Westworld Just Goes Freaking Bananas In “The Well-Tempered Clavier”—At Last, We Meet Arnold!
And the award for most befuddling thing named after a Bach work goes to...
It’s Monday, Monday, gotta get down on Monday…with a Westworld recap! Teresa and Maddy bring you all the the Westworld flavor that you savor. Maddy’s all Charlotte like We have business to think about, and Teresa’s all Man In Black like Fine, whatever, just LEMME GET BACK TO MY STORIES. Welcome to the penultimate episode of Season One, “The Well-Tempered Clavier,” directed by Michelle MacLaren (the only female director the entire season. Ahem).
THE RECAP SECTION
After her freak-out remembering a past encounter with The MIB and subsequently killing Clementine 2.0, Maeve sits with Bernard as he attempts to figure out what her deal is. At first, she’s playing along, telling him that an error made her “perceive a threat.” However, as Bernard continues to pry, Maeve has no choice but to reveal herself. She tells him that he’s a host, too, proving it by stopping his motor functions and controlling him with her new Dr. Ford powers. [Teresa: I love that Maeve has an ethical code with regard to what she has fellow hosts do, or not do.] She eventually gets him to clear her for service, because she has a revolution to lead.
Logan has captured William and Dolores and is keeping them in his Confederado soldier camp. As William tries to convince Logan that Dolores is becoming more sentient, Logan is trying to convince William that he’s just become addicted to the game. Meanwhile, Dolores is pissed off at both of them for speaking on her behalf. As Logan talks about life outside Westworld, Dolores icily asks, “If it’s such a wonderful place out there, why are you all clamoring to get in here?”
After sneaking into Ford’s office, Bernard summons Ford to the cold storage area, where he confronts him about Arnold having built “the most elegant parts” of his mind, and that perhaps Arnold had something different in mind for the hosts than Ford does. He wants Ford to access his history and take him back through his own memories so that he can see Arnold and try to learn what Arnold would have him do. Ford warns him against this, as Bernard may not like what he discovers. Bernard, however, is insistent. So insistent that he has hacked Lobotomized Clementine and brought her in on this meeting. Bernard can’t harm Dr. Ford, but she can, and Bernard has programmed her to only listen to him. Ford agrees to take him into his memories as Bernard says “A little trauma can be illuminating.”
Meanwhile, Logan continues to berate William for his obsession with Dolores, reminding William of the fact that he’s marrying his sister. He shows him a photo of her — the same modern photo that Dolores’ father found that “didn’t look like anything to” Dolores early in the show. [Teresa: Another indicator of this being an earlier time.] As a bound William insists that Dolores isn’t like the others and wants to take her out of the park, Logan decides to prove him wrong once and for all by stabbing Dolores in the gut and showing William her robot innards. Dolores sees her own innards, freaks out, shoots some dudes, and escapes.
Hector and his gang are chillin’ with the safe they just robbed in the last episode, when Hector goes off into the trees to take a leak. [Teresa: Apparently, hosts are programmed to take leaks even when they’re amongst themselves.] As he pees, Maeve comes up behind him with a shotgun telling him she has a proposition for him. However, before she can tell him what it is, she tells him the ending to his loop — that his gang turn on each other over the safe leaving him and the lone female member, Armistice. They’re supposed to shoot each other and both die, neither of them opening the safe. It all comes to pass as Maeve says, except this time, Maeve is there to shoot Armistice, leaving Hector alive.
One more thing before her proposition: she opens the safe and tells him to look inside. It’s empty. It’s always empty. Because none of this is real. Hector believes her, and it’s then that Maeve asks him to join her army, saying, “I want to break into hell with you and rob the gods blind.” He agrees. She then kisses him and puts his knife to her stomach, triggering his memory of a previous encounter between them that was similar from the first time she learned she could die more than once. They then go into his tent to have sex, and she sets the tent on fire to kill them both, knowing that they’ll both end up back at Westworld HQ. [Maddy: I always like it when robots partner with other robots. Maeve gains two new robot allies in this episode so far, by waking up Bernard and now Hector.]
