Westworld recap: Season 1, Episode 9, “The Well-Tempered Clavier,” Aired Nov. 27, 2016
Robert Ford can be described with many adjectives. Arrogant, egotistical, and domineering and three of them. The man is also a genius, and often straight to the point when he speaks. The park co-creator dropped another truth bomb early on in Westworld 1×09.
“Your memories are woven into your identity. If I should unlock them now when you’re conscious…you may not like what you find.”
We dive into all sorts of memories in this week’s penultimate episode. The result is a few big answers and a ton of anticipation for next week’s 90-minute finale.
Bernard’s Bigger Meaning
Bernard started this whole memory thing, and he’s again at the center of a huge Westworld reveal, so let’s start there. The loyal assistant realizes he’s a host again and wants to get allll the way into his past. Of course he doesn’t like what he finds, which is a robot molded after a man Ford had killed.
Let’s focus on the process rather than the result, because I think that’s what will be more important moving forward to the finale. If memories are woven into an identity, cornerstone memories are the first threads that become the foundation. Bernard’s happens to be the death of his son Charlie; it is the thing holding him back despite the fact he longs for the pain. He is built around it, and once he realizes Ford created that memory for him he can’t let go. Unfortunately for Bernard his cornerstone memory is also his fatal flaw, after an attempt to kill Ford backfires and he takes his own life at Ford’s command.
Speaking of a cornerstone memory being a traumatic experience surrounding a child — Maeve. The Madam is vengeful as Bernard after seeing her daughter die in her dreams, but boy is she doing something about it.
For my money Maeve will be one of the two most important characters in the finale, and the most important host (the human is coming later, don’t worry). She is just hitting her stride with these new modifications, exemplified by the fact she recognizes Bernard as a host and then controls him. She’s riding straight into Hell with a thief by her side, a basement full of dormant hosts waiting for activation, and revenge on the mind. I wouldn’t want to be Ford when she comes crashing through. But I will want to be in front of my TV when that clash happens.
Our boy Teddy has bitten the dust for the millionth time in his existence, but he also remembered a clash of his own. Turns out Theodore isn’t so innocent after all, more just a sheriff who massacred a town full of innocent people. Creatures go to extremes to protect themselves from pain, and his extreme is remembering a cornerstone memory in a completely different light.
We may have seen Wyatt, but nothing in Teddy’s original memory can be trusted. Now he’s destined to return to the city swallowed by sand to fight beside Wyatt rather than seek him out.
Hey, know who was a member of the city swallowed by sand? Dolores. That’s right. The steeple, which the damsel can never seem to stray too far away from, is the common thread that puts her in Escalante and the city swallowed by sand. That and Angela (Talulah Riley), who seems to pop up all over the place at this point.
Dolores’ cornerstone memory appears to be pretty obvious, considering BernArnold (you’re welcome) is always screaming “Remember” at her over the PA system. However, we learn what shapes her identity at the same time she does in the church basement. Dolores becomes the fourth host to not like what she finds in Westworld 1×09, as she discovers she is the OG Bernard — created and tasked by Ford to kill one of the boss’ inconveniences.
But Dolores is resilient! And smart! She snaps right back into reality and remembers what happened 30 years ago. She has her own thoughts and desires again — those being to see William walk right through that church door! And who walks through that door!?
The most important person heading into the finale. The (clap emoji) Man (clap emoji) In (clap emoji) Black.
Here we go, blurring the lines between human and host again. Up to this point, I’ve given you a look into four cornerstone memories from four hosts. Why would it be any different for the MiB, since humans live in loops tighter than the hosts’ anyway?
After all, we’re getting a deeper look into the Man In Black’s memories than anyone’s considering the dual timeline Westworld is following. I’m sticking with that and the fact William and the MiB are the same person here — the case for those theories has only gotten stronger.
Let’s take a look around. Cornerstone memory, cornerstone memory. Well, we have some smaller things. He saved Ford’s ass by keeping him in business and becoming a Westworld board member. That photo of his wife Logan gives him while he’s tied to a chair sure looks familiar (It shows up buried in the Abernathy farm 30 years later).
Oh — how about the host he’s fallen in love with being tortured and cut open by his future brother-in-law? That should work.
We finally get the moment that breaks William in Westworld 1×09. A little trauma can indeed be illuminating, and Billy finally understands how to play the game after his moment. Now the maze has taken him full circle, and he’s come back to Dolores 30 years later to finish whatever the sum of his life is. Just don’t call him Billy anymore.
While we’re talking about full circle, everyone in Westworld is now connected — and I mean everyone — heading into the finale. This episode, titled “The Well-Tempered Clavier,” is really well done. All the way down to Clementine’s “The Piano doesn’t murder the player if it doesn’t like the music” code (A clavier is that playerless piano that’s been playing Radiohead all season). I think this is the best episode of the season so far, right in time for the finale.
Ninety minutes remain in a solid first season. If I had to guess, Maeve and The Man In Black simultaneously blow the top off this thing in a finale worth remembering. Then again you should never place your trust in me. I’m only human.
Westworld airs Sundays at 9pm EST on HBO.
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(Image credit: HBO)