The Statue of Liberty. That is the reference in this week’s title. Well, it is in a roundabout way with more than one meaning, of course. Everyone remembers the lines, “Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”, even if they do not know the title of the poem (“The New Colossus”) or the poet (Emma Lazarus). But this week’s Westworld episode title also comes from that same poem: “her name / Mother of Exiles…” (Not true, her actual name is “Liberty Enlightening the World,” which we call “The Statue of Liberty,” just like we call Lesane Crooks “Tupac Shakur” or we call Marion Morrison “The Duke” or “John Wayne” – nothing in America is called by its actual name.) So, the Mother of Exiles is the Statue of Liberty, the celebration of liberty and immigration.
Dolores is also the Mother of Exiles, however. Tangentially, Daenerys Targaryen is the Mother of Dragons, and Frank Zappa headed The Mothers of Invention – no connection, just kinda thinking out loud about “Mother of.” Which reminds me of Saddam Hussein’s unfilled promise of the Mother of all Battles in 1991. “Mother of” does not only indicate one’s maternal predilections but meaning the most important or prominent of any given category. So, Dolores is not necessarily an actual mother to actual exiles but is herself the most important and prominent exile in Westworld, which turns out to be true, because she is also the only actual exile from Westworld. The other five exiles she brought with her are all her, as well. Thus, she truly is the Mother of Exiles in all senses of the phrase, and possibly is her own grandma, as well.
In case you had any doubt, this episode confirms that the theme of the season is “the real.”
We welcome William in Black back for the first time this season. The episode opens on a ransacked mansion, William talking seemingly to himself. “I know who I am. I know what’s real,” he insists repeatedly. He is shooting up his home, Elvis-style. Blood drips on his face, he looks up, it is dripping from a chandelier, along with a lot of water. A reminder of how his wife died (slit her wrists in the tub above). Also returning to this episode is his dead daughter Grace, whom he shot in season two, mistakenly thinking she was a host and not his real daughter. In short, he drove his wife to suicide and killed his daughter.
“Everyone who ever gave a shit about you is dead,” Ghost Grace tells him.
He aims the gun at her. “What are you gonna do,” she asks, practically rhetorically. “Shoot me again?”
“I thought you weren’t real,” he justifies.
“Just like you don’t think I’m real now.” And the point goes to Grace. William cannot trust himself, and yet he carries a gun and is making big life decisions right now.
Interestingly, he then yells what seems to be the other major episode theme: “I’m in control. I’ve always been in control!”
The question is begged, in control of what? Himself? The situation? Westworld? His life? All of these? None of them? Throughout the episode, however, we see demonstrated again and again that someone who assumed they were “in control” were not, in fact, in control. There are individuals and forces outside our perception that are also controlling events. If last week was about absences, this week is about control.
Ghost Grace nails the lid in that coffin, or, more accurately, tears the lid off the control panel that William thinks he is: “What if you’re not? What if every choice you ever made was never a choice at all? Just something written into your code?”
You can see it on William’s face, that whole, “Am I really a Cylon? How is that possible” vibe that the actors on BSG nailed so well (because they had to do it so often). Welcome to the Matrix, William. You’re not in control of anything, not even yourself, and you certainly have no certainty on what is real, not even yourself.
When William blames Ford for everything that happened at the park, Ghost Grace tells him that he cannot have it both ways. He cannot claim free will and then absolve himself of the consequence of his choices. “You chose to kill me,” she accuses him. “Are you free and evil or blameless and hopelessly enslaved?” What a brilliant question for all of humanity. Are we free and evil or blameless but thus enslaved to whatever higher controlling agent exists (God, society, your peers, Joss Whedon, etc.)?
Charlotte arrives and tells him, “It’s time to come back to reality.” She tells him about Serac and explains, “The wolf is at the door.” She needs him to come to an emergency shareholders’ meeting to take Delos private and deny Serac a controlling share. “Come back, William. Come back to who you were.”
