Dang, y’all. This episode of Westworld, titled “Trompe L’Oeil” has absolutely lit a fire under the community of fandom surrounding it as well as lending absolution to an incredibly prevalent fan theory about Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) and the murky water that is his agonizing past. The phrase Trompe-l’œil is defined by Wikipedia as “an art technique that uses realistic imagery to create the optical illusion that the depicted objects exist in three dimensions,” originating during the Baroque period. While the technique itself referring to persepectival illusionism dates even farther back in time, there is a specifically interesting Greek tale concerning the two painters, Zeuxis and Parrhasius, detailing their rivalry: Zexius having painted fruit so convincingly that birds flew down to peck at the grapes on the canvas. Parrhassius requested that Zeuxis judge one of his painting behind a pair of tattered curtains. When Zeuxis attempted to pull back the curtains, he could not as they were in fact the entirety of the painting. Boom. Color little Zeuxis red with embarrassment.
Anyway, we start the show with Bernard dreaming about the final moments of his son’s life as he reads this quote from Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland: “If I had a world of my own everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t.” The first thing that I told my viewing partner after seeing his face against that white wall in the patient room was “Dude, oh my God. He’s one of them!” With serious doubt forming afterward because, hey, human beings dream, too.
Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and William (Jimmy Simpson) have sex on the train. William no longer concerned with betraying his future wife, changing his tune to discovering who he really is deep down inside, echoing something Logan said in their first appearance on the show. And after a run from the confederados having been interrupted from the assumed future badass video game level one-upping the sameness we’ve see so far in this western that is Ghost Nation, they part ways with Lawrence (Clifton Collins, Jr.) to stare at an ample scene of greenery peaking out from inside a rocky canyon. This image was seen only moments earlier, drawn by Dolores after the sexy times, as she wanted to create something that she hadn’t seen before.
Mauve (Thandie Newton), who has apparently been having herself killed twenty or so times since we’ve last seen her so she can visit the diagnostic level, can now seemingly remain lucid and in complete control of her motor functions even when the creators freeze a room, that of the bar saloon – this time in broad daylight – surprising even herself before she feigns loss of movement, grabbing a sharp object, as they come in to receive a troublesome host. To her surprise once more, they bring Clementine (Angela Sarafyan) with them. Eventually, Mauve awakens once more, forcing Felix (Leonardo Nam) to take her to find Clementine. Her attitude toward everything, the world around her and those who have created it, becoming far more aggressive with each new insight.
Side note: I couldn’t figure out the song played by the piano before Mauve defiantly slammed the key door shut. Oh, well. No more google searching for me, my eyes hurt.
Charlotte (Tessa Thompson) sends for Theresa (Sidse Babett Knudsen) where they meet as Charlotte pauses having loud sex with one of the hosts in her room, calling for a “blood sacrifice” that will convince the board to finally pull the plug on Ford’s (Anthony Hopkins) involvement with the park. Everything she does seems to set up an impending coup, but without much reason other than that Ford shouldn’t have all this power over something he has created, let alone the base code that has yet left the park. They have far more interest in the machines than that of a western built for tourists when it comes to their intellectual properties. This all leads to using Clementine as the scapegoat, reflecting the so-called inadequacies of their in charge workforce, leading to Bernard’s firing with nothing but a creepy smirk from Ford in the room. Bernard walks away, from what we can tell as a painful loss to something he’s put so much work into.
Mauve sets a goal for herself and the two men who have reluctantly helped her thus far after having witness Clementine’s decommission – essentially, her death – that she will escape from here and if hesistant, those unwilling to help her achieve this goal will die, something she doesn’t fear as she’s gone through death over one million times. Bring it, I say. This woman is such a badass. It’s almost a beautiful shame that I overlooked her character arc so early in the game.
Bernard eventually confronts Theresa, who seemed to have not known that Bernard would be the one affected by their meddling in the code, about how obvious their actions were to him, likely to Ford as well, mentioning that they do not indeed know how the hosts truly work. Perhaps improvitization has something to do with memory or vice versa. He takes her with him down into the park to show him something. Theresa is surprised that the building where Ford keeps his artificial family exists, with Bernard saying that all the mapping was done by hosts, who have been programmed not to notice it even if it stared them right in the face. She finds a door inside the building that wasn’t observed by Bernard, leading him down into a a remote diagnostic facility where a host is slowly being made over a couple of days as opposed to the quicker timespan of the main facilities operations. Theresa shuffles through a few pieces of paper work showing the secret designs of Ford-made hosts, where she becomes overcome with confusion, calling Bernard over. It reveals a design documenting his own creation for which he replies that it doesn’t look like anything to him, a phrase that hosts have often said to him when he shows them images of the world outside of the park. Ford shows up, saving Bernard from his confusion by saying “That’s enough, Bernard,” where he becomes still. Ford continues, speaking ominously about the board to Theresa, enjoying their often revisited game that is battling over supremacy of the park, and that the only way to fix it is a “blood sacrifice.” Her phone of course doesn’t work as Ford created everything in the park. Bernard awakening, is told to take care of a distraught and betrayed Theresa – fearfully crying his name to no recognition – as he takes off his blazer before doing as commanded with Ford turning his back at the sight before leaving the room with Bernard, so that they may continue their important work. I wonder if the host being created will be a version of Theresa as many fan theories have speculated that Bernard is Arnold 2.0.
Westworld is quite literally the slowest of action-packed television dramas that I’ve yet encountered, but when they finally reveal a revelation or two, damn is it a banger, reverberating thought my mind the rest of the night until the morning. Game of Thrones allowed us to see King’s Landing through the eyes of the entire Stark family before we were truly welcomed into the episodic nature of the many other characters and their storylines, which provided some sort of breathing room when it came to dissecting and understanding the arcs that were in front of us. With Westworld we have been thrown right into the thick of it with a truly blank slate point-of-view character to follow as they become the center of the story. Instead we see a plethora of potential men and women who make their way through either their unwitting grasp of the world or their complete and utter dominance as they tackle with others of the same pedigree. Of course their are exceptions, especially when referring more to the hosts and the newcomers, but I digress. With only a few episodes left in the season the show has faithfully captured my attention, my only consistent complaint is that they pick up the speed or allow a little less breathing room when it comes to the minutiae of movement in the characters and their progress.
Regardless, this episode has me cheerfully awaiting what the next one holds – two character deaths and a not-so-surprising, but nonetheless enormously gravid surprise twist at the end – and I will certainly be expecting plenty more of this ilk as the season ends. Will I happily await and predict the direction of season two? Having yet found my way through the maze, there will surely be an answer soon.
I apoligize for the lateness of this review – this post will reveal why I was unable to watch the episode on its air date and write a timely piece.