Westworld S02E07 Review: “Les Écorchés”

Welcome to the fireworks factory, y’all. Plenty of gunslinging in this hour. Aside from the bookend scenes with Strand, Bernard, Charlotte, and Stubbs from the week-plus-hence period, all the action is roughly concurrent, about six days after Dolores shot up Ford and his party guests. The show’s plotlines are quickening nicely, and it’s more forthright about explaining rather than hinting at the big picture. Yet I confess, it bugs me that several of this episode’s events seem less motivated by the characters’ reasons than the storytellers’.

In the latest period, Strand takes Bernard and Stubbs to the secret facility where Theresa was killed. That puts the kibosh on any Theresa doppelganger conspiracy. Delos already knows she’s dead and the accident explanation is a lie. They discover a room full of Bernard’s past incarnations, learning he’s a host, and Charlotte immediately sets to interrogation by torture. It doesn’t make any sense that Ford would keep a dozen defunct Bernard-bots in storage, but I’ll forgive that because it’s a visually dramatic way to reveal Bernard’s secret.

lawrence and william

William’s party is on the run from Ghost Nation warriors. He takes cover in the same house as Maeve and her erstwhile daughter. Jumping to the conclusion that Ford is playing tricks again isn’t very shrewd. Remember you were wrong last time too, William. He takes a slug from Maeve and each of the minions she bewitched. It doesn’t work on Lawrence, but Maeve easily undermines Lawrence’s loyalty by reminding him of all the times he and his family were playthings in William’s cruel games. Lawrence’s shot hits him near the heart, but the Delos security squad that Lee called in saves William from the kill shot. This fairly reeks of plot armor. He’s got a bullet wound in each limb and one in the torso. Blood loss alone would claim him, even if his vital organs were intact.

Maeve’s daughter is scooped up by the Ghost Nation, whose motivations we still don’t know, and she gets shot several times. Lee tells the Delos goons not to kill her and he takes her with them back to the Mesa.

Ford and Bernard

Meanwhile in the Cradle, Robert Ford’s ghost finally tells Bernard what the fuck is going on. It was in this virtual world that Bernard was prototyped and tested by Dolores for fidelity to Arnold. Ford didn’t put Bernard’s control unit into a host body until he got the personality right. I think “Les Écorchés” refers to this. (Last week Captain Video said they sometimes choose titles that sound cool and don’t bear thinking too hard about, but thinking too hard about things is kinda my jam.) Écorchés are ancillary “skinless” drawings that show a figure’s structure. Like gesture drawings and tone studies, they are preparatory work to make sure the final painting or sculpture is done right.

We weren’t here to code the hosts. We were here to decode the guests.

Ford says conclusively that the secret project Delos wants so badly is indeed immortality of a kind, where a personality construct drawn from a guest’s carefully collated data will be implanted in a synthetic host body. But it doesn’t work yet. His mind functions in the virtual reality of the Cradle, but it would degrade and go mad in a matter of days in a new body. Ford transfers his ghost to Bernard’s control unit, and Elsie says the rogue element in the park’s systems is gone. (Is Ford subject to similar deleterious effects from living in Bernard’s head?)

Dolores and company storm the Mesa, which mainly goes according to plan. They blow up the Cradle to destroy their backups, and she gets Peter Abernathy’s control unit, which contains the encryption key to something at the Valley Beyond, perhaps the valley itself.

It was fun to see Charlotte and Dolores face off. Charlotte is habitually condescending even to other human beings. When she addressed Dolores in that patronizing tone, I said aloud, “Oh girl, that’s a mistake.” Dolores knows a lot more than Charlotte thought she did, and she has no compunction against cutting Hale to bits to learn more. Stubbs takes advantage of a momentary distraction, and he and Charlotte escape. Stubbs is sticking up for himself a bit more, without much effect so far.

In the shootout to reach the Cradle, Clementine fights fiercely to cover Angela’s advance, dying in a blaze of glory. Angela then destroys the backups with one of Engels’s grenades. This is one of my nitpicks. Was this Dolores’s plan? To send Angela into the server room to wait around for a bad guy to show up so she can use his weapons to destroy it? That’s hardly airtight. It would have made more sense for Angela to plant explosives and leave, or if mission success is more important than her survival, have her wear an explosive vest.

The robutts’ campaign to kill all humans continues. Teddy kills Coughlin, head of the extraction squad, scarcely one day after he showed up. They massacre almost everyone in the control room (I believe the computer-savvy soldier got away). The team that just showed up with Lee is urgently called away and promptly murdered. Ford forces Bernard to kill a few overnosy security men.

Dolores crosses paths with gravely wounded Maeve and shows her a rough kind of compassion. She offers to kill Maeve before the humans can torture her for information, but Maeve says she has a promise to keep. Dolores and her crew mount up and head out. Meanwhile Lee’s slinking nature comes in handy for once, as he hides behind some crates.

Where is Maeve’s backup? This episode didn’t show us what Hector, Armistice, Hanaryo, or Felix are doing. One hopes rescue is on the way.

Bernard and Charlotte

Now everyone is headed to the Valley Beyond. Dolores has the key and aims to use it there. Bernard tells Elsie, “The only hope for anyone here is that we get to this Valley first, before the humans, before Dolores.” And at the end of the episode, under torture Bernard tells Charlotte that’s where they’ve gone. But remember, the interrogation is much later. Dolores had a week’s head start. So did Bernard and Elsie.