'Westworld' Season 2, Episode 2: Basically, Sexy 'Silicon Valley' or Something?
I’m getting the feeling that Westworld is a tapestry of moments that need to converge at some singular point in time, but that point keeps shifting farther and farther away as new strands are woven in. If last week it appeared that this season would be filling in the two-week gap between the Robert Ford’s death and Bernard’s awakening on that beach, this week basically said “nah, fucker” and added in a whole mess of other data points to juggle. Namely: the outside world.
There was a moment last night when I thought maybe I’d accidentally tuned into a WAY sexier version of HBO’s other original show, Silicon Valley. There was a whole lot of talk about startups and investment, because a good portion of the episode was devoted to exploring the origins of Westworld. Specifically: how Delos came to bankroll this crazy robot amusement park. We get a return of Ben Barnes as Logan (Logan Delos , specifically) and Jimmi Simpson as William (a.k.a. the Young Man in Black), and we discover that Dolores and some of the other hosts have interacted with the “real” world in the past. Arnold took her out for a night in the city near wherever the park is (based on the signs, it appears to be somewhere in Asia), even going so far as to show her the mysterious bunker/home he was building for his family there. She also ends up playing piano at Papa Delos’s retirement party a few years later. The episode continues to explore what a Dolores who has full access to all of her memories is like (spoiler: she’s maybe a tyrant?), but not every flashback is centered on her experience. The narrative gap that last night’s episode seemed to be closing was the progression that turned William into the Man in Black, and offering more details about what the underlying purpose of the park really is.
To me, the first big standout scene of the night is the pitch meeting between Logan and the “Argos Initiative” — which appears to be the name of the group run by Arnold and Robert when they were developing the park. Only neither of those men actually pitch their project to Logan in person. Instead, they send two hosts (Angela, played by Talulah Riley, and Akecheta, played by Zahn McClarnon) to act as representatives of the group, in order to run a little experiment. They lead Logan into an intimate gathering of well-dressed people. A woman (Clementine) plays piano. Waiters carry trays of champagne. All Logan has to do is figure out who in the room is an artificial being.
You know where this is going, right? ALL OF THEM ARE FUCKING HOSTS. Of course they are! It’s the perfect introduction to what Westworld is all about, as an experience. The whole point is that you can’t tell the hosts apart from real people anyway — and needless to say, the demonstration has the desired effect on Logan (though getting to hook up with Angela may have had something to do with his level of enthusiasm).
But based on the additional flashbacks in the episode, it appears that Logan isn’t the one who ultimately sells his Dad on the plan to buy out Argos. We can tell because we literally watch William explain why the investment is such a grand idea to a very dubious Papa Delos, while they hang out in Sweetwater (Dolores is frozen after dropping that damn can from her bag and everything). It would appear that the party scene with Logan is one of the earliest we’ve seen in the history of the show, and then because he’s so into the Westworld technology he takes William on that adventure there (which we witnessed last season — the storyline where William falls in love with Dolores). That, in turn, shows William the possibilities that the Park has to offer, which is how he manages to convince Big Daddy Delos to pony up the money.
But here’s the thing: Delos isn’t interested in fantasies, futurism, or escapism. He’s not going to buy a theme park just so rich people can find themselves or whatever. So William points out that real potential of Westworld isn’t in the advanced technology, but in the information it reveals about the guests. This is “the only place in the world where you can see people for who they really are,” as William explains it. And that ties back into the reveal last episode that Delos is gathering tons of data about the guests (like records of their experiences, and also DNA). So … is Westworld basically just a social media startup, making money by selling user data to advertisers, only extrapolated to the point where the “bots” are out for blood?
Whatever is going on, the investment is a good enough deal that it seems to secure William’s place as the true Delos successor. In another (chronologically later) flashback to Papa Delos’s retirement party, he’s married to Logan’s sister and they have a child together. It’s clear that this is his moment of ascension, while Logan is high off his tits down by the water, ranting to Dolores about how the party is basically “the sound of fools fiddling while the whole fucking species burns.” Whatever has happened in the intervening years seems to have soured Logan on the experiment of the park, to the point where he thinks it might actually be the downfall of humanity? Of course, maybe he’s just still bitter about his naked horseback ride last season. But time has also left its imprint on William as well, as indicated in the scene where he brings a naked Dolores back online in the lab and says, “You really are just a thing. I can’t believe I fell in love with you.” He’s realized that the hosts are merely a reflection of the guests, which is probably the first step toward becoming Ed Harris.
Speaking of Dolores and Ed Harris, in the present (?) they are each trying to round up their own armies and announcing their own private philosophies. Dolores basically argues that she has killed God, and it’s her favor that matters in this new world order — a claim she backs up by killing the very men she’s trying to recruit to her revolutionary cause, and then forcing her captive lab technician to bring them back online. Essentially bringing them back to life, which… OK, that’s fairly God-like.
The Man in Black believes that he and Delos were God: observing, tallying sins, but not lying in judgment. He finds the crew he wants to recruit in Pariah, led by El Lazo (played this time around by motherfuckin’ Giancarlo Esposito!!!), only for them to commit suicide in front of him. Because, as El Lazo reminds him (in words clearly dictated by the late Robert Ford), “this game was meant for you, William, but you must play it alone.”
Meanwhile, Maeve makes a brief appearance as the mysterious third party in all of this. She encounters Dolores’s group, but isn’t receptive to their recruitment tactics. It’s clear that her mission isn’t ideological, it’s personal — and as she points out, if they are truly fighting for freedom then they’ll let her have hers. There isn’t only one way to fight, after all.
For now, it appears that Dolores and the Man in Black are racing toward a convergence of their own. William’s destination is the site of his “greatest mistake” while Dolores says her destination isn’t a place but a weapon. But like, it’s totally the same place. Right?
This Week In Teddy: He didn’t die! But he did see evidence of his past deaths while in the lab with Dolores, which totally blew his fucking robot mind. I think it counts.
Elsie Update: There is none. Womp womp.