westworld maeve flashback

What Makes Maeve So Special?

In the most shattering moment of “Trace Decay,” we learn the heartbreaking origin story of Maeve. In a previous narrative, one where she took on the role of a frontier mother, a man broke into her home, stabbed her in the gut, and gunned down her young daughter before her very eyes. That intruder was the Man in Black, but we’ll get to that angle shortly. Right now, it’s not important who did it. What’s vital is that it happened at all.

Because this trauma, this act of horror, burnt itself into Maeve’s psyche. Her simulation of grief overpowered her programming, seemingly proving Dr. Ford’s observation about human emotions right: if all emotions exist only within the mind, then Maeve’s sorrow over the death of her child can’t be called a simulation or a recreation. It’s the real thing. While Bernard and Ford can assuage her by deleting the memory and moving her to a new storyline where she gets to play the madam of a brothel, the memory lingers on. Maybe this is the final proof that the Hosts are closer to human than anyone ever wanted or intended. Somehow, the worst moment of Maeve’s existence cut through her programming and imprinted itself on her mind, with her artificial mind, her superior brain, refusing to let it decay. Maeve’s brain rehearsed that memory, wallowing in such pain that the only solution was a hard reboot. But you can’t reboot a scar. You can only hope that it fades.

The question now is whether Maeve is special in some way, a Host with a flaw (or an upgrade) allowing her to achieve this level of humanity while others are stranded in their loops. Or (and this is what I’m subscribing to) if every Host is capable of breaking free of their programming and that Maeve reached that point by experience pain so powerful that the act of simulating a realistic response truly, literally, woke her up.

westworld episode 8 photo Maeve Millay

What Are the Limits of Maeve’s New Abilities?

Thanks to tinkering by Felix and Sylvester, Maeve has practically become a superhero. Or rather, a god. Like Dr. Robert Ford, she can now command the Hosts around her, manipulating situations until everyone involved does her bidding. She’s not quite as powerful as Dr. Ford, who can freeze everything to the horizon with the right wave of his hand, but she can rewrite the narratives around her, telling other Hosts what they want to do or how they see the world and watching as they do her bidding. The results can be hilarious (Maeve assists Rodrigo Santoro’s Hector Escaton with his heist by telling the sheriff that he only sees upstanding citizens when he looks at the outlaws), but they’re also deeply troubling. Maeve was the most dangerous being in Westworld before she leveled up and reached God Mode.

And like every other narrative thread in “Trace Decay,” Maeve’s storyline ultimately reaches a cliffhanger. Her erratic activity is noted by park security, who capture her after the Hosts themselves fail to take her down (offering additional evidence that Westworld is self-policing, up to a point). While she may be a master manipulator on the park grounds and a master manipulator amongst men she can blackmail, Maeve is about to face her greatest challenge yet. Then again, she may very well find a sympathetic ear in Bernard Lowe, another Host who has watched his world crumble around him…

Westworld Episode 5 Photos: The Adversary lab techs

Where Are the Cameras?

Look, I’m perfectly okay accepting that Felix and Sylvester could sneak Maeve into Behavior and reprogram her between shifts. I’ve even grown increasingly accepting of the fact that the sway Maeve holds over her reluctant human allies is hazy at best. But since this episode features Bernard Lowe meticulously erasing himself from security camera footage to cover his tracks, I can’t help but wonder…where the hell are all of the security cameras at Westworld and why haven’t they caught this trio red-handed yet? Either park security has really fallen down on the job or the show was just hoping to power through the necessary story beats and hope we didn’t notice.

Look, I’m just saying that episode nine better feature a quick shot of Felix deleting security footage or I’m going to continue picking this nit until someone tells me to shut up.

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