***Spoiler Warning: Spoilers for Westworld through Episode 9 follow. Spoilers***
As though there aren’t already Westworld puzzles enough, its episodic titling takes thing to a deeper level and hey, Dolores, going down? Hold the door (what door?). Ostensibly, “The Well-Tempered Clavier” references Johann Sebastian Bach’s definitive collection of keyboard solos. Without delving into music theory, “well-tempered” generally refers to a tuning system whereby, when instruments play a note that is flat or sharp in a way that isn’t demanded by the key, to a listener they wouldn’t sound out of tune. If you think about that, it could easily apply to the impending Host army, seemingly being kept in line, but with a few — Maeve, Dolores, Bernard, Teddy, Peter — marching to the ever-diverging beat of their own drums. Equally interesting and applicable is Bach’s collection is of preludes and fugues; in non-musical terms, preludes refer to introductions or events preceding something, and a fugue state is one of amnesia, during which someone may adopt a new identity; when memory returns, the in-between time may or may not have been completely forgotten. Sound familiar?
Skillfully directed by Michelle MacLaren, Westworld‘s penultimate episode was, depending upon your level of fandom, either full of surprises or confirmation of nearly every major viewer theory. Bernard is Arnold (Bernard Lowe is an anagram of Arnold Weber), William almost certainly transformed into the Man in Black before our eyes, and poor Teddy’s well on his way to figuring out Dolores is Wyatt. The brilliance of Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy’s expansion of a fairly simple premise (truly, a two hour film plot), of turning it into a winding, Lost-like mystery maze game may also be its greatest downfall; some will even wonder if the twists are so easily deciphered by television detectives, where’s the reward?
For starters, it’s in these thoroughly invested actors, easily earning their Emmy reels. With an incomparable fiery spark in her eye, gifted wordsmith, Thandie Newton has stolen every superhero’s cape, grabbed control from her (character’s) creators’ hands and fashioned her own, new Westworld order. With Maeve at the head of her single-handedly recruited army, and complete confidence in her mission plan, she’s easily captured hearts and minds (Host and audience, alike). Jeffrey Wright, a god among men like Anthony Hopkins, swept us along BernArnold’s emotional journeyof self-discovery twice; with his rarely afforded multi-lived character, we’re privy to his spectacular becoming, again and again. James Marsden, Evan Rachel Wood, Jimmi Simpson and Ben Barnes mine previously uncovered depths of talent, and Hopkins reminds us of the soaring power in a perfectly metered soliloquy. As their stories masterfully unfold, the magic is in the crinkling of the pages smoothing out before our eyes, the recognition of impossibly detailed visual storytelling worthy of Dr. Ford’s own excruciatingly elaborate foresight. It’s in the eye of the cameras, in its powerful musical cues; this time-shifting tale told like a jumbled jigsaw, pieces haphazardly thrown out suddenly, seamlessly float into place … awaiting a final sigh of contentment as the whole of its picture unveils. Like Kevin Spacey’s limbs slowly straightening as Verbal Kint walks away in his body language equivalent of a microphone drop, Joy and Nolan are about to step into that waiting car, a shared sly smile quietly passing between them.
For we who have dutifully followed Westworld‘s numbered points, drawing lines end to end and huffing over emerging pictures, there’s a sense of denial not unlike poor Teddy, still not ready to accept the woman he loves convinced him to mow down a town full of people before killing him herself. As NuAngela quips right before stabbing “Theodore” in that well worn gut, maybe in the next life he’ll (we’ll) be ready. Logan’s debaucherous attack on Dolores has proven the impetus for William’s transformation; reminders of a forgotten fiancé — the photo he’ll lose, and Peter Abernathy finds at the family ranch — seemingly meaningless in the face of protecting his new love.
Dolores and Teddy’s shared visions of Wyatt’s village rampage will likely end their once fervent and mutual passion as each discovers the truth of that attack. What remains to be seen is whether the narrative is protective cover for both parties; is Arnold’s true story beneath the facade? Dolores has realized she killed the human Arnold, Westworld’s 30-year ago incident conveniently covered up by Ford and the board to keep business (and other motivations) moving forward. Will the massacre Teddy and Dolores keep misremembering turn out to be the incident itself; will they (we) eventually see Dolores (Wyatt) mowing down her creator (Arnold) … and Teddy (“a fiction which like all great stories is rooted in truth“)? Amid Maeve and Dolores’ impending carnage, it may be one of the last first season mysteries unsolved. Wherever you may have fallen on the theorizing scale, the scope of this thought-provoking series has provided as grand and obsessive a journey for us as the Man in Black’s search for the center of Westworld’s maze.
Regardless of Logan’s provocation, we’re still missing a good bit of the William story. How and why does William do a complete turnaround; it can’t only be because Logan’s a mean dickhead with no regard for humans, never mind Hosts. What he did was awful, but in and of itself, doesn’t feel enough to prompt William’s huge personality turnaround. Like that scene on the train with Dolores, when William went from telling her he had to go back to his real-world life, to running after her, declaring his devotion and making out with Dolores, there is too big a change in too short a timeframe. We need the missing bits of William’s picture.
Likewise, we’re still missing a good deal of the Man in Black’s path. He’s gone from being all in with Dolores, to mostly indifference. Now what he cares about is the maze, the whole maze and nothing but the maze. (“The maze is not for you”.) Indeed, Arnold’s message seems to be that the maze is for Hosts only, which fits in with my beloved if increasingly desperate the Man is a Host theory, but we need his missing bits, as well as William’s.
What’s up with those Ghost Nation warriors? How long have they been sentient, and are they just attacking Stubbs because they believe him part of a narrative, or has someone (Maeve) already handed over the wheel? Will Elsie save him? Something in the back of my head keeps thinking she might have survived.
Speaking of Maeve, who clearly had the best lines this hour, exactly how long has she been at the task of freeing herself and other Hosts? For that matter, how long have any of the awakened Hosts? It somehow seems as if Maeve has been self-aware longer than Dolores, but because of the timegames, we can’t really be certain.
About those lines …
To Bernard: “If you go looking for the truth, get the whole thing. It’s like a good fuck; half is worse than none at all”. “I have a date with a homicidal bandit”.
To Hector: “”Before you draw your pistol, darling, you might want to holster the other one first. It’s chilly out here”. “Getting to hell is easy, it’s the rest that’s hard”.
For those of you still on the fence about the whole Dolores is Wyatt thing, the episode description for next week’s “The Bicameral Mind” is: “Ford unveils his bold new narrative; Dolores embraces her identity; Maeve sets her plan in motion. I’ll also remind you of Evan Rachel Wood’s own comments about transcending gender.
What fun, when Dolores walked down that hallway — after her über-cool ride in the confessional elevator (hellevator?) — and her outfits changed, signaling a different timeline. It happened outside the church, right before she entered, as well. Nolan’s just fucking with us, now.
If you heard “When we are born, we cry … ” and it sounded familiar, it was the second time that King Lear quote has been used, a callback to “The Original“; and guess whose reflection was just barely visible behind Dolores?
Dolores’ little walk also provided confirmation of BernArnold’s full name and the anagram thing:
Logan is a real jerk, but I enjoyed his, “Fuuuck, those hillbillies know how to cook a good squab”.
Dolores: “Out. You you keep assuming I want to get out. If it’s such a wonderful place out there, why are you all clamoring to get in here”?
I’m beginning to wonder if everything that happens with Dolores is purely in her mindcode. Next week’s preview looks insane, and we’ll dig into it over the next day or two. For now, how about we ponder this shot?