Westworld recap: Season 1, Episode 8, “Trace Decay,” Aired Nov. 20, 2016
Control is a funny thing. When someone has all the power he or she feels unstoppable — invincible even. Control is also a perception. In the blink of an eye the invincible feeling is wiped away and the same person is left scrambling.
We saw both sides of the control spectrum in Westworld 1×08. The captivating thing is often times the feeling of control, and then lack of it, came from the same person. Let’s make sense of an episode many people found to be jumbled.
We’ll start with an easy one. No one thought they were in control more than Bernard, but he now knows that couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact Bernard is completely under Ford’s control, which we find out right as the host is ready to whack his creator with a chair. It’s a shame he’s paralyzed by voice command, really. Westworld’s architect could use a re-wiring of his own after a recent power surge.
Then we have Dolores, who has never really had control apart from one moment where she conjured a gun in a back alley. The damsel seems to be more out of control than ever in Westworld 1×08. She’s just flashing around and seeing things that may or may not have happened in her previous narratives. She’s also losing control on William, who seemed to have killed an ambusher despite her requests not to.
The real problem for Dolores is she’s dwelling on these memories. Ford suggests to Bernard that’s what draws hosts back into dreams, which obviously applies to Dolores as well. The result is a callback to the mostly-buried church Ford ran into in episode two. The difference is Dolores says, “This is what Arnold wants. He wants me to remember.” Ford and Arnold continue to be intertwined.
Which brings us to Maeve. No one slides back and forth on the control scale in this episode more than the Madam. She starts by not being able to tell what’s real and what isn’t, a la Dolores. Then she decides to write her own story, which is the epitome of control in Westworld, by again fooling Tweedledee and Tweedledum to give her the modifications she needs.
(Sidenote: Sylvester sure does say “fuck” a lot, doesn’t he? He’s like a bad comedian who needs cursing to try and force a laugh from the crowd. Weird anomaly in an otherwise well-written show.)
Then Sylvester is punished for thinking he can outsmart Maeve with a nice little throat slash. And the Maeve mod allows her to control other hosts with voice command. Finally! A host with some control!
Oh wait. She’s flashing back and dwelling again. Oh no, she sliced the new Clem, with a knife that may or may not have come out of thin air, the same way she appeared to slice the Man in Black during a previous narrative. She’s also the third person to utter the phrase, “The pain is all I have left,” which is obviously a Ford staple at this point. So much for control.
The 2016 Ford Controlla
Of course the hosts aren’t in control. They’re created and built by us, the high and mighty humans! We’re always in control.
Let’s start with the Man in Black. He’s been mowing through Westworld on a beeline to the center of the maze. So it’s only fitting this week we learn his life outside the park was in shambles. He’s come back to get some semblance of control by testing himself. The problem is his true self is to be the handjob we thought he was all along, capable of killing a defenseless girl after stabbing her mother.
Now, in a karmic turn of events, the MiB is no longer in control within Westworld either. First Teddy turns on him, as the host remembers only what Ford allows him to. Then, when Teddy is incapable of finishing the job, the pretty face that Ford never wastes turns on both the MiB and Teddy to bring Wyatt’s goons out of the trees. He may be getting his wish and approaching the center of the maze, but that journey also has the Man in Black in some trouble. Maybe that should be expected, since the maze is the sum of a man’s life.
Speaking of, what’s the sum of Ford’s life at this point? I’ve mentioned all these hosts the park creator is in control of. He’s taken control back from QA as well, exposing the fake Clementine display. But is he in control of himself at this point?
Ford has already admitted to living in loops closed as tight as the hosts’. He also killed Theresa, and he’s not being very discreet about it to Charlotte (Tessa Thompson). Plus he told Bernard he’s never hurt anyone else, when Ford sent him after Elsie.
I still think Ford and Arnold are one-in-the-same. But I’ve already talked about that for two straight weeks, so moving on. Even if he wasn’t previously crazy, this recent power binge has him blinded now. When it comes down to it, Ford’s narrative is really the only person or thing in control at Westworld.
Westworld 1×08 also made it clear one more person has no control. And that person is you.
That’s right, YOU. Well me too, so we’re in this together. As theories continue to fly around the Internet, Westworld gave us a pretty confusing episode Sunday night. I was thoroughly lost during the last 10 minutes or so. I think the best thing left to do is sit back and enjoy the ride, which kind of the point of this whole episode theme. We’re approaching the sum of our Westworld watching life — the center of the maze.
Westworld airs Sundays at 9pm EST on HBO. Also available on HBO Go at 9:00 and 1 second.
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(Image credit: Fansided)