We’ve got a shocking return this week on Westworld. Also plenty of train action. father-daughter drama, funeral rites, swordfighting, and high-tech scalping. It’s a big episode, so let’s get right to “Phase Space”.
By the way, this episode was written by Carly Wray, who has previously been awesome on Mad Men and The Leftovers. She writes for all the good shows!
We open with an old-school Dolores and Bernard flashback. I mean, all those other flashbacks turned out to be Dolores and Arnold, but this is really Bernard. Dolores is in her Sweetwater clothes as Bernard talks about how he’s afraid of what she could become. He admits he’s wrestling with a choice between the unknown and the end and he doesn’t know if he even has the ability to choose. But then Dolores tells him “he didn’t say that”, and he (presumably Arnold) never questioned his agency but rather the outcome. Then she pull a “freeze all motor functions” on him, and I have no idea where this fits into the timeline. It couldn’t be the early days of Bernard, because Dolores is acting outside her programming. It’s really hard to place in Season One, and I almost wonder whether this is a vision of the future. She starts testing his “fidelity”, and we exit the flashback. So it’s a callback to William and Delos, but it also implies this happened a lot, which makes it even harder to place.
Back in Sweetwater, Teddy finds a bullet in the street, next to Dolores’ can of beans. She plays the piano inside the saloon until he interrupts, claiming she’s wasting the day. New Teddy is pushy, and he kind of hates Old Teddy. The look on Dolores’ face suggests maybe she misses the original. Her crew is getting the train ready, and when the kidnapped techs can’t say for sure where Peter Abernathy will be, Teddy executes one of them.
Stubbs finds some dead security bodies in the facility, so it looks like Ghost Nation let him go. Charlotte finds him and the two of them inform Delos that they have secured Peter, which means that help will actually be on the way. This is said to be one week after the uprising, so it’s still a week until Bernard washes up on the beach and they find all the drowned hosts. Anyway, they bolt Peter to one of those examination chairs, driving thick metal rods through his chest and limbs. It’s pretty upsetting.
Back in Shogun world, it’s the aftermath of the battle – dead bodies everywhere as Akane narrates. “Breathing in, breathing out. Moving forward, moving back. Living, dying. Coming, going. Like two arrows meeting in flight in the midst of nothingness. There is a road that leads to my true home.” She prepares Sakura’s body, which includes cutting out her hard, and Maeve tears off a sleeve to use as a makeshift heart bag. The crew returns to town where two guards are waiting for them. Maeve makes one kill the other and then himself, which is kind of awkward with a katana.
Tanaka approaches them. “The assassin and her witch…. have you come to witness their execution? Or perhaps… you’ve come for a trade.” He brings out his prisoners, the cowboy and samurai versions of Hector and Armistice. (Musashi and Hanaryo) Maeve’s offer: “They walk out of here with us and in exchange, I’ll let you live.” Tanaka says that they can leave but “Akane stays”. Maeve gets ready to kill him with her mind, but Musashi stops her. “Let’s have a duel instead. If I win, Akane leaves with me.” Tanaka asks if he really wants to duel while he’s protected by the witch . Musashi assures him he doesn’t need to fear the wish and he should face him or his mean will consider him a coward. Tanaka orders them to give Musashi his blade, and it is on. Akane tells Maeve to use her “magic”, but Maeve refuses. “We each deserve to choose our own fate. Even if that fate is death.”
It’s a beautifully choreographed sword fight that ultimately ends with Musashi victorious, even though Tanaka throws dirt in his eyes like a wrestling heel. And because it’s a show I recap, Musachi cuts off Tanaka’s hand. I just want to go like a month without recapping a hand mutilation. Otherwise, it’s going to be a grim season of Big Brother. Tanaka tries to kill himself before Musashi can execute him, but Musashi cuts off his head. Akane tells Maeve: “Hurry. You must find your child before this darkness eats all of us alive.”
Cheat Code Cowboy and his crew come upon what appears to be the site of a Ghost Nation attack. Lawrence also isn’t sure whether Emily can handle this ride, and CCC isn’t too worried because he thinks Emily is a host created by Ford to torment him. She’s the one who realized that they got suckered by a trap and shoots the guy who meant do to them a mischief, so she’s the best in the group.
