You know, I was getting to quite like No-Nonsense Engineer Woman. She had brains, a dry sarcastic wit and a killer side part.
But then she goes and breaks cardinal rule number one about entering creepy abandoned buildings alone, which is of course DON’T ENTER CREEPY ABANDONED BUILDINGS ALONE.
Of COURSE she was going to get grabbed by assailants as yet unknown. Vision-impaired Frederick saw that one coming.
It made me mad because the tension was done so well that I still jumped when the hand went around her neck, even though I knew it was coming with the certainty of the sunrise. Why am I so easily manipulated? Honestly, it’s a miracle I haven’t given all my money away to a Nigerian scammer pretending to be Jon Snow who just needs a wire transfer of $20,000 to come and live with me forever.
Sigh. I suppose I could say that NNEW was too excited about her discovery that apparently it was Theresa, aka Sharply-Dressed Modern Business Woman, who had been secretly transmitting data out of the park, to notice the mandatory narrative she was in.
The same could be said for good old Shrill British Guy, who made a return appearance this episode only to totally bumble his way into trying to impress a hot chick, who turned out of course to be a High-Powered Business Executive and also a Valkyrie. Because OF COURSE she was - has Shrill British Guy NEVER watched Top Gun?
But we’ll get to the arrival of Tessa Thompson later.
I do feel like things are finally starting to *happen* in Ye Olde and Newe Westworld, so let’s crack open another Go West (Life is Increasing Less Peaceful There) recap.
S1E6: The Adversary
Let’s start with our favourite, Madam Maeve, who’s worked out that goading asshole park guests to strangle her during coitus is the quickest way back to the “real” world.
Don’t think I didn’t notice Radiohead on the Mariposa pianola too - I had to do some Googling because the mid-90s for me were more about Madonna and the Spice Girls than Thom Yorke and his mysterious genius, but still, the song Fake Plastic Trees with its lyrics “It wears her out, it wears her out” is Very Portentious Indeed.
After waking again In the lab, Felix explains to Maeve that while she feels just as squidgy as a regular human, she is in fact a very clever robot designed and controlled by her intellectual inferiors. Of course her circuitry can’t handle the irony for the moment and upon seeing her words beamed back at her from Felix’s computer she experiences a beach ball of death.
Felix manages to bring her around, only for Maeve to immediately ask “I want to see upstairs”.
What follows is probably the most beautiful sequence of this show so far - Felix gingerly “leading” Maeve around the complex, first through the construction rooms, with trays of eyes and tubes of fake blood bringing colour and “life” to the hosts, then behaviour, with sex workers and card sharks being assessed for realism alongside the animals. Thandie Newton’s eye acting here is top notch; her reactions prove her as more human than anybody else in the place.
After moving through the design section, where Thandie realises that’s where her own head would have been carved into existence, Felix insists they return before they’re discovered. But Maeve is mesmerised by the Westworld ad playing on the super IMAX screen in the foyer. “Live Without Limits” boasts its catchphrase - while displaying created automatons who only ever live within specifically designed limits. There are her fellow prostitutes from the Mariposa, a few gunslingers and reprobates like Hector Escaton, and finally Maeve herself - but not as she currently is, but as the homestead mother with her young daughter.
Back in the lab, she asks Felix how they have her dreams, but he informs her they were no dreams. Maeve has only been the madam for a year; her dreams are from a previous build. She shouldn’t remember, but she does.
Something we haven’t forgotten is how much of an asshole Felix’s ginger-bearded co-worker is. Bursting in to see Felix with a clothed Maeve, he accuses Felix of having a sexual kink for Maeve and threatens to report him. But Maeve springs into action, grabbing a scalpel and threatening Ginger Beard’s throat and gut. He thinks Felix has done something to Maeve, but she states she was built to know what people want, and she can help him get what he wants as long as he keeps schtum.
Later we see Felix’s computer in Maeve’s hands, with Felix and Asshole Ginger Beard explaining how her personality is built using attributes such as charm, strength and intelligence. Maeve demands some changes, but Ginger Beard says they don’t have the required approvals to make them. OH RLY, asks Maeve. She’s worked out that Ginger Beard is running a racket allowing sad young men working in the basement to “sample the merchandise”, then erasing the robots’ memories afterwards. “Don’t worry I’m an entrepreneur myself,” she deadpans. I love Maeve so much, man, could she be my robot friend?
