Westworld Trompe L’Oeil Review
HBO‘s Westworld: Season 1, Episode 7: Trompe L’Oeil was the most surprising and brutal episode thus far for the scifi-western series. The surprises came from three of its characters and the brutality came from the murder of one of them. Westworld, episode-after-episode, has been filled with people dying on-screen. No matter where they died, it was almost always pointless because they were Hosts and they could be repaired and cleaned to the point of being like new. In Trompe L’Oeil, someone of consequence, a human being that the viewer had gotten to know somewhat, was killed in bone-crunching fashion.
There was never a positive or negative feeling toward Westworld Head of Quality Assurance Theresa Cullen (Sidse Babett Knudsen). There was only ambivalence. She was a character simply doing her job and nothing more.
When she ended up in Westworld Founder Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins)’s secret lair, all that changed. Cullen, for one of the first and for the last time, ceased being a character and became human. The same can be said for Dr. Ford. The very human need to protect what was his, what he helped to create, was bleeding out of every orifice of Dr. Ford’s being during their confrontation, filling his words and his eyes with menace.
It was a Dr. Ford the viewer had never seen before, a hidden Ford. Like many have said in the series, Westworld was where you went to discover and show who you really were, not only to yourself but to the world. Ford did that with Cullen in that underground chamber.
The Dr. Ford/ Cullen scene in Trompe L’Oeil was one of the best in the series not only because of their back and forth and what was revealed (e.g. Arnold had been killed by a Host in the park) but because of the instrument of Cullen’s death and what was divulged about Westworld Head of Programming Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright).
Dr. Ford warned Cullen “nicely” in Dissonance Theory not to get in his way. His words and the setting of the warning were a warning shot. Cullen didn’t take it but it wasn’t her fault. She did not know she was dealing with someone capable of murder-by-proxy (the proxy in this case being a wonderfully clandestine Host).
I have to admit, I never saw it coming and thank god for that. Thank god Westworld’s writers did something that was unpredictable with their narrative. Something not safe, something that shook things up and made you rethink everything that you had previously seen regarding Lowe.
Because of the park and its storylines, the viewer knew that Dr. Ford was a master when it came to creating narratives. Ford did so with Lowe, right down to his dead son. The questions that lingered after the revelation are how Ford accomplished what he did with Lowe.
- Dr. Ford created Lowe in secret, had him clandestinely shipped outside of Westworld, and activated.
- Dr. Ford programmed Lowe not to be self-aware (Lowe didn’t know he was a Host e.g. he almost informed on Dr. Ford to Cullen in the previous episode) and to apply for employment at Westworld.
- Dr. Ford paid off, with his vast fortune, schools, grad schools, and previous employers, to input data about Lowe into their databases so that when someone looked into Lowe’s credentials, they would all prove to be accurate. Either that, he actually had Lowe attend college, grad school, and work previous jobs (unlikely, too many variables to consider), or Dr. Ford hacked schools and employers and put Lowe information within them. Dr. Ford is a magnificent computer genius after all, one of best on the planet from what it seems (there are no competitor parks in existence thanks to his unique intellectual properties).
- Dr. Ford paid off or hacked local and state governments and created a birth certificate for Lowe, a social security number, similar credentials for his parents, previous places of residence, an entire life outside of Westworld for Lowe. Dr. Ford did the same for Lowe’s wife and his son. It would have taken a lot of forethought and planning but for a billionaire computer genius, it was not impossible. One most remember, Dr. Ford had nearly thirty years of narrative creation experience under his belt before Lowe was created. Creating Lowe and his family’s narratives would have child’s play to him.
- Lowe’s wife is also a Host in a room somewhere in Westworld. When Lowe calls (routed to look as though he is calling the outside world, even to Westworld), she is activated. That or she is the second Host Dr. Ford sent into the real world (Unlikely. Why risk that?). Like Lowe, she also does not know that she is a Host.
- The death of Lowe’s son gave Lowe a concrete reason never to leave Westworld or at least be extremely reluctant to do so.
End Analysis Mode
Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) having sex with Hector Escaton (Rodrigo Santoro) was an amelioration to Trompe L’Oeil‘s third act confrontation between Cullen and Dr. Ford. Dr. Ford had eavesdropped on Hale and Cullen’s conversation via the Host in the room i.e. Hector. Why else would Dr. Ford have used the term “Blood Sacrifice” with Cullen? It was a direct quote from Hale and Cullen’s conversation. Dr. Ford’s reaction to the Clementine Pennyfeather (Angela Sarafyan) demonstration had been an act. Dr. Ford knew the demonstration was coming and he had played along. It was an extremely shrewd move on Dr. Ford part. Very clever.
Westworld Behavior Engineer Elsie Hughes suddenly going on vacation, out of the blue, should have been a red flag to pre-Host Lowe. Hughes was either dead (likely) or still in the park hiding (possible). Being on vacation was a ruse perpetrated by her, her captor, or her killer.
William (Jimmi Simpson) falling for Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood) was predictable but it still managed to be sincere. Much of that had to do with William coming clean to Dolores about his bride-to-be and his honesty about his feelings. How is William going to return to his fiancée after having experienced what it is like to be with Dolores? Like with The Man in Black, William now would rather have the dream than reality, especially when that dream talks, looks, and feels like Dolores.
After witnessing Clementine Pennyfeather’s lobotomy in Trompe L’Oeil, Maeve Millay (Thandie Newton) understandably wanted out of Westworld. It could have easily been her getting nose drilled and she knew it. Felix Lutz (Leonardo Nam) and Sylvester (Ptolemy Slocum) are now her unwitting pawns in that escape. They have to do what Maeve says or they will be fired (and Sylvester will be killed). The question is how will they defeat all of the safety measures, security protocols, and personnel put into place to stop Westworld’s intellectual property, i.e. Hosts, from leaving the park?
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