Westworld: (S01E09) “The Well-Tempered Clavier”


The Well-Tempered Clavier was the best episode of the season so far.  The episode was all about satisfying moments, revealing some of its most important (And long suspected) secrets. And those secrets were brilliantly shown through great storytelling.

So let’s get the big news out of the way: Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) was a host modeled after Ford’s (Anthony Hopkins) mysterious partner Arnold. Not only that, the co-founder of the park was killed by Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood). These revelations were expertly woven together through seamless flashbacks.

Bernard and Dolores’ stories came together like puzzle pieces in one excellent sequence. As Dolores walked between different timelines, Bernard forced Ford to send him down memory lane in search of answers. The scenes were slow but hopeful because these characters were getting the answers they (And the audience) desperately wanted.

Dolores’ scenes were especially impressive as the scenes were edited together so well. They flowed nicely as the music quietly rose to hopefully as Dolores found that underground lab. Wood’s expressive face was all we needed as it spoke volumes about her desire for answers. Wright was also strong as he made peace with the lie that kept him in his loop, the so-called “cornerstone” that all hosts have to keep them in their repetitive lives. Both events felt earned as well.

And when both had that Arnold reveal, their reactions were powerful. Bernard was shocked while Dolores was seemingly overcome with joy. But the hopeful moments were fleeting. Ford took control, forcing Bernard to shoot himself while Dolores realized that Arnold was killed by her hand. These were truly heart breaking moments, especially since they came so close to the conclusion of the season.

Wood did some of her best work on the show in just that one moment as she broke down. Wright excellently expressed the desperation Bernard felt as Ford simply left after ordering the reluctant host to kill himself. The implication that Bernard and Ford have gone through this a number of times before was a gut punch as well. Westworld has always done a great job setting us up for heartbreaking lows, but these lows were especially harsh.

But these story lines had their problems. For one, the pacing was a little too deliberate as I arrived at the “Bernard is a host version of Arnold” conclusion long before the show actually did. I appreciated the showmanship, it just went a bit too long.

The Arnold reveal was great, but part of me finds it hard to believe that there were no photographic records of Arnold in a world where a park populated by life-like cyborgs can exist. No one noticed Bernard and said, “Hey, that guy looks a lot like Ford’s old partner?” It might be a bit of a nitpick and it was probably a detail I missed in an earlier episode, but that bothered me a little.

In other big reveals, William (Jimmi Simpson) was all but confirmed to be The Man in Black (Ed Harris). The somewhat naive young man made the transition to violent and driven killer as he single handedly massacred the Confederados working with Logan (Ben Barnes). Will’s chilling line, “I finally figured out how to play this game,” was perfect as Logan woke up to the bloodied bodies.

Everything points to Will being the Man in Black: He had the Bowie knife that the Man in Black uses, his future wife was the woman in the photograph that triggered Abernathy back in the pilot episode and he had the singular drive to “play the game.” The transformation felt earned, especially with Will’s anguished look as Logan cut Dolores open to reveal the machinery inside.

Meanwhile, Maeve (Thandie Newton) had reduced screentime, but took some important steps toward her goal of escaping the park. She was responsible for sending Bernard on his quest for the truth. And she successfully recruited Hector (Rodrigo Santoro) to her cause. These developments were overshadowed by big reveals, but there was one very important aspect to her recruitment.

Maeve gave Bernard and Hector the choice to do what they wanted even though she had the power to make them do it. It was a subtle difference between herself and Ford, who seemingly had some fail safe to gain the upper hand with all his interactions with the hosts. Maeve believed in freewill while Ford did not, whether it be human or cyborg.

As he told Bernard, “Never put your faith in us. We will let you down. We’re only human after all.” Maeve believed that hosts were better than their human counterparts…will her faith be rewarded?

Teddy (James Marsden) and the Man in Black also had limited screen time, but the fact that Teddy’s memories of his role in Wyatt’s massacre were faulty was especially interesting. Whenever we saw Wyatt, he was played by a nondescript, silent actor that we had never seen anywhere else. We had also seen Teddy’s massacre take place in the same town as Dolores’ shootout massacre. It is not a stretch to say that Dolores is probably Wyatt.

It is an intriguing idea and may be the next reveal other than the show confirming the Man in Black’s identity. Speaking of the color-challenged man, he met with Hale (Tessa Thompson) and rather casually set up a fight between the executive board and Ford. That should be quite the fight considering how ruthless Hale has been.

It was also interesting to see Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) get jumped by Ghost Nation, hosts who did not respond to his commands. He was in search of Elsie (Shannon Woodward), who seemingly died at Bernard’s hand.

Or did she?

In shows like this, if you did not see the character die on screen, then they are not dead. The fact that Stubbs was taken down rather than outright killed was an interesting way to give the audience some inkling that Elsie was still alive. The only major death was shown on screen when Bernard killed Theresa. The show hid Elsie fate for some reason and Stubbs might reveal the reason why.

The Well-Tempered Clavier set the battle lines for some great fights in the season finale. This episode also showed that it was willing to give the audience answers to its many mysteries. Hopefully, the season finale will answer more questions while setting up new mysteries for the next season.