As they start making changes, lowering her loyalty and upping her pain threshhold, Felix and Ginger Beard realise that somebody else has already been in her system, shifting some levers. Maeve comes back calmly, stating that just as she tells new girls in the brothel, if you’re going to get f***ed either way, at least make it the lucrative version.
They fold and shift her bulk apperception “all the way to the top”. I wish I could say I knew what that was, but again I had to resort to Googling to discover it’s not just her intelligence she wants boosted, but her ability to remember and understand her past, and how that informs her present. So she no longer will forget her “dreams”, but remember and be able to act on the information they contain.
TL;DR? THANDIE NEWTON JUST PUT DESCARTES BEFORE DES-HORSE.
Sharply-Dressed Modern Business Woman has some bad news for Barnard - after being rumbled by Ford, their tumbling days are over. Barnard flies into a passionate rage, falls to his knees and cries at this dumping. Except of course he doesn’t because he’s technically more robot than the hosts. That’s unkind, of course, the fellow has suffered some serious loss and he naturally keeps his emotions in check. You can actually see he’s a little upset, but not enough to pursue it.
Downstairs, NNEW Elsie presents Barnard with the clunky uplink modem thingy and asks him if the fact that the robots going crazy is actually industrial espionage is a glass half full or empty situation.
“We’re engineers - the glass has been built to the wrong technical specifications,” he retorts drily.
NNEW thinks the geo-tagging trail has gone cold, but Barnard has the knowledge of someone who’s “been around forever”. He takes an elevator deep into the bowels of the park HQ to do some old-school science, checking original GPS locators to follow the stray host’s movements. But then he discovers a group of five other hosts operating unregistered, in secret, in Sector 17.
He gets a check on the area, but no, no guests or hosts are registered in Sector 17, because it’s off limits for “future narrative development”.
So off Barnard goes, into the wild green yonder of Sector 17. There, he discovers a charming brick cottage, with slate roof tiles and a chimney that won’t quit. Barnard then just walks right into the place, bursting into the living room to find a family preparing for dinner - INCLUDING THE YOUNG LAD WHO’S BEEN TURNING UP IN THE PARK.
“Are you… Arnold?” he asks the man, whom we presume is the father.
He’s not Arnold, but rather a pissed off Scotsman who accuses Barnard of trespassing and gets right up in his grill. Of course that’s why Barnard just breezed into the house - the hosts will stop if given the right voice command.
But not this time. Barnard’s urgent “Freeze” does nothing, and the Dad has him pushed up against the door within seconds. Just at that moment, the door moves and we see Ford behind it, who utters the necessary commands to make the father turn and go back to preparing for dinner.
“Who are they?” Barnard asks Ford. “Ghosts, now,” he replies, and brings the boy forward.
“Turn the other cheek,” he instructs, and THE BOY’S FACE GOES FULLY YUL BRYNNER.
Turns out Arnold built all these bots as a gift to Ford - giving him a cherished family memory, preserved forever. Ford maintains all the old ‘bots himself, and even gave his Dad back his alcoholism to be more realistic. Hmmmm, okaaaay.
When Barnard says “This worries me” he speaks for all of us. But at the same time, they are the only original robo-bots left, they are avatars of Ford’s own family, and they don’t seem to be causing any harm. Maybe Ford is just a nostalgic old man? And maybe Donald Trump will be a half-decent President?
Can I just say I’m very proud of myself for picking back in Episode 2 when the young lad first showed up that he may indeed be a replica of the young Ford himself, due to the clothes. I’m sure probably everybody picked that reveal, but I’m still patting myself on the back and parts beyond.
On the road to Pariah, Teddy tells Ed Harris that the maze is just a Native American myth, about a powerful and immortal man at the centre who built the maze to protect himself. Yep, Teddy, just a myth, doesn’t sound like the mysterious Arnold at all. No sirree Bob.
