\W/ Trompe L’Oeil – Brokebot Mountain – 7

Trompe L'Oeil

Trompe L’oeil

In this week’s episode of HBO’s Westworld series ‘Trompe L’Oeil with Theresa’s assistance, Charlotte aims to expose dangerous flaws in Ford’s creations. William, Dolores and Lawrence journey into treacherous terrain. Maeve delivers an ultimatum to Lutz and Sylvester. With his back to the wall, Bernard considers his next move.

Trompe-l’œil (French for “deceive the eye”) is an art technique that uses realistic imagery to create the optical illusion that the depicted objects exist in three dimensions. Forced perspective is a comparable illusion in architecture.  Though the phrase originates in the Baroque period, when it refers to perspectival illusionism, trompe-l’œil dates much further back. It was (and is) often employed in murals. Instances from Greek and Roman times are known, for instance in Pompeii. A typical trompe-l’œil mural might depict a window, door, or hallway, intended to suggest a larger room.  (Have you ever seen those chalk drawings on the ground that look like you’re going to fall into a crevasse?  That’s a Trompe L’Oeil

 Pony Express – Mail bag

Dissonance Theory

‘Westworld’: 10 Key Moments from Trompe L’oeil

1. Through the Looking Glass

The episode begins at some point in the past — or, more accurately, what we believe at the time is in the past. Bernard sits by his ailing son Charlie’s bedside, reading from Alice in Wonderland. “If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn’t!” Foreshadowing much? The story takes a dark turn as Charlie starts to fade, but before we can see the fallout, Bernard lurches awake, free from his nightmare … as free as he can be, at least.

2. Storybook Beginnings

Elsewhere, William (Jimmi Simpson) and Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) continue their journey together, and consummate their feelings for one another. William reveals that when he was younger, he found meaning through books. After a life of faking it to make it, he now feels Westworld has revealed an undeniable truth, primarily through Dolores. “I’m not a key,” she tells William. It’s a potentially prophetic scene, considering theories that William and the Man in Black (Ed Harris) are one and the same.

3. Ghost Nation Protocol

William and Dolores are forced on the run when their train is attacked by Confederales. An elaborate horseback gun battle ensues, and the lovers only survive thanks to interference from the Ghost Nation tribe — the same painted warriors Maeve (Thandie Newton) sees in her recurring nightmare of a previous life, for what it’s worth. After surviving the encounter, William and Dolores find themselves on the outskirts of an expansive river. It’s a view Dolores has seen before, albeit only in her dreams, bringing her one step closer to finding the legendary maze.

4. The Contingency Plan

Back at the Mesa, Delos board director Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) takes Hector (Rodrigo Santoro) for a spin, before chastising Theresa about losing control over the park. Charlotte lays out her intentions quite clearly: Delos plans on ousting Ford, ideally through retirement. There’s concern that Ford will not go quietly and will destroy all of the park’s information, which is why the board tasked Theresa with smuggling information out of the park. It’s their contingency plan — but the plan requires a “blood sacrifice.”

5. Not Much of a Rind On You

In order to force Ford out of retirement, Charlotte and Theresa hatch a plan to blame host glitches on Ford’s reveries update. They make it look like the reveries are allowing the hosts to feel grudges against humans who have wronged them, making them capable of fatal violence. Poor Clementine (Angela Sarafyan) is used as an example, and is subsequently decommissioned. While she stops short of firing Ford, Charlotte fires Bernard for his oversight — even though Bernard knows this is nothing more than a ruse.

6. Escape Plan

Concerned for her missing friend, Maeve once again gets herself killed so she can return to the Mesa and look for Clementine. She arrives just in time to watch Sylvester (Ptolemy Slocum) lobotomize Clem. Quietly furious but resolute, Maeve later tells Sylvester and Felix (Leonardo Nam) that she won’t stand by and wait to suffer the same fate as Clementine. Instead, she’s going to break out of Westworld — and Felix and Sylvester will help her, or else she will kill them.

