Everybody wants to rule the world.
This review contains spoilers for Westworld Season 2, episode 2, “Reunion.” To refresh your memory of where we left off, check out our review of the Season 2 premiere, and our explainer on what the ending of episode 1 could mean.
From the beginning, Westworld has interrogated our oh-so human tendency to play god, but that symbolism becomes literal in episode 2. First, we get to see the origin of the park through the eyes of the arrogant Logan Delos (Ben Barnes), who finds himself enticed by the incredible technological advances of a company known as the Argos Initiative, which is seeking funding to build a “tangible” experience far beyond virtual reality. The practical applications for the technology are spectacularly demonstrated when he’s taken to a private show (all orchestrated by Ford and Arnold, we discover in the opening scene) and comes to realize that he’s surrounded by hosts who are indistinguishable from humans – right down to their capacity for sex, as Angela proves. Knowing Logan as we do, it’s no surprise that a quick roll in the hay is what convinces him to invest.
We later jump forward to see Logan’s brother-in-law, William, visiting the park (presumably after he and Logan have had their ill-fated trip where William falls in love with Dolores), to show it off to Logan’s father, Jim, who says the park has two years – three, tops – before it goes bankrupt. William points out that Westworld presents a unique opportunity: “In 20 years, this will be the only reality that matters… Half of your marketing budget goes to trying to figure out what people want, because they don’t know. Here they’re free, nobody’s watching, nobody’s judging… at least that’s what we tell them. This is the only place in the world where you get to see people for who they really are.”
It’s a cynical (and invasive) sentiment that is repeated throughout the episode; in the past and almost-present, William frequently brings up this idea of being watched – either by some kind of deity or the all-seeing cameras of Delos: “They wanted a place hidden from god, a place they could sin in peace. But we were watching them, we were tallying up all their sins, all their choices. Judgment wasn’t the point; we had something else in mind entirely.” So this is clearly the genesis of the DNA harvesting and guest surveillance that Bernard discovered in the Season 2 premiere – knowledge is power, after all.
Dolores echoes this idea of humans as creators – and takes it one step further, telling another host: “We’ve toiled in God’s service for too long, so we’ve killed him – if you want to get to glory, you won’t need His favor, you’ll need mine.” It’s an idea that Westworld creator Michael Crichton also explored in Jurassic Park (in the immortal words of Ian Malcolm: “God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs.” Sub in dinosaurs for sentient androids, and you’ve got yourself a theme!). Dolores even demonstrates that she, much like her own creators, now has the power of resurrection – using a hapless tech guy to help her reboot several dead hosts just to get the Confederados to fall in line behind their new deity.
And Maeve, when she encounters Dolores and Teddy again, dismisses Dolores’ observation that the former Madame must crave revenge, because that’s playing into their creators’ hands: “Revenge is just a different prayer at their altar, darling, and I’m well off my knees.”
Episode 2 also raises the issue of control – Dolores has been made in mankind’s image, and she clearly possesses plenty of our flaws, chillingly telling a guest, “You thought you could do what you wanted to us, there was no one here to judge you. Now no-one is here to judge what we will do to you.”
Maeve is quick to point this out when Dolores asks her to fight to keep her freedom: “And yours is the only way to fight? You feel free to command everyone else?” Maeve then asks Teddy if he feels free, since he’s been following Dolores around like a lost puppy and blindly following her orders – and Teddy doesn’t have an answer for her. (No doubt he will before the end of the season, and Dolores might not like it.)
While we don’t catch up with the glitching Bernard and the Delos security team this week, we do get to see the Man in Black continue his quest – and reunite with the long-suffering Lawrence, aka the former El Lazo. Now that game’s the difficulty mode has been amped up, Old Bill is ready to rumble, warning Lawrence, “This whole enterprise is going down in flames, and it’s gonna take each and every one of us down with it. We’ve got a chance to see what we’re really made of, a glimpse of the men we could’ve been.”
This apparently involves seeking out something obliquely referenced as both “Glory” and “the Valley Beyond,” depending on who you ask – something that Young William once made the mistake of showing Dolores back when the park was still new, and something he now refers to as “my greatest mistake.” As Dolores helpfully reveals, “It’s not a place, it’s a weapon, and I’m gonna use it to destroy them.”
What could this weapon be, and why does William regret it? Knowing Westworld, we’ll have to wait a few weeks to get the answer.
Some other stray observations from episode 2:
- Back when Jim Delos and William visited the park, Armistice was the sheriff – sans tattoos, of course. (Boy, doesn’t she look like Charlize Theron?)
- We hear Anthony Hopkins (or perhaps a very impressive impersonation of him) as young Robert Ford at the beginning of this episode when Arnold is showing Dolores his home outside the park, but he only appears in the background in his Uncanny Valley CGI form. And I’m guessing this won’t be the last time.
- The (obviously CGI) background of the unidentified city Arnold is living in features Chinese writing on the signs, seeming to confirm what was hinted in last week’s episode when members of the Chinese military showed up on the beach to argue with Strand about jurisdiction – that the park is probably built off the coast of China somewhere.
- At Jim’s retirement party, we finally see William’s daughter, Emily, and his wife, who doesn’t seem too impressed by Dolores – does she know what happened between them during William’s first visit?
- For that matter, does it seem like Dolores recognizes William when she first lays eyes on him again at the party, or is it just a trick of the light?
- Uh oh – Jim Delos apparently has the dreaded TV cough, that tricky respiratory ailment that signals impending death!
- Dolores later encounters Logan doing heroin outside, foreshadowing “God’s” extinction at the hands of our creations: “That is the sound of fools fiddling while the whole f***ing species starts to burn, and the funniest f***ing part is they lit the match.”
- Giancarlo Esposito is the new El Lazo – ever the badass.