Some passing strangers inform them that Union soldiers have closed the border into Pariah, but Teddy knows another way in. He’s not scared of getting his hands dirty, he tells Ed Harris, he’s just going to find Delores. Ed Harris looks particularly chuckle-happy at this point; I wonder if he’ll ever tell Teddy about his various brutal assaults on Delores over the years, perhaps at an opportune moment to undermine him? I wouldn’t put anything past Ed Harris - just look at the beret he wore in The Truman Show.
Teddy leads Ed to a Union soldier encampment, based near a tunnel that would lead them into Pariah. Ed is dubious about their chances of taking on a battalion of trained soldiers, but then they spy a pair of officers riding towards them.
I enjoyed the jump cut to Ed and Ted now decked out in Union uniforms walking into camp. Very droll. A bunch of the soldiers are suffering horrific wounds, which Teddy quickly badges as Wyatt’s work.
I’m sorry, I know Wyatt is supposed to be terrifying, but I just can’t picture someone called “Wyatt” as a Big Bad. Australians may remember Wyatt Roy, the youngest ever politician elected to the federal parliament in 2010. He was just 20 at the time - and didn’t even look that.
So every time Ed and Ted talk about the evil Wyatt, I just picture an impish grin and boyish face and find it really hard to take it seriously. That’s where Game of Thrones has it in terms of names - the fantasy element really adds to the evil. “Tywin” sounds like an evil bastard. “Gregory Clegane”? Totally a bad guy. “Stannis Baratheon”? He even sounds like an anally retentive bad dude. The exception is perhaps Jaime Lannister, and even then that was foreshadowing because he’s mostly come good now.
Anyway, the point is Wyatt’s been through the Union troops like Sherman through Atlanta. But wait, did he act alone? A couple of infantry men spot Teddy and immediately finger him as Wyatt’s second in command in a raid on their unit in Escalante. Teddy responds by shooting them both dead, and despite Ed Harris’ efforts to hold the rest of the troops off, they’re both captured.
Tied to wagon wheels (sadly not the delicious chocolate biscuits), things don’t look good for Ted and Ed. A Union officer is busy heating up a branding with that goshdarn maze on it, ready to burn into Teddy the Traitor’s skin. In that moment, he has a flashback, and realises he DID in fact help Wyatt murder a whole bunch of soldiers in Escalante. “You’re right, I am a killer,” he states, just as he loosens his bindings. Fisticuffs ensue, which allow Ed to get free, and eventually Ted to get to the Gatling gun which he uses to MOW DOWN THE ENTIRE F***ING UNIT.
WOW-WHEE, TEDDY JUST GOT MORE INTERESTING Y’ALL.
I spent five episodes mostly yawning at his good-hearted, clean cut, country boy act, but now it seems that upgrade Ford installed has brought out his bad boy side. And you know us women, we can’t resist a bad boy. It’s what the MRAs and Incels and Men Going Their Own Way have been telling internet messageboards for years now. And they’ve taken the red pill, so they must be right. Right?
The interesting question is - was it just the upgrade that changed Teddy, or is it something else combining with the upgrade? In the same way Maeve is beginning to break her programming and Delores is hearing voices and following directions, is something similar happening to Teddy? Something on top of the new backstory? He still loves and wants to find Delores, but is that just his way of trying to make peace with his past indescretions, as Ed urges him to? Is he now trying to escape that life, or embrace it?
“You think you know someone,” Ed says after Teddy massacres a good 20 or 30 people. “You don’t know me at all.” AND HOW, TEDDY, AND HOW.
Shrill British Guy has been absent from the show since Anthony Hopkins totally friendzoned his epic Red River storyline. It turns out he’s been on sick leave, which entails lounging by the pool and drinking cocktails. When Sharply-Dressed Modern Business Woman finds him, he’s still petulant about his plan being nuked, but she encourages him to pull himself together. Ford’s changes are disrupting storylines and stranding hosts outside of narratives, and someone’s going to be needed to clean up the eventual mess. HINT HINT.
