Westworld Review: The Riddle of the Sphinx (Season 2 Episode 4)

William visits Jim Delos, quite a few times. A lucky reappearance of a character comes just in time for Bernard as he sifts through more memories to determine what’s “real”. The Man in Black is beginning a redemption arc. The real hunger of Westworld hosts is revealed.

On Westworld Season 2 Episode 4, “The Riddle of the Sphinx,” the story lines, despite jumping around in time, stay with Bernard and the MiB, as well as, in an added twist, Jim Delos, even though he’s arguably not quite himself. The real reason for investing in Westworld is finally revealed, despite it now seeming like a failure. As the depreciation of Jim Delos begins, the ascension of a better man seems to begin within the MiB. And a strange reveal indicates that perhaps Bernard isn’t at all who the audience thought him to be. So who is who, and who is real?

Jim Delos…Not Exactly

In a beautiful opening, the camera moves in an uncut shot, as if to make it seem that the apartment of Jim Delos is a long and complicated place rather than just what it is: a circle. And it seems, just like a host, his pouring is just a little off, a bug Elsie was seen trying to fix in season one. Jim Delos gets a visitor, and it’s none other than our very own darkly attired anti-hero William, who brings Jim a drink and declares that he can’t leave wherever he is. Jim Delos’s line: “If you aim to cheat the devil, you owe him an offering” seems far too applicable for the Delos corporation and the man himself, not to mention the world he’s invested in; it seems to be the cornerstone for who he is and what he has become. The conversation seems far too much like between host and QA team member for comfort.

Waking Up Means Something Different for Everyone

But we return to the Man in Black as we know him, the elder William, who spots the Chinese laborers as they make a railroad, and use the bodies of those that have been ordering them around rather than wood. (In a fascinating interview with Lisa Joy, the director of the episode and co-creator of the show, she talks about that specific scene and the importance of the hosts’ self-realizations.) The MiB, however, has to go to Lawrence’s hometown in order to pursue the right path, seemingly following the left behind markings of Ford.

She’s Back!

Zombie Clementine seems to be operating on another frequency too, maybe Ford’s, leaving Bernard at the mouth of a cave with a gun and no answers of any kind. The only person who has some answers, but demands more, is Elsie! The reveal of the favorite swearing QA team member is back! “Are you fucking kidding me” as her opening line seems all too fitting, but she has a lot of catching up to do, and we have a feeling that won’t be the first time she says that. The biggest surprise for her though comes when Bernard’s twitching causes her to realize that he is indeed a host. And, to be honest, there is no one better to have found him this way. Being put out causes Bernard to see a sequence of strange images, maybe memories, including the nightmarish white drone host things and red cupcake-looking things. But it seems that Clementine had a clear intent in bringing him back to this cave. Following Bernard’s memory doppelganger, he’s able to find a hidden Delos lab, albeit a little more destroyed, complete with a lot more carnage and those cupcake things.

Some People Are Dying to Leave, Some People Aren’t, and Some People Are Just Dying

And now a jump back in time! The mysterious woman from the Park 6 is taken by the Ghost Nation, just like Stubbs, which indicates that the time spot we’re in is before the recon team arrives, before Bernard is washed up on the beach. Knowing Stubbs gets freed ultimately means the Ghost Nation might not be a threat to the humans, which Stubbs acknowledges and attempts to assuage the woman from Park 6, who indicates she isn’t looking to get out of the park. Very much like the MiB.

A direct cut to the MiB shows him at Lawrence’s hometown, which has been taken over by the rogue Confederados that Teddy let escape. Despite it being chivalry on Teddy’s part, it was in poor judgment, as this man is dark and unhinged, even for Westworld. When told of Wyatt/Dolores’s double-crossing the Confederados, the MiB declares “good for her”, acknowledging that perhaps these men are deserving of that kind of ill fate. It proves to be correct, and the MiB strikes a deal; he has to get to the valley beyond, Glory, and he has to get there by any means necessary. He already knows the way and he seems to be heartless in his pursuit. But the mention of his daughter begs the question: is he really? Or are we sensing a redemption arc for our notorious anti-hero?