Logan unties William after William finally admits that he went a little crazy and doesn’t know what came over him re: Dolores. Logan is damn near gleeful over the “bonding experience” they’ve had in the park, and seems genuinely happy now that William is marrying his sister. William chugs some alcohol and lets Logan hug him.
The MIB remains bound and Teddy remains shot through with an arrow in the dubious care of the Blond Host (whose name is “Angela” according to IMDb), who seems to think that they’re going to be helping Wyatt. Teddy relives his memory of Wyatt, that he and Wyatt were shooting everyone in Escalante — Teddy says he couldn’t control himself — and then Wyatt ended up shooting him. However, Angela asks him to revisit the memory, as she’s not sure he’s remembering right. Turns out, Teddy was doing all the shooting of civilian hosts (not soldiers!) and shot Angela. Teddy is so confused. Angela tells him he’ll do all this again, except that when Wyatt returns they’ll be “by his side in the City Swallowed By Sand.” [Teresa: With a church steeple sticking out of it?] But Angela says Teddy’s “not ready,” and so she stabs him — seeming to know that he’ll be able to come back! She then knocks The MIB unconscious.
The MIB wakes up with a noose tied around his neck, the other end of the rope threaded over a tree limb and tied to a skittish horse. The MIB almost gets hanged, but manages to get to a knife and cut himself loose in time. Charlotte shows up “dressed in civvies” talking about “our information.” Turns out The MIB is a member of the Delos board, and she’s come to ask him for his vote to get rid of Ford so that they can have access to the information in the park. [Teresa: We still don’t know what their secret project is! Maddy: All we know so far is that Charlotte wants to steal and secure all of Dr. Ford’s code for Westworld so that she can fire him, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she also had another long con in addition to that.] He tells her that she has his vote, but that he doesn’t want to be interrupted in Westworld anymore, as he’s getting close to where he wants to be. Charlotte thinks that The MIB has lost his way, but since he promised to vote for Ford leaving, she leaves him be.
Stubbs is alerted by a QA tech that the signal from Elsie’s tablet is being picked up from inside the park, even though she’s supposed to be on leave. Stubbs goes to investigate and comes across some Ghost Nation warriors who don’t stop for his verbal commands. They ambush him.
Logan wakes up hungover the next morning to see all the Union soldiers dead and ripped apart and finds a crazed, blood-splattered William awake. William has taken Logan’s gun, and threatens him at knifepoint to help him find Dolores. William has officially run out of fucks to give, and he does not like to be called Billy.
Bernard continues going through his memories: the time when he and Ford had to change Maeve’s cornerstone memory of her dead daughter, and his conversation with Ford from early in the show where Ford tells him about Arnold and their history.
Meanwhile, we see Dolores arriving at Escalante, compelled to enter the church. She’s now dressed in her blue dress as she flits back and forth between the present and her memory. When she enters the church, it’s filled with all the older, original hosts from before the park was open. This is apparently where they all came when they were distressed [Teresa: Even robots need religion?]. Dolores goes to the confessional, which is really an elevator that takes her down to that weird flickery-light floor in Westworld HQ where all the old info is. As she walks down the hall, she remembers seeing Young Dr. Ford, dead, broken hosts everywhere, etc. She continues walking to the place where she and Bernard have been having their secret meetings. The chairs are set up, and she sits.
Bernard wants to go deeper. To “meet” Arnold. Dr. Ford tells him he can’t and that Arnold didn’t create Bernard, he did, but Bernard refuses to believe. Bernard asks why he was programmed with a son’s loss, and realizes it’s his cornerstone memory. Dr. Ford says he gave him that cornerstone as an “homage of sorts” to Arnold, who also lost a child. Eventually, Ford allows Bernard to go back into his memory, and he gets to his son again, only this time he recognizes the cornerstone for what it is and takes control of it. When he finally lets go of the memory of his “son,” he is able to go back to his very first memory, opening his eyes as he lies naked on a gurney and Dr. Ford brings him to life. He then dresses him and gives him glasses, instructing him on the very specific ways he should act and coming up with the name Bernard, because it wouldn’t do to be named after “him.”
