Westworld does it again. “The Winter Line” offers an hour of sweet relief from the current global crisis, projecting us forward into a vague future wherein the war with sentient robots has already begun in secret. Why is this horror fantasy of the AI uprising comforting now? It’s hard to say, but following everyone as they search for Maeve (Thandie Newton) really, really is.
When last we saw Maeve, she was coming to in another “World,” War World. She seemed disoriented, and it turns out that she was. We rejoin her just before someone enters the room in which she’s found one Nazi bound to a chair and one dead on the floor, and it’s Hector (Rodrigo Santoro)!
Maeve is so relieved to have him rescue her– more so when he tells her he’s found a way for them to escape. She follows him willingly as they leave an Italianesque city in a darling WWII-era sports car and drive to an air strip where a plane is waiting for them. Hector assures Maeve that the skies aren’t being guarded, so she’s hopeful when they board the plane– until they find the flight crew dead.
Nazis roar up around the plane, and as Hector prepares to face them, he calls Maeve by the wrong name. Between that and her finding out that she can’t control the Nazis with her mind, she realizes that he doesn’t know her and somehow she’s been put back to work in the parks. Her closest ally’s memory has been wiped, and she’s trapped again in her personal hell. Hector and the Nazis kill each other, and Maeve shoots herself in the head to escape.
When she wakes up on a lab table, Lutz (Leonardo Nam) and another tech are working on her and discussing what a draw she’d been in Westworld. She discreetly grasps Lutz’s hand and looks at him, which he responds to by silently leaving the room with his colleague. Maeve thinks this is odd, but she accepts the opportunity to put on a nearby robe and attempt to find answers.
While prowling the hallways, she encounters Sylvester (Ptolemy Slocum), and he summons security. She’s puzzled, and she takes refuge in a lab where she’s ready to drill up into her brain rather than let the guards take her. To her extreme surprise, the guards are called off by Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman), who enters limping heavily and walking with the assistance of a cane.
Lee explains that he survived the shooting Maeve thought killed him at the end of last season, and that he kept his job for the benefits that paid for his many subsequent surgeries. He also explains that he placed her in War World because it’s near The Forge. It’s still there, and he wants to “write a happy ending” by taking her there to reunite her with her daughter.
Maeve jumps at his invitation. She lets Sizemore put her back in War World, where she has arranged to meet him. Once inside, she tries to get Hector to join her, but he’s stuck in his narrative and cannot leave his WWII mission to do that. So she kisses him goodbye and hikes off to meet Sizemore. She finds him waiting with two horses, and they ride off towards Westworld and The Forge together.
Inside The Forge, they find everything covered with dust sheets and blood stains from Dolores’ (Evan Rachel Wood) last visit. Sizemore starts asking Maeve questions about the coordinates they need to reopen the door, and when she tells him she doesn’t know and has never been in The Forge before, he tries to wheedle the information out of her through seduction.
His kiss tells Maeve all she needs to know. Her friend didn’t make it out alive after all, and he doesn’t know he’s fake now. She can tell that he’s trying to get information she doesn’t have on behalf of an unknown puppetmaster, and when she confronts him with this, he begins to glitch– as does the environment around them. Sizemore isn’t the only thing that’s fake, and now Maeve needs to know both who the puppetmaster is and where she actually is.
Sizemore is reluctant to believe he’s a copy, but Maeve convinces him to take her to his office so she can snoop. She uses his tablet to log in to the system and discovers that the humans who built the simulation were lazy enough to exactly replicate the real functionality and access of a real tablet. Once she knows this, she also knows that the same flaws from the physical fake world must be present in this simulation.
She proves her hypothesis to Sizemore by inviting two passing techs into his office and asking them what the square root of negative one is. Their ensuing discussion overloads the system, so when she tosses a desktop ornament into the air, it freezes for a moment before falling to the ground.
Maeve quickly devises a plan to figure out where she really is and escape the simulation. With Sizemore’s help, they overload the system on a much bigger scale. She returns to her scene in War World for the culmination of her plan, and when everything freezes, she uses her stolen tablet to navigate into the security cameras of her mysterious captor.
She locates her brain in a containment system in an unknown lab. She takes control of a passing maintenance droid and uses it to liberate her brain and make a run for it. Although she gets out of the building, the droid is gunned down before she reaches freedom or gets any answers.
And then she wakes up. She’s in her own body, in a futuristic white dress, in a room in the building she just escaped from. She wanders downstairs, where she finds a man waiting for her on a patio. He introduces himself as Serac (Vincent Cassel), the man who really controls Liam Dempsey’s (John Gallagher) Rehoboam.
Serac explains that Rehoboam used to do a good job of strategically planning humanity’s future, but then something started going wrong. Until that morning, they’d all thought it was Maeve, the Host who’d rewritten her own code and exceeded all expectations for what her kind was capable of. They hadn’t had Dolores on their radar at all. Now that Maeve has revealed their true enemy, he wants her to find Dolores and kill her.
Maeve attempts to explain to this weak human that she can’t be controlled so easily, but he’s installed some safety features in her new body and is able to freeze her with a remote control. He tells her he hopes the next time they speak that she’ll be more open minded and walks away, leaving her visibly conscious-yet-frozen on the patio.
Meanwhile, Bernarnold (Jeffrey Wright) is also looking for Maeve, and for basically the same reason Serac wants her: to stop Dolores.
We saw him chartering a boat for Westworld, and in this episode we see him land there, confirming that the parks are on Earth after all– and they’re somewhere in Southeast Asia! He makes a beeline for the replica of Ford’s childhood home, where he searches the basement for a tablet that will help him find Maeve. Instead he finds Ashley Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth), apparently dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a room full of inactive Bernards.
When Bernarold approaches Stubbs, he gets a shock! Stubbs both is not dead and definitely a Host.
Bernarnold quickly figures out what’s wrong with Stubbs and fixes him with parts from one of the Bernards. Then he learns that Stubbs’ core directive was to protect all the Hosts in the park, and since he both failed and had nobody left to protect, he’d tried to “retire” himself. Now that Bernarold has returned, though, he once again has a purpose and agrees to help find Maeve.
Concurrent to Maeve traveling through the simulation with Sizemore, Bernarnold and Stubbs travel through the real Westworld to the barely-functional labs where techs continue to work until and unless they’re laid off. First they go to cold storage, where they quickly find Maeve’s inert body… with a gaping hole in the back of her head through which they can easily see that her brain is missing.
Stubbs reluctantly leads Bernarold to an active floor in the building so Bernarnold can get online to try to find Maeve. It takes no time for him to learn that she’s gone, but he can’t see where. While he’s in the system, though, he wants to search his own files to see if Dolores did something to him on the outside that he hasn’t been able to identify there.
Stubbs creates a distraction by killing a bunch of curious security guys in the hallway while Bernarnold runs a full diagnostic and retrieves memories of his time with Dolores at the end of last season, including her fixation on Liam Dempsey. This gives him a place to start, and when Stubbs rouses him from his diagnostic session, he knows what to do.
Stubbs escorts him to a little boat, where he’s ready to see Bernarnold off before re-retiring himself. Happily, Bernarnold gives him a new core directive, to protect him at all costs, and they’re able to head back to the real world together in pursuit of Maeve and Dolores.