West World Chronicles: 1.7

trompe l’oeil
ˌtrômp ˈloi/
noun
  1. visual illusion in art, especially as used to trick the eye into perceiving a painted detail as a three-dimensional object.

After this week’s episode, I’m beginning to believe that HBO is trolling every person watching West World. I would consider this episode to be the turning point of the season, and it’s title serves as a spoiler hidden in plain sight. Unless you speak French — then perhaps you aren’t naive as I am. But I digress.

Bernard wakes up from a dream; a dream of a memory of him and his son, moments before his death. As he reads “Alice in Wonderland,” Bernard’s son questions the nature of his own reality. His last words are “listen to me,” but he does not complete his thought before losing consciousness. This leaves us wondering, why would he tell Bernard to listen? And to what? It is clear Bernard is living in the past, in his own memory (don’t we all?). Like the hosts, his reality is perhaps a sham — and it is in his dreams that he truly feels awake. However, he doesn’t give this a second thought, and he continues to carry on with his little loop.

We jump back to Dolores and William, who find themselves on a train with El Lazo, searching for the place Dolores is dreaming of. William and El Lazo are playing cards, a cheeky reminder that they are within a game themselves, and William is destined to lose. At one point, El Lazo tells William that maybe he has more of an appetite for killing than he thinks. The statement unsettles William, but he doesn’t refute it. He turns his gaze to Dolores, implying that she is his justification and reason for playing the game. Are we all searching for a reason to live, to work, to love? What is it that sparks the human drive? What are we willing to put our lives on the line for? William confesses to Dolores that in the outside world, he has a real life and a fiancee waiting for him. He is painfully honest with her, but makes a pivotal choice in also confessing that West World is “a life in which I can truly be alive.” William’s choice reflects his descent into his own personal maze, one which we have yet to see where it will lead him. Dolores warns him, that she is not a key. To what, we also have yet to find out.

In an attempted coup masked as a “blood sacrifice,” Teresa and Hale manipulate Clementine Pennyfeather’s code to create a connection between her past memory and violent behavior. They use Clem as a cautionary tale, a mistake that cannot ever be made — and one that someone must take the fall for. Watching Clem’s assault is an emotional peak of the episode. We bear witness to Clem’s helplessness, as well as Ford, Bernard, and Teresa watch her be brutally assaulted. It is both rattling and unsettling for us and the characters to watch her suffer. Clem is so human-like, that Teresa is visibly uncomfortable with the violence inflicted on her. It is an ugly reminder of what people –hosts or humans — are capable of.

Clem’s “grudge” is riddled with irony, largely because while her code is manipulated to remember, Maeve’s is not. Maeve continues to expand her mental understanding of her world, and she makes a decision to escape the park. After witnessing Clem’s lobotomy, Maeve realizes that her humanity (relatively speaking) can easily be taken away. Watching the “life” drilled out of Clem inflicts immense suffering on Maeve, and we connect with her, because suffering is a cornerstone of the human condition.

The episode’s final scene concludes in Ford’s underground lab inside the park after Bernard leads Teresa there. Although he’s lost his job, Bernard’s valiant nature implores him to show Teresa Ford’s undertaking of building secret hosts. The two quickly piece together that the hosts’ ability to have memories allow them to improvise and continually variate. This implies the hosts, unbeknownst to the board, are potentially capable of reaching consciousness and free will.  As she sifts through the items, Teresa comes across a number of diagrams. One of which is Dolores, who is noted as a prototype. This is another reminder that Dolores, in whatever shape or form, will play an integral role in Ford’s plans for the park. In an epic plot twist, Teresa also finds a diagram of Bernard, who, when shown the picture, says, “That doesn’t look like anything to me.” In that moment, Teresa realizes Bernard is a host, and Ford appears to tell her she’s been played the whole time.

Looking back, the subtle hints referring to Bernard not being a human do exist. Particularly when Ford tells him, “You should be getting back, Bernard,” or “That’s enough.” Bernard himself is shocked by this revelation, as is Teresa. Calmly, Ford speaks a trigger phrase that orders Bernard to kill Teresa. Bernard obliges, and Teresa dies where hosts are born. This final scene is particularly unnerving because this is the first instance in which we see a host kill a human, much less by the order of a human. This is why the episode’s title is perfect — Bernard’s inhuman existence was hidden in plain sight. It serves as a reminder that sometimes, reality and fantasy can be mistaken for one another; a mistake that could kill you.

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