'Westworld' Features Reunions Old and New With 'Phase Space'

The latest episode of the HBO drama has hosts and humans alike reuniting for some unfinished business.
Courtesy of HBO
'Westworld'

[This story contains spoilers through season two, episode six of HBO's Westworld, "Phase Space."]

“Hello, old friend.”

In an episode filled with important pairings, the man behind the last three words of Westworld's “Phase Space” episode might be the most surprising. They come from Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), whose physical form is currently laying in Escalante, while a more metaphysical form exists in the “Cradle,” a data backup center in the heart of the Mesa. As Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) goes into the system to find the source of the new rebellious nature within the hosts, he finds that the park co-founder is not quite done making music.

While Bernard and Elsie (Shannon Woodward) are finding out more about the Cradle, Maeve (Thandie Newton) and the Man in Black (Ed Harris) are dealing with a different cradle in the form of the relationships with their respective children. In the meantime, Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) is pursuing her own familial connection, like a literal train barreling down a tunnel in an attempt to rescue her father Peter Abernathy (Louis Herthum), with a newly modified Teddy (James Marsden) by her side.

Here's how those stories and more played out over the course of "Phase Space," directed by Tarik Saleh.

A FLIP ON FIDELITY
 
“Phase Space” opens on a location and conversation we’ve seen before in Westworld. Dolores and — we assume — Arnold Weber (Wright) are conversing about her learning process. “You frighten me, Dolores,” he admits. “You’re growing, learning so quickly. I’m frightened of what you might become, what path you might take.” He touches her shoulder gently as he looks ominously off into the distance, admitting he must make a choice, but “I’m not sure if it’s my choice to make.”
 
“No, he didn’t say that.” Suddenly, that recognizable gentle lilt in Dolores’ voice turns into the cold, steely timbre that viewers have gotten used to since the beginning of the second season. She corrects him on his last statement, for the real Arnold had not questioned whether he had the agency to make the choice, but whether he should. An all-too-familiar “Freeze all motor functions” all but confirms that this is not Arnold we’re dealing with, but a host version. The tables have now immediately turned, with Dolores adjudicating this test.
 
“This is a test, one we’ve done countless times,” she admits to him. A confused Bernard, one we have seen quite a few times in season two at this point, asks, “What are you testing for?” Her simple response is, “Fidelity.” The one word resonates, as it was also used by a young William (Jimmi Simpson) as he talked with many permutations of the host version of Jim Delos (Peter Mullan) in “The Riddle of the Sphinx.” Though it’s unknown whether this takes place before the host coup or after the eventful two weeks that followed, it’s clear that idea of fidelity has itself engaged in a phase shift.
 
 
FROM CRADLE TO THE GRAVE
 
As Dolores confounds a version of Bernard with her fidelity test, the Bernard we know is currently walking the train tracks with Elsie. After just coming out of a struggle with Delos, she optimistically muses that, while communication lines are down, Ford’s quarantine notices are still going out. But as they enter a deserted and desecrated HQ, they realize that he may have more posthumous control than just meaningless alerts.

According to Elsie, QA has made multiple attempts to hack into the system and shut down the revolt, only to be blocked every time by the Cradle. Though it’s just meant to serve as a backup for narratives, it has interfaced with every discrete system in the past seven days, responding differently, almost exuding sentience. “It’s like there’s something in here that’s improvising,” she says, astounded.

Bernard’s solution is to tackle the issue head-on, quite literally in his case. They enter the Cradle, a red-tinted room that reminds Elsie of a hive mind, but does not get a similar response from Bernard. Here, he has flashes of the chestnut he took from the place he found Delos, following instructions by Ford to create a consciousness of a human to put into a host. Finally scratching the surface of his larger questions, he decides to put himself inside directly. Strapping himself into a control unit that’s meant to read host data for auto-extraction, he would in effect be an occupant of the cradle, to get a better sense of both the virtual situation and what his larger agenda with Ford is. Despite Elsie’s initial protests, he allows the machine to enter him, amidst grunts of pain, though he would shrug off beforehand that “the pain’s just a program.”

Bernard awakes in a place we have seen Teddy many times (in addition to this episode, though in a much different context): the train into Sweetwater. He steps off of the locomotive to see a now hustling and bustling town, evoking memories of a more peaceful time that feels like ages ago. There, he sees the hosts on the loops we know and love: Dolores walking peacefully with a rucksack of groceries, Teddy vacating the Mariposa. But there’s one major thing that sticks out: a greyhound dog traipsing around. It became a spirit animal of Ford in the first season, as he had one as a child and even recreated it in host form in the park. And after six episodes of his own metaphorical chase, Bernard finally reached his rabbit: a content Ford sitting at the Mariposa, trademark smirk across his face.

ENTER Q.A.