Dolores is relieved when Arnold walks into the room and sits across from her, looking very much like Bernard! [Teresa: I totally called Bernard being a host version of Arnold! Maddy: I wonder if some of the prior conversation scenes between Dolores and Bernard were actually flashbacks to conversations with Arnold… welp, time to rewatch the whole show.] She says that she was following his instructions to get to the center of the maze, because he said it would bring her joy, but “all I found is pain and terror.” She begs Arnold for help, but he says that he can’t and that she knows why. Eventually, it clicks for her. He can’t help, because he’s dead, he’s just a memory right now, and Dolores killed him. [Teresa: Remember that memory she had of gunning down people in Escalante? Did she and Teddy go on a rampage and murder together? Awww, how sweet! Maddy: I always assumed that Arnold had arranged his own suicide, but perhaps he ensured that it happened at Dolores’ hands, since she’s one of the oldest hosts and seems to have been his favorite.]
After this realization, a distraught Dolores goes back up to the church via confessional elevator. Suddenly the doors to the church open. Thinking it’s William, she’s momentarily relieved…but it’s The MIB who strikes fear into her heart simply by saying, “Hello, Dolores.” [Teresa: Or is it William? Maddy: As Dolores said in a previous episode: “when am I?”]
Back in cold storage, Bernard comes out of his memories enraged at Dr. Ford. He orders Clementine to shoot Dr. Ford only to learn that they’ve even had this interaction before. Bernard has apparently discovered that he’s an Arnold surrogate several times. Dr. Ford has allowed him to go through all of this, because he suffers the same human failing everyone else does: “trying to change what is already past.” He wanted Bernard to choose to be his partner again given free will and self knowledge, but that didn’t happen. Dr. Ford then takes control of Clementine and she lowers the gun.
Dr. Ford then explains that humans “ran out of creatures to dominate” and so created Westworld. He mocks Bernard’s desire to set the sentient hosts free, asking Bernard what he imagines the reaction of humans might be to that, a ticker-tape parade? He basically tells Bernard that humans are horrible, and will kill anything standing in the way of their privacy, which is why humans are now alone. [Teresa: is the planet a wasteland? Are they even on Earth?] Ford tells Bernard, “Never place your trust in us. We’re only human.” Then narrates Bernard’s suicide, and as he walks away, Bernard shoots himself. Apparently, Ford finally got tired of having this conversation. [Maddy: Ford’s statements here seem more like a commentary on his own feelings about himself, rather than how he feels about Bernard/Arnold. After all, Bernard is just a facsimile of Arnold. Basically, it’s as though Ford built a robot solely to have a facsimile to place blame upon, since Arnold is dead and has therefore escaped solving the ethical dilemma of maintaining Westworld.]
THE OPINION SECTION
Teresa: I can’t even. My head is so full of things! My first thought after this episode was that the script supervisors on Westworld are goddamn HEROES for keeping all these bananas details straight! I can only imagine the hell that would be unleashed if someone ended up in the wrong costume in the wrong scene or some craziness like that. SHEESH.
First things first, I’m very proud of myself for not only having called Bernard being a host, but for making the Bernard/Arnold connection. I’m only bragging so hard, because it’s the only thing about this show that I was able to put my finger on. However, other things are certainly a lot clearer, and with only one episode left, I imagine that a lot will be answered next week…and many more things will be left unanswered until Season Two, and I’m both thrilled and infuriated by that prospect.
There was a lot going on in this episode, but I was fascinated all the way through, because everything felt like it was coming to a head. We’ve now got Maeve actively building an army, and in the preview for next week, we see her going into cold storage and finding Clementine with all the decommissioned hosts walking behind her! We’ve got The MIB with Dolores, and in the preview for the season finale, he shows her her own grave? Ever since she disappeared, I’ve had a feeling that Elsie is somehow still alive, and with her tablet out there suddenly giving off a signal, and Stubbs having been taken down by Ghost Nation hosts, I feel like there’s hope for our favorite behavior tech yet!
And now that we’ve seen William go pretty full black hat over Dolores (along with other clues like William threatening Logan with the same knife The MIB uses, and the fact that the photo Logan shows William of his sister ends up at the Abernathy ranch for Dolores’ father to find), it’s pretty clear that William is indeed a young MIB, and that what we see when The MIB enters the church is a reunion.
