If you’ve missed feeling mind f***ed by Westworld so far this season, “The Mother of Exiles” brings back the pain. Want to know whose pearls Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) smuggled out of the park? Who’s inside Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) and Martin Connells (Tommy Flanagan)? You’ll get answers in this episode, but you might not like them…
We know that The Man in Black (Ed Harris) is the aged version of the William we met in season one. We know that he owns Delos, that he once loved Dolores and that his love turned to a warped obsession, that he lost his wife (heiress to the Delos empire) to suicide and shot his daughter, Grace (Katja Herbers), in the park when he was convinced she was a Host. After killing his daughter, he began doubting his own reality and had a breakdown in the desert. Dolores found him cutting into his arm to see if he was “real,” and invited him to the Forge, where he shot her repeatedly until he hit a bullet she’d meddled with and his gun exploded in his hand, blowing off two fingers. When we last saw him, he was being questioned for fidelity by his deceased daughter, suggesting that at some point he becomes a Host. (The show’s co-creator has gone on record saying that that scene was a flash forward into a distant future, but is she trustworthy?)
We pick up with him freaking out anew (or still) in his mansion in the real world… or in a simulation. He doesn’t know for sure. He alternates between shooting out all the mirrors in his home in an effort to banish his reflection and exchanging words with his dead daughter. At one point he is in the tub where his wife ODed, which may be a dream? All he knows is that a version of his daughter is tormenting him with his guilt over his family’s deaths.
Charlotte Hale enters the scene while he’s standing barefoot in a sea of broken glass, surrounded by evidence of drinking and shooting. She tells him about the impending hostile takeover and that she needs him to get himself together so he can attend an emergency stockholder meeting and help sway the voters in favor of privatizing Delos. He’s reluctant until she tells him that Serac (Vincent Cassel) is after their secret data project, and that he has more to lose than his company. At that, he shaves and gets dressed.
Serac, meanwhile, brings Maeve (Thandie Newton) back online in Shanghai. He makes his proposal to her: find Dolores so I can have the data and you can join your daughter. He also makes it clear that he has ways of controlling both her mind and her body if he needs to. When she asks him why he didn’t take her to Paris instead, he flashes back to being a boy and seeing that city, his home city, destroyed by what appears to be a nuclear bomb. Besides, the answers they need are in Asia.
First stop is Bernarnold’s (Jeffrey Wright) house, where Dolores built her new army. Bernarnold chose the spot in Shanghai to be close to both the human world and the Delos parks. Now the house is empty, save for a flunky and a tied-to-a-chair informant. The man Serac’s helper is torturing is the one who helped Dolores secure a new identity. Serac uses hologram glasses to show the man what will happen to his family if he doesn’t give them the information they seek, and it works. He refers them to someone called “The Mortician,” who actually gave Dolores her new identity.
Serac leaves Maeve to get to work, and she quickly tracks down some thugs whom she compels (with strength and a strategically placed bullet) to take her to The Mortician. The Mortician is a woman who appears to mine bodies for a variety of things, including identities and the blood that verifies them. Maeve demonstrates her abilities in exchange for the woman revealing Dolores’ pseudonym and that she arranged with the Yakuza to ship some bodies. Maeve forces The Mortician to take her to the Yakuza for an introduction.
Maeve has regained her telepathic control of robots, which allows her to make quick work of the keypad on the Yakuza’s gate and to take control of the men inside’s computer-assisted guns. It’s almost effortless for her to walk in and find the top man. Just before she sees him, she punctures a barrel of what one would assume to be liquor, and the white liquid in which Hosts are made oozes out onto the floor. When her quarry emerges, she recognizes her friend from Shōgunworld, Musashi (Hiroyuki Sanada).
Muashi kills The Mortician, the only witness left standing, and shames Maeve for leaving him to die. As with Lee Sizemore, the things her friend is saying don’t ring true, and Maeve quickly identifies him as a fake.
Over in Los Angeles, Dolores is getting Caleb (Aaron Paul) kitted out for their first joint mission. Step one involves buying him an expensive suit so he’ll pass as a rich guy. Dolores has observed that the wealthy recognize each other by their plumage… and that they assume their money is secure if their bank is fancy enough.
