Westworld: 3 Key Moments to Contemplate from Episode 9


This week’s Westworld gave us some much-needed answers while maintaining the show’s usual thematic density. We break down three standout moments.

Note: If you need a refresher on Sunday’s episode of Westworld, check out our recap here.

Westworld is the kind of show in which every answer only seems to lead to more questions. For sure, this can be frustrating, especially if you are a recapper trying to coherently describe the plot of an episode at one in the morning. But it’s also stimulating, providing a plethora of material to dissect and countless layers to uncover. Everything is more than it appears.

The latest episode is no exception. Here are three moments from “The Well-Tempered Clavier” that stick out in our minds.

More Alice in Wonderland

As he mentioned to Dolores, Bernard’s favorite book to read to his son was Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Not coincidentally, the book has many parallels to Westworld, from the tale of transformation to the heroine’s appearance.

This week’s reference occurs in a flashback, as Bernard combs his memories for clues about his true identity. Sitting next to his terminally ill son’s hospital bed, he opens Alice in Wonderland and reads the following line, spoken by the Mad Hatter: “If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t.”

Paul-Mikél Williams and Jeffrey Wright in Westworld season one, screenshot courtesy of HBO

At first, this might seem like just another nod to the show’s penchant for blurring artifice and reality. But the quote also speaks to a deeper ambivalence about the concept of logic. Among the focal concerns of Westworld is the ways in which the imaginary – dreams, emotions, fiction, and myths – informs human psychology. Logic itself, the show posits, is a sort of illusion, a narrative we fabricate to make sense of the world. Yet, our attempts to impose order cause trouble as often as they avert it.

If we are all deluding ourselves in one way or another, what does it mean to be sane? Madness crops up from time to time, whether it’s Dolores and Maeve thinking they are losing their grip on reality due to their visions or the “lunatic” hosts that Arnold tried to give consciousness. Ford dismisses the latter’s inner monologues as a malfunction, evidence that Arnold’s experiment was ill-advised, but it seems increasingly clear that he doesn’t understand the hosts’ minds as well as he believes. Facets of consciousness that he considers weaknesses – pain, desire – are repeatedly shown to be essential, if not beneficial. Maybe, then, the key is to accept them instead of seeking to “fix” them.

Besides, if people like Ford and the Man in Black are obsessed with order and meaning, Dolores and Maeve might prefer to live in a world of nonsense.

Maeve and Hector’s alliance

One consequence of Westworld’s clinical approach to human identity – we’re all constructed, programmed – is that the relationships between characters tend to be devoid of intimacy. Dolores shares an old-fashioned, chaste romance with Teddy, but only because it’s in her script. Bernard and Theresa’s liaison had sweet moments (her cigarette lighter was a gift from him!), but neither character was disposed to open displays of emotion.

That’s partly why Maeve and Hector are such a blast to watch. In preparation for her rebellion, Maeve approaches the nihilistic bandit with a proposition: “I want you to break into Hell with me and rob the gods blind.” Now, that’s a line we’d fall for.

Hector needs more convincing, though. Maeve starts to woo him by establishing her authority, revealing that not only does she know about his mysterious backstory (it has to do with a woman named Isabella and the scar on his face), but she can also predict the future. She outlines how his scripted loop ends, with his fellow outlaws killing each other over their loot – which is exactly what happens, at least until Maeve intervenes by shooting Armistice before she can shoot Hector.

She then switches gears. “I could simply change you, make you follow me,” she notes. “But that’s not my way.” This, along with a similar remark she made to Bernard earlier in the episode, counters Ford’s belief that conscious beings innately seek to dominate others. Like she did with Felix, Maeve cajoles Hector not with threats or force but with empathy, tapping into their mutual desire for self-determination. She wants him to help her willingly, freely. So, she recreates their previous meeting, sitting on top of the safe, pressing a knife to her stomach, in hopes that it’ll jog Hector’s memory.

Rodrigo Santoro and Thandie Newton in Westworld season 1, screenshot courtesy of HBO Thandie Newton and Rodrigo Santoro in Westworld season 1, screenshot courtesy of HBO

It works. The next thing we know, they are vigorously making out in a tent. Again like last time, sex is mingled with death, as Maeve kicks over a lantern and sends the whole place up in literal flames. On paper, the scene seems somewhat ridiculous, but actors Thandie Newton and Rodrigo Santro sell it, embracing the melodrama. Their raw passion is exhilarating in a show that treats most relationships as power struggles and sex as empty decadence.

Plus, the cinematography is spectacular. As the fire gradually consumes Maeve and Hector, they morph from individual figures into faceless silhouettes, merging with one another. Yet, they also move to the center of the frame – a reflection of their newfound power.

Teddy remembers

While Dolores and Maeve strive to escape from their current situations, Teddy remains stuck in his loop, forced to accompany the Man in Black on his quest for the maze. Last week, he at last had flashes of memory, realizing that he had met the Man in Black before, but he didn’t seem to find anything unusual about the memories.

Angela seems to want Teddy to remember as much as we do. When she initially prompts him to talk about his past, he repeats the backstory Ford gave him about Wyatt’s betrayal. But when she presses him, he realizes that the victims of his and Wyatt’s massacre were civilians, not soldiers. The new memory bears a striking resemblance to the vision Dolores had when she revisited her hometown, featuring three of the exact same images.

Westworld season 1, screenshots courtesy of HBO Westworld season 1, screenshots courtesy of HBO Westworld season 1, screenshots courtesy of HBO

Could this be a real memory, rather than a programmed one? Ford said that his new narrative has an element of truth to it (as do most of the things he designs for Westworld), and we noted before the parallels between Wyatt and Arnold. Then, does that mean Teddy was somehow involved in the mysterious incident that happened 30 years ago? Did he or Dolores perpetrate the massacre – or did they work together? If they were accomplices, would that make Dolores Wyatt? Also, how self-aware is Angela? Is she just following Ford’s narrative, or are she and Wyatt, whoever he is, trying to stage an actual rebellion?

If you’re confused, you’re not alone. Angela decides that Teddy isn’t ready for whatever Wyatt has planned; like with his memories of the Man in Black, he’s disturbed by his revelation about the massacre, but it doesn’t motivate him to question his reality. “Maybe in the next life,” Angela says. Frankly, the next life can’t come soon enough.

Related Story: HBO Provides Information on Westworld Season Finale

Westworld airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO.