Best of the West: ‘Westworld’ episode 2×6 ‘Phase Space’ brings on the reunions

westworld_john-p-johnson_hbo-courtesy
John P. Johnson/HBO/Courtesy

Related Posts

This episode of “Westworld” kicked off the second half of the season — from this point on, we can expect the plot arcs to finally come together. “Phase Space” doubles down on reunions, both anticipated and unexpected, as characters whose trajectories have been hurtling toward each other finally interact.

Arnold (or Bernard?) and Dolores

The episode opens with what looks like a repeat of a scene from the start of the season. Arnold (Jeffrey Wright), in one of his evaluation sessions with Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), tells her that her potential frightens him. The scene then seems to unfold differently from what we saw before, with Arnold telling Dolores that he has to make “a choice between the unknown and … an end.” He questions whether the choice is his to make.

At this point, Dolores perks up to tell him that this isn’t how it happened — Arnold, she says, actually questioned whether or not he “should” make this choice, not whether or not he “could.” It becomes clear that this isn’t a regular evaluation between Arnold and Dolores but rather one between Dolores and a host form of Arnold — perhaps Bernard (Jeffrey Wright). When he asks her what she’s testing him for, she replies in the same way that William did to his father-in-law’s host form: “Fidelity.” This isn’t the first time William and Dolores have had echoed words. Their interplay, too, promises to be vital this season.

This is also one of the first indications we’ve seen of Bernard being programmed for similarity to Arnold. Given that there are multiple Bernard timelines in motion now, could it be that one of these Bernards is actually a host of Arnold — an attempt to give him everlasting life, as was attempted with Delos in the past?

Dolores and Teddy

In this episode, Dolores is the first to see the debut of Teddy (James Marsden) after his personality reset; he strides in as Dolores plays the saloon piano for the first time. This image in itself is important for Dolores’ character arc, as the piano serves as a recurring symbol of automation in the park, as shown in the show’s title sequence. Could her piano playing hint that she’s potentially not as in control as she thinks she is? Or perhaps, on the other hand, could it be a symbol of just how well she commands her own programming?

Teddy’s reprogramming, however, seems to have surprised Dolores with its efficacy. The mix of his newly belligerent programming and vaguely retained memories of his softer past makes for a pragmatic cynic, one much unlike any Teddy we saw before. Even Dolores appears taken aback when he criticizes his past self, calling him “weak and born to fail.”

As if to prove his new toughness, when Dolores and Angela (Talulah Riley) later interrogate a Delos employee — who insists he does not know where Peter (Louis Herthum) is being held — Teddy approaches and shoots him.

Later, as Dolores, Angela and Teddy commandeer the train that brings guests into the park, Dolores asks the new Teddy about whether he wants to leave the park. He replies that his former self was wrong about wanting to stay behind. Not only is Teddy willing to move forward, but he seems even more willing than Dolores herself, who often has to fight against her own innate sentimentality to accomplish her goals.

The three crash the train into headquarters head-on. After this episode, we can definitely expect more clashes between Dolores, Teddy and all the characters who wind up at the command center — which ends up being many of them.

Ashley and Charlotte

After a story arc that largely lacked geographic cohesion, wee see Ashley (Luke Hemsworth) back at Westworld headquarters, surveying the destruction. Charlotte (Tessa Thompson) meets up with him. The two haul a bound, gagged and struggling Peter into one of the labs, where Charlotte sends a message to Delos that they captured the host at last.

Later, Ashley returns to the park to inform new security forces from Delos that they secured Peter. The newly introduced leader of these forces, Coughlin (Timothy V. Murphy), gruffly advises that Ashley and the rest of the Westworld techs stay out of his team’s way. We’ve always known that the Delos higher-ups have an agenda largely separate from that of Westworld’s operators, and Coughlin’s dismissive attitude toward Ashley is further proof of this. The higher-ups seem to be conducting some mission for which it’s vital that the Westworld employees are not involved.

Charlotte meets back up with them as Coughlin and his team begin hacking into the broken central terminal at the Westworld command center. Coughlin’s team finally brings the defunct map back online, only to discover Dolores, Teddy and Angela’s train speeding toward them.