When Caleb is properly attired, they head for one such bank. En route, Dolores gets a telepathic (or earbud?) message from her unseen helper (robot?) that her target is approaching. She walks away from Caleb to talk to a man coming towards them, pretending to recognize him and verifying his name and where he works. Then she incapacitates him, drags him out of sight and uses a syringe to extract blood from him that she shoots into Caleb’s forearm so he’ll pass biometric tests in the bank!
Across town, Martin Connells (Tommy Flanagan) has tricked Liam Dempsey (John Gallagher) into giving him the access key to his secret, discretionary account. Inside the bank, Dolores and Caleb use that key and the stolen biometrics to transfer all of Liam’s private money to themselves.
While this is going down, Bernarnold and Ashley Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) are working on a plot of their own. Bernarnold has deduced that Dolores is replacing humans with Host doppelgängers, and his money is on Liam Dempsey as a likely victim. Bernarnold has worked it out for him and Ashley to crash a party Liam is attending and kidnap him for his own safety.
The party is a fancy masked affair, where the rich can bid on well vetted prostitutes and indulge themselves sexually and with high-science substances. Liam and Martin go, as well as some of Liam’s friends. Liam spots a prostitute he likes, one who resembles Dolores, and he’s furious to have his account declined when he tries to bid on her. He storms out of the party, and he’s accosted by Bernarnold and Ashley when he does.
This is about when Dolores and Caleb arrive. Martin is keeping Dolores apprised of everything, and he tips her off to Bernarnold’s arrival. They’d been expecting him to show up at some point, and they’re ready. Bernarnold runs with Liam, and Caleb pursues. Liam gets Dolores, and she kicks his a**, ending by tossing him over a balcony.
Bernarnold is trying to force Liam into his getaway car when Martin and Caleb both arrive. Martin shoots all of his own men and tells Liam to run. A few seconds later he tells Caleb to follow. And then he’s alone with Bernarnold, who recognizes his miscalculation. He wants to know who is in Martin, and just as Maeve is learning in Shanghai and The Man in Black is learning with Charlotte, the answer to all of the above is DOLORES. She didn’t smuggle out a bunch of Hosts’ pearls– she copied herself. The one she trusts most.
Caleb catches Liam around the corner, and when Liam says he can take his money, Caleb tells him that he already has all his money. A puzzled Liam asks who his captor is, and Caleb hears Dolores’ approaching footsteps and says, “I’m with her.” She turns the corner and says to a SHOOK Liam, “Hello, lover.”
Also shook is Maeve when she figures out who’s inside her friend’s body in Shanghai. Musashi Dolores tells Maeve that they can’t have Serac using her against them, and s/he stabs Maeve through the belly with a katana. S/he’s about to slice Maeve’s head open to retrieve her pearl when Serac’s men arrive, and s/he leaves Maeve behind as s/he flees.
And most shook is The Man in Black. When he finally emerges from his house looking dapper, Charlotte tells him she’s been eavesdropping on his arguments with his dead daughter. She baits him until he looks deep in her eyes and recognizes Dolores looking out. Charlotte Dolores asks if he’s glad to know that some of his delusions are real, causing him to attack her. This is her intention, as the men waiting at the car outside aren’t really there to take him to a shareholders meeting– they’re there to forcibly institutionalize him, and his outburst and shouts about Charlotte not being real seal the deal on that… and on his shares of stock transferring to the company’s acting president, her.
As she releases him into the custody of the hospital attendants, Charlotte Dolores pricks The Man in Black’s neck. We learn why when we catch up with him, quiet and dressed in institutional pajamas in his new cell. Dolores appears to him, dressed in her Westworld garb, and she tells him that his daughter’s last wish was for him to rot away like this, prisoner of his own sins. She tells him he’s reached the center of his maze and invites him to ask her the question he most wants an answer to: if he’s “him.” When he asks, she strokes his cheek and snarls, “Welcome to the end of the game.”