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Westworld: Season 1, Episode 8 – Trace Decay Review

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★★★★

Saddle up! But beware potential spoilers in this review, which will discuss elements of the episode.

Maeve

While Thandie Newton continues to deliver a fantastic performance episode after episode, her awakening is a plot line that has begun to worry us more and more. Delos is a facility that can create human simulacra so advanced as to pass for the real thing, but apparently, it can't install security cameras in its labs, nor can it keep proper track of what's happening with its software. Sure, there are safeguards to stop the hosts leaving the facility – an explosive charge in the spine – but Maeve is soon able to counteract that thanks to the luckless continued help of the tech twins. Really? When she's not kicking off the robot uprising in the lab or inserting herself into the narrative to acquire Hector as part of her army, she's still having some serious flashbacks, including her homesteader dream. How horrible must it be to have total recall of almost getting murdered after watching your child die? Newton handles all of that so well. And what are we to make of her fate after the main team sends the retrieval squad after her? Will she somehow be able to talk her way out of being sent right back to the lab? Or will she simply show up, order the boys around again (assuming Sylvester can do much after having his throat slashed and then hastily cauterised)?

Ford and Bernard

After all the shocking twistiness of Bernard's revelation as a host and his Ford-ordered murder of Theresa, much of this week's scenes, in which he and Ford debate the nature of human consciousness might seem like a step down. But watching Anthony Hopkins and Jeffrey Wright deliver that heady material remains such a pleasure. Besides, we also get to see Ford's megalomaniacal side on full display as he orders Bernard to cover up the murder – not entirely successfully, we fear – and spreads a web of deception to make sure his robot-protégé stays employed. There's real pain in Bernard's reactions to what he's done. Well, at least until Ford gives him the ol' memory cleanse.

Dolores and William

With Lawrence (sorry, El Lazo) off doing whatever he does, our main pair had the chance to keep exploring the mystery valley this week. Their talk of the real world and their discovery of people massacred by the Ghost Nation were among the slower plots this week, but at least it built to that reveal of mean ol' Logan as the head of the search party tracking them down. Could this be the end for William and Dolores? Doubt it... Especially as Lawrence (sorry, El Lazo) is still out there. He may not have wanted to venture into the valley, but we're confident he might be back at some point to help out. And Dolores dreams/memories/being unstuck in time certainly allowed us some more teasing flashes of her history with the park and, potentially, Arnold.

Delos

Team Delos (mostly Charlotte Hale and Ashley Stubbs) were taken up with investigating Theresa's death. And Tessa Thompson's Charlotte also wanted to make sure that her plan to transmit host software data out of the park remained a going concern, which meant we learned why Lee Sizemore wasn't summarily fired for his drunken pissing on the main map. She needs him to programme a host that she can upload the stolen data to and send out of the park. Of course, they pick Lewis Abernathy, which means that idea will probably turn back around to bite them in the bum. And if Lee survives whatever happens with the hosts, surely he'll be fired for just being a git?

The Man In Black

After spending several episodes being a threatening, smug badass, Ed Harris got a different side of the Man In Black to play this week, as we learned of his tragic past and the obsession it inspired to see how evil he could be when unleashed in the park. Plus, Teddy got to show a little more of a spine, at least until he was taken down by Talulah Riley's traitorous, Wyatt-allied Angela. Plus: Minotaur!

Summary

It's not hard to see why there was a minor backlash to this episode after last week's revelatory hour. Westworld as a show sometimes falls into the trap of embracing the puzzle piece format at the expense of storytelling, and while it's fun to keep guessing at certain elements, this late period in the season is probably not the place to keep adding mystery layers. The cast remains uniformly excellent, but the narrative issues (of the series, not the park) worried us more this week, especially in the Maeve plot.

Big Questions

Was that Elise being choked by Bernard?

It certainly looked like it, though it's tough to tell whether it was a false memory flash of Bernard's or an actual event. And it could mean that he incapacitated her instead of killing her...

Did the Minotaur appear on a wall screen in the lab behind Charlotte?

We're not sure about this one, and it could have been some elaborately designed native costume, but it was certainly similar.

Does the MIB recognizing Angela lend credence to the theory he's William?

In some eyes, sure, though we're still a little unsure of the timeline. How, for example, does Maeve remember him hunting her down as an older man when she was a Homesteader when that narrative was set before she became the madam at the Mariposa, which is where William first arrived as a young man? Our brains are hurting, but for more Westworld theories, head here.

Read previous episode reviews below...

Westworld Season 1 Episode 1: The Original

Westworld Season 1 Episode 2: Chestnut

Westworld Season 1 Episode 3: The Stray

Westworld Season 1 Episode 4: Dissonance Theory

Westworld Season 1 Episode 5: Contrapasso

Westworld Season 1 Episode 6: The Adversary

Westworld Season 1 Episode 7: Trompe L'Oeil

Westworld airs on HBO in the US on Sunday nights and Tuesdays on Sky Atlantic in the UK

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