And only one of them takes place in Warworld.
“The Winter Line” picks up exactly where the season three premiere left off, as Maeve (Thandie Newton) wakes up in the Nazi-occupied Italy area of Delos’ Warworld with no idea of how she got there. Luckily, Hector (Rodrigo Santoro) bursts in, having mysteriously returned from the dead (he was one of many who got gunned down last season) to take Maeve—who has lost her Host-controlling powers—on a daring escape.
Maeve believes Hector is helping her leave the park, and Westworld wants viewers to believe it as well, but “reunited lovers trying to get out of a Nazi-controlled country” is so very Casablanca that it instantly reads like a park narrative, especially when Hector reveals he has some kind of map that can help save the Allies. When he calls Maeve “Isabella,” she realises it as well and dispiritedly blows her brains out before the Nazis who have surrounded their escape plane can execute her.
When Maeve wakes up in the park labs, our favourite lab tech Felix (Leonardo Nam) doesn’t recognise her, nor does our significantly-less-favourite lab tech Sylvester (Ptolemy Slocum). Even when Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman)—the pretentious narrative designer who also got gunned down last season helping Maeve—returns with a cane and a limp, saying that he miraculously survived being shot multiple times and returned to work for Delos to help her get to the Forge and join her daughter in Host Heaven, Maeve buys she’s still in the park proper.
She continues buying it when the two get to the Forge and Lee mistakenly believes she’s the one who opened the door to the Valley Beyond. When she says no, Lee, offhandedly asks if Dolores maybe gave her the coordinates, which is when Maeve finally starts to get suspicious.
It’s only when Lee confesses he loves her that Maeve rolls her eyes and discovers she’s still trapped in a story. But when Lee—who is understandably quite upset to be told he’s still dead, and only a copy—starts glitching and the environment of the Forge distorts briefly, that she realises everything she’s experiencing isn’t just a narrative, it’s an illusion. She’s not in the park at all, but some kind of Matrix-y computer simulation where someone is using her to try and gain access to the Valley Beyond and the host consciousnesses inside for some unknown, but almost certainly sinister, purpose. As Westworld twists go, it’s not a particularly powerful surprise, but it’s still a surprise.
Maeve is not down with this and makes the clever/bananas discovery that the simulation is being run by the same programming code that Delos uses to run the park and its hosts and she can break it by causing an overload. In glorious Star Trek tradition, she drops a logic bomb on two nearby techs by asking them to calculate the square root of -1, forcing them into paradox loops that effectively lock them up.
But in order to break the entire system, she gives every Warworld Host a copy of Hector’s secret map and reboots herself into the park. There, she walks directly to the Nazis who are searching for the member of the Resistance who has the map, and starts pulling them out of every single Nazi’s pocket. It freaks them out completely, causing them to start mass executing themselves as traitors—and causing her virtual reality to completely freeze, other than herself and Lee.
At that point, it’s a simple matter of Maeve using the control pad to hack the security cameras of the real tech area she’s in, her consciousness core one of many stuck on spine-like racks of dozens of servers, all presumably putting other hosts in the same game. But only Maeve has the skills to take control of one of the lab’s robots (who look suspiciously like Solo’s L3-37) use it to grab her core, and escape what seems to be a giant compound-cum-villa. She comes close to succeeding, but eventually, her robot gets gunned down about as badly the real Lee Sizemore was.
When Maeve awakes, she’s in her physical body, in the real world, she meets Serac—co-creator of Rehoboam and murderer of his partner Liam Dempsey Sr., played wonderfully by Vincent Cassel. He asks for her help stopping the oncoming war between humans and Hosts, mainly by tracking down and murdering Dolores before she destroys humanity. Maeve, of course, has no desire whatsoever to do so, which she proves by attempting to murder Serac, who stops her with a remote control, which is where the episode ends, so how he plans on convincing her to join forces has to wait until next week. It’s a bit of a letdown, honestly.
The episode’s secondary storyline fares a bit better, for one reason and one reason alone: Stubbs! Yes, Luke Hemsworth is back as Stubbs, who is very much a Host as Bernard discovers after returning to Westworld and finding the security officer alive after having shot himself in the throat. (He was trying to hit the explosive which the park used to destroy Hosts when necessary.) Stubbs’ garbled “How the fuck do you think?!” response to Bernard asking “How are you still alive?” was perfect, as well as a perfect reminder of how much humour the character and Hemsworth have brought to the series.
Unaware that Serac has Maeve, Bernard, and Stubbs search for her, also in hopes of enlisting her in the fight against Dolores. Unfortunately, they only find her body with a giant crater in her head (nicely juxtaposed with the moment Maeve suddenly realises she’s not in the park anymore) so the pair head to a place with an operating computer terminal to search for Maeve’s missing core: Medieval World! Yes, it’s a look at another of Delos’ six parks; even though it’s only in the tech area where knights are being set up, a bard plays the show’s opening them on a lute, and a very Game of Thrones-ian dragon is about to be cut into pieces (by none other than GoT showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss) so it can be shipped to a buyer in Costa Rica.
But Maeve is still nowhere to be found, and the only person they can imagine taking her core is Dolores—so Bernard takes the opportunity to use an uncorrupted Delos terminal to check to see if Dolores really did put some corruption in his code in hopes of figuring something out. The results are inconclusive (at least in terms of being corrupted) but something’s in him because he’s able to access enough of Dolores’ memories to learn she was interested in Westworld guest Liam Dempsey Jr. back in the Library. It’s a long road for Bernard to find out information the audience already knows, but at least it gives us the utter glory of Stubbs grabbing a Medieval World ax to take on half a dozen armed Delos security goons.
That’s “The Winter Line” in a nutshell, really: marginally fun, but basically unnecessary. All the VR stuff was busy work leading up to Maeve’s meeting with Serac, and the only twist that you can’t see coming is the fact she was in a computer simulation instead of the park proper, but that’s not going to make a top 10 list of Westworld’s biggest mind-blowers. I don’t mind season three starting with a slow burn, but we’re only getting eight episodes this year, which means it’s already 25 per cent over. Still, if we can somehow get a scene where Stubbs flies on that Drogon lookalike, it’ll all be worthwhile.
I’m not sure Medieval World is the park’s official name, but the Medieval World was one of the parks in the original 1973 Westworld movie, so I’m going with it. It’s also worth noting that show co-creator Jonathan Nolan swore there was never going to be a medieval-themed park, which means they’re lying liars. It also means Roman World, the third park from the movie with Nolan and Joy also swear would never be on the show, might be on the show, and I am there for it.
Those are some really beautiful drawings of Thandie Newton on VirtuaLee’s office desk. There is also, quite inexplicably, a framed photo of Winston Churchill on his wall, because…England? I guess?
“Female codebreakers helped when World War II, learn your fucking history, Benny!”
Having helped Bernard, Stubbs is ready to give suicide another chance. But Bernard gives him a new prime directive to be his bodyguard, so we’re leaving Westworld behind again, but at least we’ve got more Stubbs!
Serac’s remote control seems to have a single button on it, which presumably means its only capability is to put Maeve on pause—but it would have to be in his hand at all times to use it. Wouldn’t it have been better to program Maeve to be unable to kill Serac? At the very least, shouldn’t the Maeve-controller be a little more sophisticated than a garage door opener?