When the Emmy nominations were announced on July 12, Westworld garnered 21 for its sophomore season. Based on a 1973 movie written by Michael Crichton, Westworld debuted to critical acclaim on HBO as a series in the fall of 2016. Both the original movie and series center around the stories and encounters between android “hosts” and human “guests” in a fictional Wild West reality theme park. More than exploring the tropes of android revolution and whether or not androids add up to more than the sum of their programming, however, at its heart, Westworld is about what it means to be human and how our choices define that humanity and cement our fate. HBO ordered a third season part-way through this year’s original airing of Season 2.
Westworld’s Emmy Nominations for Season 2 included a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Thandie Newton who plays Maeve, the madam of the Mariposa Saloon. We all know Maeve is the best character on Westworld, Darling, and one of the best parts of Season 2. Let’s look back at five of Maeve’s most impressive moments that spotlight Newton’s outstanding performance this season.
Warning – spoilers for Season 2 of Westworld from this point on.
- Maeve saves Sizemore, a few times. The relationship between Maeve as a host or character and Sizemore as a writer is explored throughout the course of Season 2. By saving Sizemore, Maeve gives him a chance to redeem himself. The Sizemore and Maeve dynamic this season provides opportunities to ponder questions about free will and the relationship between an author and their characters. In that sense, it serves as a meta narrative about our own consumption of popular culture and our relationship as fans/consumers with the producers of said content. In other words, Westworld refuses to let anyone off the hook in terms of considering their responsibility for what has happened.
- Maeve survives Shogun World by making a human connection (and speaking Japanese!). Part of Maeve’s power has been her ability to recognize herself in others – be they guests or hosts. It is this perspective-taking ability that enables her to survive the encounter at the Geisha house and create a powerful allyship with Akane and company.
- Maeve learns how to mind control the other hosts, Professor X style! This entire episode was a commentary on the role of free will and the difference between agency and autonomy. When Maeve allows Akane to make choices, she is favoring autonomy over agency. In other words, Maeve is enabled with incredible power (agency) to control and rewrite the code of other hosts. But her values dictate that she respect other hosts’ autonomy – the ability to make their own choices, even when those choices have devastating consequences. When it comes to self-preservation, however, Maeve doesn’t answer to anyone else.
- Maeve chooses love. Maeve makes an irrational choice to save her daughter rather than escape. First of all, I cried through this entire episode. I expected it to be cliche and fall into stereotypes about Native Americans. Instead, it was my favorite of the entire series. Everything was top notch in this episode – writing, directing, acting. Maeve was not the focus of the episode and her role in it is only really revealed at the end. But it’s so amazing to see some of her story from another point of view, and just watch everything that Thandie Newton is able to convey with just one look.
- Maeve sacrifices everything. What I loved about this scene was that Maeve does not simply win. It would have been easy for the writers to overpower Maeve and let her just demolish everyone. Instead, they make a better choice. Protecting her daughter comes at the cost of Maeve’s own life and it’s a sacrifice she’s willing to make. The ramifications of her decisions earlier this season come full-circle. Maeve is finally, authentically herself in those last moments. And we learn that for Maeve, motherhood is more than a choice or a role she has been assigned. Maeve experiences self-actualization as a mother because she fully, utterly and freely commits to love.
Westworld is available through an HBO subscription with your cable or satellite provider or through an add on subscriptions to Amazon Prime, Hulu, or Google Play.