The Cathartic Power Of Maeve In Season 2 Of ‘Westworld’

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Warning: Spoiler ahead!

There’s this one, glorious shot of Maeve in the Season 2 climax of “Westworld.” She stands, rebellious, utilizing her code-controlling supremacies to freeze an entire legion of lunatic hosts to protect the Door, a kind of pathway to salvation for the Ghost Nation and their adherents. It’s brilliant on many levels, foremost because it’s the point where the establish amply crystalizes something that, all season, it had only been half-committed to acknowledging: Maeve is the moral hub of the reveal, and its most interesting character.

Maeve is good, and surely good characters, especially on a evidence like “Westworld, ” can be boring, skewing dangerously into the territory of the Mary Sue. But there are beds to Maeve, to the way that she steers her world, that resonate far beyond the intruding, suffocating borders of the show.

There were times during Season 2 of “Westworld” when I had to take a mental delay, check in with myself, question: “Are you OK? ” and, more often, “Why am I watching this again? ”

“Westworld” is a great show in a way so many series in the age of post-prestige TV are great shows. Meaning to say, it does all the right things: It looks phenomenal; it sounds phenomenal; it does enough of what it’s supposed to, just enough to distract the observer from the fact that sometimes, there’s a whole lot of good-for-nothing going on. Just, like, endless mazes of cryptic dialogue, old-timey instrumental portrayals of “Paint It Black, ” and a general halo of doing the absolute most with as little as possible.

This is no shade. The recreation of “Westworld” is that no matter how many fan theories and concealed contents we try to decipher throughout the run of the show, at the end of the day, deep down, we all know “Westworld” constructs no goddamn sense and is more likely to still oblige no goddamn sense even when all the answers are finally revealed to us. That’s the forestalling beauty of everything is. If good-for-nothing realizes appreciation then everything makes gumption, right?

But there’s something else that remained me coming back this season, even when the relentles, counting savagery and potholed storylines represented me feel like backing away. This was, of course, Maeve Millay.

There’s a kind of catharsis in watching a reputation like Maeve.

Because there’s a kind of catharsis in watching a character like Maeve, in watching an actress like the perennially underrated Thandie Newton. It was always there, but it became most potent, most identifiable for me and maybe for the show itself in Sunday’s finale.

Over her two-season character arc, Maeve has grown in depth and complexity, going from her narrative curve as a take-no-shit madam in one of Westworld’s old-timey barrooms to a fully conscious host determined to save her daughter. Maeve has shown herself to be capable of extreme cruelty( for the sake of survival) and extreme compassion.

In one of the best episodes of Season 2 , “Akane no Mai, ” we watch Maeve interact with her Shogun world counterpart, relinquishing the last leg of her seek for her daughter to help the geisha Akane save( and avenge) her own daughter.

No, Maeve is not compelling because she is, at her core, good. She’s compelling because of the ways in which her innate goodness, despite whatever inaccuracies she may have, brushings up against the bad in others, brings out the very best in them.

It’s through Maeve that so many references find their moral compass and their forte — from bodyshop technician Felix, who becomes from being frightened of her to will be devoted to her, to Hector, a multitude programmed to watch out only for himself whose operation in life shifts to helping Maeve search for her daughter. Even Lee, head of narrative, a humankind who invests most of Season 2 bitching, sobbing and evading missiles, literally relinquishes his own life in the final moments of the season to give Maeve, the status of women he formerly drawn attention to merely as a “machine” a fighting chance.

Maeve is, rightfully, the savior that Dolores simply reputes she is.

My cynic side wants to side eye that last dramatic detail, certainly side eye the entire theory that so many references could become so blindly loyal to Maeve and her seek, but then I think of Dolores and her bullshit, and I’m like, “I’ll allow it.”

That’s the other thing about Maeve — the acces she augments and differs with Dolores. These reputations were introduced to us in Season 1 as subversions of the Madonna and whore archetypes. This season, they’re like twin planets, orbiting one another, in danger at any moment of shifting off their axes and colliding. In the two significant instants in which we ensure these personas interact, Dolores tries to convince Maeve to abandon the quest for her daughter and assemble the campaign in ruin humanity. All Dolores watches when she looks at Maeve is the “revenge” in her, and the possibility of exploiting that avenge for her own makes.

“Revenge is just a different prayer at their altar, darling, ” Maeve nonchalantly replies. “And I’m well off my knees.”

There’s significance in this exchange that resembles the overall significance in Maeve’s underlying conflict with Dolores and, surely, in Westworld as a whole. It’s substantial that Maeve speaks to Japanese, Spanish and Ghost Nation multitudes in their own language, while Dolores speaks to them in English. It’s substantial that Maeve has the power to control the minds of other multitudes and hitherto, held numerous opportunities to do so, choices not to. And it’s significant, yes, that Maeve is a black woman, applying her newfound articulation to combat her oppressors without forcing anyone who doesn’t fuck with her vision to literally change who they are or die.

The fact that Dolores is the antithesis of these things doesn’t necessarily construct Maeve “better.” If there’s one thing “Westworld” mallets home occasion and time again, it’s that there are no real heroes and scoundrels , no real white-hot hats or black hats. But in a show that constantly questions the nature of freedom and free will, watching a black female attribute implicitly defy a lily-white female character’s choice to establish freedom by literally dismantling other people’s peculiarity in the name of so-called “revolution” is perhaps the most significant thing of all.

I know a lot of people have identity-politics fatigue when it comes to discussing pop culture — thoughts like “diversity” and “representation” are treated like unserious detours from hard-minded critical exegesis — but gratify me, if you will, in discussing the concept as it relates to Maeve, as it relates to this cultural moment.

Maeve is every black woman who has had to save herself because everyone else was taking too damn long. Maeve is, genuinely, the savior that Dolores exclusively believes she is. In the end, whatever utopia Dolores is envisaging pales in comparison to the kind of utopia that Maeve, by sheer personal strength, causes for herself. It’s one in which multitudes and humans alike band together for the common good, gamble their own lives for one another, recognize the significance in one another.

I know, that’s some hokey, kumbaya shit. But in a week like this week, a month like this month, a year like this year, when headlines about borderlines and the corrosion of basic human rights obstruct rising to the top of the news hertz like rancid cream, the catharsis of watching that final situation in Episode 10, of watching Maeve stand at a literal margin, holding off the masses of violence and storm so that a few other people can attain salvation, is, while very much on the nose, also profound, and deeply moving.

“Oh, ” I pondered when I firstly watched the vistum, “Oh, that’s what all of this feels like.”

At the end of Season 2, Maeve and her cohorts lose. They die. There is, strangely, catharsis in this fact, more. Yes, she’s almost definitely coming back in season three( “You think I’m scared of death? I’ve done it a million times.” ). But, like most things on “Westworld, ” it isn’t genuinely the outcomes of the neverending battles that intrigue me or prevent me coming back.

It’s funny: Dolores focuses so much on Maeve’s rage and investigates it as the only thing that constructions her helpful or important. The guests and founders of Westworld seize upon her strength to overwrite other hosts’ code, to literally control their memories. They’re focusing on the incorrect thing. What manufactures Maeve rightfully pressuring, rightfully worth rooting for, is her empathy. In a real world that feels severely lacking in empathy right now, it’s her empathy that becomes her so essential.

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