7:00pm PT by Josh Wigler
'Westworld' Season 2: The Park's True Purpose Stands Revealed
[This story contains spoilers through season two, episode two of HBO's Westworld, called "Reunion."]
"You're smart enough to guess there's a bigger picture, but not smart enough to see what it is."
The late Theresa Cullen (Sidse Babett Knudsen) spoke these words to an ambitious and desperate Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman) in the very first episode of Westworld, indicating that the Delos board in charge of the theme park had greater aspirations than allowing visitors to enact their wildest fantasies. Ever since, viewers have wondered about the true motivations of the people pulling the strings behind the scenes. The second episode of season two appears to have delivered an answer — part of one, at least.
The episode, called "Reunion," written by Carly Wray and Jonathan Nolan, directed by Vincenzo Natali, primarily focuses on two different characters across multiple points in time: Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and William (Ed Harris and Jimmi Simpson) — the leader of the host revolution and the No. 1 Westworld fanboy, respectively. Perhaps that's minimizing the Man in Black's contributions to the series overall, both in terms of his deadly proficiency as a gunslinger (even with the safety turned off on the hosts) and his even deadlier instincts as a businessman.
During the course of "Reunion," viewers are treated to trips down memory lane, as the younger William (Simpson) brings his father-in-law James Delos (Peter Mullan) to Westworld with an eye toward investing in the park. For his part, James is a no-nonsense type with little interest in indulging people's fantasies. But William pitches his prospective business partner on a broader and deadlier idea.
"This place is fantasy," William says, standing within earshot of a frozen Dolores (who we later learn has access to these memories and more). "Nothing here is real, except one thing: the guests. Half of your marketing budget goes to figuring out what people want. Because they don't know. But here, they're free. Nobody is watching, nobody is judging. At least that's what we tell them. This is the only place in the world where you get to see people for who they really are. If you don't see the business in that, then you're not the businessman I thought you were."
William's pitch ties directly into something seen in the season two premiere: Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) witnessing two drone hosts data-mining a fallen host, and realizing that the park has been "logging records of guest experiences," DNA included. The Man in Black all but spells the theory out in conversation with his old friend Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr.), when talking about the weight of sins within the walls of the park.
"[People] wanted a place hidden from God, a place they could sin in peace," the gunslinger reveals. "But we were watching them. We were tallying up all their sins, all of their choices. Of course, judgment wasn't the point. We had something else in mind entirely."
What exactly did William and the Delos board have in mind? Those specifics will certainly be outlined in the future, but in this moment, we can hazard a few guesses. Blackmail, for one. Cataloging personal data for advertising purposes at best, total manipulation at worst. In essence, William has sketched out a vision of Westworld as a flesh-and-blood internet, where private information isn't quite as private as one might think — a notion that's all too real in our very own world.
Here's what else happened in "Reunion," an episode brimming with new alliances, old friends, faraway worlds and one very Bad cameo.
Stars on the Ground
"Reunion" begins far away from the story's main action, both in time in space: a moment long ago, when both Arnold (Wright) and Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) were still alive, hoping to draw money in from the outside world. In order to accomplish such a task, they have traveled to the outside world (China, seemingly, based on the "Space 47" building sign seen a scene or two later) with someone very familiar along for the ride: Dolores, now revealed to have visited the world beyond Westworld at this early point in her trajectory.
Staring out at the cityscape, Dolores is awestruck, noting how it "looks like the stars have been scattered across the ground. Have you ever seen anything so full of splendor?" Arnold, with his human existence, has indeed seen such sights before: "But it's better to see it through your eyes." Soon, Ford arrives at Arnold's room and asks if Dolores is almost ready for her "presentation." Arnold says she's not, that her improvisation isn't up to par yet. Ford — who remains unseen, save for a reflection, but is fully heard, with Hopkins (or an excellent impersonator) providing the voice — tells Arnold that he used to be charmed by his favoritism for Dolores.
"You need to let go at some point," Ford tells Arnold as he leaves, an ironic statement given the turbulent journey the two men will soon take together.
Following his conversation with Ford, Arnold decides to take Dolores to see more of the city. They swing by the new home that he's having built ("I've been very fortunate," Arnold responds when Dolores reacts with blissful surprise that someone could live in such a place), and once again look out into the wonder of the world. Arnold remarks that Dolores and his son Charlie have so much in common: the ability to see that wonder.
"Maybe they don't have the courage," Dolores says, about the people who can't or refuse to see it. "A strange new light can be just as frightening as the dark."
"That's very wise," responds a melancholy Arnold. "But sometimes I think we're simply not the ones who deserve it."
