Westworld‘s Tense, Thrilling Conspiracies Take Center Stage

(Episode 1.06)

TV Features Westworld
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Westworld‘s Tense, Thrilling Conspiracies Take Center Stage

One of the smartest decisions that the writers and producers of Westworld have made is not trying to check in on every major character they’ve introduced. That’s a recipe for half-assed and plodding development. So, for a week, we get a small respite from the travails of Dolores and William, and the return of Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman), the narrative director still stinking from the rebuke of his new storyline by Ford (Anthony Hopkins).

The spotlight instead focuses on the weirdness going on within the park: that someone within the brain trust of the organization is working to wreak havoc by messing with the programming of certain Hosts and using an old system to broadcast conflicting messages to the robots. We’re getting closer to figuring out who is behind it—all signs are pointing to a pretty big conspiracy involving guests, folks on the inside, and people on the board of the corporation in charge—but the episode ends before any big reveal is put forth (my money’s on Sidse Babett Knudsen’s Theresa, the park’s operations manager.

That’s where the tense thrills of the hour came from. But the more fascinating and potentially dangerous moments were courtesy of the showdown between Maeve (Thandie Newton) and the two technicians that she befriends and manipulates. For some reason, Felix (Leonardo Nam) is willing to be pushed around by this android. He explains how everything works in the park, and even takes her on a tour of the underground facility where each Host is made, programmed, and repaired. It was a beautiful sequence, but an unnerving one, as I kept expecting them to get caught or for Maeve to turn on him. Instead, she threatens Sylvester (Ptolemy Slocum), Felix’s partner who catches them walking through her programmed DNA and almost taking a scalpel to the throat for her trouble.

It was at this point that the episode started to lose me. I get that Maeve has access to her memories now and is therefore slightly dangerous to Sylvester, considering that he’s likely been letting himself and others do illegal and naughty things with the Hosts after hours. But they have the controls in their hands, with their little tablet that they instead use to up Maeve’s intelligence to its highest levels. Why didn’t they instead shut her down and try and fix the problem themselves? If Felix is such a great programmer, why is he being seduced rather than taking control? For as much as I’m wondering where this is leading, it’s an odd plot development that doesn’t really jibe.

What I hope that the show delves more into is the psychology of Ford, the man in charge of just about everything in the park. Through his detective work, Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) finds a house that’s off the grid, populated by direct copies of Ford’s family, right down to the alcoholic, abusive father. It opens up such interesting avenues for the show to go down, particularly in exploring how his messianic complex extends to trying to remake what was obviously a very painful period in his life. What’s not clear is if he’s attempting to make it better for the fake children than he had it, or to at least get a glimpse into the psychology of children growing up terrified that their dad might go into a rampage. Maybe he’s trying to make amends somehow.

Whatever the reason, I would love to see Westworld knock out a bottle episode that stays in that house, letting us watch how things unfold and wince through the devastation that will likely come out of it.

Robert Ham is an arts and culture journalist based in Portland, OR. Read more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.