'Westworld' Review: 'Les Ecorches' Strikes A Match

Welcome to our weekly recaps of HBO's Westworld. This Westworld review takes a look at the seventh episode of season 2, "Les Ecorches". Be warned: spoilers follow.

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Les Écorchés

When I wrote my pre-air review for Westworld season 2, based on the first five episodes, I declared this new season to be an improvement over the first. I felt the storytelling was sharper, the narrative was more propulsive, and season 1's annoying focus on puzzles wisely diminished. Now, after episode 2.07, I must confess I'm growing impatient with Westworld.An unfortunate repetition has set into the show, to the point where every character is repeating the same series of actions again and again in an attempt to stretch the plot out. How many more times can we listen to Dolores give the same cryptic speech about freedom? How many more times can we watch Maeve talk about her lost daughter? How many more times can we cut to the future (or present, or whatever the hell it is), and watch Charlotte Hale and the rest of the Delos goons stand around wondering what the heck happened in Westworld? How many more times can the Man In Black stumble into a situation and immediately assume it's all part of Ford's game? How many more times can we cut to Bernard's confused, sad face? It's as if the series has settled into one of the repetitive loops that the hosts were stuck in before their rebellion beganTonight's episode, "Les Écorchés", answers some lingering questions, and stages some moderately cool action scenes. But to what end? Where is this going? And will we even care when we get there?This latest episode opens with a shocking reveal. At least, it's shocking to Charlotte Hale and the Delos clean-up crew. After all this time, the powers-that-be finally learn that Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) is a host. How it took them this long, we'll never know, but here we are.In a brief prologue set in the present (or future, or whatever timeline it's supposed to be), Hale and her goons accuse both Bernard and Stubbs of murdering Theresa Cullen (The Delos a senior manager that Bernard killed; remember her? From season 1? ). Bernard semi-confesses to the deed, at which point a room is discovered full of switched-off Bernard-bots.Charlotte wants answers. Specifically, she wants to know where the control unit inside Peter Abernathy's head went; the one that has all that top-secret info she stashed. This kicks off the bulk of the episode's narrative, which picks up essentially exactly where last week's episode left off: Dolores has just crashed a train into the Westworld command center, and Bernard has been hooked up to the Matrix, er, I mean, the Cradle, where he's discovered a virtual Westworld where Ford (Anthony Hopkins) is still alive.bernard dolores

Bernard and Ford

The Bernard and Ford scenes are the best moments of "Les Écorchés". It's fun to have Anthony Hopkins back, and the virtual Ford is much more mischievous than the human Ford. His entire goal seems to be the total destruction of everything he had a part in creating. He wants to "light a match", he says, and burn it all down. And he's using various hosts – particularly Dolores – to make it happen.In the virtual Westworld, Bernard has an epiphany moment, and realizes the real point of the park. "The park is an experiment...a testing chamber; the guest are the variables, and the hosts are the controls," he says. "The guests come to the park, they don't know they're being watched, we get to see their true selves...so that Delos can understand them...so that Delos can copy them""We weren't here to code the hosts," he adds. "We were here to de-code the guests."This is all true, but Ford also adds that Delos' project doesn't fully work – not yet at least. There's still some missing pieces. Bernard decides to speak for everyone watching the show, and asks Ford to cut through the bullshit and explain the point of all this. Bernard points out that all the hosts seem to be headed to the same location – the so-called Valley Beyond – and he wants to know why.Ford, however, speaks for the writers of this show, and says: "Isn't the pleasure of a story discovering the ending yourself?"During the course of this sequence, last week's confusing test scene between Dolores and Bernard finally begins to make sense. We learn that this was indeed a flashback, and Ford was using Dolores to test Bernard's personality to see how close it was to that of Arnold, Bernard's human predecessor. I'll give Westworld points for not letting this mystery dangle for longer than one episode.The conversations with Ford in the virtual Westworld start off playful and laid back, but Ford takes a sudden turn and indicates he's going to take away Bernard's free will. As a result, when Elsie pulls Bernard out of the Cradle, he's a changed man (or, robot). He now has Ford stuck in his head, giving him orders. This means Bernard and Elsie go their separate paths – he seemingly sends her off to the Valley Beyond on her own – and Bernard sticks around to help partake in some slaughter.Ford forces Bernard to take up a gun and start mowing down members of Delos' security at the command center, then he forces Bernard to essentially shut the entire Westworld operating system down. Bernard comments that doing so will give Dolores free reign to do whatever she wants – no duh, Bernard. That's the point.Bernard complies, smashing the system. So what now?westworld episode 2.7 dolores


