Tonight’s newest episode of Westworld, Season 2 Episode 7, is called Les Écorchés. What does this mean and how does it relate to Westworld? Read on for details and theories.
Les Écorchés is French for “a painting or sculpture of a human figure with the skin removed to display the musculature.” You can see examples of this in the Wikipedia entry here. The entry explains that these drawings, paintings, or sculptures are typically done as a figure study for another work or as an exercise for a student. Leonardo da Vinci did some of the first well known examples of Écorché. The term “Écorché” literally means “flayed” in French. The reason these drawings became so well known during the Renaissance period is that dissecting the human body had actually been banned until Pope Boniface VIII decided to allow the practice again.
During the 17th to 19th centuries, these “Écorché” figures were used by medical students, and some were even made on a smaller scale out of bronze. By the late 18th century, these figures became commonly made in wax.
This title could directly relate to the Ecorche sculpture, which is found in the Vitruvian Man (which we see a callback to in every Westworld intro, when the model of a host turns in the circle.) This was explained in Vulture, when designer Patrick Clair shared: “The Vitruvian Man, that goes back to Da Vinci’s anatomical drawings, and it gives the story an epic take on the formation of human beings. One of the things that the show does well is the naked human body. It makes it strange and alienating, cold and mechanical, which makes us think about the body and the way people use it, or are used.”
The drone hosts, by the way, resemble living Ecorche figures.
Interestingly, we already saw Dolores with her skin removed, to display her “musculature” (or more accurately, in her case, the robotic parts) in the Season 1 finale. Do you remember these photos? The photos are from the beginning of the finale, when we saw Dolores coming online for the very first time. She and Arnold have always had a special connection, possibly stemming from the fact that he was her creator and he was the one who first brought her online. And as we saw this season, he introduced her to the “real” world and protected her from being one of the hosts who sold Logan on investing in the park.
Hosts and humans resemble each other in many, many ways. But when you get past the skin, you realize they are very, very different. HBO allowed Heavy to view the episode for tonight early, and we won’t spoil anything in this story. But we will share that the title reflects the storyline perfectly, and as you watch the episode, you will see it played out in many scenes. The episode is absolutely phenomenal.
The title also reflects the idea that when you explore them at a more deeper level, hosts and humans are indeed very, very different when the outer facade is removed.
There is a song by Noir Désir called “Les Écorchés” (translated to “The Skinned”) which seems to relate to the hosts. You can read the full lyrics to the song, translated into English, here. One line reads: “For those who were flayed alive, We’re bearing marks of abuse.”
Another part of the song reads: “I didn’t light the fuse. It’s Lautréamont Who presses me In the deserts Where he preaches Where mass is held In front of nothing. For the flayed Hold me tight again. Smother me if you can.” The writers must have had this song in mind when naming the episode, because the synopsis for the newest episode of Westworld simply reads, “Strike the match.”
There’s also another angle to the episode title that many may not know. Redditor deicide666ra, who speaks French, wrote: “I’d just like to point out the definition of ‘écorchées’ can indeed mean skinned but French being my mother tongue I can tell you that the more common use of the word relates to scratching / damaging. For instance, if you fall and scratch your knees on asphalt, resulting in a missing/damaged layer of skin, we’ll say you have the “genou écorché”, meaning your knee is severely scratched. More figuratively, we also use the word to describe someone’s mental or physical state, someone who is damaged/injured. Basically the opposite of the word ‘unscathed’.”
Another Redditor confirmed this in a separate thread. There is a mental component to the word “ecorche” which references the idea of a “tormented soul” or someone who is in constant mental suffering or sorrow because of their past. But they explain that this is more than just tormented, but someone tormented so much they are borderline suicidal.
It seems that no matter what angle you take on the title of tonight’s episode, it fits with an important element of Westworld.