While Elsie and Bernard access the deeper recesses of Delos HQ, elsewhere, the staff are grappling with the aftermath of the inciting incidents. As Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) tells Ashley Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth), who recently returned after being captured by Ghost Nation, it’s been almost a week since things went awry and, with Charlotte finally having her cargo in tow after taking Abernathy from Fort Forlorn Hope, it’s time for their rescue.

As she unblinkingly taps into a secret tablet to reach out to Delos, informing them of her recent acquisition, Stubbs is beside himself, furious she did not disclose to him any of the data the formerly-retired host contained. But she is too close to her goal to quibble with someone hired “to guard an amusement park” and moves into the next part of her plan.

That next step involves subduing Abernathy to ensure his capture. She takes him and Stubbs down to one the operating room, as a series of staff members donning black place him in a chair before bolting him down. Stubbs asks if the pneumatic tool is necessary for subduing him, while the tech replies merely, “It’s really effective.” We see that effectiveness firsthand, as a flustered, frightened, and muzzled Abernathy struggles against them before eventually getting overpowered. Though he cannot speak, his pained eyes do the talking for him at that moment.

With the “package” secured, a special delivery arrives in Westworld, in the form of parachuting Q.A. members, led by the roguish Coughlin (Timothy V. Murphy). He substantiates Stubbs’ newly discovered position, disparaging his first name and telling him, “Amateur hour’s over.” Inside, Coughlin gets told the same thing Elsie discovered about the mysterious block against any hacks into the system. While the narratives are still inaccessible, it seems the park is beginning to be once again, as the bright three-dimensional map of Westworld reforms after losing power in the season premiere. But with it comes one massive, sudden radar blip: a runaway train.

NEW TRAIN AND NEW TRAINING

It’s no surprise that the train comes from Dolores, who had ridden into Sweetwater the previous episode ordering her men to strip it down. But she also stripped down another piece of metal that night in the form of Teddy, when she overwrote his code after defying her orders previously. It’s clear from Teddy’s entrance into the Mariposa the day after his modification that we are dealing with a different man. “The day’s wastin’. Thought you wanted to ride at sunup,” he says with an air of confidence, a swing in his hips as he walks.

Dolores warns Teddy about how much the train may serve as a trigger. After all, it’s a critical point in his narrative to step out of that train before he would serve to get killed in innumerable ways. But that version of Teddy Flood departed the station long ago. “The man who rode that train was built weak and born to fail. You fixed him. Now forget about it.” To nail his new attitude home, he unflinchingly executes a staff member at the train platform, after he is not able to say where exactly in the Mesa Abernathy is held.

As the train chugs along the plains, Dolores’ men load up on weapons, as the lovers muse about the fact that they are finally leaving the place they have spoken for many loops about deserting for greener pastures. “I never wanted to leave,” Teddy says, gazing out the window, “but I guess you fixed that, too.”

Part of that “fixing” included a large decrease in Teddy’s benevolence, which becomes prominent as they handle the final steps of their train plan. As Dolores, Angela (Talulah Riley) and the others hop to another car, he approaches Phil (Patrick Cage), the tech they had been forcing along on the journey with them and who had personally made Teddy's modifications, and hands him a gun with a single bullet. “That’s the last of my mercy. Better use it fast.” He does not exaggerate with those words, as he leaps to the other car and detaches it, sending the front of the train and an unwilling Phil hurtling into the tunnel that serves as one of the Mesa’s many entrances. It’s clear that Dolores intends to enter with a bang.

DADDY-DAUGHTER DESERTION

As a daughter charges forward to find her father, another just wants to stay in his company. After escaping the clutches of Ghost Nation and seeing her father, Emily (Katja Herbers) has now joined him, along with Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr.) and his cavalcade of cousins to find “The Door.” The Man in Black initially refuses to acknowledge his daughter’s presence, under the impression this is yet another host speaking the voice of Ford, teasing him about the game.

Though Emily is quick to declare her human qualities, her father is still dismissive, warning her that if she stays with him, she’ll be signing her death certificate. But it seems that his daughter knows more about the ways of Westworld than he initially thought, as she is able to not only detect that the upended wagon they were inspecting was a trap but even pick off the marauder that could have caused considerable trouble for the group.

At the campfire that night, the Man in Black admits he’s surprised about her appearance here, given her previous statement to reject the “family business.” Emily tells him Charlotte invited her, and though she initially refused, she decided to return and visit the Raj, the India-based park that she loved as a child. After several days of riding (in more than one meaning of the word), the same affliction plagued that park, and she dodged gunshots, tiger attacks and cliff falls to get to the place she wanted to avoid.

Now caught up on her story, she takes the opportunity to go in on her father. She shared his love for this park as a child, considering the idea of a life without consequences. But still becoming obsessed with the idea as an adult is a sad gesture. He then accuses her of “climbing under his wing,” but she insists that she’s here because she’s trying to save him from his pseudo-suicidal behavior. “I spent so many years buying your good guy act,” she tells him. “[My mother] was the only one who saw through that, and she paid for it. But I shouldn’t have said her death was your fault. You don’t get to make that your final score. Instead, you’re gonna come home with me.”

