Westworld Recap: S1E7 “Trompe L’Oeil”


In this week’s episode of Westworld, a fan theory gets proven right, a major character gets killed, and everything is about to go topsy-turvey.

Noooo, Theresa! Because this is a show on the network that decapitated Ned Stark, you could pretty much assume that not all of the central Westworld cast would make it out of season one alive. So, I should have been prepared for the end of “Trompe L’Oeil”.

I was not.

Like most of the human characters, Theresa was an enigma. We knew nothing about her beyond her job title (Head of Quality Assurance), her nervous tics (she smokes and crosses her arms), and her dissatisfaction with the park. Combine that with her perpetually stern demeanor, and she wasn’t the most readily sympathetic person. Even so, Sidse Babett Knudsen had a commanding presence, going toe to toe with eminent performers such as Anthony Hopkins and Jeffrey Wright and hinting at depths beneath her no-nonsense expression. At the very least, I’m going to miss watching Theresa shut down Lee Sizemore’s whining like a boss.

Theresa’s death didn’t come out of the blue. Ever since her conversation with Ford at the Agave Plantation in “Dissonance Theory”, during which the creative director warned her to not get in his way, she’s been treading on thin ice. Last week, Elsie speculated that Delos would fire her as a response to the park’s recent troubles. Despite her prominent position within the company, she never wielded a ton of power.

Early on in “Trompe L’Oeil”, she meets Charlotte Hale, the newly arrived executive charged with overseeing staff changes. You understand right away why Theresa resorts to smoking when she has to speak to the Board. Despite her relative youth and current state of undress, Charlotte takes control of the meeting, stressing that Delos has grander plans in mind than an amusement park for pampered tourists. “This place, the people who work here,” she says, “are nothing. Our interest in this place is entirely in the intellectual property – the code.”

Tessa Thompson in Westworld season 1, screenshot courtesy of HBO

It seems as though whatever Delos is planning might come to fruition soon. Or, it would be if not for the malfunctioning hosts, who have really been cutting down on productivity levels. Theresa is supposed to clean up the mess before the remaining Board members arrive so Delos can get on schedule for the next phase. This includes getting rid of Ford, who nearly everyone agrees has overstayed his welcome. Unfortunately, given that he is one of the park’s original architects, they can’t straight-up fire him. They need to go about things more subtly.

With several high-ranking employees, including Ford, looking on, Charlotte and Theresa stage a demonstration. Clementine sits in a room next door, separated by a glass wall. She approaches another host, this one male and coded to read as human, and starts her “rind” routine. Before she can finish, the male host brutally assaults her, her screams met only by stony stares, until Ashley orders the androids to freeze. They reset Clementine’s memory and repeat. This time, however, Clementine throws the first punch, pummeling the other host with such violence that Ashley has to shoot her.

A bug in the update, Theresa explains, has been preventing the hosts from resetting properly and causing them to override basic commands. In addition, due to the reveries, they are remembering past “lives” and acting on lingering grudges. Such sloppiness must have ramifications, of course, and Charlotte chooses Bernard as the fall guy, informing him that he’s fired. Interestingly, he doesn’t protest. He glances at Ford, then at Theresa (who pointedly avoids eye contact), and then at Ford again, before walking out of the room in silence. After he leaves, the camera cuts back to Ford, whose mouth is curled in a devious smirk; that’s our first clue that something fishy is going on.

Bernard isn’t the day’s only casualty. As step one of a massive host overhaul, Sylvester gives Clementine a lobotomy, literally drilling through her nostril to disable her programming. Maeve, who managed to stay awake and capable of moving when the technicians took her associate from the Mariposa, watches the whole thing with an anxious Felix at her side. When she confronts him later, Sylvester insists that he didn’t want to perform the lobotomy, but “if I didn’t do it, they’d get someone else.” Westworld’s employees might not die on a daily basis, but like the hosts, they are treated as cogs in the machine, easily replaceable.

Westworld season 1, image courtesy of HBO

Now that she realizes survival “is just another loop”, Maeve decides to get the hell out of Dodge. When Sylvester tries to dissuade her, mentioning that the park and her body are designed to keep her inside, she uses his humanity against him. “You think I’m scared of death?” she asks, raising a disdainful eyebrow. “I’ve done it a million times. I’m f***ing great at it. How many times have you died? Because if you don’t help me, I’ll kill you.” As far as intimidation tactics go, it’s fairly persuasive.

