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

I said above that the experimentation with Delos is “nightmarish,” and one big reason stems from who Delos is. In William’s telling of events, Delos is a very bad man who wants to live forever, which means William’s choice to trap him in a body that no longer syncs up with his mind (apparently shortly before the series began, since William’s wife — Delos’s daughter — has recently killed herself) is, from his point of view, a fitting punishment.

But it’s also a nightmare because of how actor Peter Mullan underlines every stutter step and missed gesture in Delos’s slow descent. This is a horror story, in multiple ways — both for what happens to James Delos and for what he was trying to do, the way he was trying to change the rules of nature so they no longer applied to those rich and powerful enough to sidestep them.

Mullen is electrifying here, with a part that could have felt gimmicky and instead feels like a very real, very human person trying to cope with a body that just doesn’t work like it should, in a way that feels sufficiently robotic. The actors who play the Hosts get to have the most fun on this show — and maybe Mullen gets to have the most fun of all with a rich, meaty part.

Of course, Delos was just the prototype human/Host hybrid. There’s apparently another somewhere, one whose creation Bernard supervised but whose identity he’s forgotten. The obvious answer here is that it’s Ford, and the prize at the end of the Man in Black’s search will be Ford himself. But I have my doubts, and we’ll talk more about this in a second.

Elsie!

Elsie lives! The Westworld worker played by Shannon Woodward has been … imprisoned in a cave all this time. As a solution to a cliffhanger I had literally forgotten about — we saw Bernard attacking Elsie in a flashback in the first season’s eighth episode, and she disappeared in the first season’s sixth episode — it’s hilariously weak (though I assume there is More Going On Here). But I’m happy to have Elsie back and to remember that she exists, so I won’t complain too much.

What’s more, she gets a lot to do in this episode, both realizing that Bernard is a Host and helping him find the cortical fluid he needs to survive in the strange, secret lab where Delos lives in his tiny underground apartment. She shoots one of the faceless, pure white “drone” Hosts before it can attack them. She helps fill in those in the audience who haven’t figured it out that Bernard’s troubled personal history is his “backstory.” She sets James Delos on fire, thus completing his long, grueling death.

There are so few human characters worth giving a damn about on this show that it’s kind of fun to have the eminently capable Elsie back to handle herself, and it’s good to have an episode to cement her in the memory more firmly than previous ones did. Here’s hoping the series has more in store for her than it has for Stubbs, another character I keep forgetting when he’s not on screen.

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