Westworld Season 2, Episode 7: “Les Écorchés”

On this week’s episode of Westworld, The Man Behind The Curtain returns and explains not very much.

Does that shock you?

For an episode largely about getting all of the characters up to speed, this was a pretty slow hour. Like last week, all of the characters are represented, if only briefly, but not a ton happened. Story-wise, it felt like a lot of moves to place characters on a chessboard that will ultimately have no winning side.

How many Bernards does it take to screw up a theme park?

More than you’d think!

In one timeline, Bernard is outed as a host to the two people on this show who managed to avoid spoilers from last season. Charlotte and the security team don’t really seem to care that much, though, not when Abernathy’s valuable brain-key is uploading slower than a Geocities website on a dial-up modem connection. Charlotte’s got less of a narrative than a host!

In another, Bernard talks with a newly returned Dr. Ford, as they walk through the Cradle, talking about things we already knew: Delos is monitoring guests to understand and recreate the human mind, the “last analog device in a digital world.” It is ultimately a project to provide humans with immortality, but the “mistake” of free will in the hosts is part of a new storyline Ford has been concocting, with an ending that he doesn’t want to spoil for Bernard.

I see you, Westworld meta-commentary. You’re as subtle as one of Lee’s cannibal narratives.

So, still no hint on what’s really in the Valley Beyond. But we’re getting there. Ponderously.

Meanwhile the most compelling scene of the evening was when the Man in Black and Maeve cross paths once again. It doesn’t go happily for either gunslinger. The Man in Black really thinks everything is about him and Ford’s game for The Door, but Maeve and her superpowers and a newly-freed Lawrence are there to disabuse him of that notion.

Good thing the Man in Black has plot armor—or hosts are just ludicrously terrible shots—because holy hell, he should be dead. Several times over.

But was there a bigger, unseen hand motivating Maeve, the Man in Black, and the Ghost Nation? Because while the Man in Black thinks Ford is directing a Mexican standoff to teach him about poetic redemption, the Ghost Nation doesn’t seem to want to kill Maeve; I think they kidnapped her daughter to lure Maeve to them.

Bernard’s understanding of himself means understanding Arnold, his creator. The big revelation of the episode is that Bernard was refined by Dolores, who knew Arnold best. So that conversation we saw between Dolores and Arnold in the season two opener was, in fact, in the distant past of Bernard’s fidelity tests—and in the virtual world of the Cradle, which houses a backup of every aspect of the park, the hosts, and some special content like Ford and Arnold’s tasteful villa. As was clear from the 149 glitchy iterations of James Delos—and would surely happen again were Ford to attempt the same kind of resurrection—the hosts must still be original creations to work, and therefore, Dolores and Bernard needed to be separate? Kinda. I guess even Ford couldn’t anticipate the extent of Arnold’s Maze game last season?

All of this “more human than human” chattering ultimately leads to Ford overtaking Bernard’s mind and giving the host a very distinguished guardian angel. Is Bernard really going to find a secret facility at the Valley Beyond or was it a lie to send Elsie away?

Will Bernard’s dorky, gentle demeanor be lost forever now that Dolores has destroyed the Cradle? Out of all of the hosts who seemed to die tonight—Lawrence, Clementine, Angela, Dolores’ dad—Bernard’s demise could be the most final, the most undetected, and have the largest impact on the future of Westworld.

In a very, very violent episode, there’s something to be said about the delight of watching Anthony Hopkins with a machine gun.

Each time Dolores tells a host that they’re free to choose their own path, it sure opens a door to more suffering. Is that a bug or a feature of the park’s design?

Final reveries:

  • “Welcome to Westworld.” Was Dolores’ plan to suicide bomb the Cradle really that convoluted? I surely loved Angela’s final monologue. It said a lot about what humans think it means to be the perfect woman. As a solo scene, it worked, but it just seemed dumb to not bring your own damn explosives.
  • R.I.P. Lawrence, for real? I hope not, but it seemed pretty final and it was some poetic justice, that he shot the man who tortured him for so long.
  • The security team is kinda crappy at their jobs if they leave a park board member to bleed out. How did they not register the Man in Black as human?! Even if the Man didn’t want to be found… if I were him, they’d all be fired for incompetence.
  • That said, still didn’t need to see General Strand get his head beaten in by Teddy. We get it, Teddy. You’re stone cold now!
  • Next week: “Kiksuya.” The Ghost Nation finally has its say and it is freaking sad.

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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