Speaking of Dolores, she gets to stage some big action set pieces this week. In a scene pulled straight out of James Cameron's Aliens, Dolores and her host army raid the Westworld command center and lay a trap for the hapless security forces. The security dopes – all of whom are generic idiots with generic idiot dialogue – get picked off one-by-one while Stubbs and Charlotte Hale try to extract info out of Peter Abernathy's noggin.They don't get very far before Dolores storms into the room and has a very intense face-off with Hale. And as fun as it is to watch Evan Rachel Wood and Tessa Thompson go head-to-head, this scene has the same feeling as nearly every other Dolores scene this season – Dolores just spouts a lot of dramatic, cryptic stuff.The interesting reveal here is that Dolores wants whatever is inside her father's head even more than Charlotte. Dolores says it's a "key", and she wants it extracted for her own needs. Over the course of the scene, Stubbs and Charlotte make their escape, and Dolores has a tender moment with her father before cutting open his head and taking the "key" out.Meanwhile, there's a painfully long scene in which Angela (Talulah Riley) and some random security dude have a stand-off in the Cradle. It goes on, and on, and on, and I honest to god reached a point where I shouted, "Why are we watching this?"I'm sorry, but I refuse to believe anyone watching this show cares this much about Angela as a character. And they certainly don't care about this security dude. So why on earth does it go on so long? Let's chalk this one up to another unsolvable Westworld mystery. The scene builds to a big moment where Angela blows herself up, taking the security dude and the Cradle along with her. ("Now we're truly free," Dolores comments after she feels the explosion.)Now, Dolores has the "key" pulled out of her father's head, and she and her robot army move onward – to the Valley Beyond. Whatever the hell that is.maeve episode 2.7

The Man In Black and Maeve

Last week's episode ended with Maeve (Thandie Newton) reunited with her daughter, only for her daughter to no longer remember her. The reunion was cut short when members of Ghost Nation, Westworld's Native American tribe, came riding in.Now, we see Maeve and her daughter take shelter in a cabin. And they're not the only ones looking to hole up in here: the Man In Black (Ed Harris) comes storming in mere moments after them. This triggers a flashback to another time, when the Man In Black murdered both Maeve and her daughter.Maeve is hellbent on that not happening again, and she orders the Man In Black to get out. The Man In Black, meanwhile, seems mystified to have run into these characters. He once again thinks this is all part of Ford's mysterious game. And hey, maybe it is, but that doesn't stop Maeve from shooting the Man In Black multiple times.Wounded, the Man In Black staggers outside, where Maeve uses her mind-control powers to have the hosts who were previously riding with the Man In Black shoot him multiple times, too. The Man In Black gets shot a lot this week, folks.One host who resists shooting him is Lawrence. Maeve's mind control trick doesn't work on Lawrence, but she's able to get him to remember all the past times when the Man In Black tortured him and murdered his robot wife in his robot town. This pisses Lawrence off, and he comes very close to killing the Man In Black, but before he can, Delos security – called by that piece of shit Lee Sizemore – come riding in and gun Lawrence down. They also gun down Maeve, but Lee stops them before they can finish her off. Maeve's daughter, meanwhile, is abducted – or perhaps rescued – by a member of the Ghost Nation.The wounded Maeve ends up back at the command center, where she has a brief reunion with Dolores. "Alright!" you might have thought when you saw this. "At last, Dolores and Maeve are going to team up!"Nope! Sorry! That would be too enjoyable! Instead, Dolores offers to finish Maeve off to put her out of her misery. Maeve declines the offer, and Dolores leaves her to her own fate. man in black episode 2.7

Stray Observations and Questions

  • I don't quite get why shutting the system down would give Dolores "free rein" to do what she wants, as Bernard says. Didn't she have that already?
  • One fun detail from this episode: the aspect ratio changes to widescreen when Bernard is in the virtual version of Westworld.
  • "You're free to choose your own path," Dolores tells Maeve. "I'm sorry this is where it ends." There's no way this is the last we see of Maeve, though, right? That would be...dumb.
  • What about the Man In Black? How will he recover from his many, many bullet wounds?
  • How many spare Bernard-bots are stashed around Westworld?
  • The multiple timelines are really screwing up the dramatic heft of certain episodes. There were several moments here where it really seemed like Dolores was going to kill Charlotte Hale. But, of course, we knew that couldn't happen, because we know Charlotte is still alive in the future. It deflates the situation a bit.
  • The episode ends with one last trip to the present (or future), where Charlotte demands to know where Peter Abernathy's control unit has been stashed. Bernard says, "Sector 16, Zone 4." This location came up before – it's the location where that mysterious body of water is, with all the dead hosts floating in it. Which likely means there's something hidden under all that water.