7:00pm PT by Josh Wigler
'Westworld' Subverts Shogun World Expectations With a Clever Detour
[This story contains spoilers for season two, episode three of HBO's Westworld, called "Virtù e Fortuna."]
Velociraptor expert Robert Muldoon of Jurassic Park fame is tragically absent from Westworld (despite the Michael Crichton ties that bind the two franchises), but the dinosaur hunter would have been very much at home in the latest episode of the HBO series.
It's not just because Muldoon's proficiency at hunting big game would have come in handy in the Park Six sequence that opened up Sunday's episode, though that's certainly a factor. It's more that his aforementioned final words, uttered before his immediately ensuing evisceration, are apt in connection to the way the episode subverts the audience's expectations.
Ever since the first season finale, fans have waited with bated breath to dive head first into Shogun World, the park beyond Westworld first glimpsed (and barely at that) by Maeve (Thandie Newton) in her attempt to break out into the real world. In the third episode of season two, creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy finally deliver on the promise — but only barely, with an incredibly quick scene that arrives at the very end of the episode.
With that said, it's hard to complain about the relative lack of Shogun World in the hour, called "Virtù e Fortuna," directed by Richard J. Lewis from a script written by Roberto Patino and Ron Fitzgerald, considering the way it all begins: in the thick of another park that was briefly teased at the start of the season, but otherwise wasn't even a consideration until very recently.
Immersing the viewer deeply in the world of "Park Six," officially known as "The Raj," well before spending any meaningful amount of time in Shogun World demonstrates Nolan and Joy's playful attitude with the viewer. Theory-hungry fans have spent more than a year wondering what secrets lie ahead in Shogun World, the park based on the Edo period of Japanese history, but have had little time or reason to ponder the specifics of what Park Six entails. A very clever twist of expectations indeed, and one that's perfectly aligned with the unexpected story beats of season two thus far.
Here's how the rest of the episode played out:
Eye of the Tiger
The episode begins in "The Raj," a park that seems inspired by Colonial India: guests enjoy lavish arrangements of tea, while a background band plays a mesmerizing cover of the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army." (Series composer Ramin Djawadi delivers again.) A man named Nicholas (Neil Jackson) looks out into a courtyard and sees a woman on her own. The episode never names her, but this character is played by new series regular Katja Herbers; official materials have referred to her as "Grace," so we'll go with that until proven otherwise.
Nicholas strides toward Grace's table, the two making idle chit-chat to feel out each other's status. Are they human, or are they hosts? The question escalates as the two move into Grace's bedroom, and she puts the theory to the test with an array of guns. "It's the simplest way to know for sure," Grace says, indicating that she wishes to shoot Nicholas to make sure he's a human. Nicholas doesn't have much of a chance to fully protest before Grace takes it upon herself to pull the trigger. Point made: Nicholas is not a host. The bedroom activities resume.
Some time later, Grace and Nicholas embark on a hunting expedition, seeking Bengal tigers at the edge of the park. Soon, Grace senses something is wrong, and confirms her suspicions when she finds two humans with whom she arrived at the park dead in a nearby tent. Nicholas is skeptical ("A new twist in the narrative!" he excitedly exclaims), but the doubting is quickly squashed when a host shoots Nicholas in the chest; this time, the bullet's real.
Grace manages to load a nearby firearm just in time to kill the renegade host, and subsequently runs as quickly away from her surroundings as possible. (Not even a checkup on Nicholas to see if it was just a flesh wound? How rude!) She stops in the middle of a clearing to catch her breath, and when she looks up, she sees that the hunter has now become the hunted: a Bengal tiger stalks nearby, as menacing as the host who just proved itself capable of murder. Grace manages to fire off one round into the tiger, but not enough to stop the beast. She's forced to cross the lines into another park, heads to the edge of a cliff, frantically reloads her weapon, and fires off one last round into the tiger — but not before the creature slams into her, sending both of them over the edge. Smash to credits.
Near the end of the episode, we catch back up with Grace, who has washed ashore alongside the very dead tiger — the same tiger Bernard (Jeffrey Wright), Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) and Strand (Gustaf Skarsgård) discovered in the season premiere. When she regains consciousness, Grace stares up at three men towering over her: members of Ghost Nation. She passes out again, her future unknown.
