Season 2, Episode 7: “Les Écorchés”
Directed by Nicole Kassell
Written by Jordan Goldberg & Ron Fitzgerald
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Phase Space” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Kiksuya” – click here
The French translation of this episode title is roughly “The Cutaways.”
Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) gets chatted up by Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth), who’s begun to worry about their safety with Strand (Gustaf Skarsgård) desperately searching for “a key.” Speaking of, Strand comes around talking about Ms. Cullen’s death. And they’re headed to the place where it happened— where she “actually died.”
They head down to see Charlotte (Tessa Thompson). Things are getting serious, too. Strand believes it was Stubbs who led Charlotte down there. We know the truth. Before Bernard can say anything, they uncover a hidden door in the facility. It leads to a hallway, at the end of which is another door. There they find a bunch of Bernard clones, tucked away in storage. Oh, damn.
Now Charlotte’s “waterboarding” Bernard, at least through digital means. It’s somehow more sickening than the real thing, in that it all happens mentally. She starts trying to dig into him, looking for information. She begins asking about Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood). She really wants to know more about her father, Peter (Louis Herthum), who’s nailed down in the other room.
But above all, there’s war continuously brewing between humans and artificial intelligence. Doesn’t help to have Coughlin (Timothy V. Murphy) and his trigger happy man Engels (Ronnie Gene Blevins) kicking around, heading into the Delos Westworld HQ. There, the men find bodies stacked everywhere, and they stumble onto a horde of armed hosts.
So, what’s the ultimate goal? The hosts are heading for the Cradle, where Elsie (Shannon Woodward) is watching over Bernard – because he’s busy with Dr. Ford (Anthony Hopkins), in some other nebulous part of consciousness, where Clementine (Angela Sarafyan) and Maeve (Thandie Newton) are still strutting the saloon in Sweetwater. We find out the “control unit” Bernard printed was Ford. Of course he’s been unknowingly helping to manipulate things, on several levels. He’s finally figuring out the whole thing is an experiment, a set of variables – guests – and the hosts become the controls. It’s a way of studying human beings and the hosts in one large environment. In order to copy human beings, their minds, their identities. GOD. DAMN. Bernard truly begins seeing the illusion of free will bestowed upon them. Same as how Satan viewed his Creator, God, in Paradise Lost.
Back to old William (Ed Harris). He comes across Maeve and her daughter. She fires on him as he enters her home. This pits the Man in Black and Ms. Millay against one another in a gunfight. Doesn’t hurt to have her new powers. She uses them to send Bill’s own cohorts after him guns blazing. Just as she has him at the end of a gun, Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr.) arrives. Then she finds that Lawrence has no “master.” She tries to influence him— hard. He begins remembering what Bill has done to him over the years. He puts another bullet in his friend. Except he doesn’t get to finish him off, armed men arrive, as do the Indigenous warriors, who take Maeve’s daughter. And Maeve gets gunned down, as well. Lee (Simon Quarterman) stops the men from killing her. Doesn’t matter. Her daughter’s gone again, and the Man in Black still draws breath.
“Isn’t the pleasure of a story in discovering the ending yourself, Bernard?”
On a walk together, Ford and Bernard head to a house with a beautiful garden. This is where Arnold was building a place for his family. This is where Bernard was “refined” and “tested.” Because back then, the Delos project didn’t exist. So, Ford had to build Bernard in Arnold’s image through memory, aided by Dolores. These are the moments we’ve seen leading up to this episode, as Dolores was helping to test him out. Ford believes in the beauty of the artificial intelligence of that place. However, he doesn’t think Bernard has what it takes to survive in the new burgeoning world like the rest. Uh oh.
Nevertheless, Elsie brings Bernard back to the world. The systems are back online. Although I’m inclined to see that as Ford’s doing, surely. In this episode, the Miltonic connections of Westworld to Paradise Lost have strengthened. More than ever, Dr. Ford takes on the God role, whereas the hosts are the anti-hero Satan(s) coming to take back Paradise for themselves.
At HQ, Dolores and Teddy (James Marsden) have gotten to her father. She confronts Charlotte, as well as a reluctant Stubbs. She isn’t happy about what’s been happening to dad. Not just that, she wants the key. It’s as if everybody is in a race against one another to the Door. Meanwhile, Bernard is being influenced out in the world by Ford, drawing Elsie elsewhere so that he can get some sly things done on his own. And in the mdist of all the gunfire, Clementine is murdering men, by gun AND by hand. Sadly she’s soon gunned down.
During the chaos, Charlotte slips away with Stubbs, as Teddy takes on other armed men and Dolores tends to her father. Coughlin and Teddy go hand to hand, eventually the latter wins over with brute strength and pounds his human opponent into nothing but a bloody stump for a head. Relentless brutality against his oppressors. In the meantime, Dolores has a sweet, if not heartbreaking moment with Peter. He must sacrifice his consciousness for her to extract the key.
A wounded Maeve gets left on her own in the HQ parking garage by Lee. She’s discovered by Dolores, who urges that family connections are chains to keep them tied down. Dolores is “lost in the dark” with the power she’s taken. She’s taking back her autonomy, her agency— at what cost? She’s turned Teddy into her walking zombie, just as she was manipulated into being Westworld’s zombie. She leaves Maeve to her fate, heading further with the key in tow. As do Bernard and Ford keep on moving, killing, whatever it takes. And poor Bernard keeps flashing from one place in memory to another, too, caught in the clutches of Hale and Strand. They plan taking him to the Valley Beyond.
We’re at the tipping point of Westworld, where all the past is coming to fully bear on the present, and we’re starting to see the endgame in the current timeline. We’ll definitely spend more time in the past, it’s inevitable. From here on in, I anticipate the current timeline is going to take precedence.