Westworld: “Trompe L’Oeil” Season 1 Episode 7 Review

PHoto Credit:http://www.ign.com/articles/2016/11/14/westworld-trompe-loeil-review

There was a big twist tonight, but before that, can we talk about Maeve? The only host who’s truly running her own show resembles everything Westworld is doing right. With Dolores slowly getting bogged down in cliches, Maeve is the show’s standout character by a mile. That’s thanks to a lot of things, included a rich, layered performance from Thandie Newton, but mostly just generally strong writing for her character. Stronger writing than the rest of the show in fact, which is part of what makes Westworld as a whole a bit of a disappointment.

As Maeve re-enters the park, the effects of her newfound intelligence are immediately apparent. When workers freeze the saloon to bring Clementine in for testing, Maeve remains awake, quickly falling in line so as to not give herself away. This incredibly strong character in a situation where she has no support from anywhere is thrilling to watch. But after becoming so self-aware, Maeve isn’t just looking out for herself, getting herself killed so Felix will have to clean her up behind the scenes. This gives her a chance to try and find her friend.

But Clementine is being used by Theresa and Charlotte to display a problem in Dr. Ford’s coding. We see her beaten by another host, reset, and then responding differently to the host’s attack. Bernard sees through it, calling Theresa out on faking the test so they can steal Ford’s research and get him out of the company. This connective tissue between the two storylines was very much welcomed. Maeve watching Clementine get permanently shut off was actually a bit emotional, which is more than I can say for most of the season thus far. If Clementine’s “lobotomy” turns into Maeve leading a revolution amongst the hosts, some of this season’s more frustrating plodding could be forgiven. Now she wants to get out of the park. With her intellect, it wouldn’t likely be all that long before she found a way to tear it down from the outside. Whatever happens, all eyes are on Maeve at this point, so hopefully the show will keep her front and center.

Less fortunate, however, is the show’s handling of Bernard. Fired after the demonstration, Bernard brings Theresa to Ford’s unregistered home of hosts he built himself. But the twist is revealed when Bernard isn’t capable of seeing a door that Theresa walks into. Ford confirms moments later that Bernard is in fact a host. Westworld has spent a lot of time on Bernard as a character, a rarity for the show. That makes this twist a bit frustrating. It was obvious that at least one of the human characters had to secretly be a host, and both Bernard and Theresa seemed like likely candidates. That was until Ford started threatening Theresa a few episodes back. But still, with all that time we spent learning about Bernard, the show never really got us to care about him all that much. So if Westworld‘s point was to show that even we, the audience, can be fooled, it failed. Now we have time on the show that feels extra wasted because we were watching a robot.

It’s not all bad though. Ford just made Bernard self-aware. If the writers allow Bernard to keep his memories, he’s suddenly on the same path as Dolores and Maeve. There’s a path to better, more interesting characterization, but Westworld has so rarely taken that path so far. That remains the show’s most outstanding problem. But Maeve is a step forward, with potential for Bernard to follow.

Meanwhile, Dolores and William’s trek is so separated from the good things in “Tromp L’Oeil” that it’s difficult to process them as part of the same episode. Here we get a very well filmed action sequence that, once again, has no real stakes because it’s hosts shooting hosts. Until all the hosts are self-aware, these action sequences remain no different than shooting someone in a video game.

Clearly, Westworld is having a problem expanding the good things about it to cover the whole show. These spotty storylines with virtually no tension don’t make for good television. But then there’s Maeve, a beacon of hope for the show to be up to the gold HBO standard. Time is short for Westworld, with just three episodes left and only one real narrative hook. But there are avenues to salvation for the show, so there’s at least hope in this critic. Grade: B

By Matt Dougherty

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