Just when I think Westworld is mostly going to focus on two storylines per episode, they create an episode that manages to touch on all five of the plots currently happening on the show. On the one hand, it’s nice not to have to wait a week to catch up with any cliffhangers. On the other hand, I wanted to spend double the time with several of the storylines, especially the one with Elsie (Shannon Woodward) and Bernard (Jeffrey Wright). But that episode would have been about two hours long, so — ya can’t have everything.
This was a jam-packed episode (“Phase Space”) with a very exciting final scene… but we’ll get to that in a minute. First…
In the opening scene, we revisit the interaction from the season premiere between Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and Jeffrey Wright — at the time, it was left vague to whether Dolores was with Bernard or Arnold. Now we have our answer.
It’s Arnold, evidenced by him wrestling with a decision to terminate Dolores before she outgrows Westworld. Except, twist! After he gets a line “wrong,” Dolores drops her farm girl persona and says the magic word; she’s testing Arnold for “fidelity,” the same way young William (Jimmi Simpson) was testing the James Delos robot (Peter Mullan) a couple episodes ago.
So it looks like Dolores is making herself an Arnold-bot, though we don’t yet know exactly why. Perhaps the Jeffrey Wright we saw on the beach in the season premiere is the Arnold-bot. In this current scene, he’s struggling with the choice to end the hosts and in that flash-forward, Arnold laments killing all the hosts they find drowned in a flooded valley.
Dolores Creates a Monster
Back in the timeline immediately following the assassination of Robert Ford by the outlaw Dolores Abernathy, Dolores and co. are preparing to take the train from Sweetwater to the Mesa. A shiny new Evil Teddy (James Marsden) strolls into town, though, and gives Dolores a bit of pause about whether she did the right thing messing with his compassion, intellect, and ruthlessness.
This storyline mostly seems like a vehicle to sync up three of the timelines with the arrival of the train at the Mesa. However, it is important that we see Dolores beginning to question whether she’s doing the right thing. Obviously, that is going to come into play before the end of the season.
But otherwise, the plan here left me with some questions. Like, why take the technician on the train in the first place if you were just going to uncouple him and let him fall behind? Why not uncouple the cars you don’t need right from the start? It would make the train move faster and be a lot more efficient.
But before we get to the other two storylines on a collision course with Dolores, let’s talk about Maeve (Thandie Newton).
You Can’t Go Home Again
Maeve’s thread picks up with the aftermath of the samurai army attacking the Shogun’s camp with only Maeve and Akane (Rinko Kikuchi) there to fend them off — though Felix (Leonardo Nam) probably tried to help as best he could, which was most likely by staying out of the way, honestly.
I was pretty disappointed that the battle happened off screen. Yes, I understand that this episode was already stuffed to the gills, but I would have gladly traded Musashi’s (Hiroyuki Sanada) duel back in the town to get a little of Maeve’s battle. Ah well.
Akane carves out Sakura’s heart with the intention of taking it to Snow Lake for cremation, as a way of honoring her surrogate daughter’s spirit. She and Maeve swing back through town and pick up their cohorts and then it’s off to Snow Lake, which is where Musashi and Akane decide to stay. It’s all fine, except that later, when Maeve finds her daughter, I would have gladly sacrificed some of this traveling for a bit more between Maeve and Maeve 2.0, which we’ll get to in a second.
After leaving Musashi and Akane behind, Maeve and her companions finally reach the homestead and she ventures across the field alone to find her daughter. The daughter is there, and Maeve gets very emotional until she realizes that her daughter has a new mom (who looks a lot like Maeve, hence the “Maeve 2.0” comment). I’m not sure how this is coming as a surprise to Maeve. Did she think the park just put the little 12-year-old host out there in the homestead by herself?
But anyway, the Ghost Nation gang rides up and chases Maeve and her daughter, as Hector (Rodrigo Santoro), Armistice (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal) and Hanaryo (Tao Okamoto) provide cover fire. Akecheta (Zahn McClarnon) is leading this raid and he says to Maeve: “We are meant for the same path.” What exactly does that mean? I hope the show revisits it.
This thread ends with the shoot-out, though it is interesting to note that Sizemore (Simon Quarterman) finally uses the walkie-talkie he stole off a dead body in Shogun World to call for help, while Felix runs toward the gunfire to help Maeve.
Felix and Elsie run neck-and-neck for Best Human on this show. I hope they don’t die. It’s also worth noting that cowboy looks good on Felix. It is an excellent costume change, but even cowboy Felix can’t entirely save the Maeve storyline this week. I wish the threads for Dolores and Maeve had been given a little more meat, you know?
