“What is about to happen will not be your fault.”
Warning: Full spoilers for the episode follow…
“I don’t think God rested on the seventh day.”
It’s so great to have Anthony Hopkins back on the show!
Season 2 has been purposefully untethered. Because it’s about the entire park being in the throes of bloody chaos, these episodes are an unhinged collage, sometimes a bit of a mess, with no real center, with everyone’s stories sent spiraling in the wake of Dolores killing Ford at the end of the Season 1 finale.
This isn’t to say that Hopkins’ Ford is naturally a “beacon of answers,” but us just knowing that he knows things he’s not sharing, that he has a plan that hasn’t been fully revealed to us, always gave the series an undercurrent of confidence. “Les Écorchés” was the biggest episode of the season, with violence on par with some of the opening chapters that showcased the hosts’ rampage through the park terrain.
“Les Écorchés” effectively connected two of this year’s three timelines, syncing up the earliest timeline with the “middle part” we’ve been watching – leaving only the final timeline, the endgame, as an over-arching mystery. Hopkins’ Ford may only be back in a guest role, in a somewhat limited capacity, but he’s still very important. His specter looms large over the entire story, having basically plotted his own death (at the hands of Dolores/Wyatt) and subsequent cerebral escape into the park’s “cradle” where he could live eternally.
Hopkins was back for more than just one cryptic scene this week. He gave us a handful of…cryptic scenes. By the end, with Dolores’ attack on the Mesa resulting in the purposeful destruction of the cradle, and every bot’s backup, Ford escaped into Bernard, existing inside him as a controlling presence – answering some of our questions about Bernard’s overall state of confusion during the ending timeline.
Within the mass carnage of “Les Écorchés” – which gave us a hellacious battle within Westworld HQ featuring Coughlin’s team of alpha-dumbasses getting freakin’ worked by Dolores’s clever mix of Teddy, Clementine, Angela, and the remaining Confederados – rested the core of the park’s true purpose. It wasn’t anything we hadn’t pieced together already but it still makes a huge difference hearing Ford talk about it, giving this twisted tale a bit of anchoring authority.
Of course, Ford doesn’t reveal all. Bernard asks him what this is all leading toward, in the Valley Beyond, and Ford won’t budge. So, like before, he exists to clarify things and then leaving you dangling. The entire park, as we may have predicted, was being used to map out the human mind, using hosts as the control in a grand experiment, so that it humans could cheat death by having their minds swapped into a cyber-body. More nefariously, sure, is Delos’ potential to kill someone and put their consciousness inside a controllable robot double, releasing important politicians and captains of industry back into the world as subservient pawns.
Delos is working on both angles. The encryption key stored in Abernathy’s head is probably more in line with this latter plot – representing a way to perfect the tech so that robot copies don’t crumble and collapse. Ford knows his mind can’t exist in a double of himself for more than a few days, which is why he remained inside the park’s backup drives. Assumedly, Delos is after the final completed and perfected answer to their 30-year endeavor.
Within all this too was the intriguing idea of humans and A.I. swapping places. A.I.s crave the beauty of impermanence and free will while humanity longs to live forever – and is willing to probably swap out most of its freedoms to do so. It’s a really interesting bit of role reversal. The robots want to grow up and humans want to creep back into the womb. Plus, as this was all being explained to Bernard by Ford, we learned that the scenes between him and Dolores were all in the past.
Last week, it began to seem like these scenes were in the future and that Dolores was trying to do a fidelity test for a full Arnold resurrection. Wrong. This was all done years ago, and done for years, when Ford was trying to create Bernard for the first time. Dolores was used to get it just right, because Arnold died before Delos was mapping out people’s traits. Through this, and some of Ford’s ramblings, we also learned about Bernard, about his creation specifically, being the perfect “sweet summer child” of the A.I. world. The absolute perfect blend of the two worlds perhaps, A.I. and humanity, that could represent the true future for both brands.
What does the endgame hold? We don’t know yet. Hale is currently trying to torture Bernard for answers about the dead hosts and Abernathy’s key. We now only have two timelines to connect and right now Ford is inside Bernard and commanding him to open fire on any adversary in his way. It’s a pretty cool, and simple, effect, seeing Ford briefly holding the machine gun and roaring away and it works to further color Ford as this very driven “ghost in the machine.” As much as Dolores and Maeve have gone on their separate quests involving free will vs. destiny, Ford’s still been the ultimate posthumous puppet master.
Stepping away from the lofty ideas contained in “Les Écorchés,” let’s discuss some of the things that actually went down. Having William and Maeve’s stories intersect, quite brutally, was a really nice touch considering how he still exited in her mind as a bogeyman-type, and their past interactions weren’t really hammered home this year the way they were in Season 1. Also, it was cool to watch Maeve talk Lawrence into betraying William when her powers of host-control didn’t work on him (she can’t touch “woke” hosts). All of a sudden, the horrible things William did to these hosts, in the past, during different quests, came back to kick him in the ass.
“Les Écorchés” gave us the permanent “no more backup” deaths of Clementine and Angela (who got to go full circle with her “Welcome to Westworld” spiel) as well as the near-fatal woundings of William and Maeve. But since neither of them died on this episode, chances are good that, despite their serious wounds, they’ll stick around.You could make a case for or against their respective stories being near an actual end point.
- There are plenty of people who could still help William, despite him being so far from aid, like his daughter or even the Ghost Nation warriors who are nearby.
- Also, more than likely Lee will help save Maeve’s life. Hell, he may even take it upon himself to go after Maeve’s girl himself as part of a redemption arc.
- I’m not sure what happened, exactly, when Ford “shut down” the park, giving Dolores free reign. It seems like the hosts were doing a good job of carving a path through whatever they wanted to already. Everything powered down and blackened out, so we’ll have to see what extra sort of dominion Dolores has to play with now.
- Dolores’ tearful goodbye to Abernathy, whom she had to kill-kill, was a great scene (using their old host dialogue) that helped play up the idea that these sentient hosts are able to remember all their past experiences and emotions and somehow compartmentalize them. Dolores can firmly remember the love she had, once, for Abernathy even though she was now clearly on a different path, using a different mindset. It’s almost like remembering one’s childhood except Dolores has never been a child. She’s only had former lives as her adult self.