REVIEW: Westworld – “Vanishing Point”

westworld-review

The following is a spoiler-filled recap and review of the ninth episode of Westworld: Season Two – Developed by Jonathan Nolan & Lisa Joy

In the penultimate episode of the second season of Westworld (“Vanishing Point”), we learn what exactly drove William’s wife to commit suicide, William (played by Ed Harris) becomes increasingly more paranoid, and Teddy (played by James Marsden) rethinks his relationship with Dolores (played by Evan Rachel Wood).

Happy Father’s Day from HBO to all of you! In case you didn’t get that joke, then let me tell you that this episode — ‘Vanishing Point’ — aired on Sunday June 17th 2018, which is the officially recognized date for Father’s Day in most of the world (not everywhere, mind you). Get it now? Yeah, HBO couldn’t have planned it any better.

“I’m not a host pretending to be human, Dad. I’m your daughter pretending to give a shit about you.”

Okay, so, yeah, there is a lot to process with William and his overall story, but I think that is the place to start this week. First off, let’s begin by talking about the flashbacks and flashing images. The entire episode is all about William, and the recurring running narration is him talking to his wife, who, as we learn, had some issues herself. Him and his daughter discuss sending her back to rehab — this time involuntarily.

As William’s wife says, he is a virus that infects all he touches, which certainly is a perspective we can understand. His photo of his young wife infected the mind of Peter Abernathy, he ruined Logan, he failed with Jim Delos, and, as we find out, he, eventually, even drove his wife to commit suicide.

But William isn’t just a virus, he is also just a damaged individual. For the entire season, William has been paranoid about who or what may actually be Ford, and he seems to have overestimated his worth to the park and to Ford.

He is a damaged, delusional individual, and I think many of us may’ve seen it coming that his paranoia would eventually lead him to make a tough irreversible decision. But I don’t think the majority of those that try to ‘outthink’ the show expected William to actually kill his daughter, which is exactly what he did. It has to be.

Sure, you may say that we didn’t see the result of the Delos soldiers testing her, but I never really thought she was a host — we (meaning audiences) never should. But make no mistake, a father killing his own daughter, because he has been driven to insanity, is the darkest thing this show has done to its human characters.

So, yeah, I know the question you want the answer to: is William a host or not? There are certainly some clues pointing towards the theory that he may be a host. I think the showrunners definitely want us to think that he is, I think the shot of the tablet with his secret  ‘profile’ that is clearly marked as ‘Subject Number 002’ suggests it.

I, however, don’t think that is the case. Sure, maybe, in the season finale, we’ll learn that he was the second Jim Delos-like human-host-transfer. But that isn’t what I feel is happening here. I think Ford has tried to make William doubt his knowledge of himself ever since that flashback scene in the bar, and I think he succeeded.

When William decides not to shoot himself in the head, I think that he does so in an effort to prove to himself that what he just did to his daughter wasn’t as horrible as it actually is. If he can prove to himself that he is a host, then, from his perspective, he doesn’t have to feel responsible. He could’ve been designed this way, and then she wouldn’t be his real daughter. If he is a host, then he didn’t just kill his daughter. But I still think he is human, and I think this is just a delusional and desperate old man trying to find an escape from feeling responsible.

“What’s the use of surviving, if we become just as bad as them?”

Poor Teddy. I feel like I’ve had to write that in my notes ever since the series premiere — but now it ends. Teddy finally stood up to Dolores and spelled it out to her: she is making them — her followers — and herself just as bad as the people she is rebelling against.

Her hunger for revenge has blinded her to the fact that in trying to escape Westworld to become her own person, she has forced changes upon those most loyal to her. It is a great scene, and a strong way for James Marsden to say goodbye to the show. I also have some thoughts on Wood’s work in this scene at the end of my review.

“You stayed here in this world to save your child, so have I.”

So, we also have to briefly talk about Maeve and Bernard. Bernard, who desperately wants to go and regroup with Elsie, is ordered by Ford to go and find Maeve so that he can give her a message. What is that message? Well, Ford needed Bernard to get close enough to her so that she would download his program for just a short moment.

This gives Ford an opportunity to tell Maeve what was originally planned for her, and he gets to tell her how much she — his favorite — meant to him. As a final farewell gift, Maeve is gifted with some upgrades so that she can get herself out of her predicament.

She isn’t the only female host that Bernard runs into. Much earlier in the episode, Bernard looks on and sees Hale test her new implanted glitch in Clementine. Clementine has essentially been given some of Maeve’s powers to influence the host network, for the purpose of infecting all other hosts to force them to kill each other.

Now, eventually, Bernard seems to be able to delete the Ford ‘data package’ from his system so that he can finally be himself again. But can we really trust that this is exactly what happens? I wouldn’t be surprised to learn next week that Ford merely acted like he deleted himself.

Speaking generally, on all storylines covered, I feel like there were a lot of truly great character moments and some really strong performances in here. Bernard screaming for Ford to get out of his head is obviously a powerful moment, but, for me, it pales in comparison to the performance that Harris gives here.

And, if we are talking about strong moments, then I have to mention that I thought Evan Rachel Wood did an outstanding job of conveying exactly how Dolores’ robot mind was struggling to cope with the loss of Teddy in the episode’s final moments — the small movements, the slow drop to the floor.

What didn’t work as well for me this episode were one or two scenes and one plot revelation that made absolutely no sense to me. First, while I think the flashback scene at the bar is very interesting and contains some very good dialogue, the way it ends is just really, really bad. Having Ford talk to himself about his plan is such a dumb choice, and I feel like if they had ended that scene right before he said anything, then it would’ve worked much better.

But the one thing that simply didn’t make any sense to me is the idea that the cowboy hats are scanning guests’ brains. Sure, it is a neat little reveal, but how do they scan and monitor those guests that simply do not wear cowboy hats? What about the guests in Shogun World? Do they all have era-appropriate headwear? What about the other parks? Surely, they cannot all require headwear, can they? Maybe that is just something that is bothering me and no one else. Maybe there is a very simple explanation that I have somehow missed, if so then please comment below.

But, yeah, that is it for the penultimate episode of the season. Now we just have to wait a week to find out whether or not my old prediction was right. Is two-weeks-later Bernard actually Dolores? I still think so.

B+

For my reviews of the previous episodes in the series, click here.

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen

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