Westworld episode 7

What Happens When Anthony Hopkins Actually Gives a Damn?

You’re not going to find many people who think Anthony Hopkins is a bad actor. That’s categorically untrue. He’s a phenomenal performer. An all-time great. But let’s face facts: a look at his IMDb page (and his recent appearances in television commercials) reveal an actor who likes to work and stars in a lot of crap and sometimes sleepwalks through major roles. Granted, Hopkins sleepwalking is usually more impressive than other actors giving it their all, but you can tell.

One of keys to Westworld is that it seems to have Anthony Hopkins’ full attention and “Trompe L’Oeil” let him really dig his heels into some great material. Hopkins radiates intelligence by default, but his greatest talent has always involved nudging that intelligence toward whatever emotions color a particular character. For Dr. Robert Ford, that intelligence has been something of a blank poker face for six episodes – you never know what he’s thinking while knowing, at all times, that he never stops thinking. His motivations exist just under the surface and he only offers a glimpse here and there, a quick sample to suggest that you really don’t want to see any more beyond that.

The mask has come off and Hopkins has stepped up to the plate. It’s now very clear why Bernard Lowe is the only other character on the show that Ford has treated with anything resembling respect. It’s because he created him. He built him in a lab. All other humans are suspect. They don’t understand him. They don’t understand Westworld. They certainly wouldn’t understand his need to maintain robot recreations of his own family on a house hidden in the park. That God complex isn’t just for show.

And Hopkins, sinister, terrifying, and enjoying his final conversation with Theresa Cullen just a little too much, has given us a new kind of villain. Last week, I wrote about him as a nostalgic dork, the kind of person who lets their childhood obsessions dominate their adult life. This week, that portrait of arrested development came into further focus. If Ford was a young man in 2016, he’d revel in the anonymity of internet message boards, where you can hurt people without seeing their faces. Human life is worthless when you have your head stuck in the cloud.

Westworld Episode 5 Photos: The Adversary bernard

How Does Arnold Fit Into All of This?

Let’s tie the new revelations into some pre-existing conversations. Ahem.

What if Bernard is a robotic recreation of Arnold, which would explain why the nostalgic Ford likes having him around so much and explain why the voice Dolores hears in her head sounds so much like Jeffrey Wright while also suggesting that those scenes of Bernard talking to Dolores are actually flashbacks to Arnold talking to Dolores?

Maybe?

Westworld episode 7

Is Westworld Worth More Than the Sum of Its Twists?

Every week, I’m excited to watch Westworld and every week, I’m excited to write about it. But “Trompe L’Oeil” exposes the show at its worst and at its best and we need to talk about this.

At its best, Westworld is an engine for unsettling ideas and satire and propulsive science fiction storytelling. I love that this show has made me think about Baroque art and computer programming and theme park design and video games. As an experience, I often find it overwhelming, a series of such intelligence and assembled with such care.

At its worst, Westworld offers all of that thematic richness while failing to find a human center. While Dolores has emerged as a hero to root for, everyone else continues to exist as a brilliantly acted delivery mechanisms for the plot. Jeffrey Wright and Thandie Newton and Ed Harris are doing fine work, but affection for their performances doesn’t always translate to affection for their characters. For example, the murder of Theresa Cullen was a shocking moment, but it wasn’t a heartfelt moment. I had no genuine love for the character and I care more about how her demise will rattle the story than I do about her actually, you know, dying.

Westworld continues to feel an awful lot like Lost, a comparison I approve because that show that was nothing short of wonderful until its botched final season. But Lost has something Westworld does not: a cast of characters whose personal lives feel like they matter beyond the mysteries they’re embroiled in. I remember shedding tears when Boone died in the first season of Lost. I remember how the light in the hatch represented a continuing mystery and emotional catharsis for Locke, who took that death as hard as anyone.

Right now…the missing-in-action Elsie is fun and William is a sweet guy? Outside of Dolores, whose personal journey is deeply intertwined into mystery and ploy that I cannot tell if I love her or love the idea of her, there are no characters I’m actively excited to see when they arrive on screen.

I’m on board with Westworld for the long haul. The show is too smart, too literate, and too daring to ignore. But if it’s going to be a great show and not just a very, very, very good show, it’s going to have to let us care about the people trying to break into that puzzle box of a plot.

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