The wisdom ends there, as Dolores repeats her commentary about the stars in the streets, and the splendor of the city. Resigned, Arnold tells Dolores it's time to leave. "They'll be expecting us," he says. Dolores makes Arnold promise that he'll bring her back to this place — a promise we can assume went unfulfilled, given the rest of the scientist's grim journey.
The Hard Sell
Later, we see another host visiting the world beyond the park. Several hosts, in fact. Among the many flashback scenes studded throughout the episode, there's this: Logan (Ben Barnes), whose full name is revealed as Logan Delos (fancy that!), on the receiving end of a very wild pitch from two very convincing salespeople: Akecheta (played by Fargo and Longmire veteran Zahn McClarnon) and Angela (Talulah Riley).
At first, not only is Logan unimpressed by what the pair is offering; he's outright annoyed by the "cloak and dagger" tactics surrounding the prospect. But Angela provides an intriguing tease: "Everyone is offering you VR. We're offering something more tangible."
As always, it's more useful to see something in practice than hear about it, and to that end, Angela and Akecheta take Logan into a room filled with hosts — some familiar, like Clementine (Angela Sarafyan), and others who will soon become familiar, like Jonathan Tucker as a much less violent version of the character he's playing later on in the episode, Major Craddock. Eventually, Logan comes to realize the full extent of what's on display in this scene, as he first correctly identifies Angela as a host, only to find out that every single person in the room except himself hails from the park.
"Welcome to Westworld," Angela tells the dazed Logan. "Nobody can do this," he stammers in response. "Nobody's even … we're not here yet," he adds, referring to humanity's technological achievements. Angela corrects him: "We're right here, Mr. Delos. All of our hosts are here, for you."
Soon, we see that Logan took Angela all the way at her word, having slept not only with her but several other hosts, as is the man's wont. At night, Angela emerges from bed to dress herself. Nearby, Dolores, still wearing the same clothes she wore during her previous scenes with Arnold, watches from a distance. She and Angela exchange a curious look; perhaps not too loaded in the moment, but one that will resonate further down the line, once the two become partners in the crusade against mankind.
Logan serves as the gateway for Delos getting involved in Westworld, but it's William who acts as the closer. Midway through the episode, William takes his father-in-law James Delos to the park and gives the surly older man his sales pitch on why it's worth investing in this vision of the future. The details of the scene were already outlined above; no need to rehash them any further, except to say William is pretty clearly positioning guests' personal privacy as the main driving force of how they can turn Westworld into a profitable business.
Sometime later, with Delos' investment in the park fully in place, a party is held for the outgoing James Delos, whose hacking cough indicates his remaining time on Earth may be coming to a close. At least he's going out in style, given the party, and given the pianist at the party: Dolores, handpicked by William himself.
During a break in the party, Dolores finds herself drawn to the terrace outside, where she can once again stare out into the city lights. In this private moment, she finds herself reunited with a man she doesn't know, but who recognizes her thoroughly: Logan, bitter and bitterer still from the experience he shared with William in Westworld. He's a far cry from the man who was joyously pitched on the park earlier in the episode. This version of the man knows all too well the dangers the park poses to humanity at large.
"Do you wanna know what they're really celebrating up there?" the drugged-up Logan asks Dolores. "That, darling, is the sound of fools fiddling while the whole fucking species starts to burn. And the funniest fucking part? They lit the match."
Let's turn toward the "present" action of the episode, which all takes place within the two-week time span before Karl Strand (Gustaf Skarsgard) arrives. The Man in Black rides again, now seeking some company as he steps into the late Robert Ford's new game. His first recruit: Lawrence, the host he spent so much time traveling with in the first portion of season one.
As usual, William speaks candidly with Lawrence, who always seems to follow the details just closely enough, without ever fully questioning the nature of his own reality. After saving Lawrence's life from a trio of nasty host brothers (although not without a need for Lawrence to provide an eleventh-hour assist; the game is a lot harder than the Man in Black anticipated, now that the hosts are free), the two men set about completing Ford's game. For his part, William has an idea of where to go next: a place due west, three days away on horseback.
There are two ways to reach this western point, and the seemingly easier path is through Pariah, the den of sin seen in the first season. But when they arrive, William and Lawrence find little more than ghost town — except when they run into El Lazo and his men, who are basking in their proud new ownership over the glorious Santa Pariah.
El Lazo, by the way? He's no longer played by Lawrence, obviously, but he's played by someone very recognizable all the same: actor Giancarlo Esposito, also known as Gus Fring of Breaking Bad fame. It's an exciting and surprising casting choice, especially as El Lazo monologues about why he's done with adventure, retelling a story about a childhood visit to the circus from a childhood that never really existed.