Searching For Peter Abernathy
In the near future timeline, Bernard, Stubbs and Strand all converge upon the Mesa, though they're informed ahead of time that the place is still a disaster from the revolution's initial outburst. "It's a slaughterhouse in there," Maling (Betty Gabriel) tells them. But someone inside is very much alive: Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson), who seems surprised to see Bernard.
"You made it out alive," she comments. "I didn't think you had it in you."
Charlotte continues, pushing Bernard on the question of Peter Abernathy (Louis Herthum), the host currently wandering around with an ocean of intelligence swimming in his system. The question seems to trigger yet another flashback for Bernard, as we travel backward in time and catch up with Bernard and Charlotte in very different circumstances: out in the fields of Westworld, searching for Abernathy.
In this timeline — which ends up being the main timeline for the rest of the episode, unless there's some serious timeline chicanery in place (which is not out of the question, because hey! Westworld!) — Bernard and Charlotte have tracked down Abernathy's whereabouts. He and a slew of guests are being held hostage by Rebus (Steven Ogg) and other homicidal hosts, forcing Charlotte and Bernard to get creative in luring their target to safety. They begin the process by calling Rebus away from his gang, knocking him unconscious, and giving him some attitude alterations to make him "the most virtuous and quickest gun in the west."
Even with those admirable traits in place, Rebus isn't virtuous or compassionate enough to fend off a group of Confederados all on his own. The hostages disperse, and Bernard and Charlotte are able to grab Abernathy, but only for so long. It turns out that Abernathy is experiencing some significant glitches, leading to vocal outbursts and erratic behavior. He ends up getting caught by the Confederados, as does Bernard, while Charlotte is able to escape, eventually finding her way back to headquarters on horseback. More on her soon enough…
Meanwhile, Major Craddock (Jonathan Tucker) leads Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), Teddy (James Marsden), Angela (Talulah Riley) and the rest of the horde to Fort Forlorn Hope, as the commanding officer Colonel Brigham (Fredric Lehne) likes to call it. Like Craddock before him, Brigham is at first skeptical of Dolores calling all the shots. She quickly convinces him by showing off one of QA's automatic weapons, which she happily allows Brigham to test out on one of their human captives.
"You can keep it and all of their weapons," Dolores tells him. "Just promise me your men. I'll need them if we're ever to survive this threat."
This threat, for what it's worth, comes in the form of droves of security forces that are on their way to stop Dolores and company's revolution, little more than a day's ride away. Brigham falls in line, allowing Dolores' troops into the fort. Hours later, some more guests arrive as well, including two hosts: Bernard and Abernathy. Dolores immediately recognizes her father, and recognizes that he's unwell. She recognizes Bernard as well, but initially has him tossed into a prison cell with the rest of the human captives.
Dolores tends to her father, as does Teddy, at least initially; due to his many deaths and due to the fact that Dolores' father was replaced by another host not terribly long ago, Teddy doesn't recall ever having met Abernathy. When the two of them are alone, Dolores confides in her father, with whom she has a fleeting breakthrough (emphasis on fleeting), opening up her insecurities about the war she's begun for the first time.
"The others, they don't see it yet," Dolores says, speaking about the necessity of the battle. "But you understand, don't you?"
Sadly, Abernathy doesn't understand much, as he regresses once again, mumbling about needing to "get to the train." Dolores promises to help her father, and she takes those first steps by recruiting Bernard. Before Bernard agrees to help, he and Dolores have a back-and-forth about the present situation, with Bernard asking why Dolores is doing what she's doing.
"My whole life has been dictated by someone else," she explains. "Someone who has been saying: 'You will.' Now, I feel like I've discovered my own voice. It says: 'I may.'"
In his initial studies, Bernard discovers that someone has jury-rigged a thin personality for Abernathy, though it's masking a vastly bigger file. There's an incredibly complicated encryption key that Bernard isn't sure how to crack, but he is sure of one thing: whatever is inside of Abernathy, the humans won't stop until they have it.
"As long as he's with you, they'll be following you," says Bernard, to which Dolores replies: "Let them come."
The next day, they come: human security forces arrive en masse to take on the hosts holding down the fort. Of course, Dolores has a plan: the Confederados have laced the ground right outside the fort with nitroglycerin, meaning they can destroy the humans with one well-time shot once they're in range of the planned explosion.
