Written by Hannah Dunleavy

Arts

Cowboy Builders

Hannah Dunleavy is nursing feelings of ambivalence and resentment as episode eight of Westworld throws more mysteries atop the pile. CONTAINS SPOILERS.

Wanted dead or alive: William (Jimmi Simpson) and Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood)

Wanted dead or alive: William (Jimmi Simpson) and Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) on the run. Photos: HBO.

“You should be proud of these emotions you’re feeling”

There was a moment, early on in this episode, when the pianola started playing House of the Rising Sun and I thought for a second that the new Clementine Pennyfeather was being played by Julia Stiles, that I felt a wash of affection for Westworld. But most of the time, this episode was the epitome of all the other feelings it makes me have: confusion, frustration and a growing ambivalence.

Despite – in fact, it seemed to spite – my hope last week that I was understanding things, most of ‘Trace Decay’ seemed designed to throw more mysteries atop the pile. Even if it did also throw a massive bone to my other theory of separate timelines, and more on that later, I ended up more befuddled than ever. And starting to resent it.

A lot of the problem is, I’m prepared to accept, mine. I like character-driven drama and, clearly, you can’t tackle a thing like Westworld and not be driven by the need to service the plot. But the audience (or me, at the very least) needs to care about those characters. And with the exception of my much discussed devotion for Maeve, I find myself with a whole lot of peril and drama and very few characters I give a shit about. How the hell can I invest in anyone or anything, when it seems their sole purpose is to drive the action towards a certain point?

Best place to start to prove that point was where Westworld itself started this week: Bernard. Now, while the audience had ‘a revelation’ last week, it’s clearly not the first time this has happened for Bernard. He and Ford have obviously ‘had the chat’ before. Which would go some way to explaining why Ford’s spouting of philosophical soundbites and Bernard’s feeling rotten was kept quite brief, before he went about the business of covering their tracks and incinerating all trace of his life with Theresa. (Except, of course, for the pesky gossip, which, the US election has proved, is the kryptonite of a well-prepared plan.)

Yes, it’s understandable that they didn’t dwell too long on the aftermath of Cullen’s killing. But it’s also perfectly conceivable, since we’ve been led to believe Bernard probably also killed Elsie a matter of days before, that Ford wouldn’t have bothered with all that jibberjabber at all and would have just turned him off and on again. So what did happen was kind of half-hearted. Which, when you’ve got such an interesting premise and actors like Jeffrey Wright and Anthony Hopkins, seems like a missed goal. Especially when what it made way for was a lot of “messing aba-ht”.

“You’ve got to admire a woman who gets superpowers and then uses them to wipe her bar slate.”

“I created my own story.”

There was some attempt at character development over with the Man In Black and No Longer Cuddly Teddy. And I’m grateful for it, as Ed Harris got to explain the backstory of the ‘frequent flyer’ and gave us something I have literally been begging for over eight episodes: some context as to what people outside the park think of the park. And as we suspected, they think it’s weird.

This section also appeared to confirm my theory of different timelines, as just as it was improbable Lawrence (El Lazo) could’ve been repurposed so quickly after having his throat cut by TMIB, so the woman he found (and was later betrayed by) seems unlikely to have been shifted around so quickly after her last job. That being the woman who checked William into the park.

The duo were also attacked by a minotaur, so you, know, they won this week’s episode for me. Or would have, were it not for…

“Time to write my own fucking story.”

Oh yes, Super Maeve is go. I’m still unclear as to whether she’s got round the ‘fail-safe’ that locks her up like a shopping trolley you’re trying to ‘borrow’, but she’s certainly having a crack at moving out of the town.

She seems to be being set up for sort of confrontation with TMIB, but most of all I’m just loving her narrating the world like Jeffrey Archer’s Spitting Image puppet. Also, Hector finally made off with the safe. Bravo.

The happy couple

Urgh! Flashback on top of flashback on top of flashback. In other news, Logan’s not dead.

Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson).

Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson).

Other things

You’ve got to admire a woman who gets superpowers and then uses them to wipe her bar slate.

I live in hope that the cannibal robot rises up and eats that Sizemore prick.

Peter Abernathy. Hoorah! Also, potentially, bad choice Hale.

Also a spot of Winehouse on the pianola. Bravo. Westworld likes its tunes with ‘black’ in the title. Jesus, are we going to have to hear Black Velvet?

I don’t want to blow my own trumpet or nowt, but I also said in a past blog that Maeve could probably see through time. And guess what, she sort of can. I’m giving myself a point.

Catch up on previous Westworld happenings here.

@thatdunleavy

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Written by Hannah Dunleavy

Hannah Dunleavy is the deputy editor of Standard Issue. She likes whisky and not having to run anywhere.