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‘Westworld’ Review: ‘The Adversary’ Makes Us Question Who the Real Bad Guys Are

Season 1, Episode 6 of the HBO robot drama featured some major awakenings for its characters, rude and otherwise.

Westworld Anthony Hopkins

Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Robert Ford.

John P. Johnson/HBO

LAST WEEK’S REVIEW: ‘Contrapasso’ Searches for Purpose in Between the Orgies

Diagnostic Report

No sign of Dolores or William this week, but we do catch up on what boorish Lee Sizemore’s been up to lately — specifically, getting drunk at the Mesa Gold bar on the top level of the facility. For those who like to see big egos experience massive humiliation, this episode has two key moments: First, Lee gets embarrassed by a bartender while hitting on Charlotte (the long-awaited Tessa Thompson), and then Charlotte catches him with his pants literally down as he defiantly/drunkenly urinates all over the control room. Charlotte, it turns out, is the Delos board representative sent “to oversee certain transitions in our administrative direction,” as alluded to by Ford a few episodes ago.

Bernard and Elsie, meanwhile, dig into last week’s discovery of the satellite broadcasts being snuck out of the park, which leads Bernard to find Dr. Ford’s secret robot family, while Elsie identifies Theresa as the person behind the broadcasts. However, Elsie discovers something much bigger going on — the programming of older model hosts, which are susceptible to broadcasts, is being altered in incredibly dramatic ways… Perhaps even by Arnold himself.

But the real star of “The Adversary” is Maeve, who’s been repeatedly dying so that she can continue learning more about what’s really going on behind the scenes of Westworld. After demanding a tour of the facilities, Maeve then forces Lutz and Sylvester into making some adjustments to her personality attributes, including her “bulk apperception” — taking her to a whole new level of consciousness.

Thandie Newton as Maeve and Ptolemy Slocum as Sylvester in Westworld.

Thandie Newton as Maeve and Ptolemy Slocum as Sylvester.

John P. Johnson/HBO

White Hat or Black Hat?

With her rich well of secrets, Theresa emerged this week as perhaps the most obvious new foe, but with the arrival of Charlotte, the ascension of Maeve and the looming specter of Arnold in the mix, it’s hard to be sure who exactly might be the subject of the episode’s title.

While the meaning of the title “The Adversary” might either be incredibly simple or incredibly complicated, it’s worth noting that the term is used in the Bible, in the Book of Job, in reference to a character we now identify with Satan. Satan, according to one interpretation of that story, shows up because God asks him to test Job’s piety. Satan isn’t pure evil in the story; another term used in reference to him is “the accuser.” He’s simply part of the system examining Job’s faith. Sometimes, we only find the answers we’re looking for thanks to someone asking the tough questions.

In the Year… Wait, What Year Is It?

If you geek out over the technology of this show, then real talk — how great was it, to see Bernard sync up his extremely advanced datapad with a 2010-era PC (complete with keyboard?). The fact that said syncing was near-instantaneous was remarkable; the equivalent of getting your iPhone to network with a Macintosh Plus.

The recreation of Ford’s childhood home, meanwhile, was non-period-specific but felt accurate to late 1970s-1980s England. Anthony Hopkins is 78 years old; if we’re in the year 2050, then Dr. Ford might have been born in the year 1972, approximately. So that all tracks.

Player Piano

Right away we get our second Radiohead cover on record — the 1995 track “Fake Plastic Trees,” which is lovely, but feels relatively obvious and inevitable. Later on, as Maeve wanders the halls of the facility, there’s another instrumental piece which may be a cover as well; credit to IndieWire’s Bill Earl for the best guess we’ve heard so far, The Pixies’ “Gigantic.” We’ll update this post here once we know for sure. UPDATE: Radiohead again! Specifically, 2000’s “Motion Picture Soundtrack,” off “Kid A.” Thank you to all who commented.

Westworld Jeffrey Wright

Jeffrey Wright as Bernard.

John P. Johnson/HBO

Paired Off

Bernard and Theresa might not have been the show’s ultimate fan favorite pairing, but seeing them break up was a bit sad, especially on Bernard’s side. The fact that Theresa might be behind the hack makes that all the worse.

READ MORE: ‘Westworld’ Star James Marsden On the ‘Purity’ and Importance of Series’ Central Romance

These Violent Delights

We don’t get a lot of action this week, but trust the Man in Black and Teddy to make sure it’s not a completely blood-less installment. Their continued search for Wyatt and the maze leads to a confrontation with a camp of soldiers. Watching James Marsden get medieval with an old-timey machine gun was “a visceral pleasure,” to borrow a turn of phrase from The Man in Black.

Not at all a delight was seeing the murdered body of Jacques — while just a replica of Dr. Ford’s original pet dog, it was still a gruesome image, as well as a haunting reminder of Ford’s story from last week, about the existential crisis experienced by said greyhound.

Best Quote

“Great artists hide themselves in their work.”
— Dr. Ford

Really, that’s Ford quoting the mysterious Arnold, but in an episode that reemphasized the notion of Westworld as a created and designed place, the line stood out. It’s an apt quote as well, given that Arnold appears to literally be hiding somewhere in the park.

Westworld Anthony Oliver Bell

Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Robert Ford and Oliver Bell as Little Boy.

John P. Johnson/HBO

The Questions You’re Not Supposed to Ask

  • Who exactly are we supposed to think the man at the center of this mythical maze is? Arnold seems like the easy answer, but so far “Westworld” hasn’t shown a lot of interest in easy answers.
  • The Mesa Gold’s been referenced in weeks past (as well as the official Westworld website, which describes it as “the world’s finest decompression chamber”) but this is the first glimpse we’ve gotten of it. Since it sounds like employee access is somewhat restricted (per Elsie’s comment) why was Lee able to party there?
  • “I’ve been here forever,” Bernard mutters at one point. We’ve never gotten a real answer as to how long that is, exactly, have we?
  • So Arnold is clearly still some sort of presence in the world of Westworld — but does he have physical form (such as whoever attacked Elsie at the end of the episode) or is he just a ghost in the machine?

Final Reveries

There are some great sequences in this episode, and if we weren’t already pulling for Thandie Newton in the Best Supporting Actress category at next year’s Emmys, we sure as hell are now.

But unfortunately it gets a few demerits for the way in which Elsie’s investigation played, beat for beat, like the most cliched of drama tropes — when she gets snatched at the end of the episode, the only emotion I experienced was frustration that it took so long. (And Elsie is a character I like a lot, for the record.)

The introduction of Charlotte — and what she might mean for the corporate politics of the park — is perhaps the element that has the most intriguing implications for future weeks. And it’ll be great to catch up with Dolores and William, presumably next week. But Maeve’s journey proved more than capable of anchoring the episode, and the promise of her last line has us hooked. What fun we’ll have, indeed.

Grade: B+

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