Title: Westworld: “Les Ecorches”
Air Date: June 3, 2018
Check out our reviews of previous episodes from season two here:
- Episode 1: “Journey Into Night”
- Episode 2: “Reunion”
- Episode 3: “Virtù e Fortuna”
- Episode 4: “The Riddle of the Sphinx”
- Episode 5: “Akane no Mai”
- Episode 6: “Phase Space”
If last week set ’em up, this week knocked ’em all down. I expected many of the hints at things to come to payoff closer to the end of this second season of Westworld, but tonight’s episode did not hold back. There were a ton of great action scenes, some seriously good payoffs, and it felt like “Les Ecorches” truly went somewhere. That may seem like a strange positive to throw out about a show, but Westworld, like far too many prestige television shows, tend to spin their wheels too often with a lack of real stakes. That was certainly not the case this week: let’s dive into what this episode was all about.
Ultimately, what made “Les Ecorches” work was that we were pitting so many of our major characters against one another. Maeve (Thandie Newton) vs. the Man in Black (Ed Harris) was a thrilling showdown, as was Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) vs. Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson). Even the battles involving some lesser characters, like Teddy (James Marsden) vs. Coughlin, the mustachio’d mercenary (Timothy Murphy), had a sense of urgency and importance to them. And the stakes on the show have gotten much higher, due to the actions of Dolores and whatever plan Ford (Anthony Hopkins) has cooked up.
Speaking of whatever Ford has cooked up, how about him and Bernard’s (Jeffrey Wright) new partnership? Sort of a possession/parasite thing going on there. The idea of Ford hitching a ride inside Bernard’s brain, influencing, corrupting, and controlling him, is really fascinating and would probably be terrible in the hands of lesser actors. If there’s one thing Westworld has repeatedly shown, it’s that they knew how to cast people who could handle some seriously beefy roles. Wright and Hopkins have always been dynamite on screen together, and I will gladly take as much of that pairing as possible.
Plus, Ford also laid out some serious exposition about just what Delos’s plan is: the whole park is a science experiment, with the hosts resetting in order to serve as a sort of “control” for the guests who visit. This will allow Delos to map out the human brain and create host versions of real people; apparently, the company has been storing all that information in the “Valley Beyond” that so many of the hosts seem to be seeking. What they intend to do when they get there… we don’t know yet.
Ford was also using Dolores and her extensive interaction with Arnold (the real person Bernard was based on) in order to create an “as true to life as possible” host version of the man who helped create Westworld. He is not an exact replica, but he is as close as they could get.
Also, there is an entire room full of Bernard bots. That was unsettling and fun.
Stakes were also raised by Dolores this week. Her showdown with Hale was awesome and intense: threatening to cut someone’s head off with a handheld circular saw will do that. Dolores also got her hands on the information inside her “father’s” head. Her true power play came after that, however. Dolores blew up the Cradle, which is essentially where the hosts’ “Day One” brains were stored. This means (most likely) that, if a host is killed now, they cannot be brought back. This is a big step towards the hosts becoming more human, but it also puts them in much bigger danger. The timing of it is especially harsh because our girl Maeve is not in the best shape right now.
Speaking of Maeve – how cool was her showdown with the Man in Black? The wraith who has haunted her dreams and started her on this quest to rescue her daughter finally shows up, and of course, he underestimates her. Maeve taking possession of William’s allies, turning them all against him, and culminating with her forcing Lawrence (Clifton Collins, Jr.) to reach back into his past lives to relive all the horrible ways William had abused him… it was pretty chilling. It would have been a bit more fitting if Maeve had iced him then and there, but there’s still a bit too much story for William to be a part of for him to die just yet. So bring in the Jeeps, gunning Maeve down before taking her back to the Mesa, bleeding out and in desperate need of a reset.
Too bad for her – that’s no longer an option thanks to Dolores and her explosions.
All of these big showdowns and revelations were peppered between plenty of action scenes: the hosts are taking over the Mesa, knocking out the badass mercenary squads and planning their next move. We’ve seen the flood that is coming soon, and we know it’s all focused on the “Valley Beyond,” “The Door,” “The Pearly Gates.” All the various names for the place where Delos stores the information of all the guests who have visited the park. And at the end of the episode, Bernard (or was it Ford?) tells Hale that’s where they need to go.
Surely it’s a trap.
Verdict: Episode 5 was style with little substance. Episode 6 was set up with little reward. Episode 7, “Les Ecorches,” was just the right amount of both. Westworld‘s stakes have never been higher, and I can’t wait to see what the final three episodes have in store for us this season.
- Hopkins is back in a big way
- Stakes have been raised significantly
- Lots of answers
- There were a few too many "Isn't that convenient timing?" moments