7. Hold the Door

The episode plunges into darkness in its final act. Bernard confronts Theresa with the knowledge that she staged the reveries glitch, and knows all about her sending information out of Westworld. But he also knows that something is wrong with Ford. To that end, Bernard takes Theresa to Ford’s secret cottage in order to show her the hosts he’s making off-the-grid. But unbeknownst to Bernard, his noble intentions are not actually his intentions at all. There’s a sense that something is incredibly wrong once Theresa points out a door in the cottage — a door Bernard can’t see, a classic sign of host behavior.

8. The Truth About Bernard

As it turns out, Bernard’s exhibiting classic host behavior because he is, in fact, a host. Ford shows up and confirms the development, all but twirling his nonexistent mustache as he inches toward Theresa like a shark. For his part, Bernard refuses to accept the truth, insisting that he had a wife and a son. But Ford removes Bernard’s emotional affect, making it clear once and for all that the theories are more than just crackpot speculation: Bernard is very much a host, and very much capable of destruction.

9. The Blood Sacrifice

We see just how ruthless robot Bernard can be, as Ford commands him to murder Theresa. It’s a quick but brutal display of violence, as Bernard slams his former lover into a wall and kills her with a single punch to the head. Theresa crumples to the floor, dead, while Bernard calmly puts on his suit and tie. “We should be getting back, Bernard,” Ford tells his loyal servant. “We have a great deal of work to do on the new storylines.”

10. Reverie 

Finally, let’s close with where we began. The first scene of this episode deserves a closer look, given the Bernard revelation. Notice the music in the scene? It’s a piece called “Reverie,” composed by Claude Debussy. Certainly, the title holds significance on the show, given the reveries programmed by Ford. It’s also a song that’s been heard before in previous Ford scenes. Why is it here in the scene with Bernard? Is it because the fact that Bernard is a host is only the tip of iceberg — could it be that the show is using “Reverie” as a theme not just for Ford, but for the park’s other founder, Arnold? The idea that Jeffrey Wright is playing both Bernard and Arnold has never been stronger, considering the show’s latest developments. Chew on the possibility while you listen to the piece.

Trompe L'Oeil

Guts & Glory

Inside the episode

Trompe L'Oeil
‘Westworld’ Review: ‘Trompe L’Oeil’ Trades Secrets For Hard Truths and a Big Reveal

Given Evan Rachel Wood’s prominence in the opening credits, Dolores seems like the likeliest pick;  Trompe L’Oeil picks up with her and William still traveling towards the edges of the map.

Their relationship is escalating and bringing them one step closer to their goal.  Even as that goal remains frustratingly elusive to both them and the audience. There are some good character beats here, as William finally reveals himself as a self-identified Marty Sue type. A guy who loves stories ; so much that he’s apparently willing to give up everything for the sake of living inside of one. Him hooking up with Dolores was probably inevitable, despite his protestations of a fiancee to the contrary.

But, as with so much of what happens inside the park, there’s a certain detachment to the proceedings—it’s romance, but it’s built on shaky grounds, and it’s hard to know if William’s new found identity is something that will last, or will simply evaporate once the situation progresses far enough along to start making him uncomfortable.

Trompe L'Oeil

Maeve and Dolores

As for Dolores, she remains a fascinating enigma. Between her and Maeve, the show has its main rooting interest, showing two sides to the same self-realization-pursuing coin. Where Maeve is all pragmatism and manipulation, Dolores is more idealistic and confused as to her own needs, but still determined to satisfy those needs whatever they might prove to be.

We see her spine continuing to develop this week—she wants William around, for whatever reason, but she also won’t accept his speeches about wanting to be part of a story. It’s that short-sightedness that will most likely doom him and save her; the presumption that what’s going on still, in some way, revolves him and his needs, even as he follows her further into the park.

What’s curious about William is that in many ways, he should be an audience identification figure, and yet I still find it difficult to care that much about him. The performance is fine, but like nearly everything else on the show, his actions and intent comes at a remove.

Stanley Kubrick?

There’s something Kubrickian about Westworld’s design—it’s not as chill and composed as the director’s work was, but that feeling of a nature documentary rather than a deeply felt fiction persists.  As such, even at its most visceral, it’s rare to be swept up in the action. Events are intriguing, fascinating, and frequently compelling, but (shocking deaths aside) there’s no immediacy to anything.