Elsie and Bernard hike the train tracks and Bernard says he believes she’s the one who can “right the ship through sheer force of will”. They reach the tunnel and get access to the facility where they find a bunch of the dead Welcome Hosts. Elsie checks out a control panel and finds that the security team (“QA”, which is pretty funny) has tried to regain control of the park but the Cradle keeps overriding them. I think they might have mentioned the Cradle last season, but it’s the Host backup drive. It shouldn’t be able to influence active systems. It’s basically the Cloud. And yet, all operations are running through the Cradle now. And the only way they can access the controls is to go down to the Cradle. Cradle.
Maeve and her group walk through a bamboo forest. They reach the Shogun World version of that peak where Teddy and Dolores always go. Akane says it’s just as beautifal as Sakura described. They reach the shrine that allows access back to the facility and find the opening to a slide that’s far too long and unsafe but luckily lands you on a bunch of dead bodies. Felix and Sylvester are the first ones in. The others put Sakura’s heart to rest. Akane: “It’s time for her to rest for good. They burn Sakura’s heart and Maeve tells Musashi “It’s time.” He says they won’t be going with her. This was Sakura’s home. Maeve says they need to make their own home now, but Musashi insists “No man is safe who refuses to defend his own land. Cowardice is a tin shield.” Maeve says that seeking shelter from a storm isn’t cowardice and Akane reminds her of her own words – “We all deserve to choose our own fate. Even if that fate is death.” Then “My daughter’s spirit is here… and the choice belong to me. Because of you.” Maeve hopes Sakura’s spirit brings her peace and takes her leave. Hanaryo chooses to stay go with them, but Musashi stays behind with Akane.
It’s night out on the trail. Cheat Code offers Emily a drink and she’s surprised to find that while he doesn’t drink in the real world, he does in Westworld. He asks what she’s doing here and he says Charlotte called her, and she initially told her where to shove it. They argue over whether she was scared of the elephants as a kid – she says she loved them and it was her mom that was scared. CCC knows his family really well. Then she talks about being old enough to try out the pleasure palaces and Cheat Code is really uncomfortable with that. He’s impressed that she made it to him, though. She thinks it’s sad that he’s still obsessed with this place, and he gets the hurt feelings that only a white guy who’s been mildly criticized can truly know. These two have some long-standing issues and she says her mom is the only one who really understood CCC, but she feels bad now about blaming him for her suicide. She insists he’s going to come home with her and be a person. He agrees to head to the beach with her “let this place finish burning behind us” and then they’re even. She seems like this is all she really wants. So of course, when morning comes, she wakes up to find out that he left her behind with only a glitchy Host who won’t stop tending the fire.
Bernard and Elsie reach the cradle and it looks like a big bank of servers lit up in red. It looks sinister but functionally it looks like something you’ve seen on Silicon Valley a dozen times. Elsie is creeped out by it, but Bernard assures her “it’s just data”. She says the data is trying to kill them, and she has a point.
Bernard remembers bringing something here and he has quick flashes of the past. Elsie still can’t get into the system, and Bernard, remembering bringing a core here, says he can get into the system. There’s a dock to read Host data directly. He can strap into that and enter the cradle. Elsie reminds him that’s for older Hosts with the heads that open up, but Bernard still thinks it’s a good idea. So he gets into the terror chair and it saws off the top of his head to get to his core unit. And it hurts, until his core is removed and Bernard is just a shell. Then he appears on the train. Now, this is kind of confusing, but inside the Cradle is a simulation of Westworld. All the data’s there and the hosts may even follow their loops, but there’s nothing physical about it. It’s all data. And until now, it was just a backup that wasn’t supposed to affect the park at all. So everybody in here is just cloud copies of the Hosts. So, in theory, we could see a dead Host because their backup data still exists even if their physical form is destroyed.
The train arrives in digital Sweetwater, and it kind of looks like it did when the train pulled up in Season One, but there are differences.
Back out in the park, the big security team is just arriving. Stubbs tries to talk to the boss, a guy with a fantastic mustache, and the guy is just a jerk. He doesn’t think park security in general and Stubbs in particular have anything to offer. These guys are definitely Blackwater-style mercenaries, right? We agree on that?
Maeve’s groups reaches an accent point in the facility that brings them back to Westworld. Specifically, the zone where her daughter is supposed to be. Lee tries to take credit for getting something right, and she notes it’s his first actual contribution. She says she has to do this alone and the rest of her group hangs back as she makes her way toward a little house.
