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Death is always true. You haven't known a true thing in all your life. You think you know death, but you don't. You didn't recognize him sittin' across from you this whole time.

William to Craddock

"The Riddle of the Sphinx" is the fourth episode of the second season of Westworld, and the fourteenth episode overall.


Plot

Synopsis

Is this now? If you're looking forward, you're looking in the wrong direction.

–HBO Synopsis


Plot Details

Official details here: https://www.hbo.com/westworld/season-2/s2-ep-4-the-riddle-of-the-sphinx/episode-4-synopsis

William Visits James

We see James Delos going through his daily routine in a modern, rather minimalist apartment. His hand trembles as he pours milk for his coffee; it spills over the tray. He has a visitor: William. Delos’ son-in-law assures him “the observation period is almost over.” Delos just has to complete a “baseline interview” for “fidelity.” James has trouble believing that a later conversation will replicate this one. William says that his initial reaction was the same and he passes James a few sheets of paper to read. James is surprised as he reads it.

The Man in Black, along with Lawrence, continues North. As they enter a camp, they observe railroad men laying more tracks. Everything appears normal until The Man in Black sees that they are laying track on top of hostages. He comments that the tracks are headed a different direction than he expected they would. He predicts that "Ford is arranging a reunion."

Bernard Finds a Familiar Face

Clementine drags a trussed up Bernard Lowe by the scruff of his neck to the mouth of a cave. She unties his hands and leaves him, with a rifle, without a word.

In the cave, Bernard discovers Elsie Hughes, alive and very angry with him for leaving her there. After he frees her from the manacle on her leg she attempts to leave, but Bernard convinces her that he's a host and that he needs her help. After running a diagnostic analysis, Elsie tells him he has extensive damage and that he needs cortical fluid — she says that there's nowhere for miles that has the things she needs to help him.

Bernard recalls he's been to this cave before — and the facility inside, he sees himself walk into the cave and open a hidden door. Bernard and Elsie walk through into a lab: a similar space to the one Bernard and Charlotte Hale escaped to in "Journey Into Night" except this one has dead researchers and drone hosts. A terrified Elsie kills one of the surviving drone hosts before Bernard starts to malfunction again.

Ashley and Grace Taken Prisoner

The Ghost Nation leads hostage guests and Delos employees — including Ashley Stubbs and Grace, the woman who escaped (first from The Raj and then from the tiger). Stubbs tells Grace that the warriors are only killing hosts, not humans, however, she is not reassured. He assures her he will get her and the other guests out of danger. Grace tells Stubbs she’s "not looking to get out."

Back in Lawrence's Village

The Man in Black and Lawrence enter Lawrence's home village that is seemingly devoid of anybody. They order shots from the bartender (the only being they come across) who pours them with a shaky hand. As this happens, the two newcomers are surrounded by hostile hosts from all around them. Craddock appears and holds a shotgun to William's neck before he can load his revolver.

They are then ushered into a chapel where many scared hosts are sitting in the pews. Lawrence is reunited with his wife and daughter, but Craddock demands supplies from the village. He asks to speak to the elder in charge (whom he swiftly shoots down), but demands all of the weapons that they are hiding in the town. Lawrence wanting to protect his daughter, divulges the location of the hidden weapons in an unmarked grave nearby to the Man in Black. Immediately, William stands up and shares this information with Craddock, who has shot more people in the church. He promises to lead Craddock to his desired location in exchange for this information.

William Visits James (Again)

Time has passed, and a slightly older William, visits Delos another time. They repeat the exact same questions and responses from their earlier meeting. He tells him that Delos didn’t recover and that it’s been "seven years." He tells Delos his wife has passed and also that they need to keep him for further observation. Delos starts to glitch. William tells him that he'll come again tomorrow and leaves. Outside the chamber, William gives the go ahead to terminate his father-in-law. The technician presses a button and James freezes as flames fill the apartment.

Weapons Crates Unearthed

After digging up the hidden weapons caches, the hostiles revel in their newfound advantage. Craddock spots the bartender who still pours with a shaky hand. He pours a shot of nitroglycerin that was inside the weapons crate, places it on the bartenders hand, and makes him balance it while walking. When the man turns around, Craddock blows the hand off.

Meeting Akecheta

Later, the Ghost Nation leads the hostages to tribe leader Akecheta. Grace seizes her chance and escapes. Stubbs is briefly threatened by Akecheta but is eventually released without being harmed after Akecheta wispers in his ear "You live only as long as the last person who remembers you."

Secrets in the Lab

Bernard wakes up in the lab and is feeling more like his normal self after Elsie has refilled his brain with cortical fluid. After inspecting him, Elsie determines the reason for his out of order memories is because his memories are "swimming around" in his head due to damage, which Bernard realizes is a result of Ford forcing him to shoot himself before. Disoriented, Bernard's memories slowly replay what happened in his earlier visit to the lab. He realizes that he had just been there recently. He says that the developers were not working on hosts, but something else... that he is unable to remember.

Dance with Death

While the Confederados torture Lawrence, Craddock confronts the Man in Black, who tells him that they are wasting time. Craddock discusses his relationship with death and dances with Lawrence's wife, while Lawrence is beaten outside in the rain. He gives her a shotglass full of nitroglycerin to take to her husband to quench his thirst. William has flashbacks of running up stairs to an overflowing bathtub with blood in the water and tells Craddock that death will eventually come and that he is sitting across the table. He shatters a bottle and stabs Craddock in the neck. William gives Craddock a shot of the nitro and Lawrence a gun. Lawrence shoots Craddock, who explodes in a fiery blaze.

