Westworld: “Trace Decay” Season 1 Episode 8 Review

Photo Credit:http://www.slashfilm.com/westworld-episode-8-photos-trace-decay/

It seems a switch has been flipped. Without notice or any sort of build, Westworld at least started providing us with answers this week. Every storyline in “Trace Decay” felt like we were finally getting somewhere. Up until the big Bernard reveal that closed last week’s episode, Westworld‘s doors have been firmly shut. But characters like Dolores, Maeve, and the Man in Black have seemingly picked the locks and are now exploring their realities, or lack there of, behind these doors.

Maeve, still the savior of the show’s deeply flawed overarching narrative, is going about this the most aggressively. That should come as no surprise because, unlike the rest of the cast, Westworld has taken time to give Maeve a personality, one she chose herself and one we can pull from to connect her actions to her character. It may sound simple, but this show has largely failed in simple characterization. Now she’s awake and there’s no question that she is in fact alive. Felix sees it, which is why he tweaks her hardware so she can leave the park without setting off an internal explosion. He also gives her the power to control other hosts, which is a fascinating test for Maeve. Is what she’s doing really that different from how Ford controls the hosts? Is her supposed army to be made up of robots that blindly follow her will? That’s a morally complicated way for a new species to make their claim on the world.

We also got context into the Man in Black’s appearance in Maeve’s dreams. After Teddy starts to remember what his companion did to Dolores in a past life, he punches out the Man in Black, which makes for a perfect opportunity for him to start talking. There’s no question that this mysterious figure is ugly in the park, but his life outside the park is somehow even more complicated. A fully bloomed industry man who’s wife killed herself, for which he blames himself. Going to darker place after, he attacked Maeve and her daughter in the park to see how terrible he could be. But what he saw was the same thing we see in Maeve, legitimate life. Now he tours the park hoping to get to a maze that, once complete, could change quite literally everything. The Man in Black all this time has been a man trying to do some good while purposefully doing a whole lot of bad. Driven by guilt and with motives that could align with Maeve’s down the line, Westworld just fleshed out another character.

Sadly, Dolores, who showed much more potential in the beginning of the season, has been forced into a storyline that makes her emotions feel like time wasted. We get a few key flashbacks though. Dolores watches as the hosts are tested to just simply dance in the earliest days of the park. We see that the black gravesite Ford was looking it weeks ago used to be a church. She wakes up from these memories panicking and crying that her perception of reality may have betrayed her. It’s frustrating to see Dolores going through something so slowly after Maeve’s tour de force takeover of her body a few episodes ago. Dolores’ story isn’t nearly as fascinating, but the show keeps force-feeding it to us just about every week.

Now, Bernard is being put on a similar path as well, but at least his already looks to lead to Ford’s private games getting exposed. Just as we see Maeve begging Ford to keep the pain of losing her child, Bernard similarly resists Ford’s memory wiping. It doesn’t work, but Ashley appears to pick up on some not-so-subtle changes in Bernard’s demeanor after Theresa’s death. The cracks are no long just inside the park, but behind the scenes as well. Finally, Westworld is getting somewhere, and not a moment too soon. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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