This was a big, important episode of Westworld, bringing us to the halfway point of the season and delivering at least one or two key answers to questions we’ve been pondering for weeks, so let’s start with this revelation: Apparently, the future is all about wide-legged pants, and that is awesome. In “The Mother of Exiles,” both Maeve and Dolores get the opportunity to model some wonderfully stylish pant ensembles, perfect for committing technological heists, murdering Yakuza operatives, and/or fighting off hosts programmed to defend your nemesis. The battle for humanity’s future has never seemed so stylish.
All these very fashionable fights are bookended by the return of William, who at this point still seems to be human (as opposed to a replica). However, if William were a host, saying he was experiencing “malfunctions” would be a generous way of putting it. Holed up in the house where his wife died by suicide (which is why he’s haunted by the bathroom), he’s drinking a lot and seeing visions of his daughter Emily, murdered back in the park. (Not exactly the sort of safer-at-home routine encouraged by the CDC these days, but nobody’s perfect.)
Enter Charlotte (or, more accurately “Charlotte,” who seems to be holding herself together a lot better than we last saw), who needs William to reemerge to vote on taking Delos private, and thus preventing Serac from taking over the company … or wait, no, not really? When William does emerge from his home, the two men waiting for him are actually there to take him to a mental health facility, allowing “Charlotte” to take over his shares and voting control.
But this is all being seen from William’s perspective, and as established he’s definitely off-balance, taunted by the memory of his dead daughter and haunted by the question of whether he’s real. Now that he’s locked up, haunted not just by his daughter but by memories of the Dolores he once knew, it’s hard to know what role he’ll be capable of playing in the confrontation to come.
William’s storyline isn’t the dominant one of the episode, though — instead, it’s party time! Several characters who haven’t been in the same room for a while are brought together at a fancy event selling off prostitutes for charity, delivering big Eyes Wide Shut vibes, right down to the masks, with a pre-revolution French aesthetic for spice.
Dolores, accompanied by Caleb, is there to track down Liam, after cleaning out his bank account earlier in the episode. But Bernard and Stubbs show up as well, hoping to figure out who Dolores has had killed and replaced with hosts — assuming that it was Liam, not knowing it was actually Connells. There’s a sad inevitability to the fight between Stubbs and Dolores, since he doesn’t really have a choice in the matter due to Bernard’s programming; but Dolores is on a mission and at this point seems relatively unstoppable. She and Caleb now have Liam; the question is now, what do they need him for?
Also running alongside this narrative is Maeve’s evolving relationship with Serac, which leads to them striking a deal: She helps him take down Dolores, he helps her reunite with her daughter in Robot Heaven. This leads to her diving into the Singapore criminal underworld, tracking Dolores’s path via the new identities she needed to integrate herself into society.
Maeve makes it all the way to the Yakuza headquarters, hidden inside a building labeled the Itaidoshin Distillery. “Itai doshin,” in Buddhism, is a term meaning “to be of the same mind, even though we are many in body,” which makes this the perfect place for Maeve to figure out what Bernard and William, in their own narratives, are also discovering: That instead of using the control units of other hosts to build her network of agents, Dolores has just been copying herself. (This is relatively close to my theory posited last week, that the personality inside Charlotte was the Wyatt program from Dolores’s own mind.)
Maeve learns this from the supposed leader of the Yakuza, who actually turns out to be a Dolores-controlled host resembling Musashi, the Shogunworld equivalent to Hector. Turns out Dolores knows about how Serac is trying to use Maeve to bring her down, and that leads to another chance for Thandie Newton to show off her sword-fighting skills. Unfortunately “Musashi” wins, leaving Maeve to die after delivering a stab to the belly. Before he can completely disable her, though, other armed men come — likely Serac’s forces, ready to retrieve her.
It’s an eventful episode, one which tees up a lot of important developments to come — and deserves serious applause for actually telling us some important information. More of that, please. The mystery box sometimes needs to be opened.
The Questions Beyond
• This had already been teased in one of the trailers for season three, but thanks to Serac and Maeve’s conversation, we get a look back at one of the divergence points being tracked by the System: the October 9, 2025 Paris thermonuclear incident, which apparently, decades later, means that Paris is still a no-go zone.
• The sound design for the cold open, capturing William’s extreme mental distress, was especially brilliant this week. If we ever give out Emmys again, hopefully this episode gets remembered.
• The tableau of a bleeding-out Maeve, surrounded by the white liquid that looks like what’s used in making hosts, is a return to one of the first season’s most memorable visual refrains — the sight of blood dripping into spilled milk. (Spilled milk was also a factor in season two.) If milk symbolizes life, then mixing it with blood indicates the blurring of worlds?
• Hopefully Stubbs is okay, because his bitter rapport with Bernard gave the episode an impressive spark. It was downright cute, the way Bernard offered to take him out for “a night on the town.”
• I really want Stubbs’s Hollywood Aerial Tours T-shirt. And also to know what a Hollywood Aerial Tour is.
• The episode’s title — “The Mother of Exiles” — turns out to be an alternate name for the Statue of Liberty. The obvious interpretation is that the “mother of exiles” in question is Dolores, in all her many forms, but there is still the question of where that leaves humanity.
• The drug known as “genre” gets introduced in this episode, which Liam’s friend promises will “take you to the silent era and back.” And next week’s episode is in fact entitled “Genre,” so it seems likely that the vial Liam took will play a role then. Maybe we’re in store for the Westworld equivalent to Watchmen’s “This Extraordinary Being”? One can only hope.