Season 2, Episode 4: “The Riddle of the Sphinx”
Directed by Lisa Joy
Written by Gina Atwater
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Virtù e Fortuna” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Akane No Mai” – click here
Nice opening to a tune by the Stones. We see a beautiful, modern home. This is where James Delos (Peter Mullan) lives. He spends the day smoking, attaching electrodes to his head, stroking one out, and drinking coffee. Before he gets a visit from William (Jimmi Simpson), bearing the gift of a nice bottle of booze. They sit together for a drink. James has been undergoing an “observation period.” He’s not living in there, he’s been existing, locked away.
Now he’s got to do an interview. With William. We also find out bits and pieces about Delos; such as he defunded the very research looking into the disease he later ended up with and is now dying from, slowly. Brutal irony. Thus begins the interview – to “establish a baseline.” It’s all a way to gauge human from host, no? They’re concerned with fidelity. James mentions, essentially, two conversations between them. I’m imagining that Delos wants to extend his life due to his impending death.
Jump forward. The Man in Black (Ed Harris) aka William down the line, and his buddy Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr.) are heading past the train tracks, which are being laid on top of the corpses of dead men. William is playing a long game, and it’s interesting to see the steps he’s taking headed towards his final destination. Is he trying to reverse the flow of time just like James was once? Hmm.
Poor Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) continues on his own journey, as well. He’s been dragged to the opening of a cave, by Clementine Pennyfeather (Angela Sarafyan). Left alone. What’s inside the cave, I wonder? At least he has a rifle to venture inside with, in case there’s enemies. He finds someone chained up: none other than Elsie Hughes (Shannon Woodward) after all this time! Not exactly the reunion Bernie was hoping for, after putting her there himself under control of Ford (Anthony Hopkins). She isn’t happy to see him again, though he tries explaining things. That is, before he starts convulsing. Elsie checks out his control panel – he’s in a “cognitive lock,” and she realises that he has a “back story.” When she shuts him down and brings him back online, it’s enough to keep him going. But he needs “cortical fluid.”
Flashing between current time and the past, Bernard uncovers a lever in the rock of the cave. He and Elsie find an entrance into a facility just inside. He can’t remember where it leads. They head in, anyway. Might as well. Down an elevator, they come across a lab where a massacre occurred. They also find one of the synthetic people, the workers we’ve seen watching, working, building underground before. They’re like semi-sentient drones. Elsie kills it, then goes about filling Bernard up with some much needed fluid.
Out on the plains of Westworld, an Indigenous tribe hold settlers hostage, including Grace (Katja Herbers) who washed up on shore, and Ashley Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth). Seems like Grace is determined to stick around, not as eager to leave as Stubbs. I’m super curious about her character, plus the inclusion of the other parks in the Delos Destinations branch of Delos Incorporated.
Sitting down for a nip of booze, Mr. Black and Lawrence are held at gunpoint by Major Craddock (Jonathan Tucker) and his boys, after Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood) pulled a fast, smart one on them recently. They decide to tie old William up, and Lawrence; the latter’s family are hostages, too. Craddock has most certainly gone off the rails after his paths crossing with Dolores and Teddy Flood (James Marsden). And it’s getting ultraviolent. Well, Mr. Black’s good at making deals, specifically when he knows more than some of these hosts about the valley beyond and such.
More tunes on vinyl with some Roxy Music, as Delos dances around his little apartment. Routine, over and over. Meanwhile he’s getting more ill as time passes. He gets another visit from William. They drink booze again. The same as last time. Exactly the same. Only that song was different, right? So, is this really Delos, or is this a host version of Delos? James is passed a paper. It reads exactly what he’s just said, verbatim. He’s confused, obviously. Although he realises what it means quickly. The real James has been deceased for seven years. His consciousness has merely been transferred to a new shell, a copied form of his own body. This doesn’t mean everything’s perfect. This version isn’t quite ready to leave the cage. They’ve got to “terminate” this one an move on to a new one.
On the plains, the Indigenous tribe takes their hostages to meet their leader, Akecheta (Zahn McClarnon) whom we’ve seen before in the outside world. He has the tribal paint on. Grace runs off into the woods on her own, whereas Stubbs is nearly killed. Then, he’s left alone in the midst of the wilderness. A spooky moment.
Bernard is back online, filled with the good fluid. He’s still drifting back and forth between memories. They’re not “addressed,” as Elsie tells him, so he’s kinda of floating everywhere within his consciousness. He gradually remembers being there in that facility they found, and what was being built down there.
And it wasn’t hosts, either.
Things with Mjr. Craddock are unravelling, especially after they’ve got nitroglycerine in the mix. Lawrence is getting the shit kicked out of him, and inside, out of the rain, ole Bill’s perpetually trying to cut a deal. Craddock is getting very, very nasty, though. He’s going to make Lawrence’s wife feed her husband some nitro in a shot glass. Except it doesn’t look as if Bill is willing to sit by and watch much more cruelty, despite his own. He takes control of the place by violent force, dressed in Black and bringing death everywhere he goes. This time he uses it to spare brutality being inflicted on innocent others.
More of Delos in his apartment cell. Only this time, William is much older, and James doesn’t even recognise him at first. Things progress a little differently this time around. Relatively the same, but different. The Delos host is at a “cognitive plateau,” it falls apart after a bit. Each host is the same: one hundred and forty-nine of them. Lord almighty. William is starting to doubt they can’t work out this bypass to immortality after all. It’s more like consciousness being trapped.
Later, we’re back to Bernard and Elsie. They come upon that very room where we saw the Delos experiment being conducted. They head inside, through flashing red lights, and find the place totally trashed. One of the techs lies dead in the wreckage. Further on is Delos himself, older, greyer, and covered in blood and cuts. He attacks Elsie, then Bernard steps in. They fight, but Bernard overpowers James and they terminate him inside his cell. But now Bernard and Elsie see more of the ultimate endgame behind it all – a vanity project to try finding a technological fountain of youth. Simultaneously, Bernard is remembering more about what he was doing under Ford’s control, gaining a new sense of autonomy and sentience. That doesn’t necessarily mean what he’s remembering is good. Most of it is pretty sinister, such as the fact he commanded the massacre that happened in that same facility where he now stands so innocently.
Just remember: “If you‘re looking forward, you‘re looking in the wrong direction.”
Oh, and one last nugget in this episode – Grace = William’s daughter. Whoa.
In my top three episodes of Westworld so far. Some people are confused, and I’m not knocking anyone for that. But if you follow everything, maybe re-watch Season 1 if needed, there’s so much clarity in what’s actually happening. You just have to want to look is all. If not, that’s fine. Just don’t shit on a show because YOU can’t understand it. Plenty’s been revealed, there’s also more mystery still alive, still playing out currently. Be patient and more of that will be explained, too.
“Akane No Mai” is next time.