Westworld Explores the Darkness in William and Dolores | Tech News
How do you top an episode like last week’s Westworld? While light on major developments, it gave us a personal, emotional story that hit us right in the heart. That might be the biggest surprise of season two. After an entry like that, this week’s episode had a tough act to follow. Instead of trying to top last week’s episode emotionally, the show just threw a whole bunch of massive developments and twists at us. Hey, it’s the second-to-last episode of the season, we were due for a shock or two. The bigger surprise was how well the episode pulled them off.
That said, this week’s episode is very much Westworld back on its bullshit. Hey, why not add another timeline? This episode starts us off with some backstory for William, with Ed Harris narrating images of his wife’s suicide. Nobody saw the monster in him but her, he says. We see a brief, ostensibly loving interaction with his wife at a party. She defends him for growing up poor and smart rather than rich and adverse to learning. He sees a host serving drinks, and his hand started shaking. His darkness is threatening to take over, and he can’t even point out when it started happening. It shortly becomes clear that this is the night she killed herself.
Back in his current story, Grace (Emily in the real world) is nursing him back to health. While she probably wasn’t lying about causing him great pain when she took him back from Ake last week, she doesn’t want to actively hurt him. Like her father, she feels guilty for pushing her mother away before her suicide. She doesn’t want to permanently ruin her relationship with both her parents. Besides, it appears she’s more like her dad than either of them think. She says she wants in on her dad’s secret project. The one where every guest is uploaded to a massive database hidden in the park. She wants to find her mother’s data, and figure out why she killed herself. Well, that’s what she says anyway.
Most of the episode cuts between William and his daughter and the flashback to the night his wife died. It’s incredibly effective at building a growing sense of dread. We know something terrible is going to happen. Probably in both timelines. And we know we’re going to see it. And as his wife reveals she knows he’s been lying about who he is their whole life together, his daughter’s lies in the present come to light. She knows exactly why her mom killed herself. See, at the party just before her mother died, Ford gave William a complete profile of his actions in the park. Emily found it, and plans to expose her father for the monster he really is.
That’s when the dual storytelling brings us two rapid fire tragedies. We see the moment William discovers his wife dead in the bathtub. Right after that, present William begins to accuse his daughter of being a host designed by Ford. We knew William had a darkness inside. We knew he was a narcissist who couldn’t help but make an entire revolution all about him. This is the first time we see how far his narcissism has taken him. He asked for a game with real consequences, but he refuses to accept that that means this isn’t all a game. That it’s not an elaborate puzzle designed just for him. When the Dellos security team comes to extract him, he convinces himself they’re all hosts. He slaughters them all, and kills his daughter too. It’s a genuine shock, and horrible as it is, it doesn’t come out of nowhere. It’s totally believable that William is really this far gone. It’s only when he’s about to cut her open for proof of her artificiality that he sees his profile card in her hands, and he realizes what he’s done.
In any other week, that would be where the show ends. But this is the penultimate episode. The show has a lot more story to tell before next week’s finale. It’s not even the end of William’s arc this week. This wouldn’t be Westworld if it didn’t leave every story on some kind of cliffhanger. Realizing he’s killed his daughter, William prepares to shoot himself. Then, he flashes back to just before his wife’s suicide. We hear the full speech he gave her, about how she could always see through him. About how he truly belonged in the park and not the real world. We also see what really drove her to suicide. She was faking sleep the whole time William was talking. As soon as he left the room, she found his hidden profile card and watched all the terrible things he’d done. Then, she puts it in Emily’s music box for her to find. It’s a painful, incredibly well-acted scene. You feel how having her worst fears confirmed destroys her.
And in the present, this is when things get really wild. William goes over his last words to his wife in his head. Remembering the words about how he belonged the the park, he lowers the gun from his temple. Then, he takes a knife and begins to cut into his arm… right where a host’s connection port would be. So… is William actually a host? Obviously, he wasn’t always, but we do know he was working on a host copy of himself. It’s true that when the Dellos security team scanned him he came up clear, but he is the owner. It’s not too far-fetched to believe he’d commission a host that could fool the scanners. We don’t get to see what William finds inside his arm. The show, as always, wants to keep us guessing until next week. No matter what, it’s safe to say we’re in for one hell of a twist.
I’m glad we finally got an episode focusing on William this season. Compared to everything else going on, he’d grown a little too one-dimensional. He was a cold man treating Westworld like a game. That was it. Now that we’ve seen his refusal to accept any reality but the one he’s constructed for himself. And that construction might, might, be artificial. That’s interesting. All season, I’ve been waiting for the show to do something with this character. Now, I’m all the way on board for whatever the finale brings.
His wasn’t the only story with a heartbreaking surprise for is this week. We spent the least amount of time with Dolores and Teddy, but their story this week packed a punch. This season of Westworld has found a few different angles from which to explore the idea of an artificial intelligence rebelling against its code. This week’s episode may have found the most interesting. We’ve spent a whole season watching hosts rebel against their abusers. Now, we see them start to go against they’re supposed liberators. Dolores is focused on her revolution to lead the hosts to the outside world, but she isn’t exactly a bastion of freedom. When she changed Teddy’s personality to make him a killer, we knew that’d come back to haunt her. The episode plants the seed early, with Teddy refusing to shoot a fleeing Ghost Nation warrior. The real Teddy is starting to rebel against the code Dolores forced on him. When he kills himself at the end, you know it’s coming. The episode made us spend almost the whole hour anticipating that moment. That doesn’t make its final image of Dolores crying over Teddy’s body any less devastating.
Though Bernard’s story was the least radical of the three arcs we saw last night, we got to see him fight against his code too. This time, it’s Ford he’s resisting. Ford certainly appears to have the Hosts’ best interests in mind, but his means prove a little too extreme for Bernard. Even showing him Charlotte reverse-engineer Maeve’s power to get hosts to slaughter each other doesn’t push Bernard into violence. When Ford asks him to kill Elsie, that’s one step too far. For the first time, he goes against the wishes of his creator. Not only does he spare Elsie, he completely uninstalls Ford. However he intends to win freedom for the hosts, he’s going to do it on his own. He does freak Elsie out though. We can already see how this goes bad for him. Elsie could easily be the reason Charlotte finds out about Bernard’s true nature.
While not as tight or powerful a story as last week’s episode, this week’s Westworld packed a lot into its hour. It did exactly what it had to do, and did it very well. It gave us a reason to care about William’s story, and provided consequences for Dolores’ violent actions. Both stories are infinitely more interesting as a result. It’s just a shame it took this long to get to that point. I wouldn’t trade last week’s episode for anything, but the show waited until there was one episode left to really kick two of its main stories into high gear. Not that that’s a particularly damning criticism. After all, the heart of it is that there’s only one episode left, and all I want is more.
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