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This review contains spoilers.
Episode 9 is relentless, an onslaught of answers from a series worth of build up. It's likely that Westworld just hit its peak.
It's difficult to say which was the bigger revelation - the fact that the different storylines are in fact different timelines of the same story, or the fact that Bernard was built in the image of Arnold by Ford to continue his research. The best aspect was the way the reveals were handled, it's the culmination of an entire series worth of hints, clues and foreshadowing but it didn't feel like the twists were gimmicks, they were a natural continuation of the storylines.
Bernard's storyline was my favourite example of this, the different layers of his flashback were neatly unfolded in this episode. We first thought that a recurring flashback of Bernard's about his son dying was just a dream, then we saw that it was an implanted memory after it was revealed he was a host. Finally we see that the memory is real, a real memory of Arnold's. The son is in fact the host, Arnold's obsession had been to create a host that was so life like it could replace his lost child.
It sounds convoluted but the episode handled it so delicately that it gets a pass, it's also a great way of quickly building a character around the figure of Arnold. It all ties together in a way that is both satisfying and clever.
It also closed out nicely thematically, Ford plays Bernard the whole time - eventually taking control and commanding him to commit suicide. It's revealed that Bernard has been through this cycle many times, of learning his origins and confronting Ford who then wipes his memory. Ford is waiting for the moment that Bernard chooses to partner with him by his own volition, but Bernard can't look past the Ford's corrupts morals. For now the cycle has been reset, a nice call back to the cyclical nature of the hosts narratives.
The William storyline also reached a climax. Dolores escapes and Logan tries to bring William back to reality. It's nice to see that Logan hasn't been turned into a completely sadistic villain. His intentions are reasonable, he just wants to show William that the park is not real. Though his methods are questionable, he stabs Dolores in an act of tough love to show the mechanical inner workings of her body, but from what we know about Dolores reaching a level of self awareness it all comes off as slightly disturbing. However in all the madness it's nice to see Logan remain a believable character. William on the other hand, perhaps enraged by the loss of Dolores, butchers an entire battalion of hosts to examine their insides. This is a moment of madness that's off character but could very likely be a moment of character transformation.
There is a very strong hint later on that William will grow to become The Man in Black, Dolores calls out William's name in the church expecting him to have followed her and to walk through the doors, but instead The Man in Black walks in with a smile. Perhaps a knowing nod to the audience. There are also many other connections, William butchering the hosts this episode connects to The Man in Black commenting early on in the season that he opened up hosts to see how they worked. It makes sense, and I wouldn't be surprised to see a full reveal in the finale.
With one more episode it's tough to say if Westworld will be following a Game of Thrones formula where the ninth episode always contains the biggest moments or if we can expect and even bigger surprise in the finale. Maeve's storyline still has some way to go, her role in the finale may well dominate the episode. What's exciting is that while there have been satisfying conclusions to many storylines, it still feels like there is a lot more story to tell, and a lot more of the world to explore. Westworld has been one of the most tightly written first seasons of a TV show in a long time, it's going to be exciting to see where the finale takes us.