4 winners and 3 losers from Westworld’s “The Riddle of the Sphinx”

“The Riddle of the Spinx” opens with a man living in what amounts to a hole in the ground. And if you know your recent genre TV history, well, there’s a big, Lost-shaped silhouette cast over the whole sequence.

But director Lisa Joy (also co-creator and co-showrunner) is aware of the Lost homage inherent in the periodic flashbacks to James Delos’s time under what’s more or less house arrest, and so she tweaks our assumptions early on. When Delos spills that cream all over his little tray, you’re instantly aware this isn’t some neatly ordered hidey-hole like the Hatch on Lost. No, there’s something far more disturbing going on here.

Joy and episode writers Gina Atwater and Jonathan Nolan (the other co-creator and co-showrunner) space out the scenes featuring Delos throughout the episode, slowly building mystery and tension as to what’s “really” up with him as a steadily aging William drops in on a Delos who never seems to change, who keeps repeating the same lines of dialogue, who eventually spills the cream again and again. What viewers will likely put together very quickly is that he’s a Host, but he’s not a replica of the original James Delos, not precisely.

Instead, Delos is a Host, but one with the original James Delos’s human brain, a human brain that keeps rejecting its new Host body after certain periods of time. William eventually abandons Delos to his own deterioration, accepting that the man must die, and Bernard and Elsie (about whom more in a second) finish the job by immolating him.

Here, then, is another nightmarish reason for the existence of Westworld and the big money backing it: eternal life for those who can afford it. The implications of this idea — and the ever-more-massive class imbalances it opened up — dovetail beautifully with Dolores’s attempts to end the natural order of the planet, even if Dolores sits out this week as an active participant in the story.

actor Peter Mullan

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