Jim Delos…Not Exactly…Again

There’s a vitality to Jim Delos, one that wasn’t there when last we saw him. The acting done by Peter Mullan is flawless, even down to the dance moves and erratic tics as the almost-rejuvenated man. Visiting Jim, using the same dialogue, complete with the line about the devil, and Jim calling it far-fetched, William has aged but clearly the scene hasn’t, even complete with the handing of the paper. This time, however, it’s revealed that Jim has been living the same scene, a host in a used-to-be real person’s body. William’s desperate attempt to preserve the man of Delos has ended in a kind of loop-filled endlessness. It’s the kind of life Dolores is attempting to escape, and William has put a real person through it.

Jim’s own life has ended, and he’s just been existing in this way for seven years, not allowed to leave or even to see his loved ones, those that are left. Even if it means immortality, the show asks the question: is this a life worth living? Is this a life at all? The melting and warping of Jim Delos’s mind right before our eyes is all down to the magnificent and splendid work of Peter Mullan, whose delicacy in the tics creates for a multi-layered and perfectly detailed performance. A hellfire-like termination occurs, mainly because he’s only made it to day seven, and that’s considered progress. Maybe he was referring to William when he was talking about the devil. It wouldn’t be the first time.

To Make a Deal with the Devil

The MiB is watching the remaining Confederados with a certain amount of disdain and disgust; it’s the kind of violent ugliness he can’t endure, and that’s a first for our soul-dirtied friend. Has seeing the failed attempts of the man he once knew happen again and again, a kind of hell or purgatory, softened his views, even and perhaps most especially to the hosts? And there’s no one to put this loose cannon of a Confederado in his place quite like the black-hatted Devil himself.

The Prophecy of the Ghost Nation

The woman from Park 6 speaks to the Ghost Nation as they are brought before their leader, the one who will decide. As other guests panic, she worms her way out and leaves, even though no one seems to care and no one tries to stop her. They have a message for Stubbs and a seemingly potent message for the Delos people: “You live only as long as the last person who remembers you”. It seems to be directed at Jim Delos and William; no good can come from whatever it is they’re attempting to do. No one can be carried on without the people around them, and that all seems to be coming back to haunt the two men who have headed Delos.

Bernard’s Memories

Bernard is attempting to sort through his memories, which Elsie acknowledges that they’re not tied to anything, they’re just drifting around, so he has no idea what came first. It feels a little bit like how it is to watch the show itself, a fun joke to the viewers. But memory Bernard is calm and making something, something that seems important, and something that happened not too long ago. The cupcakes are clear indicators of the “not exactly hosts” that Bernard was referring to, perhaps implying that the Jim Delos we’ve been seeing is the “not exactly host”. Bernard realizes he’s not there with Elsie, which begs the question if the entire scene with Elsie is a flashback in and of itself; is Bernard on the beach, or with the recon team, thinking about this, trying to remember? Have we just been seeing Bernard sort through his memories the entire time? The writers have made “real” and “now” questionable terms, after all.

MiB’s Sins

Meanwhile, the MiB seems to have grown agitated over the cocky Confederado. The Confederado declares that “me and death – we go way back”, but it seems that the MiB has a different, arguably somewhat clearer, understanding of it. Just as the MiB once did in an attempt to persuade Lawrence to work with him to get to the center of the maze, the Confederado dances with Lawrence’s crying wife as he monologues. In his own way, the MiB is forced to reconcile his own sins by seeing them played out before him.

As he watches Lawrence’s wife cross the street with nitro, a death sentence in a way, he flashes back to his own wife’s suicide, the manifestation of death and the event that led to the beginning of the MiB in season one, a heartless and hellbent man who wanted to live forever. It seems his opinions on death, and living forever, have changed. The MiB delivers his justice, but, perhaps for the first time, the audience agrees with it. It’s the right kind of justice. He even allows Lawrence the final shot to destroy the Confederado. (Again, see the interview with Lisa Joy to talk about this scene as a baptism for our anti-hero.) It seems the softening of the MiB has begun. But the question remains, literally and figuratively: is this character arc make him deserving of redemption, of making it to the valley beyond?

Jim Delos…Not Exactly…For the 149th Time

Jim Delos is getting better at pouring! But there’s someone different in his mirror, and someone different at his door. The MiB, the face we’ve become familiar with, is unrecognizable to Jim. Despite the script changing, it is only altered slightly, him adapting to his own surroundings while still retaining his host-like qualities. (If it can be argued that he’s a host, or a “not exactly host”.) The cognitive plateau that Jim continues to live through endlessly is explained by William as his mind rejecting reality. As the hosts in the park are beginning to wake up to reality, to grab hold of it, the exact opposite is happening to Jim; he can’t grab hold of reality at all. The longest period he’s been able to keep his mind even somewhat together is the scene shown, lasting to day 37, on the 149th time. The degradation of his mind is not a choice, but an absolute; according to William, it’s become simply a waiting game. The show silently asks us again: is this a life? For immortality, is this price worth it? The aged William doesn’t seem to think so.