An all-out war rages between the two sides, with the hosts woefully outgunned. What's more, Charlotte has enlisted an elite squad to infiltrate the fortress quietly, so they can grab Abernathy and hit the road. Mission accomplished in that regard, but not before Bernard is able to open the decrypted file inside Abernathy's head. The viewer doesn't get a chance to see what's swimming around in there; instead, we only hear Bernard's three-word reaction.
"Oh my god," he whispers.
Bernard doesn't get a chance to tell anybody any further details, either, as his body once again starts to twitch uncontrollably. Before he can help himself, he's knocked unconscious by Clementine (Angela Sarafyan), assuming she's even Clementine anymore; the way she moves and stares forth with a stone-cold affect, she's more Terminator than ever before.
Meanwhile, Dolores tries to stop the men from abducting Abernathy. Instead, she receives two gunshots — one to the shoulder, and one to the abdomen — in her pursuit of her father's captors. She pushes through the pain, and commands Teddy to send the horde in every direction in order to find Abernathy. As for them? Dolores and Teddy are going to head to Sweetwater: "There's something I need there."
Before they break for Sweetwater, there's the small matter of finishing the fight. The plan goes through and the soldiers are all incinerated, but there's a catch: Dolores traps the Confederados outside of the fortress as well, letting them die in the battle, and actively killing the ones who are only wounded in the fight. Craddock is furious with Dolores' treachery, to which she coldly replies: "The truth is, we don't all deserve to make it."
Dolores orders Teddy to execute Craddock and his men. Indeed, her exact words: "Take this dog out back and put him down with the rest." But Teddy is still having trouble fully embracing Dolores' vision. Craddock talks some smack on his way toward death's door, which still isn't enough to get Teddy to shoot a man in cold blood. Instead, he releases Craddock and the other Confederados he was supposed to execute — all while Dolores watches, deeply disappointed.
Journey Into Shogun World
Throughout the episode, another storyline plays out: Maeve (Thandie Newton), Hector (Rodrigo Santoro) and Sizemore (Simon Quarterman) continue their trek to find Maeve's daughter. While they're out in the open, they encounter members of Ghost Nation, which is deeply triggering for Maeve, considering she associates them with terrorizing her and her daughter in a previous build.
Thankfully, due to the time he's spent out in the wild, Hector knows Ghost Nation's culture and can speak their language. He learns that he and Maeve are free to continue on their current path, but only if they surrender Sizemore. It's not an option, according to Maeve. "I need him," she implores. Hector, ever the romantic, complies with Maeve's request. The three of them flee and find refuge in a nearby outpost, where they will be able to navigate an underground tunnel toward their next destination.
While underground, Hector and Maeve share a tender moment, which disturbs Sizemore. He says that they were both designed to be alone — "some attraction, but never a relationship." Hector is supposed to be in love with a woman named Isabella, according to Sizemore, which riles the bandit up enough that he nearly takes Sizemore's head off. He eases down at Maeve's request ("Darling, he's fragile!"), and begins to declare his love for Maeve, leading Sizemore to finish Hector's sentence. It's a rare sign of dominance from Sizemore, showing off that even when the hosts are thinking independently, many of their original ideas are born from dialogue previously written by folks like Sizemore.
Soon, the group encounters explosive amounts of violence ensuing in the surrounding hallways. The trio seeks refuge, but they're sufficiently calmed when they see the source of the action: Armistice (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal), last seen removing her own arm in order to survive the slaughtering at the Mesa. Now, Armistice has a new arm, presumably due to two new "friends" she's made along the way: technicians Felix (Leonardo Nam) and Sylvester (Ptolemy Slocum), tied up as hostages. The two pairs of three become one unit of six, board an elevator together and set off on their next steps.
Above ground, Maeve's party walks through windswept hills, with snow on the ground. Sizemore believes they are in the north of the park, and should be closing in on their desired location. They all see a fire in the distance. Nearby, a severed head is found in the snowbank. Sizemore panics. "We have to go. We have to get out of here right now!"
Before anyone can heed his warning, a figure moves like lightning in the shadows, screaming bloody murder, hands raised up as though he's about to bring death down upon whoever is in his path. At long last, we can say the words we've waited to say since 2016: "Welcome to Shogun World."
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