Maeve and her daughter

Maeve’s (Thandie Newton) storyline opens up back in Shogun World, right after the skirmish of last episode. As she watches Akane (Rinko Kikuchi) dress Sakura’s (Kiki Sukezane) corpse, Maeve is unpleasantly reminded of her own daughter. In a voiceover narrative, Akane delivers a monologue about the boundary between life and death and the path from one to another. The themes of lost and stolen life continue throughout Maeve’s story in this episode.

Maeve and the others discover that Hector (Rodrigo Santoro), Musashi (Hiroyuki Sanada), Armistice (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal) and Hanaryo (Tao Okamoto) were all captured by Tanaka (Masayoshi Haneda), the shogun’s general. Maeve is about to telepathically command Tanaka to kill himself when Musashi interrupts and instead goads him into a duel for their freedom. Akane asks Maeve to help Musashi with her “magic,” but Maeve refuses to choose Musashi’s fate for him. She allows the duel to continue organically. Once more, the concept of free will largely dictates her choices and interactions with others.

After an exciting action sequence — an old Western standoff with samurai swords — Musashi bests Tanaka with his signature dual blade combat style. The entire group is free to reunite and continue on together. Surveying the duel’s carnage, Akane urges Maeve to find her child “before this darkness eats us all alive.”

Everyone then ventures to Sakura’s hometown, where Akane lays Sakura’s heart upon a funeral pyre and performs last rites. Meanwhile, Lee (Simon Quarterman), Sylvester (Ptolemy Slocum) and Lutz (Leonardo Nam) find the tunnels that lead back to Westworld.

As Maeve prepares to leave, she tells the Shogun World hosts to do the same, but Musashi and Akane opt to stay behind. Musashi feels that it would be cowardly not to defend his home as an obvious threat descends. Akane echoes Maeve’s words about fate and states that her fate is to settle in the place where Sakura’s soul rests. They emotionally part, but this most probably won’t be the last we see of Shogun World, as Hanaryo chooses to accompany the Westworld hosts back home.

Soon, Maeve and her remaining allies re-emerge in Westworld, where Maeve is overcome with emotion. Lee has properly led her back home and to her daughter, for which she thanks him sincerely. Even Lee, who has largely been the snarky comic relief since his introduction last season, seems to understand just how much his directions back home have meant to Maeve. She asks the others to stay behind so she can bring her daughter back on her own.

Once she walks to her house, the same one from all the memories we’ve seen, Maeve finds her daughter (Jasmyn Rae) playing on the porch. A little nervously, Maeve approaches and greets her. Her daughter expresses fear at being taken away again, but Maeve promises that her mother is strong enough now to prevent that from happening. It becomes apparent soon enough that “mother” means a different person to Maeve and her daughter — another host has taken Maeve’s place. While Maeve’s daughter finally has become real to her, she has become unreal to her daughter.

Before Maeve can grapple with this new revelation, the storyline of her nightmares starts up again — the hostile Ghost Nation hosts who attacked her in her memories are rapidly approaching. Maeve grabs her daughter and runs away as the girl looks back and screams for her mother. Could Maeve actually be the kidnapper her daughter fears?

The Ghost Nation leader — who is maybe Akecheta (Zahn McClarnon) — catches up to Maeve and asks her to come back with him. He says that they’re destined to walk the same path. Maeve refuses the join him outright, but the two have crossed paths with increasing frequency this season, and they’re likely to do so again. Their narratives are intrinsically entangled, augmented by the leader’s role in Maeve’s cornerstone memories. This interaction will definitely not be the last we see of them, especially given the emotional dead end provided by Maeve finding her daughter.

William and Emily

William (Ed Harris), Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr.) and Lawrence’s men continue their travels with Grace (Katja Herbers), who we now know is actually William’s daughter Emily. William strongly suspects that she’s a host created by Ford, but she quickly puts these thoughts to rest — she’s here for a very specific (and human) reason.

As William and Emily sit together before a campfire, there’s a thick atmosphere of both intimacy and tension — it becomes clear that Emily is similar enough to William to understand his motives and yet just different enough to disdain them. The two reminisce about the family trips they took back when Emily was a child to The Raj, explaining her present-day draw to the park. While William seems to remember her fearing the elephants, she corrects him with exasperation — she actually loved them.

