shadowy figures emerge from the woods…
Dr Robert Ford is a complete and utter bastard. Okay, it’s not like we didn’t know it anyway, particularly after last week, but here he’s just unbearably evil. Proof? Well, first Bernard begs him for answers and Ford just sits there, gloating. Bernard has a little flashback to (probably) murdering Elsie, but Ford lies when he’s asked if he’s made Bernard hurt anyone before. Ford then wipes his mind and gets him to cover up a murder – he doesn’t even do his own dirty work.
And, finally, Ford stands by Theresa’s body and says, “It’s a disappointing end to her story, isn’t it?” as though he’s talking about the weather, then gives Charlotte a little smile. Forget the rest: if she couldn’t tell from this line alone that Ford is a sociopath, she’s an idiot.
Thankfully Charlotte does seems to be on the ball about the fact that Theresa was murdered, because it seems she was the one asking Theresa to smuggle out the data – and she enlists Lee to help her do it again. You have to wonder why, out of all the people in the park, she chooses him: she’s already seen he’s a drunk and an arsehole, so why risk it? But still, he goes along with it (after some flattery from her), so we’ll see where this goes. And hey, it’s nice to see Dolores’s original dad again.
Elsewhere, Maeve gets some serious superpowers and starts narrating her own story, which is one of the coolest things this show has yet done: particularly when she tells the Marshals attacking Hector to shoot each other. But how did nobody notice her doing this? It’s night by the time anybody twigs that she’s gone rogue, and that’s only after she accidentally kills Clementine. Do the people in the control room take regular tea breaks or something? Didn’t they wonder why hosts were shooting each other when they were on the same side? Little niggles like this are enough to drive you mad. Still, the scene where she attacks Sylvester is just brilliant.
As for Dolores and Will, there’s a fan theory that their timeline is taking place long before the rest of the action, a theory that actually gets a little nudge when Ford tells Bernard that he might lose himself in the past like his fellow hosts have done, every now and then. He seems to be talking in the past tense, and then we cut to Dolores. So is she in the past? Or just living in it mentally?
Either way, Will seems to put aside his loveheart-filled eyes for the moment to announce he needs to take her back to Sweetwater, as the further out they get, the more she malfunctions. It’s good to see he still remembers she’s a host, although we suspect the arrival of Logan, who doesn’t give a crap about her, might cause some heartbreak next episode.
That fan theory also gets a boost when the Man In Black finally reveals more about himself. The woman they encounter after Wyatt’s attack is actually Angela, the host who greets Will when he arrives in Westworld in episode two (she looks totally different here, of course, so it’s easy to have missed that). The Man In Black recognises her but seems not to have seen her for a while. Is that because he is actually Will? Is that him, in the past? Will’s backstory about working for a huge corporation and having a fiancee certainly fit; does he take it over? Is his fiancee the wife who kills herself? Does the death of Dolores in an upcoming episode make him the monster his wife later claims drove her to suicide? We can but wonder…
- Bernard rises up to attack Ford – an attack we actually agree with, given that Ford just made him murder someone – and then Ford casually freezes him in place and carries on talking like nothing is happening. So utterly, utterly creep-tastic.
- The music this week is also brilliant. Not only does it pound away in the background of many scenes – such as when Maeve is in the lab telling the techs what to do – but songs are also well-chosen. “House Of The Rising Sun” on the player piano is not only a superb soundtrack to a brothel scene (the song is apparently about a whorehouse), it’s also a great metaphor to describe Maeve herself: the sun is rising on her new life. Later, when Hector attacks, the entire sequence is given a surreal, comedic edge with a Swan Lake score, as Maeve becomes the conductor of a gruesome ballet.
- And the other player piano song this week is Three Dog Night’s “One Is The Loneliest Number”: something Maeve is trying to avoid by forming an army. But does she end the episode alone, or has her army already come together during the day? Will she take down those technicians?
- After finding the dying man, Dolores asks: “What kind of people would we be if we simply let him suffer?” Talk about pouring on the ironic pathos there, given how she’s usually treated by humans.
- The man who attacks Teddy and the Man In Black just won’t quit. Shades of Monty Python’s Black Knight here, we think. “Tis but a scratch!”
- Bernard is given his job back, but not until after he’s faked Theresa’s accident by playing with files and erasing data. Didn’t anybody wonder why he was in the control room when he was officially not supposed to be there any more?
And The Random:
- Somewhere in Westworld there’s a team of people who dump dead bodies in random places for guests to find as they’re travelling. That’s just… weird.
- Best Quote: Maeve: “The Marshals decided to practice their quick draws on each other…”
Reviewed by Jayne Nelson