The only story of transition to grate on me in this episode was in the farewell to Shogun World. Last week’s episode offered a filling omakase of morally dubious samurai-cinema tributes; we didn’t need a gruesome saber duel to finish things out. The insistence by Akane and Musashi to stay behind as Maeve & co. foraged ahead smacked of plot expedience more than anything else, and it’s too bad the show couldn’t find a way to work one of these intriguing characters into the core cast. I’d single out the heart-removal and decapitation as especially gratuitous bloodshed, but then again, this was an episode that elsewhere featured an unanesthetized crucifixion and craniotomy. Westworld loves gore, always, but there seemed to be a special emphasis on it this time. David, any idea why?
David Sims: The simplest explanation I can offer for that drawn-out, arm-slicing samurai battle is that Westworld had the great Hiroyuki Sanada on board for a couple of episodes, and it couldn’t exactly let him go without at least one big duel. But why is the show saying goodbye to him and his co-stars so soon? Though I appreciated the meta-humor of Shogun World just being a redressed version of Westworld, it’s an industry joke that can only go so far. And now it seems viewers are being left with what barely amounts to a mini-arc there, with Sanada and Rinko Kikuchi turning in admirable work in their short time on the series.
Westworld was still able to get away with broad clichés, like the defeated samurai committing seppuku and the awe-inspiring sight of Mount Fuji, because the idea is that this whole plotline was cooked up by Lee Sizemore, hack supreme. But, as Spencer noted, characters like Akane still had enough pathos that I was sad to see them go so soon after Maeve’s two-week tourist jaunt. Then again, this is Westworld—it’s tremendously easy for characters to return, even if they’re played by Academy Award–winning actors who were violently killed off last season.
Pardon me for invoking one of my favorite maligned films of the 21st century, The Matrix Reloaded, but that was what sprang to mind on seeing Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) return in the flesh (so to speak) after a fair number of voice-only teases this season. Bernard has journeyed into the source code of Westworld, and sitting at that piano is its ultimate architect, Ford, a gray-haired master of riddles, here to present Bernard with a few more from beyond the grave. As Maeve, Dolores, and even Lee continue to fiddle with Westworld’s programming from their vantage points, it makes sense that the real showdown will have to happen within the park’s server rooms, so I’m eager to see how that’ll look.
Like Spencer, I’m continually thrilled at how the show is expanding its storytelling boundaries while remaining within Westworld, including the letterboxed “cradle” that Bernard is now inside. But like Sophie, I thought this episode was largely a people-mover, getting everyone in the right spots for the season’s final act. There was the quick exit from Shogun World (via warp tube), Bernard plugging his brain-pearl into the mainframe, and Dolores and Evil Teddy riding the train of destiny together.