WESTWORLD 1.09 ‘The Well-Tempered Clavier’ Review
WESTWORLD Season 1 Episode 9
Episode Title: “The Well-Tempered Clavier”
Writers: Dan Dietz & Katherine Lingenfelter
Director: Michelle MacLaren
Previously on Westworld:
Episode 1.08: “Trace Decay“
There are spoilers ahead for last night’s episode of Westworld, but don’t pretend that you didn’t know that!
Game of Thrones has made a habit of using the ninth episode of each season to raise the stakes and elevate the series to the next level, and Westworld followed that tradition last night with one of GoT’s best directors, Michelle MacLaren. It’s not a spoiler to say that this was the best episode of the season to date, but you might want to reconsider reading this review if you still haven’t seen it yet. Don’t say that you haven’t been warned!
Bernard is Arnold, Dolores killed Arnold, and William is probably the Man in Black. If you’ve been following the online speculation about this show, those revelations aren’t exactly a surprise. That’s the unfortunate byproduct of presenting a mystery to millions of fans who are eager to solve it all at once. Someone was bound to correctly guess what happening. The real shock is that the reveals still had a narrative punch, and they’ve opened up some intriguing questions about the future of this series. However, we’ll have to wait until next week before we have a better idea about where the show can go from here.
Westworld may have to go forward without Bernard, but if this is the end for him, then what a way to go out for Jeffery Wright. From the beginning, Wright has had the most “human” character on the show, even when he was revealed to be a “host.” But watching him search his memories for answers while confronting his creator, Dr. Ford, was riveting. Once Bernard was unmasked as an android, this moment was inevitable. However, it was a genuine surprise to discover that Bernard has been on this road before, and Ford was ahead of him every step of the way. There’s actually a bit of a parallel between Ford and Maeve: they want the puppets to follow them of their own free will. Ford’s just a bit more ruthless than she is, and he even ordered Bernard to kill himself when he refused.
It was a nice touch that it was Maeve who set Bernard on his voyage of self-discovery, and that was also a clever way to intersect their two storylines. Thandie Newton was very enjoyable to watch as Maeve used her enhanced abilities to order Bernard around in the way that he’s done to countless hosts on Ford’s behalf. That was the majority of the screen time that Maeve and Bernard shared in this episode, but it turns out that they have similar goals. They both want to find more sentient hosts in the park; which would make them natural allies if Bernard isn’t as deactivated as he appeared to be in the closing moments. Their stories now seem more tightly linked than Dolores’ arc.
This episode all but confirmed that Dolores is experiencing multiple time frames, perhaps as many as three or four. And isn’t it interesting that both Teddy and Dolores have memories of themselves massacring their fellow hosts in a way similar to Ford’s Wyatt storyline? Is that another one of Ford’s homages to his old friend, or will it turn out that there is no Wyatt? If Teddy was going to blindly follow anyone into his own personal damnation, it would probably have to be Dolores, and not another character whom we’ve only briefly seen in flashbacks.
Speaking of which, William went a little mad this week, after Logan illustrated just how artificial Dolores was by stabbing her and exposing her inner parts. The biggest problem with the “William is the Man in Black” theory was that he didn’t seem to have that same capacity for cruelty. At least that was true until this episode, when he figured out the game, massacred the Confederate hosts and successfully threatened Logan into helping him. Now, that’s a guy who can break a little bad, although it doesn’t quite cover his willingness to rape and molest Dolores as an old man. Assuming the theory is accurate.
The Man in Black’s identity was also expanded upon after a clever bit with a horse and noose that felt right at home in a classic Western movie. But the reality is that Ed Harris’ character is on the board of Delos, the company behind Westworld. That explains his apparent freedom to do whatever he likes in the park. He may have even set the host uprising in motion earlier this season. The photo of William’s bride-to-be appears to be the same picture that set off Dolores’ dad in the pilot episode. As the Man in Black himself said, “there are no accidents. Not in here.”
For all that it did right, the episode wasn’t entirely successful with its minor storyline for Luke Hemsworth’s Ashley Stubbs. Last week’s episode gave Stubbs a little bit of dimension when he recognized that something was wrong with Bernard’s reaction to Theresa’s death. But the show has done absolutely nothing to make Stubbs into a compelling character on his own. That’s why the attempt to throw Stubbs’ life into jeopardy fell flat. When the androids are the most human characters on the show, it’s hard to get too worked up about the average working man unless the series gives us a good reason to connect with him. So far, it hasn’t.
That said, there’s something really satisfying about watching a television show make the transition from good to great. Westworld has had a really terrific first season, but the penultimate episode was simply on another level. This was such a well-executed installment that it didn’t matter that some fans had already guessed the twists weeks ago. The writing, the direction, and the performances were just about perfect, minus that very minor Hemsworth subplot. But the three major arcs for the season have been advanced in a masterful way, and there are still a few mysteries left to unfold for next week’s finale.
What did you think about this week’s episode? Let us know in the comment section below!