Westworld 1.08: “Trace Decay” Episode Review

(Credit: John P. Johnson/HBO)

Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) discovering he’s not flesh and bone last week may not have been a shocker for me, but it was a twist that opened some new avenues for the ongoing conversation of sentience and the dividing line between robot and human. After Ford (Anthony Hopkins) thanks Bernard for taking care of the Theresa (Sidse Babett Knudsen) problem, Bernard enquires about the difference between the two of them if a robot can also experience the pain of real-life situations. Ford says there is no threshold—humans are not far from robots, as they are just as content to be in their loops, waiting for instructions.

Before having the painful memory of murdering someone he cared for erased, Bernard asks if Ford has ever directed him to kill before. Flash to Elsie (Shannon Woodward) just as she’s being grabbed from behind, and yes, there’s Bernard. But Ford lies to him, denying any previous death commands, adding that it's best not to dwell on troubling thoughts lest he loses it like some hosts have in the past.

Maeve (Thandie Newton) continues to be a strong point in the show. She figures out she will need an “army” of allies to get out of the park, so she once again enlists Lutz (Leonardo Nam) and Sylvester (Ptolemy Slocum) to help by taking her up to the behavior unit for more modifications. Sylvester tells Lutz in private that they can get out of their predicament if Lutz wipes her memory clean.

However, after Lutz finishes with the formatting, Sylvester is stunned when Maeve sits up on the table. Realizing that she must put Sylvester in his place, she picks up the scalpel and slices his carotid. Though she’s not the first to harm a human—that distinction goes to Bernard I believe—she hasn’t killed him … yet. She has Lutz fix him up because they may need him again.

Lutz is dumbfounded, but it was foolish to think there wouldn’t be bloodshed during Maeve’s grand exodus. So she sets her recruitment plan in motion, après full-scale enhancements. Back in the saloon, she waits for Hector (Rodrigo Santoro) and his gang to arrive, demonstrating her new ability to reprogram the host storylines.

With Theresa’s body found, Ford easily manipulates the scene in the presence of Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) and Charlotte (Tessa Thompson), demonstrating Theresa’s role in both Clementine’s (Angela Sarafyan) maladjustment and the attempt to transmit proprietary data offsite. Beside eyeing Ford with suspicion over Theresa’s death, Charlotte is looking a mite worried that she may not get what she is after without her trusted toady Theresa.

(Credit: John P. Johnson/HBO)

Charlotte goes to Lee (Simon Quarterman) and bends him into helping her by making him see that he’s not among the inner circle—he’s just kept busy with footling work. She takes Lee to the basement where the army of castoffs are stashed, telling him to write up a personality that will get a host out of the park. Did I see correctly that she just happened to pick old man Abernathy, who’s had his own catastrophic emotional memories following his family’s demise many times over? I sense a heap of trouble for Charlotte.

Bernard has Stubbs raising an eyebrow when he denies any kind of relationship with Theresa. Stubbs, being a security person, prides himself on knowing all the indiscretions that occur (maybe he should spend less time all up into other people’s personal business and more time in the office, and then maybe he’d know that Maeve is being tinkered with, Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) is going off her rocker, and Bernard is not human). But when Stubbs mentions Elsie and Bernard brushes that off also, I believe Stubbs is going to be a bit more in tune to Bernard’s comings and goings.

William (Jimmi Simpson) and Dolores reach the riverside where they find a bunch of dead bodies. One young man is still alive, and Dolores wants to save him. But William thinks they’re in danger and need to leave, saying the man is near death anyhow. She walks off to get water, and when she returns, the man dies. She seems to throw a bit of shade William’s way.

But they press on and find a town further down the river. When Dolores tells William that she is home, he looks dismayed because what she sees as a bustling town, turns out to be buried in dirt … the same one with the steeple where Ford had once gone. Is it possibly a part of his reconstruction, or could it be where Arnold is buried along with the opening to the maze?

(Credit: John P. Johnson/HBO)

Dolores has a few flashbacks (or perhaps it’s the unlocking of repressed code) and says this is where Arnold wants her to be. Concerned that her memories are causing distress, William whisks her away. Later, they come across a band of Union riders, and—lo and behold—Logan (Ben Barnes) returns, saying the two of them are in some deep dung. I was wondering when he’d come back as the thorn in William’s side.

The man in black (Ed Harris) continues to berate Teddy (James Marsden) for not being able to remember or do things on his own accord beyond the programming, as if he’s trying to jar something loose. They come across a scene of carnage where one woman is still alive. The man in black recognizes her, saying Ford doesn’t like to retire a pretty face. She explains that Wyatt’s band massacred her caravan, when a huge, masked man comes out of the trees and attacks. As the man in black drags off the injured beast, Teddy has a flashback to the Abernathy homestead when the man in black dragged Dolores off to the barn. He socks him down flat and ties him up.

Cue up some backstory: the man in black reveals his tragic life about how he learned his deceased wife had committed suicide because of him and how his daughter described him as a closed-off, unpredictable tyrant. He returned to the park as a guest to really discover himself, but not by joining one of Ford’s stories, he decided to create his own. A test to see if he had it in him to do something truly evil by killing an innocent mother and daughter (which is Maeve, of course, as we’d seen in prior flashbacks).

Though he felt nothing after killing them, in that moment, he suddenly realized that the mother was not just a robot, she was alive—and that’s when he saw the maze. He says in Ford’s game, a human can’t ever be hurt—but in Arnold’s game, it can cut deep.

The woman tells Teddy that he's vile and to shoot him, but Teddy’s programming won’t allow it. So she picks up an arrow and stabs Teddy, just as Wyatt’s clan begins to close in. She says that Teddy is needed by them, and the man in black shows a twinge of worry for a moment. Why does she so fervently want the man in black dead? Could it be that Wyatt’s band is linked with Arnold, and this is where the game could turn sour for the man in black?

See also: Westworld 1.07: “Trompe L'Oeil” Episode Review


David Cranmer is the publisher and editor of BEAT to a PULP. Latest books from this indie powerhouse include the alternate history novella Leviathan and sci-fi adventure Pale Mars. David lives in New York with his wife and daughter.


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