William’s face, an uncomfortable mixture of embarrassment and sadness, is perhaps more emotionally eloquent than he has ever been on the show, at least on his Man in Black timeline. Not even Ford could elicit such a response from him — only his true daughter could discomfit him in this way.

We find that Emily originally blamed William for her mother’s suicide. She has sought him out not only to apologize but also to take him away from the park before he tries to engineer himself some romantic and glorious death there. By doing so, she feels they’ll be back on level ground in their tumultuous relationship. He agrees with her, but she wakes up the next morning to find that he has abandoned her, causing her consternation. Some distance off, he and his group come under attack by Ghost Nation hosts. We’ve seen Emily drawn to them before, when she was kidnapped by them. Perhaps William won’t escape this reunion so easily.

Bernard and … who?

Elsie (Shannon Woodward) and Bernard continue their parkwide investigation this episode. While Elsie looks through some programs, she discovers that “the Cradle,” which is essentially just supposed to be the hosts’ data backup, is actually blocking attempted patches to the parks’ programming. These blocking responses are all different — it seems that this source of the responses is adaptive, not automated. Bernard shares that the Cradle can’t be accessed remotely, so someone must have messed with the programming in person. They head over to investigate.

As they enter, Bernard vaguely remembers in his cryptic, disjointed way that he brought someone over to the Cradle at some point. To Bernard, whoever it was must be behind the programming changes. He has Elsie strap him into an extraction unit that can process and index all of his memories to hopefully figure out who this person is. As the machine replays Bernard’s memories, he enters a trance. Meanwhile, Elsie notices a huge crash overhead — most likely Dolores’ train.

We explore Bernard’s memories in cinematically different lighting and aspect ratio, highlighting their disconnect from his reality. He begins on the train into Westworld  — the same one that’s crashing above them. Once he steps off the train, he does a double take. Everything, including Dolores and Teddy, is back to normal. Moreover, nobody seems to see him there. Bernard notices a wiry dog trotting through the streets and entering the saloon. He seems to vaguely recognize it, so he follows it in to find it resting by the piano. As the camera pans upward, we see who’s playing the piano: Ford (Anthony Hopkins), who — unlike everyone else in this memory —  specifically greets him.

It’s been teased time and again this season that Ford is less dead than he seems. From what we can see, his life and ability to manipulate the events of Westworld appear to come from his presence in memories — specifically Bernard’s. This is a literal expression of what the Ghost Nation leader told Ashley a few episodes back: that people only die when the last memories of them fade. Because Bernard’s memories contain a live form of Ford, he is still alive somewhere. And because Bernard’s memories aren’t indexed properly, we can’t tell when exactly memory-Ford exists relative to the present time frame. Ford’s presence in Bernard’s memories brings another temporal wrinkle to the already labyrinthine twists of this season.

Also significant is the dog Bernard followed into the saloon. This dog immediately calls to mind the story Ford told back in the first season about his childhood pet, a greyhound whose singular obsession was capturing a rabbit always just out of reach from his leash. When the young Ford unleashed him one day, he could finally hunt down and kill the rabbit. But upon doing so, the dog was bewildered. Once his one focus in life was achieved, he was unsure of what to do next.

Every host, we have learned, has a drive toward a cornerstone in their programming. It serves as the central emphasis of the host’s main backstory, informing their decision-making. Maeve’s cornerstone is her daughter, for example, and Sakura’s is her hometown. This season, many hosts encountered their previously unattainable cornerstones with unpredictable results.

The dog reminds us that Sakura died violently when she finally returned home. It reminds us that Bernard lost his grip on reality when he realized his cornerstone — his son’s death — had him mourning a person who wasn’t real to him. And, of course, it reminds us that when Maeve finally found her daughter, she found that it was really her daughter who had lost her. Like the dog and the rabbit, the hosts cannot help but be drawn toward their cornerstones — even hosts who know these memories are false. As hosts’ goals are more in reach than ever before, the actualization of their desires and the dissatisfaction that accompanies them continues to be a theme through this season.

Sahana Rangarajan covers TV. Contact her at [email protected].