Just as the third season premiere “Parce Domine” delivered a tour de force hour or so for Evan Rachel Wood, this week was all about Thandie Newton’s host Maeve, who we learned in the post credits scene last week had been exiled to Warworld after the events in the Westworld park that capped off season two. What we didn’t know from that snippet was whether she was aware of her reality, or back in a loop. “The Winter Line” let us know that Maeve is not only aware of her reality, but is still thinking several steps head of everyone else.
Before I continue with my analysis of Maeve’s arc in this episode, I feel the need to address a small scene that lit up Twitter even before the episode concluded, and that was the cameo of Drogon and Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. The two appear as a couple of technical staff in Operations. Why HBO thought it would be fun to remind of us of a show that ended so badly (and the two show-runners that share some of the blame) is beyond me. That said, I didn’t notice Drogon or that the techs were Benioff and Weiss while I was caught up in the episode’s plot. I did catch another entirely different Easter Egg within the same scene. One of the two techs refers to “a startup in Costa Rica.” Keep in mind, the original Wesworld film was written and directed by Michael Crichton, and in the Crichton-verse, then the startup in (or near, according to Crichton’s novel) Costa Rica is Jurassic Park. Twitter generally seemed less interested in that reference because of the Game of Thrones nonsense, but I loved it.
Anyway, this was a great episode for Maeve fans. The final moments of the opening, where she realized Hector (Rodrigo Santoro) was in a new loop, kicked this off on an emotional note, and her compassion for Lee (Simon Quarterman) as he comes to terms with the fact that he did die and was now a virtual re-creation once again provided a nice contrast with Dolores. There was also a nice amount of humor in this episode compared to last week. I can’t say enough about Thandie Newton’s continued excellence. Maeve is a fascinating character and Newton brings that rare power to the role where she could almost have you in tears one moment, and laughing your ass off the next.
From a technical standpoint, both Alex and I noticed that these first two episodes have action sequences and plot structures that play out like different levels of a video game. That’s far from a complaint. In fact, I think this stylistic change has improved the show immensely. Thought overall it is still telling a very complex story, the writers are able to focus more on clearly defining individual arcs, making season three (so far) much easier to follow without eliminating any of its thematic richness.
The common thread between last week’s events and those in “The Winter Line” is Bernard (Jeffrey Wright). The subplot last night involved Bernard arriving at Westworld to begin searching for Maeve, whose “pearl” (core) is not there. He does discover Ashley (Luke Hemsworth), who survived an attempt to sacrifice himself for Bernard’s sake at the end of season two. I’m sure this arc will seem more important in hindsight after the rest of the season plays out, but it wasn’t nearly as compelling the main arc. That said, Bernard’s story lines have a way of seeming like they aren’t going somewhere until they do and then the setup looks brilliant. I’m not sure how many more times the writers can pull that off with him, but I’ll try to remain optimistic.
The final minutes of this episode certainly confirmed what everyone had suspected: A showdown between Dolores and Maeve is coming. Since “The Winter Line” made reference to Game of Thrones, I guess I’ll pile on and say that I’m very excited for Host-bowl.