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Westworld: Season 1, Episode 9 – The Well-Tempered Clavier Review

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★★★★

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

Maeve

Having had large chunks of the previous few episodes to herself as she slowly figures out her own consciousness, Thandie Newton's rebellious, smart, powerful host took more of a backseat this week, though she still had some great scenes. Well, scene – her confrontation with Bernard was excellent, even if it once again led us to question the security setup in the Delos labs. Her reunion with Rodrigo Santoro's Hector had some great touches, including Maeve predicting exactly what the bandits will do shortly before they do it, but we could perhaps have done without the on-the-nose sex session between Maeve and Hector as the tent burns around them and she talks of visiting Hell.

Ford

This week's episode found Anthony Hopkins' Ford acting in even more despotic, godlike fashion than usual, and that's saying something for him. Most of his interactions this week were with Bernard (more on that in his dedicated section), but there was also the brief glimpse of the younger Ford in action again when Dolores went on her little trip through time (or was it memory?) The levels of his game plan and his treatment of the various hosts, especially Bernard reached a new high... well, low... and Ford is now at a place where we could see Machiavelli himself warning him to dial it back a notch or 17.

Bernard

Bernard is Arnold! Or at least, that's what the show wants us to think right now. It's a fantastic twist (kudos if you'd guessed it). The painful trips down memory lane are yet another chance for Jeffrey Wright to unleash his abilities and he finds the perfect level for each revelation, and his despair when he realises that his boss/creator/tormentor has outsmarted him again (though he technically outsmarted himself) with that backdoor into the hosts' code that means even when he thinks he's switched off the protections in, say, Clementine, Ford can keep control. But for how much longer, especially with Maeve in the world... As for Bernard seemingly killing himself and finally taking himself from this loop of hell? We doubt he's done for good. Ford didn't seem overly concerned, and he has the technology, he can rebuild him.

Dolores

With William and Dolores once more in the clutches of Logan (who remains one of the least nuanced characters in the show and at times resembles a cross between Jabba The Hutt and a moustache-twirling panto villain), you might have worried we'd be in for another session of baddies versus goodies. But this week's episode is smart enough to turn that on its head, with Dolores' guts exposed (physically and then metaphysically later) and William outsmarting Logan, showing that he's taken yet more steps down the dark path that may or may not lead to him becoming that black-clad, gun-toting son of a gun. Dolores' trip into the early days of the park's development and her quick chat with Bernard/Arnold ramp up the heartbreak, especially when we learn that it was Dolores, the park's oldest host, who killed her creator. Superb stuff from Evan Rachel Wood, who gets to play both her badass side and her emotionally wrecked humanity... hostmanity. You know what we mean.

The Man In Black

Seemingly in real trouble this week, the MIB is left in a tricky situation, but manages to avoid being hung. And then there's his chat with Charlotte Hale, which would appear to confirm that his business interest aligns with Delos, even if he has little interest in corporate intrigue or what Ford is doing to the park. He's still committed to finding Arnold's maze and he's not going to let the fact that there are bigger obstacles in the way than usual change that. On a related topic: Oh my god, Angela killed Teddy! You bastard! We'd missed that particular plot twist.

Summary

The latest trip to Westworld is strikingly directed by Breaking Bad/Walking Dead veteran Michelle MacLaren, and features the sort of sound design that crawls its way in through your ears and sets up shop in your head. There's a worry that all the narrative looping and second-guessing can distract and detract from truly engaging with the characters, but the emotional level continues to bubble away under the thoughtful sci-fi coating: the Bernard and Dolores plots still delivered on that front. And the theme of power and control was explored yet further through Ford, who strives to dominate everything and Maeve, who has incredible control over her fellow hosts now, but chooses to use it much more sparingly, preferring to win people over to her side. The mysteries do consume an awful lot of the screen time (especially since this is the penultimate episode of the season), suggesting that if you're hoping for quick answers next week, you'd best brace for disappointment. There will be more to come next season, now that the show will get that chance, even if we must wait for it. Still, if it continues to impress at this level, we'll wait. On to the finale!

Big Questions

Is Elsie dead?

You asked us this last week. We're still not sure, though Bernard's horrified reaction to the memory and its link to Theresa's murder is not a positive sign for poor Elise. But we shall see! Perhaps next week we'll discover that she and Stubbs (who was tricked by the Ghost Nation warriors in Jurassic Park "clever girl" fashion) are simply prisoners somewhere in the park.

Could everything and everyone, save Ford be stuck in a time-loop?

It could, but it seems more likely that Ford is simply manipulating Bernard/Arnold repeatedly to see how his behaviour changes.

Is Teddy Wyatt?

Though that's supposedly just a part of his narrative backstory handed down by Ford, it's plausible, given the way Angela talked about him this week. Perhaps the next time we see him, he'll have taken on the full mantle of the traitorous military man. Or maybe it's some leftover fragment from an earlier story?

What's with Logan's picture?

Logan shows William the image of his sister, Juliet, the woman "Billy" is intending to marry. It's the same image that Peter Abernathy (Dolores' dad) finds in the dirt on his ranch and looks considerably more aged, lending yet more credence to the idea that William's story is taking place years before we first meet Dolores. You might argue that William also meets her then, but who knows if everything is taking place at once given the park's narrative tricks and loops?

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: Tromp L'Oeil

Westworld Season 1 Episode 8: Trace Decay

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

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