Westworld Just Took A Huge Step Closer To Revealing What's In The Valley Beyond

Bernard's been through a lot this season, but things took a turn for the even more intense - while explaining a bit about why his behaviour's been so erratic this season - in "Les Écorchés". And while we're now one big step closer to the Valley Beyond... we ain't there yet. Let's recap!

Oh, Maeve... Photo: John P. Johnson (HBO)

Last time we saw Bernard, he was being greeted by Ford in the virtual world after plugging directly into the Cradle. But this week, he awakens in the timeline that's set after the Delos militia has arrived in the park, with a worried Ashley Stubbs looming over him.

Stubbs has figured out that Karl Strand, Charlotte Hale and co. don't really give a rat's arse about saving the lives of anyone left in the park - in fact, they're prepared to exterminate anyone who knows the truth about "their fucking project" (also known as Abernathy, whose head is jammed with everything needed to mark "a turning point for the human species").

But before Stubbs and a groggy Bernard can make it to Theresa's office, where there's a satellite phone they can use to call for help, they're herded over to the remote lab tucked below Ford's recreated family home. Delos' sleuths have figured out that's where Theresa was murdered - and have deduced that either Stubbs or Bernard know way more about it than they're letting on.

Strand pretty obviously thinks Stubbs was behind Theresa's untimely end, suggesting that he's in possession of a certain valuable "key" that Delos would very much like to recover, but Bernard - eyeing the faded blood stain Theresa's head left on the wall - intervenes before Stubbs takes a bullet.

But before he can explain himself, the team discovers a hidden door. Behind it, a room... filled with several alternate Bernard bodies. Secret's out, my dude.

Elsie doing Elsie things. Photo: John P. Johnson (HBO)

Charlotte immediately puts Bernard into analysis mode while a tech fiddles with his levels. They make it so Bernard feels as if he's being waterboarded to force information out of him.

Charlotte wants to know more about Dolores and the attack on the Mesa... more specifically, WTF Dolores did with Abernathy's control unit. We flash back to the hosts (Dolores, Angela, Teddy 2.0) arriving on the train and kicking arse immediately upon arrival. This happens while Bernard is jacked into the Cradle, which we know because Elsie hears about it on her communicator.

Bernard is barely able to speak to Charlotte, so we dip back into a much more fascinating exchange: Virtual Ford's conversation with Virtual Bernard. (Glad to have you back, Anthony Hopkins!) Truth bombs abound, though some of them we already knew. Bernard is catching up fast.

"The park is an experiment - a testing chamber. The guests are the variables, the hosts are the controls," he gasps, before basically repeating the conversation William and Delos had on an earlier episode, right there on the same street in Sweetwater. You know, about how Westworld is designed to study the guests so that Delos can eventually copy them.

"We weren't here to code the hosts," Bernard realises. "We were here to de-code the guests."

Ford has stayed in the Cradle to give Bernard a fighting chance, he says, but he won't reveal what he means by that... or what's in that damn Valley Beyond. The pleasure of a story, he reminds Bernard (and all of us obsessed Westworld faithful), is finding out the ending on your own.

Bernard pieces together that the control unit Ford had him print before Dolores killed him - an action we've glimpsed in flashbacks - was for Ford. And now we know why he did that.

Ford reveals that Dolores helped shape Bernard to be as much like Arnold as possible from her own memories, but, crucially, that Bernard and the other hosts are original works. They aren't copies of humans the way the later versions of James Delos were. Hosts are better and nobler than humans, and it will take "opening the door" to ensure that all of that nobleness doesn't go to waste.

Unfortunately, Bernard isn't very well-equipped for survival, given the current state of things, Ford says. And Bernard won't have any use for free will "unless I take it back". With that, Ford jumps into Bernard's consciousness.

"Hello, old friend." Photo: John P. Johnson (HBO)

Meanwhile, out on the frontier, Maeve and her terrified daughter have evaded the Ghost Nation and found shelter in an empty building. When the Man in Black enters, the moment replays exactly like Maeve's recurring nightmares from season one - but this time, the MiB wants to talk.