In the park, Dolores and William are still riding on the train with Lawrence. Their storyline this episode is less significant for its action (though it does contain an elaborate battle sequence when the trio runs into a band of Ghost Nation warriors) than for its dialogue. As it turns out, the host and guest have remarkably similar histories. Just like Dolores spent her days enacting narratives written by other people, William spent his childhood reading books.

“I used to live in them,” he confides. “I used to go to sleep dreaming I’d wake up inside one of them because they had meaning. This place, this was like I woke up inside one of those stories. I guess I just want to find out what it means.”

But whereas Dolores searches for freedom in reality (or what she believes to be reality), William finds it in the story. “I’ve been pretending my whole life,” he says. “It’s a good life; it’s a life I’ve always wanted. But then I came here, and I get a glimpse for a second of a life in which I don’t have to pretend, a life in which I can be truly alive. How can I go back to pretending when I know what this feels like?” He and Dolores then engage in sex so wonderful that afterward, he claims Julia, his real-life fiancée and Logan’s sister, feels “unreal” in comparison. He appears to not notice how off-putting it is to insinuate that women can be upgraded.

To be fair, William isn’t the only person who has trouble distinguishing between the fake and the real.

Perhaps thinking that he has nothing else to lose, Bernard brings Theresa to Ford’s secret cottage in Sector 17. It’s dark, and Ford’s “family” has disappeared. Our second clue that something’s up is Bernard’s reaction to Theresa wondering what lies behind a door: “What door?” This is weird because not only does the door appear to be in plain sight but he also looks straight at it. Theresa ignores him, opening the door and going downstairs. Bernard follows.

They end up in a lab, brightly lit and full of equipment that looks new. One machine is sculpting a miniature skeleton. Ford, it seems, has secretly been making his own hosts. Theresa finds a pile of papers, anatomical diagrams of various hosts, including Dolores and young Robert. She shows one to Bernard, asking what it is. The figure looks remarkably like… Bernard.

Westworld season 1, screenshot courtesy of HBO

“It doesn’t look like anything,” Bernard says.

And then, it clicks into place. As many fans guessed, Bernard is, indeed, an android, created by Ford years ago. The man himself enters and helpfully lays out his philosophy to the baffled Theresa: “I have come to think of so much of consciousness as a burden, a weight, and we have spared them that: anxiety, self-loathing, guilt. The hosts are the ones who are free – free here, under my control.” His conflict with Arnold, then, revolved around their divergent opinions on whether the hosts should have consciousness. Ford doesn’t say that he murdered his former partner, but he implies it, and since Bernard wasn’t around at the beginning, we can assume that he used Dolores instead.

What’s more, Arnold isn’t the only one to have suffered that fate. Ford’s relationship with the Board is strong enough that he’s confident they won’t shut him down, but every once in a while, they send someone to check up on him in a kind of ritual blood sacrifice. This time, sadly, it’s Theresa. When he’s finished pontificating, Ford orders Bernard to take care their intruder, which he does by smashing her head against the wall. The credits roll, leaving us in the audience to contemplate the permanence of death.

Related Story: Westworld Recap: S1E6 “The Adversary”

Stray observations:

  • This week’s piano just plays the usual Mariposa ragtime tune, but we hear “Rêverie” by Claude Debussy during Bernard’s opening flashback (which, in retrospect, should have been a dead giveaway).
  • On paper, the Bernard twist would’ve frustrated me, but the scene is so creepy and well-acted that I’m open to seeing where it goes.
  • Elsie’s fate remains in the dark. What happened to Theresa isn’t encouraging, but they wouldn’t kill off three female characters (counting Clementine) in a two-episode span, right?
  • William’s resemblance to the Man in Black grows stronger. The disconnected timelines theory still seems far-fetched, but after this episode, it’s hard to say anything for sure.
  • We see more photos of the outside world: a scientist in a lab, a subway train, a lit-up city that looks like Toronto at night.
  • Hector’s response to Bernard asking if an exchange with a guest made him question his reality: “No, this world is as doomed as ever.”