It’s a great line. It’s also a great impossibility. Hope y’all don’t mind if I get philosophical here for a sec, but since the episode has been doing nothing but, I figure we can sit and philosophize for a spell. Heraclitus reminds us that you cannot step in the same river twice. The moving water means with each step the river is “new” and different than the one you last stepped in. This also applies to people. You cannot come back to who you were, because that person no longer exists and never can again. Experience changes us, makes us into someone new with each step. If I may quote that other classic philosopher, The Verve, “I’m a million different people from one day to the next.” All William can become is an approximation of who he was, now with all the additional experience, memories, knowledge, and losses.
Next scene, Dolores shows up at Arnold’s old house in a Bond Girl dress (Apparently, she and Maeve are now shopping at the same place where Xenia Onatopp purchases her casualwear – and as my editor reminded me, Jeffrey Wright replaced Joe Don Baker as Felix Leiter, the CIA agent that works Bond – so maybe Bernard told them where to shop.), has a chat with the Arnold formerly Known as Bernard, who realizes, “This isn’t you.” This realization matters, as we will find out very few people are themselves, and many of them are in fact Dolores. (Spoiler alert!)
Bernard and Ashley are in Victorville, CA. I’ve been there. I’m sorry for them. They can see rockets take off and land from the nearby spaceport. I’ve been there. Gift store is lame. Stubbs gets the best line of the episode in an episode full of good lines: “I just want to thank you, Bernard, for bringing me to this shithole. Makes me look back at my time in a murder simulation theme park with fondness.” I think there might have been fewer park-goers had they called Westworld Murder Simulation Theme Park, but the ones that did go would have been really into it.
Dolores then gives Caleb a lesson in the real. She brings him to shop at an upscale future Men’s Warehouse. “You need to pretend to be one of them,” meaning the rich, and then demonstrates how easy it is – a sense of entitlement, a belief that one can do no wrong, a belief that everyone less wealthy than you exists to serve your immediate needs, and the confidence that one’s every request will be treated like a command and thus, one need not follow up. Should an underling ever fail, you ask to speak to their manager and then have them fired. In the second best line of the show, Dolores informs Caleb, “The rich take for granted their money will always be there. That’s why they’re so easy to steal from.” She proceeds to do just that to Liam Dempsey.
First host Martin Connells and Liam get in a junk-measuring contest about who actually controls Liam’s finances. Liam proves he is in charge by giving Connells access to all of his fortune. Dolores knocks out and steals some blood from Michael, Liam’s personal finance officer. She puts the blood in Caleb, and the two of them go to the bank and transfer the entire fortune out of Liam’s account and into Dolores’.
We then get a snapshot of Serac’s childhood, when he and his brother saw Paris go up in a nuclear explosion. “Humanity’s biggest threat has always been itself,” he intones, making me wonder what his plan for Delos and the hosts is, if he saw his hometown go from the City of Lights to the City of a Flash followed by a Shockwave and a Mushroom Cloud. He does tell Maeve that humans and hosts cannot safely live together. He does, however, possess a digital key to The Valley Beyond. Maeve and the other hosts can be reunited with the hosts that escaped in the end of season two. All he needs is for Maeve to hunt down Dolores. He tortures an identity broker and learns Dolores needed five identities for the hosts she brought with her. The man says he connects with a body-broker named The Mortician.
Charlotte helps William get ready for the meeting. He starts to shave himself; then she shaves him. It is not erotic. It is scary. They discuss the mole at Delos, and he accuses her of being a terrible CEO and the one responsible for everything that went south, and maybe she is a host herself. It is a brief scene, but one that shows the conflict between the two of them rising. William wants to be in control, Charlotte does not know if she can be.
Maeve shows up in Singapore. The Mortician sold blood to Dolores for her new identity but sent her to the yakuza to get the bodies. Maeve drags The Mortician, who looks far less like a villain when not in bloody surgical scrubs, to the Yakuza secret headquarters in Singapore. She uses her powers to force the Yakuza to kill each other. When one attacks her with a wakizashi, she slits his throat with it, reminding us of Maeve in season two, facing down the Shogun’s men in Shogunworld. Do not mess with Maeve, she is in control here. (Remember what I said above about assuming someone was in control.)
