Westworld S02E06 Review: “Phase Space”

In this hour we see what every major character is doing, something of a rarity for this program. In the last several episodes, each story line had a fallow week between updates as Westworld focused on the other handful of narratives. Threads are drawing closer, and we begin to see how they will be woven together.

Maeve’s sojourn in Shogun World continues and concludes. She goes to retrieve her personnel captured by Captain Tanaka’s men. She could use her wi-fi voodoo on him, but Musashi would rather duel for their freedom. “We each deserve to choose our fate, even if that fate is death.” In a dynamic and lucidly shot fight scene, Musashi’s guile wins the day. As a gesture of respect, he returns Tanaka’s wakizashi and allows him to die honorably. Musashi wordlessly assumes the role of kaishakunin, usually filled by a trusted friend, severing Tanaka’s head.

Now free, the group takes Sakura’s heart to a shrine at Snow Lake. Maeve again tries to convince Akane and Musashi to come away with her. They want to stay and defend their home, come what may, but dragon-tattooed Hanaryo (played by Tao Okamoto) joins her group. They go through the tunnels back to Westworld.

Dolores at piano

Dolores meets the monster she created, Aggro Ted. First thing he does is pick up a bullet. Second, he tells Dolores, “[My former self] was built weak and born to fail. You fixed him.” And third, he casually murders the park security guard who is no longer useful, not knowing where Abernathy might be stashed. Aggro Ted is bad news.

Meanwhile, Charlotte gets Peter Abernathy back to the Mesa and has him bolted to a chair. She contacts Delos and they send an extraction team led by Coughlin (Timothy V. Murphy), a smug foulmouthed bastard. Ashley Stubbs eats more crow.

Stubbs & Charlotte with Abernathy

William in Black at first thinks Grace is a host replica sent by Ford. I can’t blame him. Ford has demonstrated he’s quite willing to cheat. It’s really her, of course, and she’s a chip off the old block in at least one way: she plays the game well. (Is it my imagination, or is Katja Herbers’ American accent a lot better than in Grace’s first appearance?)

We learn a lot at their fireside chat. He misremembers her reaction to the elephants, an indicator of the distance between his family and his true self. He’s proud of her skill surviving in the park. Notice how William’s face falls when she says, “I’ve always seen the appeal of it. Life without consequences.” She still doesn’t get it, he’s thinking, there’s more here than that. Grace laments spending so many years buying her father’s “good-guy act,” but tells William she doesn’t blame him for her mother’s suicide and it was wrong to put that on him. Most importantly, Grace explains why she dove into the midst of this chaos.

I came here because you do not get to do that to me, suicide by robot, or whatever the fuck your mission is now that these things can shoot to kill.

The two come to an agreement, but William in Black plays the game to win. His word is not to be trusted. When Grace wakes the next morning, he’s gone.

Maeve and daughter

Maeve at last finds her daughter, who has a new mother. Thandie Newton’s wonderful acting notwithstanding, this scene falls flat. It defies belief that this possibility hadn’t occurred to Maeve, with her boosted intelligence and knowledge of the park’s inner workings. This is the best-case scenario, isn’t it? Her daughter host is alive and at the homestead where they can find her. Maeve should have been prepared for this, and for a few other likely scenarios. Anyway, right after New Mom is revealed—GHOST NATION ATTACK!

On the train to the Mesa, Dolores asks Aggro Ted whether she should flee Westworld as her father said. Passive-aggressive Ted answers, “I never thought I’d want to leave, but I suppose you fixed that too.” He gives a gun and single bullet to Phil the tech guy, saying, “This is the last of my mercy. Better use it fast.” They send the locomotive ahead to explode in the tunnel under the Mesa.

Felix Hector et alia

Elsie and Bernard discover why park security (“QA”) are losing so badly. There’s something in the park’s systems opposing them at every step. It’s coming from the Cradle, which we learn is not merely a static backup of hosts, but a virtual world where the hosts run through their narrative loops. They go there and insert Bernard into the simulation by cutting open his skull and transferring his control unit to the mainframe. (There really was no reason they couldn’t have turned off his pain response. “There’s no time” is a meaningless writers’ cliché.) There’s a virtual copy of Robert Ford in there, which explains how he has continued to manipulate events after his natural death.

Was that meant to be a surprise? It was thoroughly foreshadowed.

To mine eyes, the first scene of the episode is more intriguing. It seems to be the same conversation shown earlier, between Arnold and Dolores before the park opened. Then Dolores corrects him, “No. He didn’t say that.” By he she must mean Arnold, which implies that this is Bernard. That’s confirmed (I think?) when he obeys her commands “freeze all motor functions” and “sit.” She says she’s testing him for “fidelity” (from the Latin faithful).

What do we make of this? For Dolores at least, this is a reprise of an earlier conversation with Arnold. Is she reviewing the memory in her mind, after her most recent awakening, with the benefit of that new perspective? Does this conversation actually take place between Dolores and Bernard, whether in the past or future? Or could this be happening in the virtual world of the Cradle, an interview between Dolores’s and Bernard’s living backups?