A Last Visit to Delos

Time has passed again and a new employee tells James Delos he has a visitor: a much older William (the Man in Black). He looks so different that James doesn't recognize him at first. Even so, they repeat the same conversation from both of William’s earlier visits. William tells Delos he is suffering from a “cognitive plateau.” It’s the 149th time they’ve brought him back. He tells James that this project was a mistake and perhaps "no one is meant to live forever." William tells James that his wife Juliet — Delos’ daughter — killed herself. Delos calls out for Logan, only to have William tell him that Logan died from an overdose years ago. He leaves the quarantined room, and directs the employee not to terminate Delos, but rather to "observe his degradation."

Delos' Degradation

Elsie and Bernard move deeper into the facility where they come upon the dead body of the technician William ordered to observe Delos' degradation — and then upon a very degraded James Delos covered in blood. Delos attacks Elsie and Bernard fights him off. They leave the host Delos on the floor of the apartment and leave; Elsie finds a still-operational control terminal and commences termination, burning Delos alive. She realizes that Delos Corporation "printed his body and copied his developed mind onto a control unit like our hosts." She starts to piece together what the corporation is really after, and why they so desperately want to get Peter Abernathy out of the park.

Deciding that they need to head to the Mesa Hub to call for help regardless of whether Delos gets Abernathy or not. Bernard then remembers why Ford sent him to the lab in the first place: to print a control unit for another human, but he can't remember who. Bernard tells Elsie he's in control now and promises to never hurt her again. Upon seeing a dead technician on the floor, he flashes back to the moment he destroyed the lab and had the drone hosts kill the techs before breaking their own necks. One tech survives, but Bernard delivers the final blow, smashing the man's head into the floor with his foot. Coming back to himself in the present, Bernard tells Elsie that "Everything's fine."

Riding Out

Lawrence's wife thanks the Man in Black for saving them and kisses him on the cheek. Some of Lawrence's relatives say that they will go with him on his journey, but Lawrence's daughter delivers another message from Ford: "They might not remember, but I know who you are, William. One good deed doesn't change that."

He says that he doesn't care about the good deed; he just wants to play the game. Before she returns to normal and hugs her father good bye, she says "You still don't understand the real game we're playing here... if you're looking forward, you're looking in the wrong direction."

The Man in Black rides off into the sunset with this conversation on his mind, but sees a woman's figure riding closer to him: it's Grace, who greets him: "Hi, Dad."


Cast

Main Cast

Guest Starring

Co-Starring

Trivia and Notes

The title

"The Riddle of the Sphinx" is Greek in origin. It is this: "Which creature has one voice and yet becomes four-footed and two-footed and three-footed?". The answer is "man", who crawls on all fours as a baby, walks on two feet for most of his life, and then walks with a cane when he is elderly.

General

  • To accurately portray William repeating the same situation at multiple stages of his life, Jimmi Simpson and Ed Harris rehearsed William's meetings with James Delos together, carefully watching each other's movements while blocking the scene. Simpson in particular adjusted his performance especially to match Harris's.[1]
    • Ed Harris also contributed a vocal performance to all three scenes, which was used in post-production to manipulate Simpson's performance within Harris's vocal range. At certain moments, syllables from Harris's vocal performance were actually inserted into Simpson's.[2]
  • This episode marks the directorial debut of series co-creator Lisa Joy.
  • The goldfish seen in James Delos's apartment is named Kurt, and was an unscripted symbolic sight added to the set by Lisa Joy. However, Kurt was only on-set for one day of filming before Joy realized that it was too expensive to keep a goldfish along with its pet wranglers and caregivers around for multiple days. The solution to this was to film all of Kurt's close-ups before a member of the art department created a replica using a carrot propped up by a toothpick, which can be seen in certain wide shots of the apartment.[2]
  • James Delos's cigarettes are named "Grillos" after John Grillo, the Director of Photography for this episode.[2]

Mistakes

Quotes

Host James Delos: I'm all the way down now. I can see all the way to the bottom. You like to see what I see?
Elsie Hughes: Stay away.
Host James Delos: They said there were two fathers. One above, one below. They lied. There was only ever the devil. And when you look up from the bottom, it was just his reflection... laughing back down at you. (breathing stops)
Host James Delos: (after sitting up) You aim to cheat the devil... you owe him at least an offering.
Elsie Hughes: Save your bullets. I'll put him out of his misery. (James goes up in flames)


Lawrence's Daughter: They might not remember... but I know who you are, William. One good deed doesn't change that.

Man in Black: Who said anything about a good deed? You wanted me to play your game. I'm gonna play it to the bone.
Laurence's Daughter: And you still don't understand the real game we're playing here. If you're looking forward, you're looking in the wrong direction.


Emily: Hi, Dad.

Music

  • Play with Fire (Rolling Stones)
  • Do the Strand (Roxy Music)

Image Gallery/HBO Episode Stills

This gallery is automatically generated and contains images in the category "Images from The Riddle of the Sphinx". Images added to that category turn up in the gallery after a short time.

External links

References

  1. EW interview with Lisa Joy about this episode
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Westworld's Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy Break Down Season 2, Episode 4