Westworld (S01E06) “The Adversary”

WARNING: FULL SPOILERS

The Adversary may seem like a let down after the events of last week’s episode, but there were some interesting developments in this episode. As Maeve (Thandie Newton) exerted more control and Teddy (James Marsden) revealed a dark side, the mysterious Arnold seemingly took more control. Who were the puppets and who were the puppeteers?

In the park, The Man in Black (Ed Harris) and Teddy (James Marsden) were captured by U.S. soldiers on the way to Pariah. In an interesting twist, The Man in Black’s god-like powers played no part in the two character’s salvation. It’s revealed that Teddy was not Wyatt’s victim…he played a part in the infamous massacre the sadistic killer was known for.

This revelation came in a flashback that Teddy remembered on the spot, causing him to go on a murderous rampage. But did Teddy simply remember this or was the revelation placed in his head? The absence of the infamous voice would suggest that this is part of his programmed backstory. In either case, it’s a great reveal and gives Teddy some depth.

It was interesting to see the Man in Black, a human, not be in control for once, a power reversal that occurred throughout the episode. As he gets deeper into the more wild areas of the park, will this become common place?

Some might view this as a blow to the Man in Black’s mystique and power, but it had to be done. He is a character that we are going to follow for the whole series, so his overpowering presence would get old if it went unchecked. And besides, he wants a challenge and he’s getting it.

On the other hand, Ford (Anthony Hopkins) received an unwelcome challenge to his power in the park. We were introduced to a “first generation” recreation of his family, a confirmation that the little boy was a young host version of the founder. A very creepy gift from Arnold, Ford kept them off the grid as a person indulgence.

This host family was another way to contrast the two founders of the park, as Arnold made an idealized version of Ford’s family. Ford couldn’t help but make a more realistic version of his family, giving the father the more undesirable traits of his real life counterpart. It also showed just how unsettling Ford has become since the start of the show, as even Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) was disturbed by the revelation.

Most importantly, Ford was confronted head on by the saboteur. That concerned look on his face when young Robert confessed to killing the family dog at the behest of a voice in his head was frightening. So far, that has been the only time Ford lost control of anything in the park. That it was the Host modeled after him was a particularly strong slap to his face.

Whoever is in control of that voice showed just how much power he yields at that moment. Even the “God” of the park couldn’t stop the saboteur. Hopkins said so much with that one look of concern and it sent chills down my spine.

The “real world” of the park gave us some big events as Bernard and Elsie (Shannon Woodward) drew closer to the saboteur behind the satellite up link. The specter of Arnold hung over the investigation, as more up links and a re-purposed satellite came into play. But the reveal was a bit disappointing.

I never really bought into Theresa (Sidse Babbett Knudsen) and Bernard’s little affair, so their break up didn’t really register. And the reveal that Theresa was possibly behind the the data leak fell equally flat. Knudsen is not bad in the role, but the character was a bit one note and the affair with Bernard felt like a plot device.

Theresa as the saboteur feels like an obvious red herring, especially at this point in the series. She may have something to do with the leaks, but it just doesn’t feel right. It feels like whoever was behind the voice in the Hosts’ heads, be it Arnold or someone posing as him, framed her.

While the reveals felt wrong, the issue of control came up once again. Bernard keeping Elsie’s revelations to himself made him feel like he was in control, but he almost gave it up. And the arrival of Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson), the Executive Director for the park’s Board meant that Theresa was losing control. Elsie, who felt like her revelations was her big break, was attacked in the end.

However, the best moments of the episode concerned Maeve and her awakening in the real world. Her interactions with tech Felix (Leonardo Nam) and Sylvester (Ptolomy Slocum) were great. The two techs were a nice mirror to Ford and Arnold, a more idealistic vision of the Hosts contrasting with a more grounded take.

When Maeve asked Felix how he knew he was human and the resulting conversation tackled some of the overarching issues of the show. Six episodes in, and it seems as though the Hosts are more human than the actual humans running the park.

Maeve’s walk through the “Upstairs” as an instrumental version of Radiohead’s “Motion Picture Soundtrack” played was the strongest scene in the episode. Even though we essentially saw some of the same things, the use of music and Newton’s acting made it resonate more. It was like a person seeing just how little the gods cared for their existence.

All of this made Maeve’s move to get more control over her intelligence all the more satisfying. I have loved how the show completely turned the “humans versus robots” dynamic of the original film on its head. Humanity was on the losing throughout this episode and they had it coming.

SCORE: 7.5 OUT OF 10