Review: Westworld, Episode Nine: "The Well-Tempered Caviar"
“Do you know what happened to the Neanderthals, Bernard? We ate them.”
This is one of episode nine’s closing lines, delivered eloquently as ever by the manipulative Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), and it feels it represents some symbolism beyond the show. Historically, the episode before any show’s season finale is a wild one, but Westworld might have taken it too far this season. With so many different characters and plot arcs, the episode was bound to get messy, but throw in multiple timelines and you have a season-five-of-Lost-level doozy. If this episode didn’t weed out the casual fans (the “Neanderthals”), I’m not sure what will.
Episode nine dropped so many rapid-fire revelations that even the most attentive viewers will have to pause and take a second to wrap their brains around what happened. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Like many of the characters, the show is evolving and telling a smarter, more sophisticated story than was conveyed for the first half of the season. The ever elusive Arnold is mentioned often throughout the episode, but what we learn only gets us slightly closer, and a whole lot more confused, to the truth.
What is clear is that the show employs some top tier actors. Jeffrey Wright, Ed Harris and Anthony Hopkins shine brighter than usual this episode, in part because their characters are given increasingly more interesting things to do. Unfortunately, one of the most interesting characters of late, Maeve (Thandie Newton), has one too many moments where her character feels like she is being used to stall until the finale. On the other hand, other characters like Logan (Ben Barnes) and Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) are given more meaningful, narrative-altering moments that are executed with compelling delivery.
Throughout most of the season, the character of William (Jimmi Simpson) has been poorly written and provided little reason for emotional investment. However, once it became apparent that he may be The Man in Black in a different timeline, he became more compelling. Regardless of what we learned about who The Man in Black really is this episode, lines like “and don’t call my Billy,” as he delivers a blow to his friend, are so cliche that it shook my focus.
If this season was a set of bowling pins, there would still be four to five left. The show wrestles with so many ideas and narrative arcs simultaneously that it sticks its foot in its mouth in terms of big moments. With such limited, enthralling backstories, it’s hard to feel the surprise that you might feel when something major happens in one of HBO’s other shows. Granted, it’s just the first season, but it did take a while for the show to figure out what it’s really all about. With the number of surprises that the show throws out, it’s hard to say if the core ideas about humanity, destiny and self-discovery will pay off any time soon, and if there will be any reason left to care.
Westworld is on Sundays this Fall at 9 p.m. (ET) on HBO, HBO GO and HBO NOW.
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