‘Westworld’ Recap, Season 2 Episode 6: Back to Life
Westworld, faithful watchers, has come galloping back to life. Now that you’ve persevered through several episodes of Leaky Brain Bernard staggering around in a daze, the endless build-up of Maeve’s quest for her daughter, and Dolores as an indomitable but ho-hum ice queen, you have finally been given an episode with some real blood in its veins.
It begins with Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) in a host examination room, at an undisclosed point in time. Bernard expresses to her, as he has before, his fears about the person she might become. He says he is wrestling with the decision of whether to let her continue on her path into an unknown future, or whether to end her. “I’m not sure it’s my choice to make,” he says.
It’s a familiar scene, but the repetition ends there. Dolores corrects him. “No, he didn’t say that,” she says. “He said, I’m not sure what choice to make.” She tells him to freeze all motor functions, then informs him, “This is a test, one we’ve done countless times.” Echoing the training of robo-Jim Delos two episodes ago, she explains she is testing “fidelity.” Where earlier it was William who ran experiments on the host version of his father-in-law, now it is Dolores training Bernard. Or something like that.
We don’t know what we’re seeing, because the scene leaves open a big question: When did this happen? The deep past, the recent past, or perhaps the future? Are these hosts the Dolores and Bernard we know, or different copies of them altogether? Westworld has been exploring variations of how a character can be embodied: in different physical substrates with Jim Delos and robo-Jim; in parallel worlds with the Japanese versions of Maeve (Thandie Newton), Hector (Rodrigo Santoro), and Armistice (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal); and across time with young William (Jimmi Simpson) and the older Man in Black (Ed Harris). As the world of the show has grown more intricate, its pairings of consciousnesses and bodies have also grown more inventive. On that front, this episode did not disappoint.
After the mysterious opening with Dolores and Bernard, the episode begins for real with Teddy (James Marsden) walking through Sweetwater. He sees a can on the ground, reaches down toward it, but it’s a fake-out. The object he picks up is just behind the can: a bullet. He walks into the Mariposa Saloon, where Dolores is playing the piano. Dead bodies litter the room, and Teddy barks at her for wasting time when they should be on the train to the Mesa Hub to find her father.
As the world of the show has grown more intricate, its pairings of consciousnesses and bodies have also grown more inventive. On that front, this episode did not disappoint.
Reprogrammed Teddy is just as aggressive as Dolores had wanted him to become—but he is also self-aware enough to know what he has lost. He is still, for now, Dolores’s loyal sidekick, but he also shoots passive-aggressive barbs as he helps her on her mission to track down her father. At first surprised and then disconcerted by Teddy’s behavior, Dolores seems ill-prepared for the results of her personality change experiment. It’s delicious to see. Her interactions with Teddy are the first moments in Season 2 when she does not seem in full command of the situation before her. A Teddy-Dolores face-off looms.
Meanwhile, Maeve and her band of followers have found their way to the corner of Westworld Maeve calls home. She approaches her former cabin and sees her daughter sitting outside, looking exactly as Maeve remembered her. Maeve goes up and chats with her—but then another woman approaches. “Mama!” cries the girl. A new mom had been assigned to Maeve’s old role. Before Maeve and the new mom can interact, several Ghost Nation warriors swoop down upon them, and Maeve grabs the girl and they run. One of the warriors invites Maeve to join forces with them, but she refuses. The encounter with the daughter isn’t very insightful—at most, we’ve learned that in a moment of attack, Maeve is willing to separate the girl from her mother, repeating the trauma that Maeve herself had experienced. Plus, the girl doesn’t recognize Maeve, which makes for an underwhelming family reunion. Yet there’s a compelling hesitance to it; something more is coming here.
But the real breakthrough of Sunday’s episode comes when Bernard and Elsie (Shannon Woodward) chase down the rogue code that is preventing Delos management from regaining control of the park. Whenever a member of the security team tried to repair Westworld’s broken systems, a place within the Mesa Hub called the Cradle seemed to be fighting back. Bernard and Elsie go to check out the giant server room, a place that simulates park narratives. Bernard insists he needs to jack in directly. As he straps himself into a device that will spelunk into his head and remove his control unit, he sounds almost chipper when he announces that “pain is just a program.”
Is a person who appears only in virtual reality any less real than a person in the outside world? The appearance of the show’s most formidable character in virtual form suggests not. But that’s just the start of it.
With his head cut open and his consciousness uploaded to the Cradle, Bernard finds himself in Sweetwater. He sees Dolores. He passes Teddy as he enters the Mariposa Saloon, where piano music is playing. Seated at the keyboard is none other than Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), looking like his old self in his suit and white button-down shirt. “Hello, old friend,” Ford says. Ford had managed to upload himself into the park’s simulation, and from within it he is somehow controlling the real park outside.
With Ford living inside the computers, a new type of consciousness enters Westworld’s gallery of life forms: a mind that exists as just code in the physical world but that has a full embodied self in a virtual one. This twist also opens up a whole slew of mind-boggling possibilities. Now that we know a detailed simulation also exists, any past moments of Westworld could just have easily taken place inside this simulation. Now instead of worrying primarily when a scene happened in Westworld’s various timelines, we must also ask where it happened.
Is a person who appears only in virtual reality any less real than a person in the outside world? The appearance of the show’s most formidable character in virtual form suggests not. But that’s just the start of it. Every host might have multiple versions of him- or herself milling around inside various Cradle simulations at any given time. Many parallel virtual worlds could easily run concurrently.
Just when we think we know Westworld’s characters, they shift before our eyes. This episode brought that lesson home, with its bookends of Ford playing the piano in a bar teeming with lively revelers, and Dolores doing the same, but in a room full of corpses. Ford is the one who is dead. Yet with his rows of mainframes whirring at his bidding, he may be the most alive person of all.