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Our 8 Biggest Questions About This Week’s Westworld, ‘Les Écorchés’

Photo: HBO

For once, Westworld is giving us more answers than questions. In this week’s very violent episode, a resurrected Robert Ford — who, at the end of episode six, revealed himself to be “alive” in the Cradle and still controlling the game — serves up a huge answer to some of the season’s biggest mysteries. As “Les Écorchés” explains, the scenes that opened both season two and last week’s “Phase Space” took place in the Cradle, years ago, as Dolores refined and tested Bernard’s “fidelity” until he was a suitable clone of Arnold. As for all that bloodshed, the episode certainly doesn’t disappoint: The assault on the Mesa reaches a fever pitch, including a suicide bombing of the Cradle itself (RIP Angela), while William faces off against a foe who gets the best of him. Of course, Westworld being Westworld, all of this action still left us with a few head-scratchers. Let’s get started, shall we?

What is Ford’s grand scheme for the host clones?

Ford monologued like a James Bond villain in the Cradle version of Sweetwater (and later at the virtual house designed to look like Arnold’s planned family home), explaining to Bernard how Westworld used the repetitive host “loops” as a control to learn more about human behavior, as well as shedding some light on Bernard’s own past and purpose. Remember how William said the same thing again and again with James Delos to test his fidelity? Repeating the same actions over and over again with human subjects makes it easier to faithfully copy their behavior — to do the impossible and copy the human mind. So that’s another fan theory confirmed, but Ford’s motive is still not completely clear. To what end was he creating copies? Did he want a form of immortality for the rich and famous, like Delos? Is this the same scheme as the ‘70s Futureworld sequel, in which politicians and leaders were being replaced by hosts? Or is it something else entirely that we haven’t even considered yet?

What does the episode’s title mean?

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, écorché is French for “flayed” or “skinned,” and it refers to the artistic technique of depicting “an animal or human with the skin removed to show the location and interplay of the muscles.” We’ve certainly seen figures like that in the opening credits of Westworld, but why use that term for this episode specifically? Perhaps because of how Charlotte almost literally takes apart Bernard to find Peter Abernathy’s location? And Dolores taking apart her father to get what’s inside his head? Of course, it may also refer to what Ford hoped to do by creating a host like Bernard: create a seamless copy of the human mind that could pass as human itself.

How long will Ford stay inside Bernard’s mind?

Ever since season two began with Bernard on that beach, fans have questioned Bernard’s strange behavior in the future timeline with Strand, noting that our favorite host-scientist isn’t quite himself. Some fan theories suggested that someone else was implanted within the Bernard host, possibly even Teddy, Dolores, or a version of Arnold himself. When Ford “left” the Cradle in Bernard’s body, we finally got something of an answer: The man who made Bernard is hiding in his creation! It’s possible when Bernard is staring off into the distance in those early scenes, he’s really “talking” to the manipulative maestro in his head. But how long will Ford remain? It’s interesting that we don’t see him in the scenes with Charlotte when she is “waterboarding” Bernard. Has Ford left by then? And if so, has someone else taken up space in Bernard’s head?

Why can’t Maeve control every host?

It’s intriguing that Lawrence can’t be controlled by Maeve, either through her mind-control superpower or through verbal commands. Sure, she convinces Lawrence to turn on William by appealing to his emotions — and, of course, the betrayals he’s been served by William over and over again — but it raises the question of the limits of Maeve’s ability. What happens to an “awake” host that prevents her from exerting control? It’s hard to say, but it seems like she can more easily control the hosts that are relatively close to their programmed patterns. At least more than Lawrence was.

What is in the Valley Beyond, and how does it relate to Ford’s plan?

It’s the end of Ford’s narrative, it’s where all the hosts want to go, and it’s clearly the end game of Westworld season two. So, what’s there and where is it? The logical reading of the phrase implies that it is the “real world,” the place “beyond” the fake landscapes of Westworld and Shogunworld, but is there something more to it? And what will happen if everyone arrives there at once?

How many Bernard hosts were made?

The scene when Charlotte discovers the skeletons of defunct Bernards in his “closet” is awfully terrifying. How many times has he been rebooted in a different host? And why were so many of those previous Bernards damaged?

Is William dead?!

That can’t be the end of the Man in Black, can it? Gunned down by Lawrence in the desert? And yet, he was most definitely shot. It seems downright impossible that Ed Harris is gone from the show — especially since William is still alive in his last scene in “Les Écorchés” — but this might be how Westworld intertwines the clone narrative with William’s story line. What if William is a host already, a fabricated version of his real-world self? Even if not, he could easily be made into one now. If the purpose of Westworld is to learn as much as possible about its guests, they must know a tremendous amount of info about its No. 1 player.

Does the destruction of the Cradle mean every host is mortal? If so, how does that affect Teddy’s future?

“Les Écorchés” focuses on the fate of the hosts backups stored in the Cradle, likely destroyed when Angela goes boom. It’s not just a big moment for the episode, though: It also adds stakes to the action from this point forward. If the backups are gone for good, then the hosts can’t be revived anymore. Think about it: If Dolores did decide to kill Maeve, she would have literally never come back. But what’s the implication for the rest of the season? We’ve already seen a dead, waterlogged Teddy in the future timeline, which makes James Marsden’s return in season three a lot less likely. There’s no Teddy backup to reboot him again. Unless, of course, Ford put in a fail-safe to his fail-safe. Would you put it past him?

Our 8 Biggest Questions About This Week’s Westworld