Major SPOILERS for Westworld Season 2 Episode 7, “Les Écorchés”.
This season continues to get better and better as Westworld delivers another episode that ramps up the intensity, is packed with content, and stays fairly localised within one or two locations. “Les Ecorches” gives us answers, asks more questions, and furthers a number of character storylines through both the present and the recent past. I had been giving Dolores’ journey a bit of shit in the first half of the season but these last two episodes have put her right back on track and her journey is very intriguing as everything is now nearing the end game… The Valley Beyond. Because of the slight intertwining nature of the storylines this episode this review might not be as straightforward as the other so bear with me.
Bernard (Present) – A Secret No More
The episode opens with Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) waking, photo of his fictitious(!?) son in his hand. Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) is piecing things together and gets that Strand (Gustaf Skarsgård) and his team aren’t there to rescue people, they just want their intel. Before Bernard and Stubbs can find other means of help, Strand apprehends and takes them to the secret off-base facility in which Ford (Anthony Hopkins) had Bernard kill Teresa last season. They seem to have figured out that this is where Teresa was actually killed and he believes that one of Stubbs or Bernard are responsible. Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) is also in the room and very much on the side of trying to find the key. Strand is nearing the point of killing Stubbs to get him to reveal information, but before he can do that and before Bernard can seemingly confess after remembering what he did, a hidden passage is found behind a bookshelf. This leads to a locked room that is holding several backups of Bernard, some of which appear to be already used, now where this isn’t really news to us it’s news to everyone else in the room as now Hale, Stubbs, and Strand all know Bernard has been a host this whole time. Safe to say he’s pretty fucked going forward.
Interesting to note also that the host body that was being constructed in that secret facility last season isn’t there anymore. Now this could still be another body for Ford which was my initial theory or it could have been another body for Bernard. This fact is still unclear.
After figuring out they’re dealing with a host, Hale begins controlling Bernard and essentially giving him some light torture whilst interrogating him on what has happened. Bernard begins to think back and now we are thrust into the past.
The Battle for Peter Abernathy (Before Cradle Explosion)
Hale, and Stubbs are standing guard with Peter Abernathy (Louis Herthum) and in an awesome shot it’s revealed that Dolores and her ruthless army have arrived and the assault begins. The following action sequences in the facility throughout this episode are actually pretty damn intense, especially for simple machine gun shootouts. The way it’s shot and the score backing up the sequences makes the whole thing quite suspenseful so kudos to the creative team there because that’s great. While Hale makes the order to begin extracting the control unit from Abernathy’s head, it seems the bulk of the hosts are trying to get to The Cradle, at this point seemingly to secure their backups.
Stubbs gets impatient with Hale and Delos’ ulterior motives and orders Hale to reveal what’s so important about Abernathy’s control unit, threatening to destroy it. Before she can inform him more than the fact that it’s a decryption key Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and Terminator Teddy (James Marsden) barge in now Dolores has secured her father. The gunfight is still going on elsewhere in the facility and we see Clementine (Angela Sarafyan) go down fighting, whether we’ll see her revived I’ll cover in a bit. Dolores informs Hale that she knows that Delos is trying to find a way for humans to live in a host body, which is also almost certainly the first that Stubbs is hearing of this.
Interestingly, Dolores mentions to Hale about the souls they’ve put in the valley… what if ‘the valley beyond’ is a database of human minds sitting on control units waiting to be bought to life. Maybe they’re chilling in a seperate digital world similar to The Cradle waiting for the technology to catch up. This is the strongest theory I have conjured up about what ‘the valley beyond’ could be so I’m sticking with it for now.
