Westworld: (S01E07) “Trompe L’Oeil”


Trompe L’Oeil was a solid entry in the series, as Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and William (Jimmi Simpson) got closer to the mysterious maze. Maeve (Thandie Newton) made a dangerous demand after seeing enough of the “real world.” While these developments were good overall, the Maze story line had a few missteps.

Oh yeah, and BERNARD WAS A HOST!!!

The “Bernard was always a host” theory has always been popular with fans and those who bought into it were rewarded with a masterfully done reveal. Jeffrey Wright, Sidse Babbett Knudsen, and Anthony Hopkins were amazing in that final sequence, but the show should also be praised at how well they set it up.

Early in the episode, we see Bernard with Hector (Rodrigo Santoro) on a simple check up. They casually dropped the “It doesn’t look like anything to me” line, a subtle call back to a typical Host reaction to anything they see that could upend their world. The episode never called too much attention to it, so when Bernard said the phrase, the realization hits hard.

The scene where poor Clementine was used in Hale’s (Tessa Thompson) attempt to push Ford out was disturbing not only because of that harrowing beating that Clementine both received and gave, but also because of that look Ford had the entire time. He never says a word the whole time, but the camera would gets closer and closer to his face which seemed to say “Are you f***king kidding me?”

And that look returned at the big reveal. Ford’s character has evolved so well, as he has completely left that “eccentric old man” stereotype behind to become a completely malevolent genius. Everyone had underestimated him and it is oddly satisfying to see him get the better of those who challenge him.

While I was never a fan of the relationship between Bernard and Theresa, those final moments were effective because of Wright and Knudsen’s performance. It was like a so-so movie that elevated the moment it got to its payoff. All the issues I had fell away just enough.

The reveal also opened up a number of possibilities for the future of the show. What were the conversations between Bernard and Dolores? Is Bernard modeled after Arnold? Was there ever really a Bernard? Was Bernard the one who attacked Elsie (Shannon Woodward) in the previous episode? Will Theresa be replaced by a Host? Are there other “undercover” hosts in the park?

The possibilities are seemingly endless.

While Bernard’s story line was revealing and new, Dolores and William’s journey felt tedious and repetitive. Most of William’s dialogue felt overly poetic and simply repeated much of what we heard before. We got it…you were awakened to what the park really was. Though it was fun to see Dolores refuse to be reduced to a “key” to that awakening.

Their story ended with an exciting chase scene with the Confederados and the “Ghost Nation,” but it felt like it took forever to get there. It was good to have Dolores and William finally consummate their relationship, but their scenes felt like the episode was simply spinning its wheels, wasting these great characters with endless, unrealistic and overly written monologues.

On the other hand, Maeve’s story continued to be a highlight on the show. Seeing her go about her business with knowledge of what the park really was interesting at first, but quickly became tragic as Clementine confessed her hopes and dreams. She barely spoke during that scene, her face showing all we need to know.

That look returned when she watched Clementine be “retired” after being used as a guinea pig in Hale’s scheme. Those looks that Newton gave in both scenes were so evocative and perfectly conveyed Maeve’s sadness…and later her fury.

Maeve’s monologue with Felix and Sylvester was great, as she finally had enough of Westworld. I loved her line, “I used to think you were Gods, but you’re just men…And I know men,” showing that she has become something of an audience surrogate. Humanity is hard to root for in this show and many of us are probably rooting for Maeve to do something to humble them.

Hale was an interesting character. Her youthful looks hid a savvy and confident woman who revealed that the executive board was simply after the technology of the Hosts. This has been a common issue with Westworld: Who would come to a “Western” theme park? The film genre has been dead for decades so it was nice to see why any corporation would fund a park that apes it. And we get a pretty interesting character to add to the crazy mix.

If it was not for the big reveal, the choice to have Dolores and William sort of “stand by” would have really annoyed me. But since Dolores has always been the closest thing to a main character the show has, it was understandable to have her stand aside for a big payoff. With this popular fan theory confirmed, could another one get the same treatment?