Frustrated, William takes El Lazo at gunpoint and tries to compel the man to commit his soldiers to the Man in Black's cause. Instead, El Lazo speaks with a familiar voice: "This game was meant for you, William, but you must play it alone." With those ominous words, every single man in El Lazo's army shoots himself in the head at once. For his part, El Lazo offers some parting words before shooting himself: "I'll see you in the Valley Beyond, William."
An even angrier William proceeds to unload bullets into El Lazo's corpse, complete with a wonderfully delivered line of pure frustration: "Fuck you, Robert!" William openly muses about what he's learned: "He doesn't want this to be easy for me, so we'll find another way." For his part, the eternally confused Lawrence wants to know who Robert is. Is he the person who built the place of judgment they're looking for?
"No, he doesn't get that honor," grumbles the Man in Black. "I built it. The place we're going is my greatest mistake."
The Road to Glory
Elsewhere in the park, Dolores leads Angela, Teddy (James Marsden) and their companions to an outpost, so Teddy can finally see the truth of Westworld for himself. When he's finally confronted with images of his many deaths, Teddy nearly chokes the life out of a lab technician, before his better nature stops him from going too far.
Dolores and Angela interrogate a member of the security team, who reveals that somewhere between 600 and 800 soldiers will soon come to the park in response to the catastrophe. They will respond to the system-wide failure by securing one sector at a time, beginning by meeting at a rallying point. Even with this knowledge in place, Teddy tells Dolores they're going to need others if they're going to stand a chance against the human forces; they only have 50 hosts on their side right now, if even that many.
Fortunately, Dolores has a plan for how to bolster their numbers — but first, she and her allies run into another host on a journey of her own: Maeve (Thandie Newton), traveling with Hector Escaton (Rodrigo Santoro) and Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman). A tense conversation ensues between them, with Dolores and Maeve at the center.
Dolores suggests Maeve must have a great need for revenge. According to Maeve, not so much: "Revenge is just a different prayer at their altar, darling, and I'm well off my knees." Maeve questions the way in which Dolores is choosing to combat humanity.
"Yours is the only way to fight?" she asks Dolores, before turning her attention toward Teddy, someone she's spent some time with. "I know you. Do you feel free?"
Reluctantly, Dolores lets Maeve and her companions pass on by without further incident. Besides, Dolores has her own mission: recruiting Major Craddock (the aforementioned Jonathan Tucker) and his army of Confederados, who are on a mission to find a place called Glory. When she finds them, Craddock and his crew are understandably shaken at the sight of one of their old companions, returned from the dead — someone who Dolores resurrected in order to begin the process of waking Craddock up to his true nature. The plan doesn't work out as intended, at least not right away. After some back-and-forth, Dolores has Teddy and Angela kill Craddock and all of his men, before bringing them back online and into the fold.
"We have toiled in God's service long enough — so I killed him," Dolores tells the shocked Craddock. "If you want to get to Glory, you won't be looking for his favor. You'll need mine."
The Great Mistake
The episode ends as Dolores, Teddy and the others ride to meet Craddock's own boss, and as they look out on the horizon, they talk about how their next destination has many names. Some call it Glory. Some call it the Valley Beyond. Apparently, it's known to William as his "greatest mistake."
The penultimate scene of the episode features a young William taunting an unaware Dolores, saying she's nothing more than a thing — and, in fact, is even less than a thing. "You're a reflection," he hisses. "You know who loves staring at their own reflection? Everybody."
William twirls his proverbial mustache some more, filling Dolores in on his vision for the park: "Everybody wants a little bit of what I found here, and I can't wait to use you and every one of your kind to help give it to them. And now there's something else. There's something beyond that. I think there's an answer here to a question no one has ever even dreamed of asking. Do you want to see?"
From there, William takes Dolores outside and stares out at a massive dig site. "Have you ever seen anything so full of splendor," he asks her, mimicking her own words from the beginning of the episode. For her part, in the future, standing on a cliffside of her own with Teddy as a companion, Dolores remembers exactly what William showed her.
"It doesn't matter what you call it," she tells Teddy about Glory, or the Valley Beyond, or whatever name people choose to use. "I know what we're going to find there. An old friend was foolish enough to show me long ago. It's not a place. It's a weapon — and I'm going to use it to destroy them."
What did you make of the latest episode of Westworld? Sound off with your theories in the comments below and keep following THR.com/Westworld for more coverage.