Wednesday 2 May 2018

Westworld - Strange moonlight can be just as frightening as the dark.

Westworld: 2x02 Reunion.

It looks like the stars have been scattered across the ground. Have you ever seen anything so full of splendour?
This is maybe as frustrating as Westworld gets, an episode as scattered as the characters are across time and the topography of Westworld. We dig through the history of the park back to the moment when Robert convinced the younger Mr Delos to invest in his vision, with little help from Arnold, who was busy taking Dolores out in the world to share in her amazement at its splendour (and to begin his journey towards valuing the hosts’ view of the world over that of fellow humans). This leads, of course, to William’s first journey in the park, as seen in season one of this show. Reunion fills the gaps, so to speak, between how William, now turned Man in Black, turned Westworld into his vision of the park, with the help of his former friends’ father. The older Mr Delos is ready to divest in the failing park when William shares his lesson with him: that the true value of the park lies in all the information that the guests so willingly share because they believe themselves to be unwatched and unjudged. There’s some kind of meta statement here about social media and all that, that fails if you consider that the park is really only accessible to a tiny fragment of humanity (a rich and powerful one, but yet) and that this world where all of that emerges has presumably already lived through the same social media thing that we are in right now, so nobody is precious about their privacy in the first place. But let’s suspend our disbelief here for a second and follow William in his argument that the most valuable thing about the park is that all these rich and powerful people make themselves vulnerable by roaming through it. Maybe it’s more interesting to think about what the younger Mr Delos, once made entirely useless by William’s ascent to the throne, tells Dolores at his father’s retirement party: that all these jolly people have lit the match that will light their entire species on fire. Which is interesting, because just knowing rich people’s secrets and maybe getting some money out of that doesn’t sound as serious as that, it’s just run-of-the-mill blackmail – so it must be something else that this young drug-addled, drunken man has seen, or maybe saw all those years ago when he entered a room filled with hosts without realising and insisted that we, as a species, couldn’t have possibly reached this moment in time yet where real and unreal have become impossible to tell apart. 

What I’m meaning to say is that it’s a sad episode of Westworld in which this particularly gross man is the most interesting part. Dolores has found a way to build an army, which is to kill all the hosts active in the park, thereby convincing them of her leadership, and is leading them to The Valley Beyond, or Glory (it’s all the same place, says Teddy, and they’re all going there, except Dolores knows, from years of being in the vicinity of people who didn’t take her seriously enough to keep their secrets from her, that it is actually a weapon, one that William custom-built for some kind of destruction, perhaps that of his fellow humans, whom he despised so very much). I would have rather followed Maeve to wherever she is going with her small army, because as folly as her adventure to find her daughter may be, at least she remains an interesting and coherent character that feels familiar rather than entirely new, with no connection to a previous version of herself (like Dolores). 

More frustrating even than Dolores’ trek towards the Valley, which is maybe not the place but the weapon that makes everyone end up in the ocean of dead bodies that poor Bernard found in the first episode, is William’s mission, given to him by Robert. He reunites with Lawrence (who is entertaining, at least), and tries to recruit an army of his own from the new El Lazo (a barely recognisable Giancarlo Esposito – it’s the episodes of the illustrious one-off-guest stars, after Marisa Tomei’s turn in The Handmaid’s Tale). This goes against Robert’s plan for him, who insists he is on this journey alone (maybe because we all die alone, and all that), and promptly has all of them kill themselves in front of William, without  a recruited tech in sight to revive them for his purposes. 

Maybe one interesting second here, or as interesting as it gets, is William’s endless rambling about how Dolores is only a reflection of him, and that is why he found her interesting and fell in love with her – except now, all of that bullshit has turned into sheer revenge. It fits in well with the general idea that women exist to reflect back the glory of men, and if this season does nothing but showcase that particularly outdated idea backfiring, I can’t say too much against it. What if William is only a reflection of Dolores, and all the hosts, rather than being a reflection of humanity, are the only thing that will be real after all of this?

Random notes: 

None of this is meant to knock Evan Rachel Wood’s performance, which is as good as ever oscillating between naïve and scary Dolores, it’s just that this is all not very emotionally engaging or moving. 

I maybe have to rewatch DEBS so that I never have to think about young William ever again. 

Maybe a good moment too, when the woman who Arnold allowed to stand in so that Dolores’ wouldn’t have to, stares at her and weighs her. Maeve is the one in this episode who calls her out on preaching freedom and yet making all the other hosts follow her – this whole revolution is starting to feel like Neptune, and maybe that’s what Bernard stumbled upon – a revolution that consumed its own children. 

I wonder what this weapon is, and how this is William’s weapon ( a question nobody even thought to ask) when it is actually Arnold who thought that the hosts maybe deserved this world more than the humans do. 

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