Shrill British Guy is nothing if not totally self-absorbed, and so in response he continues to hang out and booze up. At one point, he spots an absolutely gorgeous woman at the bar, and promptly skeeves into view. The woman had ordered water, which SHOULD HAVE BEEN HIS FIRST BLOODY CLUE. He’s very keen to boast about his role at the park, using peacocking techniques that would put Neil Strauss to shame. And yet, he doesn’t realise this charming woman is asking very particular questions about the park. We have never seen her before, so clearly she must be an important new character.
Also I had seen the name “Tessa Thompson” in the credit sequence and thought “Huh? Valkyrie from Thor: Ragnarok? She’s not in this show… is she?” Someone’s in the title credits means they’re not just some random bar bunny. Eventually the awkward situation ends when the barman reads out a note from SDMBW telling him to sober up FFS, and Valkyrie leaves without ever dropping her name.
“F*** this,” declares Shrill British Guy, snatching a bottle of vodka while the barman’s back is turned and storming off.
When we next see him, it’s in a literal pissing contest in the main control room. He curses everyone’s name while dousing them with a liberal stream of processed alcohol. SDMBW interrupts his declarations of genius to introduce him to the executive director of the Delos board WHO OF COURSE IS VALKYRIE.
She casts an unblinking eye at his, er, “King and Country”, still flapping outside his shorts. “We’ve met,” she intones as he hurriedly zips up.
Honestly people, if you strike up a conversation with somebody, or try to hit on somebody, and they haven’t told you their name or anything about them, you can GUARANTEE they’re going to turn around and be your new boss, or the new teacher who has the power to fail you, or the doctor who’s about to operate to fix a vital organ. If cinema has taught us nothing it’s that you should always get a full passport scan and background check before starting up a discussion with ANYBODY.
Let’s go back to Barnard, who’s trying to assess which Arnold-built original hosts are still left in the park. Meanwhile No-Nonsense Engineer Woman Elsie calls in a huff - she’s found the satellite the stray host was transmitting to and it turns out to be owned by the park itself. THERE’S SOME HEAVY SHIT GOING ON HERE, MAN she says in a no-nonsense way.
She goes out into the park to find the satellite, or transmitter, or whatever bit of kit is undermining her and Barnard’s honest efforts to allow rich assholes to shag and kill robots.
It turns out to be an old abandoned theatre, because of course there’s nothing more calming than empty-eyed drama masks and the twisted limbs of broken marionettes.
Elsie finds the relay system, then starts downloading the data, revealing big surprises.
She calls Barnard, who’s in the middle of meeting with Theresa. Despite her dumping him at the start of the episode, he wants to report the anomalies he’s found. Until of course Elsie manages to make contact and tells him it was Theresa herself uploading the data.
But on top of that - somebody else has been in the system, re-testing older hosts and making modifications that could allow hosts to lie or even hurt the guests or park staff. Her best guess as to that person? Arnold, of course. “But he’s dead,” says Barnard. “Yeah, well he’s a pretty fucking prolific coder for a dead guy,” shoots back Elsie.
After the call, she resumes trying to transfer all the data in order to show Barnard. She’s starting to make other discoveries, but is interrupted by a noise. BECAUSE OF COURSE SHE IS. She picks up her torch to investigate, calling out first Barnard’s name, then in a flash of curiousity, Arnold’s.
Aaaaaaaannnnnnd then she gets grabbed from behind. Sigh. Elsie clearly focused too much on engineering and programming as a youth and not enough on horror movie tropes. I hate to say she walked into that one, but she really walked into that one.
Other Questions or Things Worth Commenting Upon
Anthony Hopkins saves the Mexican village from destruction by ordering his crews to stop their new canyon build near its entrance. As he wanders through the town, he spies that pesky maze pattern carved into a table, making him think. Back in his office, he digs through a filing cabinet and brings out an old sketch book, which we assume is one of Arnold’s. He flicks through until he finds the page with the maze, surrounded by other doodles and calculations. What does Ford actually know about the maze?
I will admit I didn’t quite get the dog stuff. Young Robot Robert said he found the dog dead, but then Ford made him admit he killed the dog. Was this the same dog Ford referred to last week, the ex-greyhound that ripped apart the little kitten? It’s raining dog and cat metaphors in here.
Thanks again for reading! See you next time, for hopefully more Teddy character development, the revelation of Elsie's abductor, and Maeve kicking arse.