Westworld recap: Maeve returns
Hey look, we’re back in the theme park with Maeve. Well, not really. Sort of. Okay, so it’s a little tricky — but that’s Westworld, right?
Maeve has returned despite her self-sacrifice last season to help usher her daughter into the digital Eden. Now she finds herself in Italy, 1943, in a new park called Warworld, so people of the future can go fight Nazis (or, more disturbingly, become Nazis).
Thankfully, Maeve wasn’t reset all the way back to her un-woke self and remembers everything from her previous journey so we don’t have to watch her wrestle with the existential truth of being a host all over again. Hector — now in the guise of a dashing member of the Italian resistance — isn’t so lucky, and it takes Maeve a few minutes to realize that her lover is trapped in a World War II character loop. Their rousing romantic wartime adventure storyline is fun, but also a bit odd because there isn't seemingly a role for a park guest in it.
Then Maeve literally kills herself to get out of this fiction and get brought backstage — or so she thinks. She wakes to find techs Felix and Sylvester not recognizing her. As she stands up, there’s some full-frontal nudity that feels a bit excessive (nudity has been effectively employed several times in the past on Westworld, but this time stuck out as off-tone). Maeve decides to end it all and destroy her own control unit when Westworld's head of narrative Lee Sizemore stops her. Lee sacrificed himself to help the hosts last season and was gunned down, but he explains it was only a flesh wound, and his limp and cane help sell it.
Lee tempts Maeve with a new quest journey: Reunite with her daughter in the digital Eden. At first, she buys it, and she returns to Warworld where she escapes the boundary of the park to meet up with Lee at The Forge. This is the place the digital Eden used to be housed before Dolores uploaded it someplace safe off-site, something Maeve and Lee also figure out.
Lee then tries to hit on Maeve and she realizes something is wrong — Lee didn’t survive after all but is a host that somebody sloppily programmed without even reading last season's Westworld EW recaps. “You didn’t help me because you desired me, you helped me because it was the right thing to do, Lee Sizemore died a good man,” she explains.
Maeve isn't in the park. And she’s not backstage either. She’s somewhere else, trapped in a simulation (I mean, I’m pretty sure we all are at this point). The idea of reuniting with her daughter was just another MacGuffin laid in her path for her chase, just like Hector and his secret Nazi map.
Speaking of which, Maeve tries to cause the simulation a giant 404 error by giving a group of German soldiers each the map they were searching for. It’s like the Westworld version of the end of WarGames when Matthew Broderick makes the computer play tic-tac-toe against itself, or about a half-dozen episodes of the original Star Trek when a malevolent computer is fed a circuit-melting contradiction. You half expect smoke to start coming out of the soldiers’ ears and for them to twitch and sputter “does not compute!” (Showrunner Jonathan Nolan, in our recent Westworld interview, referenced watching the 1968 series The Prisoner as a kid, and in that show, a supercomputer explodes when it’s fed the question, “Why?”). Point is: This is a Westworld-ian update of a classic sci-fi trope (and its sort of perfect that when Maeve takes on Nazis in Westworld, she wins by utterly confusing the hell out of them).
So Maeve is actually being stored in a server bank back in the real world. She hacks into a lanky maintenance drone and gets the robot to break her control unit out of virtual prison. As the robot bolts across the lawn, the flaw in her plan is there’s seemingly no place for her to go to get plugged back into a body even if she did escape the property — how far is that manic killer robot going to get running down the street with her? Still, I suppose anything beats being trapped with a horny Lee Sizemore for all of eternity.
We’ll come back to Maeve's storyline in a moment. Because we also had Bernard Lowe going back to the island and meeting up with Stubbs. It’s a bit confusing because the last we saw of Stubbs, he was letting Dolores escape the island and heavily hinting he was a host — and was perfectly fine. Stubbs was one of the few characters, in other words, that we didn’t see get killed in the season 2 finale. So other characters who we saw get killed like Maeve and Charlotte Hale were brought back off-screen (and, so we thought, Lee Sizemore), but we didn't see anything happen to Stubbs yet are now seeing him get repaired and brought back to life.
Anyway, Bernard is wondering why Dolores brought him back to the real world in the first place. He thinks that she “suspects she might go too far” and “needs a check on herself.” I don’t know anything about why Dolores brought back Bernard, but I guarantee you that’s not the reason — Dolores isn’t interested in putting obstacles in her own path. Bernard searches for Maeve but finds her control unit missing and reprograms Stubbs to protect him.
There’s also a cameo in their sequence for Game of Thrones fans, where showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss play Delos techs about to saw apart a dragon (!). There’s a reference in their banter to a “start-up in Costa Rica” buying the beast. I can’t help but wonder if that’s a reference to Jurassic Park (which was, of course, also created by the late great novelist and screenwriter Michael Crichton). We also see behind the scenes glimpses of “Park 4” which is decidedly not Westeros — GoT is not part of this universe — but rather a more traditional Arthurian medieval park like in the original 1973 Westworld film.
And back to Maeve. She wakes up in the house of Serac, the Architect who founded Incite and the giant AI ball called Rehoboam. There’s a painting on his wall that looks a lot like that interstitial we’ve been seeing that’s monitoring the action of our story. “For the first time, history has an author,” Serac brags of his company's reach and power.
Serac explains he knew that one of the rogue hosts was a threat to his data company (and, perhaps, mankind) and he thought that was Maeve — that’s why he isolated her in a virtual prison (though, you know, if he really wanted to trap her, he could have just tossed her control unit in a drawer or something). But he’s come to realize that somebody else, Dolores, is actually loose and she’s the threat. He wants Maeve to track down Dolores and kill her. He freezes her like a statue in his garden like he’s the White Witch in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and gives her some time to think about his proposition.