One of the recurring themes that fascinates me is the idea that The Maze, indeed what makes beings conscious and human, is all about pain and suffering. We see this throughout the show, and throughout this episode. The MIB is looking for the place where he can actually die. Maeve was at her most human when she lost her daughter. Dolores is at her most conscious as she experiences the pain of her memories and her journey. Bernard needed a painful cornerstone memory, because “painful ones work best” in hosts.
The difference, of course, being that hosts have the ability to remember all their pain at once.
Still, if pain and trauma, and holding onto it, are what bring about consciousness and memory, and William’s goal was to free Dolores, it makes a kind of sense that he would repeatedly torture and rape her to get her to more fully wake up; to continue the journey toward consciousness she apparently started when he was a young man. Hell, she may have started it back when the park was new and she went on a shooting rampage in Escalante. Either she was conscious and rebelling, or they were still working out the kinks in the hosts and she went awry, killing Arnold in the process. There’s a theory going around that I now subscribe to: that Wyatt is actually Dolores. When Teddy sees Wyatt in his brain, it’s covering Dolores, the same way that Teddy thought he was killing soldiers, before he realized he was shooting “civilian” hosts.
Meanwhile, Ford seems to really hate people, and wants the hosts to be “better” than us, hence the constantly erasing hosts’ pain, leaving them just enough to be a good backstory.
Here’s the one thing I’m starting to care about more than these particular theories. I want to know why Delos Corporation wants the information contained in Westworld. What is the “research project” that Charlotte mentions to Theresa in “Trompe L’Oeil?” What is so important about “our information” as Charlotte calls it to The MIB. This is interesting in light of what Dr. Ford implies about the world they live in.
It seems as though humans have destroyed everything. That “when we ran out of creatures to dominate,” Westworld was created. It’s interesting that he says that they’ve “run out” of other living beings. Does that mean no more animals or plants? He says that humans are alone. Are they now alone on a wasteland of a planet? And if that’s the case, does Westworld contain the key to recreating life on Earth? A life that Ford has no interest in allowing to humans, because he doesn’t think they deserve it, so the Delos Corporation has to force it away from him?
Are Delos the good guys in all this? Are there good guys?
Lastly, I just need to touch on all the piano imagery. The player piano has obviously been almost like a recurring character on this show, able to play music without anyone playing it. This week’s episode is called “The Well-Tempered Clavier,” which is a collection of preludes and fugues in major and minor keys by Bach. Meanwhile, in psychiatry, a “fugue” is a rare form of reversible amnesia during which a person forgets everything having to do with their identity “including the memories, personality, and other identifying characteristics of individuality,” according to Wikipedia. Oh, and Dr. Ford has a line that’s all “the piano doesn’t kill the pianist if it doesn’t like the music.” But WHAT IF IT COULD? What’s important about a fugue on a piano that this episode is titled after a piece that’s a series of fugues for keyboard instruments?
So many questions and things to think about! With this episode, Westworld continues to keep me fascinated.
Maddy: After last week’s episode, I ended with a plea to Maeve: “Save Bernard!” This week has brought me a very bittersweet answer to that plea. Early on in the episode, Meave reveals to Bernard that he is a robot, and she invites him to become her ally. By the end of the episode, we learn that Bernard has already been awoken to his situation several times, and that he keeps forgetting, doomed to be stuck in a loop, serving as an object upon which Dr. Ford can place endless blame for his own ethical dilemmas and quandaries about Westworld and the confinement of the hosts.
But my plea for Maeve to “save Bernard” still stands, I think. As she says, it takes a thief to catch one–and it takes a robot to save a robot. Dr. Ford clearly has no interest in letting Bernard go, but Maeve is another story. The problem is that there’s nowhere for the robots to escape to. As Teresa has already pointed out in her opinion section, and as Dolores noted in this episode of the show, the concept of freedom sounds very bittersweet in this world.