Again, the acting Peter Mullan is phenomenal in his quiet absorbing of the information and the struggle to acknowledge, the inability to fight against the kinks, as William so delicately puts it. Ed Harris, acting as the full-encompassed MiB, for the first time since his meetings with Jim, has a drink and acknowledges that the goal they both were reaching for by in investing in Westworld is a pipe dream. There’s a certain kind of surrendering from him. Even the hosts seem to be able to wake up, it seems that that’s because they were designed to live forever, a destiny humans were never meant to have. The final straw for Jim, the termination by William’s hands, is the acknowledgment that he has nothing left – no wife, no daughter, no son. He’s alone, and the words of the Ghost Nation immediately rise up to haunt. He has no one, so is he anyone?

Jim Delos…?

Elsie and Bernard, meanwhile, have discovered Jim, who, despite the surroundings being destroyed and him being able to leave, hasn’t. He’s still spinning on his wheel, pedaling as if to reverse time. He hasn’t ever gotten off his loop. He can’t undo the events of the past and he can’t move forward in the future; he’s trapped. His immortality has left him endlessly spinning. Carving himself up, he believes he’s seen the bottom of himself, desperate for something true. As William says to the Confederado earlier in the episode, death is the only thing that’s true and hosts have never known anything true. In almost the same way, neither has this version of Jim, stuck in his host-like form, not allowed to die.

Jim’s monologue to Bernard is all too apt, as the beautiful and poetic writing of Westworld usually is. Staring at Bernard, he declares there are two fathers, one above and one below, overtly indicating to god and the devil, but perhaps possibly signaling to Arnold and Ford, the two fathers of this discovery itself, their work subjecting Jim to this fate. Jim declares that there was only the devil, as looking up from the bottom, there is only the reflection of the devil, laughing back down. In a way, he is condemning that the work of Ford and Arnold, their ideas and code and parks, being the work of evil, trapping him in this place. His last line indicates that he tried to cheat the devil. Despite what Delos is planning to do, it becomes clear that there’s no cheating the devil, even if you give him an offering.

Who is Bernard?

Leaving Jim, Bernard figures something out. He was making a control unit for another human, for someone else, trying to work out the kinks from Jim’s failure perhaps, and it’s now his duty to figure out who it was for. He declares to Elsie he’s in control now, but his flashbacks don’t seem to indicate that. Even though he says he’s deciding who he wants to be, promising no more lies to Elsie and not to hurt her, it seems like he has a predetermined fate, one that he seems to be just existing within. In the first season, it was Ford’s control and now it seems to be something else. The flashback shows him indeed making the control unit, but then instructing the violent ends of everyone in the room, including the nightmarish white drone hosts, who obey his orders (who knew?!). Bernard’s curb-stomping of one of the men working there seems to indicate he’s not in control (and, if he is, he’s horrifying). It also showcases he’s not about to tell Elsie. So who is Bernard, really? That’s something we’ve never known. He’s not Arnold, but he’s not exactly who he says he is either. And if this is who he is, what other atrocity is he capable of? The villains of this story are shifting quickly.

The Daughter of the Devil

Speaking of villains, the MiB’s redemption arc offers him willing help from Lawrence and his cousins, but a foretelling comes from the wisdom-infused little girl, who initially told him the maze wasn’t for him in season one. She indicates that his one good deed doesn’t change who he is, and that he still doesn’t understand, as he didn’t in season one, and declares that “if you’re looking forward, you’re looking in the wrong direction”. It seems that the only place the MiB can go, and doesn’t want to, is the path of reviewing his life and his sins. And it seems his past has come up to meet him head-on. Traveling, silhouetted by the sun, is the reveal: the woman from Park 6 is his daughter! Welcome, Emily!

And next week – Shogun World!


  Arrow Review: A Matter of Trust (Season 5 Episode 3)



What did you think of Westworld Season 2 Episode 4? How will the joined forces of Emily and William change his narrative? Are they both pursuing the same thing? Will they beat Dolores? Will Dolores find her father? And what will Maeve and co. get up to in Shogun World? Is the Ghost Nation the real heroes of Westworld, disguised as enemies in the classic western tale? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

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