There’s a lot going on in Westworld in “Phase Space,” and with a little luck we’ll be able to follow it.
What we know, or at least what we think we know, is that Ford (Anthony Hopkins) pulled off his grand exit / massacre one night, and that Karl Strand’s (Gustaf Skarsgård) Delos crew, featuring Ashley Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth), found Bernarnold (Jeffrey Wright) washed up on a seashore within the park boundaries about two weeks later. This season has jumped around within those two weeks quite a bit, often due to Bernarnold’s dodgy sense of when is now. “Phase Space” seems to be happening about midway through that two week timeframe, and all of the stories unfolding in the episode seem to be happening at about the same time, except for definite flashbacks.
At the end of last week’s episode, Maeve (Thandie Newton) was beginning to use her new “voice,” an ability to communicate with and control other hosts on a host-to-host pinging channel. In Shogun World, Geisha Sakura (Kiki Sukezane) had just been killed by the Shogun, and Maeve had joined her Geisha madam doppelgänger, Akane’s (Rinko Kikuchi), bloody revenge for Sakura’s death by “telepathically” ordering all of the Shogun’s Samurai to kill each other. When we resume with Maeve and Akane, the bloodshed is over and Akane is ritualistically removing Sakura’s heart to take to Snow Lake for a proper funeral.
Their first stop is Shogun Land Sweetwater, where they need to reconnect with the rest of their team. Maeve begins using her powers to free their friends from some of the Shogun’s men, but Musashi (Hiroyuki Sanada) intervenes and demands that his rival duel with him for his freedom. Musashi wins, and he, Armistice (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal), Hector (Rodrigo Santoro) and Hanaryo (Tao Okamoto) are free to leave with Maeve, Akane, Sylvester (Ptolemy Slocum), Lutz (Leonardo Nam) and Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman).
They reach Snow Lake without further incident, and Akane burns Sakura’s heart at a small shrine. She and Musashi choose to stay there and fight for their freedom, but Hanaryo follows Maeve’s crew into an access tunnel and off to the frontier to find Maeve’s daughter.
When the moment finally arrives, and Sizemore as successfully led them through the tunnels to the right access point into the park, Maeve wants to cover the last part of the journey alone. She knows every inch of the hills, and walks through the same high grasses she’s been dreaming of since we met her, finally reaching her old homestead and discovering her daughter (Jasmyn Rae) playing with dolls on the porch.
Sizemore has warned Maeve that her daughter will have been reprogrammed and won’t remember her, but after talking to the girl for a few moments she seems to become convinced that the girl does remember her– until the new mama enters the scene. Somehow, Maeve was prepared for her daughter not to know her, but not for some other host to have been written into her former role.
Before she has time to react, Ghost Nation warriors approach and Maeve feels like she’s falling into a nightmare, reliving the moment in which she and her daughter would be killed and separated again. She grabs the girl’s hand and runs with her, tuning out the girl calling to her other mama and ignoring the new mama being circled by Ghost Nation warriors on horseback.
Fortunately, Maeve’s crew followed her. They begin shooting the Ghost Nation as one of them tells Maeve in his language that she should come with him, and that they’re on the same path. She can’t hear the meaning in what he’s saying, though, because she is blinded by remembered hate and fear.
How is it that this beyond-human woman, who chose the settings for her personality and is operating with near supernatural abilities is still susceptible to so much sentiment and resentment? Here’s hoping she gets things under control quickly, because while most of her crew is coming to her aide, Sizemore is calling Delos backup on the communicator he pinched off of a corpse last week.
Maeve isn’t the only host being driven by human-like emotional baggage. Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) is clearly feeling a little uneasy about the changes she made to Teddy (James Marsden). He’s fully on board for her plans now, but he’s lost all of his warmth and speaks with a cold distance when he says that she’s “fixed him.”
Dolores is also still on a mission to reclaim her father, despite knowing that he never really was her father. Her human hostages aren’t able to give her any specifics on where he’s being held, so Teddy shoots one of them through the head and they load the other on the train bound for the Mesa.
Dolores, Teddy and the rest of her band travel at high speed towards the Delos HQ hidden in a giant rock formation, and when they draw near to it they move to the second car, locking the remaining human hostage in the main car. They uncouple from his car, the coal car and the locomotive and watch as the abbreviated train races towards the tunnel that leads into the massive structure. Once it gets there, it explodes.
Inside the Mesa right then are Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) and a lot of Delos flunkies, including Ashley Stubbs. They have Peter Abernathy (Louis Herthum), and Charlotte is finally able to get Delos to send backup now that she has their precious cargo in hand. She makes her flunkies literally shoot bolts through him to keep him pinned into a chair, which Stubbs finds unnecessarily violent.
Also in the Mesa are Bernarnold and Elsie (Shannon Woodward). Elsie logs into a computer terminal in someone’s office, and she can see that for each attempt Delos has made to take control of the park systems, something within the code is improvisationally blocking them. They can’t tell from that computer who’s driving these improvisations, so they go to the CR4-DL (cradle), which is like the mainframe that holds all of the hosts’ data.
The terminal there isn’t any more helpful than the remote one, but there’s a docking station for hosts in the room, so Bernarnold instructs her to put him in the system directly. He remembers having been in this room recently and having done something there, and through flashbacks we can see that this relates to the artificial consciousness he created in the secret lab where the James Delos host was being held.
When Bernarnold enters the system, he’s surprised to “wake up” on the train to Sweetwater, just as Teddy used to do. He is immersed in a completely realistic virtual environment that is exactly as we saw Sweetwater when the series began. The only variation is a familiar thin dog (a greyhound?), that comes trotting into town and enters the saloon.
Bernarnold follows the dog, and he finds Ford inside the saloon, playing the piano. Of COURSE he has uploaded his own consciousness into the computer that controls the entire park! This is the only reasonable place for AI to go, right?
Aside from wreaking havoc all over the different Worlds, Ford is still playing a one-on-one game with the Man in Black (Ed Harris). In fact, the Man in Black is so immersed in the game that when his daughter, Grace (Katja Herbers), caught up with him after surviving the host uprising at The Raj (not to mention the Bengal tiger and Ghost Nation), he believed her to be a host created by Ford to torment him as part of the game.
Grace is eventually successful in convincing her father that she isn’t a host, and they have what seems to be a healing moment by a campfire. She tells him that she’s come into the park exclusively to pull him out. She doesn’t want their last conversation, in which she blamed him for her mother’s suicide, to be where they leave things– or for it to be his excuse to commit suicide by robot and go out in a fake blaze of glory.
He tells her he will walk out of the park with her at sun-up, but when she awakens she discovers that he and Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr.) have ditched her with one babysitter cowboy, and he’s chosen the park and the game over her.
Outside the moment in which most of this episode’s action appears to be happening, Bernarnold and Dolores are having one of their conversations in his lab. We’ve heard this conversation before. It’s the one in which he tells her that he worries about what she’ll evolve into and what his role should be in that evolution.
This time we see more, though. She stops him when he says something wrong, and she tells him that he’s not saying it the way Arnold did originally. Then she ceases his motor functions, takes the iPad thing away from him and tells him that he’s in a test. He asks what she’s testing for, and she says, “Fidelity.”
Now we don’t know if any of the Bernarnold/Dolores conversations we’ve witnessed were ever the originals between her and Arnold, or if we’ve been watching the process of Dolores helping shape host Bernard all this time. A sadistic twist from some creative minds who like to watch an audience squirm!