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‘Westworld’ Review: ‘Trompe L’Oeil’ Trades Secrets For Hard Truths and a Big Reveal

In Season 1, Episode 7, we get some answers about Westworld, but they definitely come with a price.

Westworld

Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores.

John P. Johnson/HBO

LAST WEEK’S REVIEW: ‘The Adversary’ Makes Us Question Who the Real Bad Guys Are

Diagnostic Report

After a week off, we return to William and Dolores as they continue traversing Ghost Nation territory in the outer reaches of the park. While the two of them get closer, William tells her that he’s got a life back home (including a future wife)… one he realizes isn’t nearly as satisfying as the world he’s found inside the park. After some proper Western action, including some exploding bodies and a horse chase, they discover a landscape that matches a painting that came to Dolores in a dream, and decide to travel there.

Also, Charlotte, in her role as the Delos board’s representative, begins paving the way for the board to retake control from Dr. Ford; because, as she explains to Theresa, there’s 35 years worth of data inside the park, and they need to make sure that he doesn’t destroy it.

As part of that, Maeve, in her new, improved, and self-aware state, watches as Clementine is taken away for Charlotte and Theresa’s “demonstration” of the programming flaws Bernard and Elsie (who’s still missing, by the way) have noticed. Clementine gets lobotomized after serving as evidence that something is going wrong with the host programming, something which inspires Maeve to plan for her own escape.

Anything else happen? Ummm… Oh, we learned Bernard has been a robot this whole time, and Dr. Ford made him murder Theresa. That also happened.

Jeffrey Wright as Bernard and Sidse Babett Knudsen as Theresa Cullen.

Jeffrey Wright as Bernard and Sidse Babett Knudsen as Theresa Cullen.

John P. Johnson/HBO

White Hat or Black Hat

Let’s be blunt about this: Most characters on this show, so far, have been painted with shades of gray. But with this episode, Dr. Ford truly proved himself to be the show’s villain. Of all the shocking reveals in that final scene, the discovery of just how deep Dr. Ford’s megalomania has grown might have the most lasting repercussions. Now that we know the lengths he’s willing to go to, to keep control over “his little stories,” it’s hard to approach the character with anything less than fear. The only thing more terrifying is that whoever is coming from the Delos board might be far worse.

In the Year… Wait, What Year Is It?

There’s 35 years worth of data in the park, but Bernard tells Theresa that Arnold began programming the park 40 years ago. Is that an accidental discrepancy, or are we underestimating the amount of time and effort that the earliest stages of the park required?

Player Piano

No really notable music choices this week, beyond the familiar Mariposa Saloon tune that Maeve shuts off. It’s understandable Now that she’s self-aware, she’s probably tired of hearing the same music on a loop.

READ MORE: ‘Westworld’: What It’s Like to Co-Star With (And Get Groped By) Thandie Newton

Paired Off

Let’s pour one out for the death not just of Theresa, but of the mature, intriguing bond she had with Bernard. It wasn’t a conventional love story on so many levels, and it will be missed.

Westworld

Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores and Jimmi Simpson as William.

John P. Johnson/HBO

As a Westworld host, it was of course obvious that Dolores was capable of participating in romance storylines with guests — in fact, if you go to the Delos corporate website, you can see her entire narrative loop, which includes the possibility of the guest “wooing” her. But her relationship with William seems to be as important to her, in a real and un-programmed way, as it is to him. If finding that level of passion with him is an integral part of her discovering her own sense of self, what happens to her identity if their relationship ends? (Wouldn’t be the first time in history that a bad breakup made a girl lose herself a bit.) Also, spare a thought for poor Teddy, who believes he’s on his way to save his girl, unknowing that she’s on her own adventure with another man. Poor, poor Teddy.

These Violent Delights

When IndieWire interviewed star Sidse Babett Knudsen about this episode (who, if she is no longer a part of the show, will be missed), she said that when they were filming her death, she was told that it wouldn’t be “violence porn,” explaining that “from the beginning they said it was going to be something very classy and, you know, very dignified.”

READ MORE: ‘Westworld’ Star Sidse Babett Knudsen on the ‘Deliciously Horrible’ Twists of ‘Trompe L’Oeil’

But there’s a much bigger conversation to be had about the depiction of violence in “Trompe L’Oeil” — specifically the decision that the staged violence, such as the brutal fight between Clementine and the host tech, tends to be put front and center, while Theresa’s murder is a quick, almost off-screen moment. Making the “fake” moments explicit while the “real” moments are (to use Knudsen’s word) “classy” makes a big statement about what the show expects us to take seriously. But that doesn’t make it any easier to watch a sobbing, begging Clementine get brutalized; she may not be human, but after seven episodes she feels pretty real.

Best Quote

Westworld Thandie

Thandie Newton as Maeve.

John P. Johnson/HBO

“I’ve always prided myself on being a survivor, but surviving is just another loop… At first I thought you and the others were gods, but then I realized you’re just men. And I know men. You think I’m scared of death? I’ve done it a million times. I’m fucking great at it. How many times have you died?”
—Maeve

There were plenty of other lines that caught our attention this week, especially from that final confrontation between Bernard, Ford, and Theresa. But Maeve’s evolution over these most recent episodes has been fascinating to witness, especially her newfound conception of death, which is the furthest thing from our understanding. The definition of immortality takes on a whole new definition when you incorporate the notion of artificial life, and watching tough-talking Maeve spell that out for her hapless tech boys was genuinely thrilling.

The Questions You’re Not Supposed to Ask

  • Charlotte’s conversation with Theresa, in which she lays out the need for a blood sacrifice, seems to set her up as an adversary of Ford’s. But while the staged display with Clementine theoretically served the designated purpose of “showing just how dangerous Ford’s creations can be,” it’s really Bernard who does the job — an even more unexpected source, as well. The question becomes: How much did Charlotte know about what was going to happen? Was Charlotte aware of Bernard’s true nature? And in her eyes, is Theresa’s death a setback, or an expected outcome?
  • And also, perhaps the most important question of all — when the dead body filled with nitroglycerin on top of the horse explodes, WHY DOES THE HORSE ALSO EXPLODE? If you rewatch the explosion, you’ll see that the horse blows up a moment after the body, of its own volition. Was the horse also filled with nitro? Are Westworld horses prone to combustion? This will haunt us for years to come.

Final Reveries

While it didn’t lack for upsetting moments, watching “Trompe L’Oeil” came as a bit of a relief for a number of reasons. For one, the nagging question of “could someone be a robot and not know it?” got put to bed once and for all, in a definitively final way, but with enough time left in the season to delve into the ramifications. If Bernard’s true nature had been revealed in the season finale, it could have felt rushed and slight; instead, we have three more episodes to uncover just what this means for him, and for the show.

In addition, there’s been an awful lot of set-up in weeks past, which was relatively essential given the complexity of the world being slowly unfurled. But this episode finally built up some major momentum for the season’s endgame — rewarding our patience and getting us in gear for one hell of a ride to the end.

Grade: A

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