Gather ’round, boys and girls, and I’ll regale you with a rousing statement of the obvious: In Westworld, mankind is scum. People rape, kill, and take what they want, when they want it. But there’s an upside here. Most carbon-based lifeforms in Westworld are trash, but that means the bar for decency is set so low that literal worms could squirm their way over it. If you went to Westworld’s grocery store and held the door for a host burdened by too many shopping bags, you’d be the best human in the joint by default.
That brings me to Felix, timid (and unexpectedly brave) Felix. In the context of Westworld’s rampant awfulness, one need only make a half-assed effort to do what passes as the right thing in the park, but Felix, defying his meekness, is a full-assed sort. He’s possessed of empathy and an appreciation for life. As we get acquainted with Felix in Westworld’s first season, he works in the Body Shop, fixing hosts’ wounds, wiping up splotches left behind by telltale bodily fluids. In his spare time, when no one’s looking (especially his partner, Sylvester, best described as “the worst”), he repeatedly tries repairing a malfunctioning robo-sparrow, his joy infectious when he finally succeeds.
That’s not his lot in life, though, as Sylvester reminds him. “You’re not an ornithologist, and you’re sure as hell not a coder. You are a butcher. That’s all you will ever be,” he tells Felix in Season One’s “Contrapasso.” (The worst.) But Felix listens to his heart, not his partner, and you know the rest: He helps Maeve enact her escape plans, defies the order to turn her back into a compliant sex doll, stitches up Sylvester’s dumb throat after Maeve cuts him, reconstructs Bernard at her request (while managing his shock at learning that Bernard is an android), and gives Maeve information about her host-daughter’s whereabouts.
As if to underscore his (relative) goodness, Season Two’s “Phase Space” sees Felix head into a gunfight not only to aid Maeve, but also to aid Hector, Armistice, and Hanaryo, locked in combat with the Ghost Nation. Watching from a nearby hilltop, Felix implores his fellow flesh bags, Sylvester (ugh) and Lee Sizemore, to join the fray, then excoriates career coward Lee for calling the park’s security team instead. It’s one thing for Felix to do what he was trained to do as a Westworld employee to assist Maeve’s designs for freedom. It’s another for him to clutch a six shooter and put himself in harm’s way for her, and for the other hosts, who frankly don’t like him as much as she does.
It’s a heroic moment. It’s a badass moment. Leonardo Nam’s delivery of the line — “What the fuck are you doing?” — hits like a slap across the face. The side-eye he throws at Lee is sharp enough to cut through concrete. Lee is craven. (Even Sylvester looks at him in disbelief at his gutlessness.) Sure, he’s seen some horrible violence while journeying at Maeve’s side, but that’s no reason to betray her, along with Hector, Armistice, and Hanaryo, to the mercies of Westworld’s guards (admittedly, Hector and Armistice have killed a lot of humans). Watching Felix scorn Lee is a pleasure. Then he heads off, and… we never see him again.
That’s the price people in Westworld pay for honor. It’s common for HBO series to mock traditional hero archetypes by punishing high-minded gallantry (see: Ned Stark), but there’s something especially cutting about Felix’s presently open-ended fate. It’s not that he tries to save the day. (We don’t even see Felix fire a single bullet.) It’s that before we got here, we knew him for his decency. He’s the kindest person in Westworld, his only competition being Elsie, and of late her greatest kindness is not blowing Bernard away after he saves her from her prison-cave. It’s possible that Felix is safe—given what we learn of the Ghost Nation in “Kiksuya,” it’s even probable—but his big moment ends up being more about Lee.
In a way, Felix’s exchange with Lee passes the ethical baton. Felix is already evolved. To him, the hosts are living proof that artificial intelligence can develop consciousness. He behaves accordingly. He’s a (relatively) good human. Lee, on the other hand, is a work in progress. He sucks exponentially less than Sylvester (again, that’s setting the bar low), but while in Maeve’s company he routinely talks back or down to her while looking for a way out of his predicament instead of helping her with her own. He’s slime.
But then he has a sit-down with Maeve, prone on a table and with flaps of her skin peeled back in one of Westworld’s labs, and we see the change in him. He looks at her, heartbreak playing across his face. “I never meant for any of this to happen,” he says. “You don’t deserve this. You deserve your daughter, to mother her, to teach her to love, to be joyful and proud. I’m sorry.” He talks to her through a wad of remorse lumped in the back of his throat. There’s no doubting that he means every word, even if every word strikes one as uncharacteristic of his typically sarcastic self. And though Westworld doesn’t connect dots from Felix castigating Lee in “Phase Space” to Lee choking up in “Kiksuya,” there’s a sense that Felix, modeling compassion for Lee from the season’s start, is owed credit for Lee’s empathetic shift.
How Westworld of them. Maeve has spent considerable effort waking up the hosts and showing them the truth of the world. By contrast, Felix has struggled to survive a violent android uprising through strength of character rather than force of arms. Unlike Maeve, his primary goal is staying alive. But intended or no, Felix has the same effect on his human comrades as Maeve does on her robot brethren. (Maybe not Sylvester. You can’t win ’em all.) In “Kiksuya,” Lee fully wakes up. He’s a dozen steps behind Felix, but none of us is perfect. Maybe we’ve heard the last of Felix. Maybe we’ll learn in the finale that he caught a stray arrow and died in Hector’s manly arms. Maybe he’s fine. If not, he’s changed Westworld for the better at the cost of his life, leaving behind a legacy of Lee and one happily flitting synthetic bird. Not a bad mark to make on a place like Westworld.
Westworld airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO. Read our episodic reviews of the series here.
Boston-based culture writer Andy Crump has been writing about film and television online since 2009 (and music since 2018). You can follow him on Twitter and find his collected writing at his personal blog. He is composed of roughly 65% craft beer.