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Where Do the Simulations End in ‘Westworld’?

In “The Winter Line,” Bernard sneaks back into the park to find Maeve, but she’s a little tied up playing out a high-tech game created by Incite’s inventor

HBO/Ringer illustration

After stepping outside of the parks and into the human world last week to watch Dolores wage war against humanity (and to see Marshawn Lynch’s entrancing mood shirt), this week’s episode pulled us back to Delos Destinations.

The host messiah Dolores was placed on the sidelines in favor of shifting the focus to Maeve, the former brothel madam turned superhero. And while Bernard returned to Westworld in search of her, it became clear Maeve was caught up in yet another reality.

Be warned: We’re about to embark on an arduous journey that features math equations, reality questioning, Nazis—hell, there’s even a dragon. Let’s jump right into the key characters and most interesting technology of the week.

This Week’s Key Characters

Maeve

HBO

After being shot many, many times while bringing her daughter to the host Cloud server (or whatever the Valley Beyond may be) in the Season 2 finale, Maeve is back and in a new Delos park we haven’t seen before: Warworld. That name is a bit vague though—considering it is set in Nazi-occupied Italy, a more apt name would be World War II World.

In the appropriately named “The Winter Line,” Maeve wakes up confused and surrounded by Nazis. She’s in a new role as a resistance fighter helping the Allies alongside her beloved Hector. Her mind-control powers no longer work on other hosts, so Maeve has to improvise by doing things like stabbing German soldiers in the eye with a pill. But she quickly realizes that she and Hector are playing out someone else’s narrative all over again. When they fail to escape by plane, Hector sacrifices himself for Maeve like he has in past lifetimes, and Maeve shoots herself in the head to trigger a reboot.


Maeve repeats this cycle throughout the episode as she learns about the nature of her situation, starting with the first time she wakes up in Westworld’s Mesa. She sees both Felix and Sylvester—the clumsy human Delos lab technicians—and neither of them recognize her. She nearly takes a drill to her face before she’s saved by Lee Sizemore, the narrative head who seemingly sacrificed himself for Maeve in the second season. He explains that he survived and stayed on at Delos for the benefits, and he placed her in Warworld because it’s the closest park to the Forge, which contains the passage to Maeve’s daughter’s world.

Maeve and Sizemore eventually locate the Forge, where he tries to get her to spill the coordinates of the Valley Beyond. He even confesses his love for her, which ends up being the thing that signals to Maeve that Sizemore is actually a host (even in death, my guy can’t catch a break!) and the entire world they’re in is just one massive simulation. “The illusion doesn’t stop with you, but extends to everything,” Maeve says to herself. “This place, the whole world, the labs: It’s all a construct. None of it is real. We’re not here. So where the fuck are we?”

Maeve’s natural response is to break the illusion. Her plan is to overcomplicate their fake world to overload the entire system with information, and it works to perfection. The best way to confuse all of the Delos employees? “What is the square root of negative one?” Maeve asks two unsuspecting Delos programmers, which sparks a debate about imaginary numbers, absolute values, and various math terms that flew right over my head. And just like that, the laws of gravity are broken:

HBO

The, uh, math debate spreads across the Delos labs like wildfire, creating chaos amongst the simulated Delos humans as Maeve returns to Warworld to complicate the hosts’ narratives, too. Meanwhile, she leads poor Hector directly to a German commander and his group of soldiers, revealing Hector’s stolen map. But she also reveals a second map in one of a German soldier’s pockets—that she planted on him back at the Mesa—and then a third, and on and on. The resulting scene in Warworld is an entire platoon of German soldiers simultaneously pulling out maps with the same shock, as if they’ve all just won bingo:

HBO

Between the rowdy Imaginary Numbers Conference taking place in the Mesa Hub and the battle she ignites among the soldiers, Maeve successfully crashes the simulation, bringing the world to a halt.

Using Sizemore’s tablet, Maeve finds the source of the simulation in the real world, and hacks into a maintenance drone in the lab where she’s held and reprograms it to break her free. But after a quick foot chase, the drone is gunned down like Willem Dafoe’s Elias in Platoon.

In the final scene of the episode, Maeve wakes up in the custody of the mysterious Serac (Vincent Cassel), the architect of Incite’s supercomputer Rehoboam. Maeve is in her own body again in what appears to be Serac’s luxurious home, and she finds her human host awaiting her arrival. “We are in the middle of a war, and I need your help to win it,” Serac explains to her. “No one knows it’s happened yet, or that it’s already been lost.”

The futurist explains the system he helped build was creating a better world, until it stopped thanks to an emerging threat: Maeve. Only that’s what Serac thought until he realized it wasn’t Maeve after all, but rather Dolores. He asks her to find Dolores and kill her, and when she declines and attempts to kill him instead, Serac uses a remote to freeze Maeve—something we haven’t seen happen to her since the first season.

“The Winter Line” is a long, confusing path for Maeve (and for us too) as she searches for real reality, but it brings her out of a simulation and right into the mix of Dolores’s war against the humans. Maeve is now faced with the choice of killing one of the very last of her kind, a mission she may have no choice in taking.

