Westworld (S02E07) “Les Ecorches”

WARNING: FULL SPOILERS

Bloody battles, deaths and an important resurrection made this episode of Westworld one of its most eventful. “Les Ecorches” was an entertaining and thought provoking watch, as expected, but it often felt rushed. There were some show-shaking bombs in this episode, but it didn’t give those moments a chance to register.

But it was still amazing to see many of Westworld’s main characters cross paths: Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and Maeve (Thandie Newton). Maeve and William (Ed Harris). Dolores and Hale (Tessa Thompson) . And of course, Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) and the…”sort of” resurrected Ford (Anthony Hopkins). That last meeting was probably the most surprising and compelling, but it was not the only important moment.

“When You’ve Been In the Darkness Long Enough, You Begin to See.”

source: Warner Bros. Television/IMDB

Though shown through Bernard’s fractured memories, Dolores’ attack on the Mesa was the main driving force in “Les Ecorches.” It was successful, but it came at a heavy cost. Clementine (Angela Sarafyan), Angela (Talulah Riley), and several of Dolores’ followers (seemingly) died in her attempt to destroy the Cradle, the source of all the Hosts’ “back ups.” It showed just how dedicated her followers were, but also how cold she was.

Dolores took several steps forward to becoming what she hated most…and seemed fully aware of that fact. As she said, she has been in the darkness so long, she has begun to see. Those deaths were necessary in her eyes. She even sacrificed her own father to get his memory core, showing us that beating humanity meant more to her than some programmed emotional attachment.

source: Warner Bros. Television Distribution/IMDB

And that confrontation with Hale…incredible. That was amazing, even though it was clear Hale would survive it…the character has more lives than a cat. It was great to see two alphas face off and to see the normally cool and calculated Hale stunned by Dolores’ plans. She was there to destroy the back ups, to free the Hosts of their “Loops.”

But an interesting thing happened. Whenever you think you have a character figured out, Westworld has always found a way to bring your beliefs into question. When Dolores came across a wounded Maeve, their differences were laid bare. Dolores seemed ready to put the fan favorite down, but let her live, saying everyone had to choose their own fate.

This was a surprising turn from someone who had made the love of her life, Teddy (James Marsden), into a cold killing machine. For Dolores, Maeve’s daughter was simply something programmed in her head. Maybe Dolores was leaving Maeve to die for an unreal attachment.  Or maybe she was regretting what she did to Teddy. Whatever the case may be, it added some interesting wrinkles in what may become a major character conflict.

source: Warner Bros. Television Distribution/IMDB

Maeve had a reckoning of her own.  After William had a deep moment last week, you could almost forget the horrible things he had done. But his encounter with Maeve reminded us of his black soul. She nearly killed the Man in Black, turning Lawrence (Clifton Collins, Jr) and his other Hosts allies against him. It truly looked like it was the end for Will and he would have deserved it.

Maeve’s flashbacks…Lawrence suddenly remembering exactly what Will did to his family the last time around…it was a stark reminder of Will’s sins. On a personal note, any sympathy I felt for the character disappeared at that moment. Maeve deserved her moment of revenge.

It’s a testament to how well Westworld colors their characters in shades of gray. You could feel one way about a character in one episode and then completely flip in another. All the characters have been capable of despicable acts (Especially the humans), but they could also show heart or kindness in surprising ways.

It’s almost like they were human…

“This Is Your Story Now…”

source: Warner Bros. Television Distribution/IMDB

Westworld’s worst kept secret was revealed in this episode: Robert Ford was still around. Every fan of the show knew this was true in some form, especially since the previous episodes heavily hinted at the possibility. But the show managed to reintroduce the character brilliantly.

Ford seemingly died as a savior in last season’s finale, realizing that the Hosts were evolving beyond their initial purposes. He repeatedly said that Dolores, Bernard and the other “awakened” Hosts were free. However, Ford could take it away from his position in the Cradle, and did so with Bernard.

So Ford has been in Bernard’s head since he was found at the beginning of this season, explaining his fractured memories. Bernard has always been there, but Ford could take control at any moment. This added an interesting wrinkle…was everything up to this point part of Ford’s overarching “game?”

Looking back at the episode, with every major character literally colliding…Was this all part of Ford’s plan? He repeatedly said that this had become the Hosts’ story. But with his ability to take over almost any Host, how true could this be?

Granted, Westworld is a serialized series where major characters often run into each other. But there has always been purpose behind almost every story turn on the show. There was never such a thing as coincidence.

Just a Bit Bloated

There was a lot to like about “Les Ecorches,” but it felt a little too full. Every big twist was met by another…even the most die hard Westworld fan’s head would spin. These big moments needed some time to breath and really sink in. This was the second episode that felt rushed in some way. The best episodes of the series were the ones that took their time or focused on one or two characters, like this season’s “The Riddle of the Sphinx.” That kept an entertaining episode from being one of the best of the series.

SCORE: 8.5 OUT OF 10

Westworld airs Sundays at 9PM on HBO