He thinks Maeve is part of Ford's game, but she's not playing. This time, it's Maeve who shoots first. She's able to use her "witchcraft" to turn the other hosts against the MiB, too... except Lawrence, who's able to resist until Maeve encourages him to dig into all those memories of the MiB killing his family. Remembering all he's endured makes him turn his gun on his longtime travelling companion at last.

Just as the MiB is going down, Delos' militia roars in and pelts both Lawrence and Maeve with machine gun fire. Maeve's rescued from an annihilating headshot by Lee (who, let's not forget, summoned the Delos people in the first place), but she's horrified to see a Ghost Nation tribesman making off with her daughter.

Back at the Mesa, Bernard comes back online, and he now has Ford in his head guiding his every movement. Charlotte snaps at the hapless tech to hurry up with Operation Extract Abernathy's Brain Matter, since Dolores and her posse are closing in - but Stubbs wants answers. He holds a gun to Abernathy's precious noggin, demanding that Charlotte tell him exactly what's so freakin' valuable in there. Hey, we'd like to know, too.

But before she's forced to divulge exactly what the "key" that's in there can decrypt, Dolores and Terminator Teddy burst in.

In an eerie echo of Ford's conversation with Bernard - which is obviously not coincidental - Dolores tells Charlotte she's figured out that instead of Delos wanting the hosts to be as humanlike as possible, it's now the other way around: To become immortal, the humans want to become hosts.

Just when Dolores is about to make Charlotte feel the pain of just one of her thousands of gruesome deaths, Abernathy snaps out of his incoherent babbling and recognises his daughter. That, combined with the bursts of gunfire happening all around them, is enough of a distraction to let Hale and Stubbs escape, just after Angela blows up the Cradle and all the backups it contains.

The "chains", as Dolores calls them, are broken. Now, when a host dies... they're dead forever. Just like humans.

While Bernard surveys the operatically gory chaos at the Mesa, he asks Ford if this is his latest story.

"It's no longer my story, it's yours," Ford says, which doesn't make a ton of sense if Ford is guiding all of Bernard's decisions (but it does explain why Bernard cryptically blamed himself for killing everyone, as seen in the season premiere). He shuts down all the systems, clearing the way for Dolores - who has bloody Abernathy's control unit in her mitts - to continue her reign of terror.

On her way out of the Mesa, Dolores and a dying Maeve have A Moment. "You're lost in the dark," Maeve says, but Dolores disagrees.

"When you've been in the dark this long, you begin to see," she says. Though she considers killing Maeve, knowing how dangerous she can be, Dolores leaves her with a loaded gun instead. "You're free to choose your own path. I'm sorry this is where it ends."

Dolores and her gang ride out for the Valley Beyond as Bernard encounters a jumpy Delos soldier in the Mesa. Since Bernard doesn't have Dolores' taste for violence, Ford guides him through mowing the guy down in a hail of bullets, assuring him that it isn't his fault.

Suddenly, we're back at Hale's interrogation of Bernard - who, of course, is fully under the control of Ford and has been since he left the Cradle, complete with blackouts for when Ford deems it necessary. He finally gives her what she wants: The coordinates of where Dolores is taking Abernathy's control unit, a place that holds the "weapon" she's been planning to use all season.

Theories abound over what form that weapon might take (it's gotta have something to do with that precious guest data, no?), and the wheels are finally in motion for us to find out.

"We're going for a ride, Bernard," Strand announces. "Back to the Valley Beyond."

Charlotte Hale owes her soul to the company store. Photo: John P. Johnson (HBO)

Assorted Musings:

  • According to the end-of-episode preview, it looks as though we're finally going to get some insight into the Ghost Nation characters - especially the tribe's main figure, who's been on the periphery of Maeve's storyline for two seasons and yet so far has gone unnamed on the show - next week.
  • What's next for the Man in Black? Is Ford still guiding him to the door?
  • Why did Bernard/Ford send Elsie to the Valley Beyond?
  • Will Lee be able to repair Maeve, and if so, what role will she play in Dolores' grand plan?
  • Dammit, they killed off Zombie Clementine!

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