Thanks to her cunning, strength, hidden artwork, and uncanny ability to wake up, brothel madam Maeve has been discovering the truth about her identity on Westworld. Yet, just as with everything in the HBO series, Maeve's self-discovery that she is a host may not be as pure as it seems. Although Thandie Newton's character appears to have taken a hold of her storyline and broken her loop, a new Westworld fan theory about Maeve may have figured out that her plan to escape isn't truly her idea.
Back in the Nov. 6 episode, "The Adversary," Maeve demanded that the two "butchers" Felix and Sylvester change her settings so that she could be in more control of herself. At that time, the Westworld employees discovered that her paranoia and self-preservation levels had already been increased. They assumed someone with more power than them had changed her levels. Then, the episode ended and Westworld didn't really revisit that fact again in the next episode, Nov. 13's "Trompe L'Oeil."
Originally, I had thought that maybe because Maeve had discovered there was life outside of the park all on her own, that it was Maeve herself who had changed her settings. Not with a piece of technology like Felix and Sylvester (although I do realize that she is a piece of technology) — but through her own actions and experiences. As she grew more aware and acted on that awareness, she evolved beyond what she had been programmed to do.
Unfortunately, that theory seems naively hopeful at this point. While I still like this theory since it is more empowering for Maeve (and thus, more awesome), Westworld is too dark and sinister for that. And one redditor has made me realize that why Maeve is changing is probably not so uplifting and has nothing to do with her being in control of her own destiny.
Referencing the fact that the corporation that owns Westworld, Delos, wants Ford's data, reddit user GardyBot theorized that Maeve is a part of Delos' master plan. "We know that someone else has been adjusting Maeve's personality stats based on what Felix and Sylvester say. I think the Board is involved in getting Maeve to want to escape the park in an effort to get unfettered access to the IP they so desperately want," GardyBot wrote.
GardyBot also discussed the satellite uplink Elsie found in the woodcutter (presumably orchestrated by Theresa — RIP) to steal data from the park. If Delos was behind the woodcutter, who's to say they wouldn't be behind reprogramming a host to get this intel? Man, where's Elsie when you need her? (But seriously, where's Elsie?!)
Anyway, with how manipulative Delos has been to get at Ford, even decommissioning Maeve's pal Clementine and firing Bernard (joke's on you with that one, Delos!), this theory doesn't seem far-fetched at all. Come to think of it, perhaps Delos chose Clementine for their little stunt knowing that Maeve would react the way she did. Delos being behind Maeve's self-awareness would also help explain why Maeve is the only host who has the ability to wake herself up in the real world after she dies in the park. (Well, the only host that we have seen be able to do that.) Her capacity to override her settings could have nothing to do with her personal strength and everything to do with the corporation reprogramming her.
Of course, that's what makes this theory so disheartening. Rather than Maeve be an independent robot discovering her true identity, she's actually being manipulated to want to escape. Meaning, if GardyBot's theory turns out to be true, none of Maeve's actions are free will and she's giving the evil corporation exactly what it wants by fleeing. To make matters worse, I'm fairly certain that Maeve has no idea that's what's happening as she continues to dominate Felix and (particularly) Sylvester with her badassery.
Speaking of Felix and Sylvester, whether they're in on it or not doesn't really matter to me at this point. While Maeve escaping seemed like a long shot anyway, knowing that her desire could purely be fueled by Delos has me too depressed to care about her accomplices.
Yet, one good thing about this theory is that we may be getting an answer about this trio sooner rather than later. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Westworld showrunner Jonathan Nolan was asked, "Couldn't the body shop guys just jack down Maeve's levels to knock her out, and make some lobotomizing so-called 'mistake' to take out her memory?" Nolan's response? "I will point you toward Episode 8."
As Episode 8, "Trace Decay" airs on Nov. 20, that means we might find out very quickly if this Delos-Maeve theory holds up. Until then, I'll continue to enjoy Newton's tremendous performance and hold out hope that my favorite Westworld host is in control of her own mind — well, as much in control as any robot can be.
Images: John P. Johnson/HBO (4); Giphy