Cheat Code Cowboy and his group make their way down the trail until they’re attacked by Ghost Nation. A couple of no-names die quickly. Meanwhile, Maeve reaches her old home and sees the girl who was her daughter out on the porch, playing with dolls. She approaches to say hello and they talk about the dolls and Thandie Newton is acting the hell out of this season. The daughter, and I’m not sure we know her name yet, talks about being taken by the “bad men” and it seems like she retains some knowledge of her narrative. And then the new mother (credited as “New Mother”) shows up and Maeve doesn’t have time to deal with being replaced because Ghost Nation attacks.
It seems like we’re seeing a lot of big events that should have wiped out some of the Hosts taking part the last time they looped. We know a lot of the big story elements are on a one-week loop. And we know that the future scene where Bernard washes up on the shore and they find all the drowned Hosts is two weeks after the uprising, so it makes sense that a lot of these events are hitting just now.
By the way, barring any trickery, I think this entire episode is set in the same timeline. More or less. There’s some compression, but outside of flashbacks and the opening, things are pretty well synced up. Maeve grabs her daughter and runs Her crew rides in to help out. Hanzee from Fargo catches up with them and says “Come with us. We are meant for the same path.” Maeve tells him that his path leads to hell, and that’s when Hector and friends catch up and all the shooting starts. The humans watch from afar in varying states of emotional involvement and Lee uses that radio he stole last week to try and call for help. Felix rushes in to help with the fight.
On the real train, Dolores’ gang is getting ready. She tells Teddy about how her dad told her she needed to get out of that place, and Teddy passive aggressively snarks about how she changed his personality. He gives their last remaining captive a gun and one bullet and says it’s the last of his mercy. And then they disconnect the passenger car, leaving the man behind and locked in.
In the facility a tech explains to Mustache Man that every diagnostic says things are working perfectly, but they obviously aren’t. Charlotte catches up and tells them where they can find Peter Abernathy. At that point, the map comes online and they can see the train barreling toward the edge. The train is blasting full speed toward the Mesa, which is where it usually begins – that’s where people board from the facility. So if they hit it at full speed, they’re going to crash a train right through the facility and probably destroy any chance of salvaging this mess. We only see and hear the results from the Cradle, and it’s still loud enough to shake Elsie.
In Virtual Sweetwater, Bernard makes his way to the saloon. He spots Doris and the photographer, but also a dog. I’m pretty sure it’s the dog from the Ford household. He follows the dog to the saloon because, hey, maybe he can play with a dog. And then he notices the piano. It’s not a player piano here – just a regular-ass piano and it’s being played by…. William Ford.
Ford greets him with “Hello, old friend”.
OK, so here’s what makes sense to me. That hybrid core unit Bernard printed in the past and killed the techs and drones to hide was Ford. There is a perfect recreation of Ford in the Cradle right now and he’s running Westworld.
Why was he ready to die? Because he has eternal life inside the park. And he did away with having a body, which is what tripped up James Delos. He’s pure data and he’s controlling everything. Remember a couple of weeks back when the security team noted that a third of the Hosts they recovered had completely blank core units that didn’t seem to have ever held any data? I bet they were just controlled by Ford. One out of every three Hosts is Ford. I really want to know how much control he has – we’ve seen him override hosts to speak through them, like Lawrence’s daughter, but could he override Dolores or Maeve?
This opens a lot of questions about what’s happening with Cheat Code. Ford seemingly set up a game for him, but now it seems more like Ford’s manipulating him for some purpose. He didn’t give him a gift, he made CCC a puppet.
Hey, you know how Teddy and dozens of other Hosts drowned in a lake that wasn’t supposed to be there? I bet Ford did that. Maybe Dolores went too far and he had to pull a Noah. (I realize Noah didn’t flood anything, but you know what I mean.)
The real question for me is when Ford entered the Cradle. Because it seems to me that he’d only have Ford’s memories from the moment he was transferred to a core unit. So if Ford made a digital Ford two years ago, he’d probably be unaware of anything that happened to the real Ford after that time. I tend to believe that it was very soon before he died, since Ford planned his death.
Also, remember when Dolores showed Teddy something at a dig site that was very important? Do you think whatever it is was on that train?
At this point, we have two seconds of information about what Ford is now, so I’m really looking forward to this weekend’s episode.