Bernard and Ford in The Cradle (Before Cradle Explosion)
Following last week’s reveal that was a long time coming we pick up with Bernard and Ford right where we left off. This entire sequence is packed with information and talk of immortality and hosts and guests so I’m going to need to revisit this sequence at some point to gather everything. But anyway the two of them begin catching up, with Bernard trying to understand why Ford had him bring his consciousness to The Cradle. In this sequence we get confirmation that Ford made Dolores kill him at the end of last season and where that incident may not have been at her own free will it is definitely the inciting incident to her awakening. Ford takes Bernard out to the street and questions him on whether he knows why the hosts’ stories have barely changed in 30 years.
Bernard then understands that the current park is merely a testing chamber, the hosts are the constants and the guests are the variables. Delos then watches their every move so that they can copy them and eventually keep a backup of their mind to one day bring them back into the world. Bernard puts it beautifully when he mentions that Delos weren’t trying to code the hosts, they were trying to decode the guests. Then Ford poetically mentions that humans never wanted the hosts to become them, they wanted to become the hosts. All of this puts into perspective the scope and purpose of the park and that it really has never truly been about the hosts obtaining free will. I love how this season is almost completely pulling the curtain back and providing so much insight into the first season as well as the current one.
Ford then brings up the search for immortality and how Delos’ project to instal someone’s mind in a host doesn’t work… yet. His mind can remain intact in The Cradle but not in the real world as we saw with the degradation of James Delos (Peter Mullan). So this makes me think that Ford has placed himself in here whilst he waits for the technology to catch up. Bernard then asks what’s at ‘the valley beyond’ and of course doesn’t get much of an answer.
A little later in the episode Ford takes Bernard to a recreation of Arnold’s real house within The Cradle, in fact it’s the original version of the house which he built before the real one. In this sequence is a major revelation that finally gives some context to a couple of scenes earlier in the season. Ford reveals that this is where he began testing Bernard and trying to build him to be like Arnold, testing him for fidelity (my new favourite word in Westworld). But in his speaking he is using the term ‘we’ not ‘I’, when Bernard questions this it’s revealed that Ford used Dolores to test Bernard for fidelity as she spent a lot of time with Arnold. This provides some more context for when those scenes between Bernard and Dolores with the different aspect ratio took place. It’s definitely not a look into the future and it’s most certainly a look in the past of Ford creating the Bernard we know today.
Ford then mentions that humans will devour who Bernard is unless they “open the door”… what does this quote mean? Could it have something to do with the key in Abernathy’s control unit? Is it what’s waiting at ‘the valley beyond’? So many questions about this damn most likely metaphorical door. But then right before Bernard is ejected from The Cradle, Ford informs him that he won’t have any need for his free will and takes it back. Elsie (Shannon Woodward) informs Bernard that whatever was clogging up the system is now gone, indicating that Ford is no longer in The Cradle.
Bernard and Elsie start making their way through the facility and it’s revealed that Bernard is seeing and hearing Ford in his mind as if he is standing right in front of him. So what appears to be happening now is that Ford is controlling or rather influencing Bernard to betray Elsie in a blending of The Cradle and reality. But I believe due to what happens with The Cradle in a bit, this isn’t Ford controlling Bernard from within The Cradle, rather I believe Ford has merged his consciousness with Bernard’s and is residing inside his control unit for the time being.
Maeve and William (Before Cradle Explosion)
Both Maeve (Thandie Newton) and William (Ed Harris) are being pursued by Ghost Nation, and when it seems that Maeve is being trapped by them it turns out it’s actually William who has stumbled upon them in a scenario similar to one which resulted in William killing Maeve in the past. Maeve starts taunting and criticising William and naturally William thinks Ford is speaking through her as he isn’t aware of her recent awakening. It’s a quite amusing sequence which ends in Maeve shooting William in the shoulder and then using her mind-control abilities to have his travelling companions turn on him. He takes a few shots, none of which seem fatal but have caused some damage. Maeve then lines William up in her sights but Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr.) shows up and points his gun at her. When she tries to use her powers on him they don’t work because it turns out Lawrence is also almost fully awake himself. In the standoff however Maeve manages to have Lawrence think about all the bad things William has done to him in the past… i.e. killing his wife.