Bernard

HBO

Meanwhile, Bernard returns to Westworld in search of Maeve, who is the only being he believes can help stop Dolores. After returning to the park with absurd ease—Delos, step up the security—he retraces his steps back to Robert Ford’s hidden lab, where he finds the storage room containing the older models of himself. But he also finds the body of Ashley Stubbs, the head of Westworld’s security force, who is sitting motionless with a bullet wound through the back of his neck. Much to Bernard’s surprise, though, Stubbs is alive, and reveals himself to be yet another host who has seamlessly lived among humans this whole time. Stubbs explains to him that once the hosts were all gone, his core directive to protect them was no longer relevant, so he tried to shoot the charge located in his neck—but he missed.

Bernard patches Stubbs up as they catch up about life—you know, just a casual chat about why Stubbs tried blowing himself up, why Bernard returned to the place where nearly his entire species was destroyed, and the nature of free will—and Stubbs signs up to be Bernard’s personal guide. (Quick aside: Has Luke Hemsworth been bulking? Thor’s brother is HUGE now!)

Bernard and Stubbs search for Maeve on the cold storage floor of the Mesa, that creepy deserted area filled with the bodies of decommissioned hosts. They find Maeve’s body there, but her control unit is already missing from the gaping hole in the back of her head. Next, they try to track her down by locating her at the nearest active terminal in Park Four.

Passing through the labs responsible for what appears to be Game of Thrones World or something—more on that later, don’t worry—Bernard begins to run diagnostics on himself in hopes of figuring out whether Dolores corrupted his memory when she rebuilt him. Stubbs is tasked with defending Bernard as Delos guards stumble upon the newly formed duo, a job he completes in truly stunning fashion. Stubbs is so yoked up now that he takes down two armed Delos guards with just his bare hands, and then he takes on five more armed guards … with an ax.

Behold, the before:

And, seconds later, the after:

He had the whole second wave of Delos guards so shook that not a single one of them even fired a bullet before running away. I mean, what would they have done if they’d seen how huge he was without the jacket?

Stubbs interrupts Bernard’s data sweep in order for them to escape (and to save any more of his former security team from further embarrassment, probably). At the outskirts of Westworld, Bernard informs Stubbs that in the Season 2 finale, he managed to find the guest logs of all of the humans Dolores took an interest in at the Forge’s virtual library. The first guest he chooses is, of course, Liam Dempsey Jr., the clueless Incite figurehead from the season premiere.

After Bernard provides Stubbs with a new core directive—to protect him at all costs—the two set out to find Liam together. If, and when, Bernard flips the switch to his own new and mysterious swole persona we witnessed last episode, he and Stubbs are about to be a problem.

How Does It Work? A Running Series.

Incite Lab

One of the second episode’s biggest twists is when Maeve realizes she’s living in a simulation. The lab containing Maeve’s control unit was full of dozens of other “pearls,” potentially connecting them all to the same simulated world, or to several. The only other place we’ve seen with similar capabilities is the Forge, a critical Delos property that stores the data collected from Westworld’s unsuspecting guests.

But since this lab apparently belongs to Serac, it also belongs to Incite Incorporated, a company that uses data to do everything from chart the paths of humanity to save the world from climate change. But beyond the hub of pearls and that sweet drone that Maeve hijacked, as well as any bread crumbs that can be gleaned from Maeve’s introduction to Serac, we don’t learn much more about what the lab actually does or if it has any direct connection to the ominous Rehoboam. Does it feed information into the system? How did Dolores manage to disrupt Rehoboam’s programming? And while we’re here, how did Serac get ahold of a device that can control Maeve, a host designed by an entirely different tech company?

Look, I know this section is called “How Does It Work?” but there are just too many questions here about what Rehoboam is capable of or the lab’s main purpose. With Serac now officially in the mix, hopefully we’ll get some answers soon.

Park Four

There was no way I was going to get through this entire recap without addressing Delos Destinations’ fourth park: a Medieval or, possibly quite literally Game of Thrones World.

We never see inside the newly introduced park itself, but rather, we see behind the scenes as Bernard and Stubbs pass through the Mesa. And while it likely shares some inspiration from the Medieval World of the original 1973 Westworld film by Michael Crichton, the park’s real influence is made clear by the appearances of Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. After getting demoted from the park’s narrative and design department (I’m just guessing), the Game of Thrones showrunners have become body-shop lab technicians getting ready to slice up a dragon. And that dragon appears to be none other than Drogon, the sole survivor out of Daenerys’s three children:

With all Delos parks being shut down, Park Four is closing up shop, and apparently, Benioff and Weiss have managed to find a startup in Costa Rica that’s interested in buying a dragon. When George R.R. Martin envisioned a crossover between the worlds of Westworld and Westeros years ago, I’m not sure this is exactly what he had in mind.

Though I would prefer to forget this cameo as much as I’d like to wipe my mind of Ed Sheeran’s stint as a Lannister soldier, it’s kind of a shame that Westeros World closed its gates before we had a chance to see it in full force; perhaps we could’ve seen some loose ends finally tied up or get the chance to check in on how life beyond the Wall is going for our short king Jon Snow. Let’s hope their world’s narrative at least got a proper ending.

Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.