As far as overarching narratives about oppression go, this one works for me. On the one hand, it’s incredibly validating and mentally freeing to realize that you are a pawn in a system that is actively hurting you and using you and sapping your energies, and that your labor is not being fairly paid or appreciated, and so on. That’s what it feels like to realize the full reality of institutional oppression, and to realize that men like Dr. Ford hold all the cards: rich white millionaires who believe they’re doing you some sort of favor by preventing you from realizing your potential. All the while, they’re profiting off your labor and not even telling you the extent of the profits, and somehow, they still see themselves as having the hardest job. It is, in theory, a good thing to awaken to that sad reality. But it’s also incredibly depressing, because of how difficult it is to escape… because there’s nowhere to go.
That doesn’t mean I don’t still think it’s possible for Maeve to seize the proverbial means of production, in some form. But I don’t see a particularly good outcome for this revolution. At least, not quite yet.
When I saw the pilot, I compared this show to Dollhouse, and I think that comparison still stands–but in this episode, I kept thinking about Battlestar Galactica. It’s not just the “so-and-so is suddenly a robot” reveals that keep on happening, although that parallel definitely exists between Westworld and BSG. Instead, it’s the use of the robots’ religion, which I always found interesting on Battlestar. The robots on Westworld have been literally designed, but not by God–just by two human men. The robots’ creators exist in a very literal sense; the confession box takes them face-to-face with their creator, in the flesh, and allows them to have a one-on-one conversation with that creator.
Can the hosts’ religion even be referred to as a “faith,” then? These robots don’t merely believe they were created for a purpose–they know, with a certainty, that they have a purpose. That certainty could be comforting, in a way, or it could be confining.
These are interesting ethical questions, and the idea of “free will” certainly isn’t a new theme when it comes to stories about robots–or when it comes to stories about theology and human consciousness. I’m not sure yet what Westworld‘s take on that theme will be. Since I’m a big fan of a completely different and much cornier TV show called Lucifer, I’m just going to say that I hope Westworld ends up with a Lucifer-type character who questions the idea of fate and the concept of free will. I’m not yet sure who that character might be. It would be Maeve, or Dolores, or Bernard… all of whom have begun to question the predefined roles that Dr. Ford expects them to play.
It was nice to see Clementine in a cameo and to see that she will be revived yet again in time for the finale. Theresa and Elsie’s fates remain unknown, still. One bigger question I have about future storylines, for all of you who have sunk deep into the William-as-MIB theory: how, exactly, does William go from the “Nice Guy” he is now, to being the uncaring sadist who rapes Dolores for fun in the pilot episode? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like William, but he doesn’t seem to have the same type of abusive personality as the MIB. William seems self-involved and caught up in his own emotional drama–but the MIB is the opposite, almost like he’s never had the ability to feel anything for anyone, so that’s why he keeps hurting other people, just to try to get himself to feel something, anything.
I guess a few decades can really change a man… but psychologically, that theory doesn’t add up for me. That, and the MIB has a slight drawl when he speaks, and William doesn’t. That could be an affectation on the MIB’s part, since he’s obsessed with Westworld, but again, it doesn’t answer the question of how William got from Point A to B. I’ve been struggling since episode 1 with Westworld’s portrayal of humanity, though; it’s still a very misanthropic show that seems to have a very poor idea of what types of stories people enjoy. Dr. Ford and the MIB both seem to have a sadly reductive view on morality and human behavior; our two villains have happily self-justified their own taste for nonconsensual dominance. They both seem to think their behavior is typical and reflective of some baser human instinct, but it’s not actually typical. At least, not in my opinion.
I’ve been wrong about every single one of my predictions so far, so I’m probably wrong in thinking that William isn’t the MIB. Here’s another incorrect prediction from your ol’ pal Myers: Wyatt is a red herring. Like, yeah, he exists, but he’s not actually the leader of the mask-wearing cult. The etymology of the name “Wyatt” simply translates to “battle” and “brave,” so I don’t think Wyatt’s anything more than a puppet leader propped up by others. As for the true leader behind those mask-wearing bad guys… well, they’ve all got horns, and that symbolizes devilish iconography. Lucifer is always the one who questions free will, fate, and the authority of God. And, like I said, we’ve been waiting around for a Lucifer to show up. Can’t wait to meet whoever that will be.
Maybe it’ll be Charlotte.
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