But like I said at the beginning, you can’t win ’em all.
Ed Harris’ Emmy Reel
Emily (Katja Herbers) is now riding with her father’s posse. It takes the Man in Black a while to be convinced she’s not a host — which, that’s fair — but once he’s sure she’s real, he wonders what she’s doing in Westworld.
After a reference to her sex life to make her father uncomfortable, Emily informs him that she won’t let their final interaction be her blaming him for her mother’s suicide. She also says she won’t stand by and watch as her father attempts “suicide by robot” and tries to go out in some “bullshit blaze of glory,” so she’s here to ask if he’ll come home with her.
It’s a marvelous scene, with Herbers’ and Harris’ faces lit by the nearby campfire. She has the lion’s share of the dialogue, which she delivers very well, but Harris says volumes without saying a word. He really is acting the hell out of this season — not that he wasn’t good in season one, but this season is next level.
And of course, it is this emotional response to his daughter practically pleading with him to come home that makes it all the more heartbreaking when he takes the coward’s way out and ditches her while she sleeps.
As soon as he agreed to come home with her, I thought she was a goner, so I’m glad to see the show went another way with the storyline. Killing off Emily at this point would have felt cheap and incomplete; now the Man in Black will hopefully have to own up to his real-life obligations (if Emily can track him down again).
Meanwhile, Emily’s fellow captive at the Ghost Nation camp has returned to the Mesa, which is a mess. Stubbs surveys the damage as Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) arrives with Abernathy (Louis Herthum) in tow.
He’s still freaking out due to all the extra code in his head, so Charlotte has some security guys bolt him to a chair
— literally, they use a gun to fire giant bolts into his shoulders and legs to secure him. There’s clear religious imagery here, and Stubbs is obviously uncomfortable with treating a host this way, even if he is a machine.
Charlotte later assures the head of the extraction team that Abernathy isn’t going anywhere, which are famous last words as they see on the giant holographic map that the train from Sweetwater is storming into the Mesa.
Elsie also hears the train come crashing into the Mesa, so we now know for sure that Dolores, Elsie-Bernard, and Charlotte are operating in the same time period. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves a bit.
When Elsie and Bernard arrive at the Mesa, she gets into the computer system and finds some very strange things. It seems that QA can’t gain control of the park’s systems because the CR4-DL (or “Cradle”) is blocking them. The Cradle is interfacing with every system in the park and heading QA off at every turn.
Bernard tells Elsie they can access the source code in the Cradle that is responsible for this, but he has to do it in person. So they head inside a storage facility full of host back-up data, where Bernard remembers bringing a little red pearl to be put into the system. He then lets the control unit cut his head open and extract his “brain.”
Suddenly, Bernard is “inside” the storage, but instead of presenting itself like a bunch of code, it’s a simulation of Sweetwater, with all the hosts wandering around and no guests. Bernard walks around, trying to figure out what to do when suddenly he spies a greyhound — remember Ford’s tale about his pet greyhound as a kid?
Inside the Cradle Mariposa, the man playing piano is none other than Ford (or a data simulation of Ford) who looks up and says, “Hello, old friend.”
Here’s what’s important about this scene: first of all, when Bernard entered “Sweetwater” the aspect ratio changed to widescreen, which indicates that that aspect ratio tells us when we’re inside a simulation. So when Dolores and the Arnold-bot were having their conversation at the beginning of the episode, she was probably talking to him inside storage, i.e. her little red sphere was interacting with the “brain” they’re trying to perfect that will let them create an Arnold facsimile.
Second, it would seem that Ford created a bot version of himself (or at least the “brain” that could be implanted into a bot) and this brain is controlling the park’s systems. The question now becomes — is Ford’s “brain” in storage or is it out in the world inside someone else’s body? There could be a “human” running around with Ford’s brain, which is very, very interesting.
Another possibility is that Ford’s “brain” has never been implanted anywhere; he’s just sitting in the Cradle controlling everything and the drive Bernard is starting to remember creating is actually for someone else entirely… meaning we still have the mystery of which “human” is actually a host.
It’s a lot to process, but I can’t wait to see the final few episodes of this season.
Miss the previous episode recap? Catch up here.
TV critic by way of law school, Andrea Reiher enjoys everything from highbrow drama to clever comedy to the best reality TV has to offer. Her work can be found at The A.V. Club, Entertainment Weekly, PopSugar, Variety and more. Her TV heroes include CJ Cregg, Spencer Hastings, Diane Lockhart, Juliet O’Hara and Buffy Summers. TV words to live by: “I’m a slayer, ask me how.”