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Westworld Recap: Trace Decay

We’re now three episodes away from the end of the season and Westworld continues on like a bullet. Ford has proven himself to be just as powerful as he has continually threatened to be. Really, there was no other way to begin ‘Trace Decay’ other than right where the previous episode left off. Bernard killed Theresa, and now he and Ford need to cover their tracks. But it’s not so easy to Bernard, and that is something which Ford takes delight in.

Ford has proven himself to be surprisingly complex. He is, of course, deliciously evil. That’s the best kind. He has full control of all of the Hosts, including Bernard. A Ford voiceover telling us that Bernard has to cover his tracks takes some of the impact away from the scene. Westworld continues to deny itself the freedom to breathe and allow the viewers to come to their own conclusions about the implications. It is afraid of that empty space.

While Ford promises Bernard freedom from his memories of Theresa, Maeve chooses a different path. She, too, is suffering from old memories, but when given the choice she would rather keep them. They empower her, not weaken her. The morality of Westworld is on full display in ‘Trace Decay,’ and it’s not only on display in the Hosts. William has been changing slowly over the course of the season, and now he’s in it full-time. He would rather kill a Host (a potential enemy, to be fair) than save it. That’s not the same William of several episodes ago.

It is afraid of that empty space.

Throughout the episode Dolores experiences time jumps due to her muddled memories. We see massacres and something that appears to be a Host training camp. As the two continue their journey, Dolores is becoming more and more unhinged. It’s difficult to tell what’s part of the narrative and what’s not at this point. And then Logan returns, because of course he does.

Mave has been getting a lot of the spotlight lately, and ‘Trace Decay’ doesn’t change that. She is in full command of her situation now, handily bossing Felix and Sylvester around and now has the ability to harm humans. She wants to create an army of Hosts to rebel. We’ll see how that goes later. The two techs aren’t all that fleshed out, and spending time with them feels like spending time with cardboard cutouts. Still, they do offer the occasional chuckle-worthy moment.

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Maeve now has so much ability that it’s impossible that Ford doesn’t know about it. She can control other Hosts at will. If Westworld wants us to continue to believe that Ford is as omnipotent as he has been so far, there’s going to have to be some sort of consequence. But for now it’s awesome to watch her take control of the bandit situation we’ve seen played out so many times in town, turning Hosts on each other and creating her own outcome.

The Man in Black and Teddy continue their search for Wyatt, though it has been the less interesting of the various storylines. The Man in Black continues to spout truths about the park whenever he sees fit, though they are mostly for our benefit. It takes an attack from an armored, monstrous Host to finally shake things up. All the while Teddy is experiencing flashes of his past stories, leading to a confrontation between the two. It is quite satisfying to see Teddy punch him out, something that has been coming for a long time.

The Man in Black continues to spout truths about the park whenever he sees fit, though they are mostly for our benefit.

And as always, spending time with Sizemore continues to be frustrating, though at least he’s tuned down a little bit here. He’s got a plan cooking to get a Host loaded with secret information out of the park, but we only get a little bit of it here.

The best scenes of ‘Trace Decay’ come from the moments between Ford and Bernard. Ford is refreshingly candid with Bernard now, and the two share a secret understanding about Bernard’s current situation and state of being. When Bernard asks Ford if he’s ever made him kill someone before, Ford says no. But then we flash to Bernard coming up behind Elsie, and we know it’s a lie. It will be interesting to see if that comes out later and how Bernard will handle it, given that his memories have now been technically erased.

‘Trace Decay’ is more of a transition episode than anything else, and so its main concern is moving pieces into place. The Man in Black reveals himself as a “god,” setting up the inevitable battle between him and Ford. This comes in an awkward scene of exposition between him and Teddy, but it gets the job done. Again, Westworld holds itself back by being too forthcoming — too guiding. If not a great episode, ‘Trace Decay’ will prove itself to be an important one.