Taken aback initially and considering this a threat, the Man in Black seems to comply, as she tells him leaving the park with her the next morning would be a “good start” to patching up their tumultuous relationship. Perhaps he perceived that as getting a good head start, as Emily wakes up the next morning to find the entire party abandoned her, save for one bean-eating cousin. But it looks like her father isn’t exactly out of the woods yet, as they soon get ambushed by Ghost Nation, their fate yet undetermined.

SAYONARA, SHOGUN WORLD

As the Man in Black tries to repel himself away from his child, in a different, yet oddly similar world, another character is trying to do just the opposite. The morning after decimating an entire samurai army using her “new voice,” Maeve stands silently, observing all the carnage in front of her. Part of the slaughter from the evening involved the death of Sakura (Kiki Sukezane), and through deep breaths, she observes Akane (Rinko Kikuchi), the mother figure to Sakura and Shogun World counterpart to Maeve, carve her heart out. Wrapping it in one of Maeve’s sleeves, she cradles it close to her, almost like a swaddled infant.

With Sakura’s heart in tow, Maeve, Akane, and the rest of the group make their way back to the village, where they get confronted by Captain Tanaka (Masayoshi Haneda). He had captured former occupant of his position Musashi (Hiroyuki Sanada), as well as Hector (Rodrigo Santoro) and Armistice (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal), who had set up a distraction when the group was set upon by ninjas. Tanaka sets up a trade for, as he calls them, “the assassin and her witch”; he lets them all free, but Akane stays.

Before Maeve can create her own deal with her new mentalist capabilities, Musashi interrupts her, instead offering to challenge Tanaka to a fight. Though he initially refuses, Musashi preys on his cocky nature, accusing him of being a coward and puppet to the shogun. Tanaka eventually relents, as the two prepare their weapons.

Akane urges Maeve to use her “magic” to help Musashi. But Maeve remains neutral in the situation, observing, “We each deserve to choose our fate. Even if that fate is death.” As the fight begins, the two seem evenly matched. But in a vital moment of weakness, Musashi is able to grab one of Tanaka’s swords, and his dual wielding literally disarms him. On his knees in pain, he returns his sword to the defeated captain, who commits hari-kari before Musashi beheads him.

All immediate threats eliminated, the group takes off for Snow Lake, which serves as not only Sakura’s birthplace but an entrance to the tunnels back into Delos HQ. A swath of tall bamboo leads them to the picturesque location, and as the staff members of the group Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman), Felix Lutz (Leonardo Nam) and Sylvester (Ptolemy Slocum) clear the path to freedom, the hosts put the young dancer in her final resting place.

It turns out that this will be the final resting place for our time in Shogun World as well, as Musashi and Akane say they will not continue with Maeve and the group back into Westworld. Though Maeve thinks they can make a more safe home somewhere else, Musashi replies, “No man is safe who refuses to defend his own land.” Akane brings back Maeve’s previous quote about fate, adding on, “My daughter’s spirit is here, my faith belongs here. And the choice belongs to me. Because of you.” With an understanding look, the hosts bid farewell to their eastern counterparts, as they head into the tunnels.

The group finally surfaces on its original destination: Maeve’s old zone. Dressed back in Western gear, but with her katana still in hand, she recalls the rolling hills from her previous narrator that gave her the reason for this entire journey: her daughter. Heading back to the home she once occupied, she finds her daughter sitting on a porch, playing with two dolls representing a mother and daughter. She tells Maeve that one of the dolls does not want the other to get taken away by “the bad man,” and Maeve promises her that she would personally never let that happen again.

It’s a moment that Westworld fans have sought ever since Maeve first remembered her daughter as part of a reverie in season one. But of course, there’s a twist of the knife (or katana, as it were), when another woman, looking similar to Maeve, appears behind her, laundry basket in hand. It seems, like Clementine (Angela Sarafyan) last season and Abernathy before her, hosts are merely characters in narratives and can easily be replaced.

Before Maeve can respond to this stunning revelation, riders descend on the house. Much like the previous loops Maeve herself was a part of, the Ghost Nation has come for her. Hector and Armistice fall in to assist, while Lee decides to put in a call on the radio he found in Shogun World, still fearing his own life in this strange new world.

Remembering her promise, Maeve charges off with her daughter into the fields. A member of Ghost Nation eventually catches up to them, telling them in Lakota, “Come with us. We are meant for the same path.” But Maeve has been all about carving her own trail recently, and replies, “Your path is made for Hell” before running off again, her daughter in tow.

In an episode of duos reconciling and separating, their effects from and on the growing conflict between humans and hosts make it clear that Westworld, in a word, is complicated.

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