The idea of the Winter Line is a fairly standard one from a military point of view. You have a number of key cities, in this case Rome and Naples, that you want to defend from an attack and one of the easier ways to do so is by having a series of connected pathways and military fortifications that can prevent the enemy from reaching those cities in the first place. That was the purpose of the Winter Line in Italy during World War II, a setting that has been replicated for Warworld, the latest park we find ourselves introduced to.
On a thematic level, the idea of the Winter Line is embedded into the episode’s understanding of how its characters are trying to escape from the obstacles and fortifications before them on their respective journeys. Some, like Hector (Rodrigo Santoro) find themselves unable to move past them and remain stuck. Others seek to obliterate any more that may come in their path, like Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood). Maeve Millay (Thandie Newton) seeks to simply rearrange those obstacles so they no longer appear in her pathway at all, leaving the road to where she is going clear.
The primary focus of this Westworld is Maeve, with Bernard’s (Jeffrey Wright) quest to stop Dolores forming a secondary but less compelling thread. The episode follows a structure similar to that of the excellent season two episode “The Riddle of the Sphinx.” Much like that underrated hour of television, this one follows a triage structure where the episode builds upon itself and pivots in a way that is clever, earned, and utterly thrilling. We go from a concern that Maeve’s journey is going to a repetition of her journey from the first two seasons to a sudden thrill that the episode was indeed more clever than we were giving it credit for and in a way that didn’t unduly rest upon confusing the audience.
Maeve heartbreaking realizes that she was trapped in the same sort of loop that she had struggled to get out of, a realization that deepens when she realizes that everyone around her isn’t real either. Everyone from Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman) to Lutz (Leonardo Nam) and Sylvester (Ptolemy Slocum) was a mere copy of their original selves. Lee is firmly dead and the flaw in his copy was, in a perfect little character note, that it didn’t count on the real Lee ever being a genuinely selfless human being. Then Maeve realizes something else – her environment is fake and not just the people around her. So Maeve concocts a plan. The humans are lazy, their replication of their own system is shallow, and all she has to do is override the system.
The idea of human laziness being exploited by artificial intelligence is not a wholly new one, but it was nevertheless thrilling to see Maeve overwhelm the human systems of Warworld in her latest bid to escape. She almost does, through a fantastically executed robot escape sequence, but finds herself in the company of a human who arguably has more power than any human she had ever known before. Maeve is powerful, but her journey of independence and consciousness still has far to go, if this strange new man she encounters has anything to say about it.
+ Was it satisfying to see Maeve punch Nazis in the trailer? Yes, yes it was. Did I miss it in this episode?
+ The David Benioff and D. B. Weiss cameo was bizarre. Like or dislike how Game of Thrones concluded its run, there is something off-putting of being so rapidly taken out of a scene
+ Lisa Joy does not get enough credit for how stunning her direction of “The Riddle of the Sphinx” was.
+ Luke Hemsworth did some great face acting in this episode
+ Was that some sort of Medieval/Renaissance World or was it part of the extended Thrones show runner cameos?
+ “See you in hell, fascist piece of shit.” Some sexy line reading by Rodrigo Santoro there.
+ The show has done an excellent job of making the hosts powerful but also limited in the execution of that power.
+ Excellent robot design on Harriet
+ This season feels just as intricately built but a lot more approachable so far. What do you think?