WARNING: FULL SPOILERS
“Phase Space” was one of the busier episodes of Westworld’s second season, with nearly every major character’s story taking significant steps forward. However, it stayed true to the show’s most important themes as the Host revolution raged on. Several characters chased illusions about themselves, some more delusional than others. In the fight for freedom, the freedom to choose became even more important as well.
And a major fan theory may have been confirmed.
“We Each Deserve to Choose Our Own Fate”
Two of Westworld’s leading ladies…Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and Maeve (Thandie Newton)…took significant steps towards their goals with varying results. Dolores launched her attack on the Cradle, the control center of the park, with the help of the colder Teddy (James Marsden). Maeve finally made it to her daughter, but discovered that she had already been replaced by another Host.
Choice played a large part in getting these characters to this point. Maeve continued to understand the importance of free will. She allowed Musashi (Hiroyuki Sanada) to fight his duel with his former subordinate without her help. For her, freedom had always been about choice, and she knew that Musashi had to win that duel on his own. At any point, Maeve could have destroyed that subordinate or even forced her new found friends to come with her.
Yet when Akane (Rinko Kikuchi) wanted to stay with the spirit of her adopted daughter, she ultimately respected it. While their world was an illusion, it was still home. It was a nice parallel to Maeve’s journey, since her “daughter” was never truly her flesh and blood, so to speak. But her emotions were driving her…making her even more human than the actual flesh and blood ones on the show.
And was that regret on Sizemore’s (Simon Quartermain) face as he finally used that radio he found in last week’s episode? Lutz (Leonardo Nam) made his choice and joined Maeve and her motley crew, but Sizemore seemed genuinely sad. It was an odd turn especially since this was not developed very well in previous episodes. But it played so well into the themes of choice and belief in illusions…Did he simply know that Maeve’s daughter already had a replacement mother? Or had he come to believe that Maeve had genuine emotions?
On the other side of the coin, Dolores took away any of Teddy’s choices. She turned the good hearted gunslinger into a cold hearted….uh, gunslinger. In many ways, Dolores had become that which she hated. Teddy wasn’t what she wanted, so she changed it…just like the humans she despised.
Dolores did seem to regret this cold turn in Teddy and even seemed shocked when he killed the captive QA responder without hesitation. Yet, she maintained the illusion of being fine with it. That wasn’t the only illusion she maintained…think about this: Why was she pursuing her father? She couldn’t accept that she loved Teddy. Why can she accept the love for Peter Abernathy? She didn’t realize that she was following her own “fake” emotions with her dedication to him. At least Maeve was more self aware.
Can’t Walk Away
Choice and illusion played a large part in William’s (Ed Harris) journey as well. Reunited with daughter Grace (Katja Herbers), the Man in Black couldn’t accept the reality of the situation. Not only did he think Grace was a host, he couldn’t accept the powerful message she had for him.
William had always wrapped himself in the “deeper” layers of Westworld, hoping to find true meaning in his life. The real world never gave him the satisfaction he felt in the park, so he always turned to it even when his own family life suffered. He wasn’t in denial…in previous episodes, he was aware of his nature. Grace blamed him for her mother’s suicide.
But when Grace offered him forgiveness, a chance for redemption in the real world, he didn’t take it. Harris and Herbers were both great in this pivotal scene, with the former perfectly expressing William’s grateful yet strained response. He couldn’t accept that forgiveness, because he wouldn’t forgive himself. He either believed he’s beyond redemption (He did say that the world would probably be better off without men like him and Delos) or he was seeking redemption on his own terms in the “game.” It was a brief but powerful scene that showed the conflict within William.
And then there was that reveal. Bernard continued his journey into…the past? The future? Something else? It wasn’t entirely clear since he has been established as an unreliable narrator in previous episodes. Whatever the case may be, Elsie (Shannon Woodward) helped him find the source of the hack completely changing the park: Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) himself.
Again, how reliable could this be? It made sense and linked up to what many fans have speculated about. Ford was the only one who could pull off something like this, and he always was one step ahead of everyone at Delos. But this was Bernard seeing him. The show has done a great job playing with this possibility, so it should be interesting to see where it goes.
A Coming War?
Dolores and Maeve were on such divergent paths that a conflict may be on the horizon. But the possible presence of Ford complicates things. Has he been pulling the strings all this time? He was the one who seemingly triggered Dolores’ awakening in the first season finale. Was Ford simply trying to stay ahead of the people trying to take control of the park?
What if there was another player? Why would he give Maeve such a powerful ability? What if his partner Arnold was also around in some form in the park’s systems? He could have given Maeve this power to contradict Ford’s naked grab for power.
Whatever the case may be, Phase Space made it clear that a war was coming. Just not the one we may have expected.
SCORE: 9 OUT OF 10
Westworld airs Sundays at 9pm on HBO