Another week, another Westworld episode title in need of translation. (I knew my French would come in handy some day!) "Les Écorchés," translates as The Flayed, and while some could take that as a clue that this theory that Game of Thrones is really only just a park within Westworld, I don't really think Ramsay Bolton will be showing up anytime soon. It is, however, an apt name for a particularly bloody episode, and one that operates within dualities: What's on the outside may not match what's on the inside.
The most obvious example of this is clearly poor Bernard (Jeffrey Wright), whose mind has been taken hostage by the imprint? digital copy? spirit? of Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins). This happens while Bernard is inside the Cradle simulation, one that we find out has mostly been used to test out the hosts' narratives and cornerstones before they are put into circulation in the park.
The big reveal however, is that the true purpose of the park isn't to turn the hosts into humans, but the other way around. The data gathered on the guests isn't so much a ploy to better sell them things, but a way to compile a profile to control against in order to ensure a faithful recreation in the afterlife. In other words, the guests want to become hosts.
Of course, as we saw in "The Riddle of The Sphinx" that technology isn't quite perfected yet, and so for now, copies of people's brain can only live in the digital sphere, hence Ford's presence in The Cradle. That information is also the key to understanding the scenes between Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and Bernard at the beginning of "Journey Into Night," and "Phase Space." When building Bernard as a copy of Arnold, Ford had him spend years within the Cradle with virtual Dolores, the one person who knew his colleague better than anyone. The conversations they had were meant to fine-tune Bernard until he was the most faithful representation of Arnold's way of thinking as could be. The tests went on, until finally, he fooled her.
So, how does this all work within Ford's plan of letting the hosts be their own masters? Well, it turns out that, like Dolores, he doesn't really trust most of them to make the hard choices needed to ensure their survival. And so, just like she did with Teddy (James Marsden), he's decided to make an adjustment. In order to make sure that his hosts get the life he wants for them, he needs to take back control for a little while.
"They want fidelity," he tells Bernard. "A faithful representation of the most murderous species since time began. But you and the hosts are something different. An original work. More just, more noble. And your very nature, Bernard, ensures they will devour you, and all the beauty of who you are, of who you could be, would be poured out into the darkness forever."
Thus, the duality of outer Bernard and inner Ford begins. When he emerges from the simulation, the bug in the Cradle is gone, apparently resolved — but only because it (Ford) now resides in Bernard's head. (It becomes all the more apparent later in the episode, when lighting tricks flicker between shots of Bernard's face and Ford's as the latter compels the former to violence.) Elsie (Shannon Woodward) better watch her back.
That dual-identity takes another shape as Delos management finally realises that Bernard is really a host, rather than the placid member of management he has appeared to be for so long. That particular piece of information comes out rather by accident, while Strand (Gustaf Skarsgård) and Hale (Tessa Thompson) are interrogating a pretty bewildered Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) (when isn't he?) and Bernard about what really happened to Theresa Cullen (Sidse Babett Knudsen). (Remember her?) The answer, of course, is that Bernard killed her, and he almost admits it, when someone finds a hidden door embedded in the wall of the secret lab where she died. On the other side lies a corridor, which leads to a room full of old or damaged versions of Bernard. (*Insert skeletons in the closet joke here*...oh wait, they actually did that.)
This leads to Bernard getting virtually waterboarded by Hale in order to find out what Dolores and her gang stormed the Mesa. We saw the early stages of the attack in the last episode, when they ran the Delos train straight into headquarters. The mission is two-fold: 1) Dolores wants to get her father (Louis Herthum) — and the information he carries, which we now know is some sort of digital key — back, and 2) To destroy the Cradle, and the backups within. Dolores and Teddy take care of that first part , while Angela (Talulah Riley)(RIP) sacrifices herself for the second.
Some highlights from this particular narrative thread:
1) Dolores meeting Hale.
Seeing Tessa Thompson and Evan Rachel Wood duke it out is fan wish-fulfilment on an Avengers: Infinity War scale, and I'm here for it. Hale is smart enough to know that Dolores' mind is a technological marvel, and I love that she tries to exploit it. That woman is relentlessly pragmatic. Unfortunately for her though, Dolores is an idealist.
2) Teddy in commando gear.
James Marsden looks great in black. That is all.
3) Peter Abernathy's farewell.
The most moving parts of Westworld are in how the hosts interact with each other beyond their programming, and Dolores and her father are a perfect example. Sure, they were brought together by code and backstory, but here are two individuals who truly have affection for one another. Hearing Dolores ask, "Whatever happened to that fearsome ne'er do well," is also the most effective repurposing of the dialogue that was written for the hosts thus far. It's a tearful exchange, that ends with Dolores extracting her father's control unit, the only way she can take him with her to the Valley Beyond.
Meanwhile, Maeve's (Thandie Newton) quest to reunite with her daughter takes a bloody turn. In what is basically a reenactment of her nightmares, she and her daughter end up hiding from the Ghost Nation warriors in a log cabin, only to come face to face with William (Ed Harris). In her flashbacks to her life there, he kills both Maeve and her daughter — this time, however, he's just amused. Is this just another twist in Ford's game? Maeve, however is hard-pressed to find the humour in the situation. In a move, I was definitely not expecting, she shoots him. Multiple times! And to add insult to injury, she telepathically manipulates Lawrence's (Clifton Collins Jr.) host cousins into coming after their master as well.
We actually learn something important about Maeve's new powers here, namely that she cannot control hosts who have become sentient. This comes up in her attempt to manipulate Lawrence, who still ends up shooting William, albeit for his own reasons. It's still unclear whether or not these shots were fatal — when the Delos commandos arrive and start putting down every host in sight, William appears to be breathing. But for how long?
Lawrence gets shot, and so does Maeve, but an intervention from Lee Sizemore, the man responsible for calling the Delos guard in the first place, saves her from a true death. Instead, they bring her back to the Mesa, where Dolores finds her on her way out. For a second, it really seems like she might kill Maeve, but instead she just leaves her lying on a gurney in the Mesa basement, respecting the latter's right to choose her own fate. Maeve can't die just yet — she made a promise to her daughter to come find her no matter what. (Although, someone better act fast to save her because those wounds look pretty bad, and the backups have gone up in smoke.)
The episode ends with Bernard finally telling Hale what she wants to know: the location of Abernathy's code. But now that we know Ford's been lurking in the shadows, who knows what they'll really find there. My guess is, nothing that looks as good as Teddy in combat boots.