In this the second episode of Westworld’s second season we start to find out a little bit more about Dolores’ past and her plans for the future. We also get to learn a bit more about William (aka The Man in Black) and his own journey to becoming Ed Harris.
This week’s episode of Westworld, Reunion, really pares back the supporting cast to focus on two characters. Whereas in the past Westworld has felt a little chaotic with all of the competing storylines, this episode felt a lot more deliberate and purposeful. Reunion follows Dolores and William on their respective, overlapping journeys and some of the events that made them who they are today. The episode this week had a bit of a flavor of Lost about it, as it jumped back and forth between the present day and the various events that shaped them.
(As a point of clarity, for the remainder of this season of Westworld, starting here with Reunion, I’m going to refer to Jimmi Simpson’s character as William and Ed Harris’ present-day version as the Man in Black; hopefully, that will be much neater.)
We open up with a flashback to Dolores and Arnold having a nice chat outside the park in what appears to be a hotel room. Initially, I thought they were out on a date and for a moment everything seemed rather creepy. It turns out that it wasn’t creepy in that way, just in the regular Westworld way. It turns out that this was Arnold and Robert (Anthony Hopkins) preparing to demonstrate their host technology to the world. We don’t actually get to see Anthony Hopkins, just a CGI reflection, and I wasn’t entirely sure if it was even his voice. His role is fairly inconsequential anyway – he seems just to be included to make you question whether Arnold’s connection to Dolores is above board (it’s clearly not). One thing that I took away from this scene, if it needed reinforcing, was that Arnold had a very special relationship with Dolores – I’m hoping that it just plays out as a father-daughter relationship rather than something more.
I’ve been trying to work out what city all of this is taking place in; there are no landmarks that are particularly easy to pick out. I can’t decide whether I think that this is intentionally vague just because they don’t want to commit to anything just yet, whether it is unimportant, or whether this is going to end up as some big reveal further down the line. The only thing I saw in the background was a sign saying “SPACE” and of course my brain instantly went to “oh my god, they’re on another planet!”. This marks the beginning of “Westworld in Space Watch 2018″.
Where does Arnold take Dolores on their trip to the (indeterminate) city? Why it’s some weird half-built Minecraft-looking house made out of bricks with strange symbols on them. I assume the symbols are going to come back at some point in the series, but hey, it could just be a minor detail that I picked up on that is entirely inconsequential.
We cut forward to an outpost inside of the park and one of the guests who escaped execution last week (I forget his name but he had a shitty beard) shows up. What was really strange was that no one at the outpost seemed vaguely aware there was something untoward happening in the park. I’m guessing that a complete communications blackout, mass slaughter, and hosts rebelling against their storylines are entirely normal? You’ll never guess who else showed up at the outpost? Hold on to your hats, it was Dolores, Angela, and Teddy. This little trip to the outpost does serve a purpose though, it’s not just about Dolores looking menacing and being enigmatic. The techs in the outpost show Teddy all of his past lives and finally turn him from one of Dolores’ followers into a believer. At this moment in time, I’m not sure who the series wants me to root for, but I’m definitely pulling for team robot at present – when it boils down to it they were just created to be tortured, murdered and raped for fun.
One of the key things that I took from Reunion was that Dolores has been through a lot. She’s one of the original hosts and has been used to demonstrate and sell the company from the very start. More interestingly, it turns out that Dolores can remember everything from the very beginning of her life – she knows about the outside world and the weaknesses of humanity, or at least that’s what she says. Dolores isn’t exactly pulling her punches either, I suppose. In fact, she’s going to town on the technicians in the outpost to get information about how many men are coming to take back the park. I did feel quite sorry for the technicians – according to the last series it’s a fairly entry-level menial job, and this guy is getting his head dunked in the white host goop for his troubles.
The thing I don’t fully understand is why are Delos only sending in 800 men? Surely if you have AI that has gone rogue you make sure it’s not going anywhere?
The Man in Black (MiB) isn’t wasting his time in the park either; in fact, he seems to be absolutely relishing the prospect of it now being a game with “real stakes”. When he guns down a couple of hosts and they pop up back to life and very nearly murder him it looks like he’s having the best time. I’m not entirely sure what he’s hoping to achieve, but I imagine that’s going to become clearer as Westworld progresses. At least I hope it does. Both MiB and Dolores have something in common this week – both of them are keen to recruit people to help them reach their goals.
With his old friend Lawrence in tow, the MiB is keen to recruit some help to achieve his goal – whatever that might be. The two of them are headed to Pariah to try and get El Lazo’s (Giancarlo Esposito) men onside. It turns out that Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) was one step ahead of him though, as there seems to be some code embedded in the hosts to prevent them being recruited by the MiB. There’s a synchronized “shoot yourself in the head” event in Pariah and Lawrence and the MiB are the only men left standing. It looks like he’s going to have to do whatever it is he’s intending to do on his own. I had originally assumed that his new task was just escaping the park, but it seems like there’s something much bigger at play.
Dolores is also trying to recruit people to her cause as well. She finally crosses paths with Maeve and Hector and for a fleeting moment, I thought they might actually join forces. I’m kind of pleased that Maeve blew her off in a typically cutting manner. I think having all of the hosts band together to win their collective freedom feels a little too obvious; we’ve seen that story before and I’m more interested to see how their different paths play out. Dolores does have a little more luck getting the Confederate army onside though, which suggests she’s going to end up with quite a lot of hosts behind her. I can’t help but feel that she doesn’t treat all of the hosts equally. She doesn’t seem bothered about being a savior for her people, she just wants to destroy humanity. At least that’s how it seems at the moment.
The flashbacks we got in Reunion really helped to fill in some important background details, I suppose that’s why it reminded me of Lost in some respects. As long as the park doesn’t end up being purgatory then I’ll be happy. The most interesting detail that we found out in this episode is that the park’s primary purpose isn’t really entertainment, it’s to collect data about the guests. It’s the way that William sells the park as a good investment to his father-in-law, that it gives them unrestricted access to view people’s biggest desires. It’s a really interesting point, that not only do people get to live out their fantasies but in doing so you get to collect some really insightful market data for targeted advertising. I could feel Google taking notes as the episode aired.
It felt like Reunion was in danger of answering more questions than it posed, but thankfully the final flashback manages to throw a huge question into the mix. In a flashback between Dolores and William, he seems to be truly over his infatuation with her, telling her that she’s nothing more than a thing, designed to reflect back what the guests want to see. William shows Dolores some massive pit that he’s digging in the park and I have absolutely no idea what it is or why it’s significant. My first thought was that it was the new host-filled water feature we saw last week, but I’m not convinced. Back in the present day, Dolores seems to imply that she knows what it is and it’s not a place but a weapon. I’m not sure how a dirty great hole is a weapon, but I guess we’ll find out as Westworld progresses.
I really liked Reunion; it felt focused and actually drove things forward. It feels like a real step forward after last week’s relatively slow start to the second season of Westworld, and I hope that things continue down this line in the coming weeks.
Oli has been writing for Ready Steady Cut since November 2017. He has a PhD in Computer Science and he writes articles about TV, film and, very occasionally, science.