Liam, in the meantime, to cheer himself up has gone to an Eyes Wide Shut Charity Auction. He told all his friends that his girlfriend Lara died (presumably not that he was the one who ordered her killed), and he was in mourning and would cheer himself up with purchasing a high-price prostitute for charity. The problem is, he has no money. When he goes to pay, they tell him it is declined. Bernard and Ashley then show up to kidnap him and escort him out. They want to use him to get to Dolores. They needn’t have tried. Caleb and Dolores have shown up to kidnap him, too.
In an interesting series of parallel scenes, we see Stubbs confront Dolores, Bernard confront Connell, who shows up to help Caleb, and Maeve confront the head of the Singapore Yakuza who is none other than Musashi from Shogunworld. Bernard, figuring out Connell is not Connell, asks him, “Who are you, really?” Maeve, realizing that Musashi is not really Musashi, asks him, “Who’s in there, really?” Stubbs just gets his butt handed to him by Dolores, although he gets in a few good blows.
The big reveal: They are all Dolores. There are not five hosts that she brought out. She replicated herself and put her own personality clones in all the other host bodies she created. We are truly in BSG territory here, as the five hosts are the final five, to be revealed as manifestations of Dolores. Connell is one. So is Musashi. And so is Charlotte.
Charlotte admires a cleaned-up William: “I never realized how well you’d put yourself back together.” “I never fell apart,” he growls at her. William is in control. “You’re not real,” he tells Ghost Grace as Charlotte waits for him by the car. “I guess I’m not,” she confesses, “Which means you’re stuck with me.” As he leaves, she reminds him, in what is the most chilling line in an episode with several chilling lines, “I’ll be waiting for you.”
Ghost Grace is a reminder of what a haunting really is – it is the past never leaving you. It is the poor choices, the pain caused, the relationships destroyed, haunting one, lurking at the corners of one’s life, more visible and prominent when the night falls. We are all haunted by the past. We might fill our days and our lives with the new and with better choices, but we never stop being haunted by the past.
Out front, it turns out there is no stockholders’ meeting. Charlotte has had William declared incompetent. He’s going to be institutionalized, and she gets control of his shares while he is. “I promised I’d let you destroy yourself one day,” she tells him, and he realizes, to his shock, that behind her face, Charlotte is actually Dolores. He is taken to an upscale mental hospital and sits, as James Delos once did, in a room full of expensive furniture that is essentially a prison.
Dolores shows up in her blue Westworld dress. “Well, I guess there is some justice,” she states.
“I guess you’ve reached the center of your maze, William. But the maze is about understanding and you do not understand who you are,” she pronounces.
Sitting on the steps, looking for all the world like a lost old man or a broken little boy, he asks, “Am I me?”
Wow. Once again, we go from melodrama to deepest philosophical questions. Entire college courses and books are based around the question “Am I me?” And William is hoping to get answers from what is either a projection from Dolores or a projection from his own mind. His question is also slightly different than the deeper philosophical question, “Am I me?” At heart, his question is, “Am I a host?” That one can be answered more easily.
But not today. So much unanswered in this episode.
Maeve, also, seems to be having a rough go of it. She fights with Musashi/Dolores, who impales her with a katana, which penetrates fully through her and into a barrel behind her. When he removes the blade, blood and sake pour out. The sake looks remarkably like host creation fluid. The blood and the sake mix on the floor, making the room look remarkably like the “after” room back in Westworld, where hosts who have been killed are taken, patched up, and brought back to life.
The whole episode has an ending-of-Empire-Strikes-Back feel to it. Maeve is dying alone, betrayed by Musashi-who-is-really-Dolores. William is in a mental institution. Stubbs is most likely dead. We’ve just learned everybody is Dolores, and Bernard is a prisoner, as well. Things are really looking up for Dolores, though, the Mother of Exiles who shows signs of not quite being a good guy. Moral ambiguity has always been a hallmark of the series, but this season they are doubling down, rendering the idea of “good guys” and “bad guys” obsolete. There are only “guys” scrapping for power and revenge. Reality and control are illusions. I do look back on the series’ time in murder simulation theme park fondly, too, but I am intrigued by and am enjoying the chess games in Future LA simulation theme park. See you next week, true believers, if next week is indeed real.