The latest episode of Westworld wastes no time in taking us to the outside world.
[Warning: The following contains spoilers for Westworld’s second episode of its second season.]
This is the first time we’ve seen what life is like away from the park. Surprise! It looks like a slightly futuristic version of our own world. The screeners we were sent noted that the visual effects weren’t finished, so I’m not sure exactly what you saw in the episode, but that Anthony Hopkins cameo as the voice of a young Dr. Robert Ford sure was ... quick.
But overall, this was an hour of television that was about repeating all the things we either already knew, or understood from the last season.
“You thought you could do what you wanted to us, because no one would judge you,” Dolores tells a stunned park guest after the robot uprising. “Now, no one is here to judge what we will do to you.”
Thank you for spelling out the theme of the show.
Westworld’s second season is at least making it clear where we are when these things happen, and in fact, these details get spelled out for us with painful clarity. Look, Logan is here with William, and he reminds us that William is dating his sister. Just in case you forgot who these people were.
Logan, the son of a wealthy investor, is in a fancy bar with fancy people waiting to meet with the Argos Initiative, a company that would like his company’s investment. Logan is bored of VR and AR startups, but Argos is selling something more “tangible.” What follows is a kind of shorthand Turing test where Logan walks around the bar, trying to find the robotic human beings. Surprise! Everyone at the bar was a robot.
Back at the park, the Man in Black is running through his old routine of rescuing Lawrence to go on their quest — only this time the stakes are real. If the hosts die, they’re not coming back. Neither is William, of course, but now the hosts can hurt him, too.
This is what he always wanted — and the first aid kit stowed in the park shows he actually believed it was coming — but it doesn’t mean that much to the hosts who don’t get a tour of the real world.
William also confirms something we’ve long suspected: The point of Westworld was for people to give in to their darkest impulses without the moral issue of actually hurting someone, but the company behind the park was watching everything visitors did and studying their behavior.
“That’s why your world exists,” William says. “They wanted a place hidden from god, where they could sin in peace. But we were watching.”
And that point is driven home, over and over and over.
“Half of your marketing budget goes to trying to figure out what people want, because they don’t know,” William tells his father-in-law, in another flashback. “But here they’re free. Nobody is watching. Nobody is judging. At least, that’s what we tell them.”
So if you tell people they can do whatever and no one will know, they will show you who they are. And learning who people are is big business, no matter what timeline you’re on. There’s no incognito mode in Westworld.
No one seems to know what to do with themselves
Evan Rachel Wood doesn’t seem to know what to do with the character now that Dolores is “awake,” and the result comes off like high school melodrama. The ability to bring hosts back from the dead is a nice trick if you want to raise forces — literally, in this case — but Dolores otherwise feels empty in her scenes so far.
William is also trying to get an army together, and that involves finding the new version of El Lazo. “This game was meant for you, William, but you must play it alone,” says El Lazo — Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito, in a fun cameo — and all his men put their guns to their heads and blow themselves away. No matter how free we think we are, it could still turn out we’re playing by someone else’s rules.
This fact has to be comforting for William, because that was the whole point of his journey: He wants to be able to lose, which means being killed in this version of the game, but he still wants it all to mean something.
We knew all of this; or at least we could picture it. “Reunion” doesn’t move our understanding of any of these characters or even the story forward in any appreciable way. It shows us some bits of history that we knew had to have happened in some way, and repeats over and over that the park was a ruse to get people to let their guard down. It repeats the fact that these robots are remarkably human.
William and Dolores get to overact just in case we didn’t understand that they were supposed to be villains. Yes, William, Dolores was a mirror and you fell in love with her and then realized she was a robot and you learned something about yourself and you see how you can use that to make money. We saw the first season. Logan is bored and rich and full of himself.
Again, we saw the first season.
The way Dolores is acting right now doesn’t really make sense unless she thinks she’s in a soap opera, which may be fair, all things considered. Now that she’s supposed to understand who she is and what she was designed for, however, she acts even more fake and wooden. She’s not becoming human; she’s becoming more robotic. I wish she wore a mustache she could twirl to show just how truly evil she has become.
No one is as free as they think, even when freedom was supposed to be the whole point of taking over the park. The game continues.
Odds and ends
- “After a while, it doesn’t look like anything at all.” We get it, you like calling back to this line. Calm down.
- Logan puts famous paintings on the ceiling so he can look at them while he has sex. We get it, he’s rich and decadent.
- “Dead isn’t what it used to be, Lawrence.”