Westworld Season 1, Episode 8 “Trace Decay”

“The blogger stays up far too late trying to parse what happened on tonight’s episode of Westworld,” says Maeve as she strolls through Sweetwater writing her own stories.

Ah, if only we could all write our own narratives so easily. Or is that something creepy only Ford would desire? I’m not quite decided, but I do know that Anthony Hopkins is wonderful at playing so many different flavors of villainy.

Maeve and her newly acquired Jedi mind trick update was my favorite part of a rather ponderous hour. The pace felt a bit slower tonight, but maybe we needed to catch our breath after last week’s revelation. Only there are two episodes left, so William and Dolores really need to get to their endgame already. All they seem to do is travel, but I’m not even remembering what they’re looking for at the edge of the map. Just… Arnold telling Dolores where to go, I guess? Can you tell how much I’m caring about these two right now?

I like Jimmi Simpson a lot and Evan Rachel Wood is fantastic, too, but I’m impossibly impatient for the teases about the maze to get bigger. Because I don’t really care about the maze; I care about learning what William and Dolores and the Man in Black and Maeve care about as their personal journeys of self-discovery are realized.

I’m not a huge fan theory person, I admit. I appreciate that other people analyze shows for clues because it lets me focus on other things, namely the story. And Westworld’s feels a bit threadbare this week.


Photo credit: John. P. Johnson/HBO

Delos is a bit of a question mark. I wish we knew what Charlotte knows about the park, who Theresa was transmitting data to. I’m glad Charlotte is clearly suspicious of Theresa Cullen’s “accidental” death—she is supposed to be smart, after all. But I’d like to know what her bigger scheme is for Westworld without Ford. Currently she’s more about side-eyes and posturing in great dresses.

The two main hosts are, no surprise, most interesting this week. Bernard opens the hour in extreme duress over murdering Cullen. Unlike Bernard, who has shown empathy towards Dolores in her automated grief and quickly told her to halt her emotional affect, Ford enjoys the show of Bernard’s guilt, fear, and confusion. What a wicked sadistic streak Ford has. He makes Bernard cover any evidence that might tie him to Theresa’s death, but maybe covers those tracks a bit too well and also not well enough. Lesser Hemsworth security guard is suspicious of Bernard’s very casual dismissal of Theresa’s death and Discount Ellen Page’s disappearance. (Which, he caused. I still don’t want to believe she’s dead! Maybe Bernard was able to spare her.)


Photo credit: John. P. Johnson/HBO

Some pains go too deep to be forgotten. It seems they change the hosts’ core code in a fundamental way. Bernard will not completely forget Theresa, just as Maeve’s experience watching her daughter die in perfect Technicolor memory has traumatized her so badly, she can’t fully shut down, she can’t forget her old build. And even as she knows her relationship with her daughter, with Clementine, is a construct, too, the pain is still making her her most human.

I love Maeve’s risk-taking, her determination to be free. Like Dolores’ big moment in Pariah, I love these women writing their own stories. Is Maeve going to do what Dolores couldn’t accomplish back in the past: freedom for the hosts? Bring on the robot army!

And the cause of Maeve’s pain? Well, that was no Arnold hallucination, when we saw the Man in Black come into Maeve’s house in a previous build. Turns out he murdered her and her young daughter just to see if he could. In his real life, the Man in Black is a philanthropist and a titan of industry, but his wife committed suicide because at any moment he could collapse into rage and darkness. Um, okay, that sounds cool and tortured, but doesn’t really make much sense? It doesn’t sound like he actually abused his family, only that he was capable of it. He doesn’t seem short-tempered in the park, so I can’t picture it.

Also of note is the host that was set as bait for the Man in Black was the same host that welcomed William to the park in episode 2. “I thought you’d be retired by now,” he says. Further proof of the two timelines. Though with the amount of past events Dolores seems to be recalling, time is all over the map.

I do some seriously depraved things in GTA. Should my partner be worried? I’m finding it hard to believe William, who mostly seems pretty decent, becomes such a “dark star.” Only Logan seemed to think William has a hidden dark streak, but I didn’t buy it. Are we to believe no one in the park has ever killed or (shudder) done worse to Maeve and her daughter? Isn’t that what draws people to the park, to do black hat things? Hasn’t William seen Dolores in pain over her parents’ death, hasn’t the maze revealed itself to William in some way already? The Man in Black didn’t see life in a host until he killed Maeve as an already older man.

Now I feel like the Man in Black is grieving more than just the park, he’s grieving us viewers, too.


Photo credit: John. P. Johnson/HBO

Final reveries:

  • “What kind of people would we be if we let him suffer?” How much of Dolores’ kindness is programmed, and does that make it less genuine? Does it make William’s act of mercy for the dying boy less kind by comparison or more? Does it matter?
  • The hosts’ exploding vertebrae is the fail-safe for Westworld’s hosts? Kind of curious to see that. So long as it’s not Maeve.
  • Big up to lab surgeon Sylvester, who sees in Maeve humanity. I like this partnership.
  • Two times the saloon tunes this week: “House of the Rising Sun” and “Back to Black” by Amy Winehouse, with its chorus of “We only said goodbye with words, I died a hundred times.” Beautiful motif for Maeve. We also got a funny Swan Lake Waltz when Hector came to town.
  • Are we never going to see Rebus and his mighty ’stache again? Actor Steven Ogg has a pretty decent-sized recurring role on The Walking Dead this season. Is it weird that I want to watch Ogg and Walton Goggins headbut each other with their giant foreheads like two clashing pachycephalosaurs? (Yeah, I know it’s weird.)
  • Next week: “The Well-Tempered Clavier.” William and Dolores are held captive by Logan, The Man in Black is held captive by Teddy, and Maeve and Bernard have a meeting of the minds.

Westworld airs Sunday nights at 9PM E/PT on HBO.

Theresa DeLucci is a regular contributor to Tor.com covering TV, book reviews and sometimes games. She’s also gotten enthusiastic about television for Boing Boing, Wired.com’s Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast and Den of Geek. Reach her via pony express or on Twitter.


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