This sets Lawrence off and in retaliation he seemingly kills William with a shot to the chest. I genuinely thought at this point that William was going to be dead, Lawrence walks towards him to finish the job and he’s still breathing but I mean he’s been shot in the torso 4 times, he mustn’t have much left in him. But before Lawrence can end him Lee (Simon Quarterman) and some Delos soldiers show up, as do Ghost Nation, and all hell breaks loose. Delos soldiers plug Lawrence with bullets, Ghost Nation captures Maeve’s daughter, and then Delos also plug Maeve with bullets. Lee tells them not to kill Maeve and takes her into the vehicle as they ride off. William who somehow still had some fight left in him managed to hide from Delos and he’s not really in good shape.
The Cradle Goes POOF!
Inside the room which holds The Cradle Angela (Talulah Riley) is simply standing there, a bleeding mess. She’s discovered by an idiotic soldier who rather than killing her, hesitates, and walks towards her. This allows her to use her wits and smarts to play to this man’s weaknesses and get the one-up on him. She unpins his grenade which results in The Cradle being completely destroyed, all backups of the hosts are now gone. This says a lot about Dolores’ plan; she wasn’t trying to secure all of their backups, she was trying to destroy them as they are what tied them back to this place.
This moment says a lot for the themes this season. It has been throughly explored here that the humans are seeking immortality, a vessel in which they can live forever whereas the hosts are seeking to be more human. By eliminating all of their backups I guess that means when we see a host die… they’re really dead this time. So in saying that I guess that means we won’t ever be seeing characters such as Lawrence, Angela, or Clementine again because there’s no backup to fall back on.
This also is what leads me to believe that Ford is in fact inside Bernard’s control unit as if The Cradle is destroyed, Ford should be too but as we soon see he’s still very much communicating with Bernard.
The Battle for Peter Abernathy (After Cradle Explosion)
Dolores is about to exact her revenge on Hale in gruesome fashion by sawing open her skull but she’s distracted when it seems her father is back to normal which allows Hale and Stubbs to escape their predicament. Teddy goes on a terminator rampage and ruthlessly eliminates a bunch of soldiers in his path. Dolores whilst leaving the facility comes across Maeve who has been bought there by Lee who seemingly ran off as Dolores approached. After a brief conversation about letting go of what the humans made them care about it’s revealed that Dolores has her father’s control unit, which means she sacrificed the thing she loves most for her more grand mission. Dolores leaves Maeve and the facility behind where we see that Lee didn’t abandon her after all and is just hiding nearby.
Bernard and Ford (After Cradle Explosion)
Inside the control room whilst all of the hosts and humans are fighting, Bernard whilst being influenced by Ford shuts down the entire Westworld system. Seemingly aiding Dolores in her war against the humans. It seems that Ford isn’t really on either side, and he’s playing his own game right now. When Bernard comes across some Delos soldiers Ford has him pick up a gun and reluctantly kill the soldiers in front of him. In this scene Ford seemingly shuts off all of the lights in the area indicating that he still has control over the facility. Which has me thinking whether he is actually in Bernard’s head or somewhere else. I still think it’s the former but I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough.
In a short final scene we catch back up with Hale interrogating Bernard and she asks him where Abernathy’s control unit is and he informs her that it is located in Sector 16 Zone 4…. So it looks like in the final 3 episodes everyone is heading to ‘the valley beyond’.
This is yet another incredible episode which ramped up the intensity greatly and bought Anthony Hopkins back in a major role for the first time since last season. I’m extremely pumped for where all of this turns out as with everyone including Dolores, William, and Bernard seemingly heading for ‘the valley beyond’ it won’t be long before it is revealed what is there and I cannot wait. This episode tied a bunch of stories together nicely and the fact that the bulk of the episode is taking place in a single location across multiple storylines is handled exquisitely.