Season 1, Episode 9 – The Well-Tempered Clavier
It’s quite a relief to finally have the answers from the show’s biggest mysteries. Although it has been an intriguing and fascinating journey, it frees up the show from spending time and effort with keeping the charade up. It’s really no wonder why production of the first season was halted numerous times due to delayed scripts. Finding a way to structure the numerous reveals of this episode in a clear and sensical manner is no simple task even for a room full of writers. Hell, a lot of viewers would probably have to rewatch the scenes numerous times just to understand what exactly was revealed and why it’s important.
But of course, it wouldn’t be Westworld if it just gave away its answers without raising questions at the same time. Essentially, Dolores killed Arnold, Bernard is Arnold, and Dolores isn’t in the same timeline of the show. We can guess as to the hows and whys of these reveals, but until we see the finale next week (which reportedly runs at a staggering 90 minutes), we can’t be too certain just yet. But the implications are there, and raises a big question regarding the future of some of the characters. Was this the last we’ve seen of Arnold/Bernard in the present timeline? Flashbacks will be necessary to explore Arnold’s story, and even in this episode they spent a lot of time recalling a scene from earlier in the season to explain some things, such as Arnold’s motives and hopes for the hosts.
While these reveals are pretty straightforward in terms of narrative structure, the genius lies not in the twists themselves but in the execution. It’s a mark of a good mystery that, when finally revealed, makes you question everything you’ve seen before it. It makes the notion of rewatching the show from the beginning even more appealing so you can spot all the clues that were hidden right in front of us. Even the episode itself contains visual clues that naturally fit with the narrative. Seeing Logan pull out the picture that caused Abernathy to malfunction in the first episode felt almost like a throwaway, as well as exposing the insides of Dolores and the other hosts as clearly belonging to a much earlier era. It doesn’t draw attention to itself because the show not only respects its audiences, but is also confident that you’ve been keeping up all this time to understand the significance of such reveals without going through so much pomp and drama. Indeed Westworld has never been something that you can simply sit back and consume mindlessly, and the writers know this.
This episode also raises many interesting questions about who’s in the wrong and who’s in the right through its plot twists. So much of the events we’ve seen in the first season could’ve been completely avoided had Arnold not been so keen on pushing technology even further. Ignoring his villanous streak for a moment, Robert Ford is technically in the right. What exactly is the point of creating hosts with a conscious mind? What benefit would there be in essentially imprisoning human beings to be playthings of the rich and powerful? One could argue that Arnold, like many innovators, was simply advancing technology and the human race. Clearly the hosts, such as we’ve seen with Maeve and Bernard, are superior beings to us mortal humans. They’re smarter and stronger than us, and practically immortal as long as someone (preferably another host) is there to maintain them. Humans would wipe out the hosts, but even more frightening, the hosts can wipe out the humans.
It’s the price of playing God when you don’t have God-like powers. When your creations can easily destroy you, should you do it anyway? Should you usher in the next step in human evolution to keep pushing humanity, even if it were through artificial means? Innovation should have an end goal in mind such as improving quality of life or saving the environment, but when that end goal doesn’t really benefit us humans or anything else, should it still be done? Westworld so deftly tackles all this without making them the point of the story. Even in a show that, on the surface, seems primarily concerned in executing surprises, it still manages to open itself up to many interpretations that bring so much depth and nuance.
It’s refreshing to watch a series that constantly keeps you excited to see what’s to come not just in the next episode, but for the next several seasons as well. Not just because it dangles cliffhangers in your way, but because it barely scratches the surface of its potential and what the show can become. I’m trying to imagine what a third or fourth season would look like, and I can’t imagine it looking anything like it does right now. The first season has rightfully focused on the history of the park and its creators, so seeing it move forward into the future and what the after effects will be is like watching a new series altogether.