Westworld "The Winter Line" (Season 3, Episode 2) Recap

Updated: Oct 6, 2020

It's hard not to feel like "The Winter Line" wasn't a step back in some regards to Westworld's promising debut. Gone is the sleek, futuristic Los Angeles in favor of returning to the park we left behind at the end of last season. In turn, the show's momentum came to a screeching halt.

It would have been difficult not to return to the park at some point. It was the setting of the show for two seasons, so it felt like an inevitability we would visit the hallowed grounds of the Delos park. It could have even served as a way to distance the show from its old setting, a signaling of the changing narrative. The way Westworld makes its grand re-entrance, though, feels all too familiar, rehashing the muddled story techniques that flawed season two.

As the after-credit of the premier teased, the episode opens with Maeve waking up in Warworld, a park modeled after World War II. Maeve has no recollection of how she got here or why, but she knows something is off. All is not lost, however, as she is rescued by former lover Hector, who just so happens to have a map and an airplane to aid their escape.

If this all feels too good to be true, that's because it is. As Hector and Maeve board the plane, she begins to realize Hector, or Ettore as he is now known, is back in his loop. Everything around Maeve is a carefully orchestrated story. Maeve shots herself in the head, ending the current narrative and sending her off on a search for answers.

Something is off about Maeve's story. People she had numerous interactions within previous seasons, such as Lutz and Sylvester, don't seem to recognize her. Then Lee Sizemore, who supposedly died during season two, shows up to rescue Maeve from security as she tries to escape. Sizemore claims he had Maeve put in Warworld, the closest park to the entrance to the forge. Her whole story feels weird, a strong indication that something bigger is afoot in Westworld.

Before going into more detail about Maeve's story, it is important to step aside and recognize the other arc this week, as both are intertwined. Jeffrey Wright's Bernard returns to Westworld, seeking help in stopping Dolores from destroying the human race. He returned to recruit Maeve as an ally.

While searching for his old tablet to help him locate Maeve, he comes across a nearly dead Ashley Stubbs. The head of park security is, in fact, a host himself, whose sole purpose was to help Bernard get out of Westworld. With his core function seemingly complete, Stubbs attempted to kill himself but misfired, leaving him paralyzed in place. Bernard repairs Stubbs as he will need his help to get to Maeve. Luke Hemsworth is fantastic in this scene, doing all the work too convincingly convey the nature of Stubbs' stuttering state. I always felt like Stubbs was an underutilized character on the show, so it will be nice to see him featured more prominently here in season three.

With Maeve searching for the forge while Bernard, along with Stubbs, search for her, this is where "The Winter Line" quickly devolves into the trappings of season two. Far too often, the season two plot that was too convoluted to understand, favoring shocking reveals over logic storytelling. Worse, character development was absent for several characters such as Teddy, who were used as a plot device to drive forward the narrative of other stories. The show is full of rich characters whose choices should be driving the overall plot, not the other way around.

"The Winter Line" falls victim to all of these to some extent. Bernard's story of returning to the park should feel important. While he does gain an ally in Stubbs, there is no immense fallout from Bernard returning to the Westworld. Instead, his story is the proverbial smoking gun, a facade whose only function is to punctuate the big reveal that Maeve is no longer in the park.

It is also not surprising at all to find Maeve stuck in a simulation outside of the park. The show has dabbled in this concept before. One of season two's biggest flaws was the manipulation of time and reality. It is frustrating the show insists on returning to old tricks after it did such a good job establishing a new order with last week's premiere. It feels like we took one step forward and two steps back.

With all of that said, it does feel like the writers are listening. Despite falling back into their old ways, the show has done a remarkable job of answering questions and mysteries they pose within the same episode. In past seasons, Maeve would have stayed in the simulation for several episodes before revealing she wasn't in the park anymore, a twist that didn't need two or three episodes to play out. It is refreshing to see the writing room trying to be more streamlined. It was also nice that the show changed the aspect ration during Maeve's scenes compare to Bernards', making it easier to differentiate when we were in the real world versus the simulation.

There is also hope the show can get back on track with the closing moments of the episode. Bernard now has an ally to help in his fight against Dolores, even if we aren't sure what his plans exactly are. But Bernard and Dolores are certainly bound to cross paths soon.

As for Maeve, she is now under the control of Vincent Cassel's Serac. Serac is the mysterious partner at Incite that has locked Liam Dempsey out of the high-tech artificial intelligence Rehoboam. He is also the prey that Dolores is stalking.

Unfortunately for her, Serac is well aware that she is coming after him, and he wants to take her down. Maeve is now a pawn in his game that will have to confront Dolores on her quest to bring down humanity. The two found themselves on the opposite ends of an ideological war in season two. Season three presents an intriguing proposition of this ideological war turning physically dangerous for both characters.

Next week's promo had a Charlotte Hale focus, so it appears we will get more backstory about the host Hale. We also still haven't had a Man in Black/William citing yet, so it will be interesting to see when he pops up. Either way, it does feel like the show is finally able to leave the park behind, at least for now.

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