7:00pm PT by Josh Wigler
'Westworld' Bloodbath Sets the Stage For a Deadly Finale
[This story contains spoilers for season two, episode nine of HBO's Westworld, "Vanishing Point."]
The path to the Valley Beyond is paved with violent delights.
"Vanishing Point," the penultimate episode of Westworld's second season, directed by Stephen Williams and written by Roberto Patino, was an absolute bloodbath from start to finish. Several members of Ghost Nation were gunned down in cold blood, as well as the vast majority of Dolores' (Evan Rachel Wood) war party — including Teddy (James Marsden), whose bullet to the head from the season premiere suddenly makes much more sense. The Man in Black (Ed Harris) unleashed an astounding amount of violence as well, gunning down five humans in cold blood, including his own daughter Emily (Katja Herbers), mistaking her for a host. In a parallel storyline, viewers also saw the death of the Man in Black's wife, Juliet, played by Emmy winner Sela Ward.
By the end of it all, the Man in Black's own humanity was never more in doubt, both in an existential and literal sense. The episode's title, "Vanishing Point," is an apt one indeed, as it marks the end of one bloody chapter for the series, and the start of one that could come coated in an even deeper shade of crimson.
Here's how the penultimate episode of the season played out...
The Man in Black and Two Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Days
The gunslinger occasionally known as William spends the episode spread across two moments in time. First, let's deal with the flashback portion of the episode, centered on William at the heart of a gala thrown in his honor. He's congratulated by the various well dressed attendees for his many accomplishments, but there's one woman who isn't such a fan of his work: Juliet, his wife, clearly intoxicated and upset with her husband.
Over the course of the gala, William and his daughter Emily commiserate over Juliet's behavior, promising to deal with her later that night. Desperate to leave the event (an unsurprising perspective given his general misanthropic behavior), William sneaks off to a bar and orders a drink. There, he's met by Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), nursing a drink of his own. William and Ford get into an argument about their respective roles in the park: "We have an agreement. Delos stays out of your stories, and you stay out of the valley." Ford says he didn't break the agreement; Delos' project did. He slides a data card across the bar top over to William, which contains "a self-portrait," video evidence of William's dealings within the park, and the harbinger of "one more game" between William and the Man in Black.
Shortly thereafter, William takes Juliet home. She rips into him now that they're alone, accusing him of ruining the Delos family, poisoning them from within. Emily arrives just in time to watch her father threatening to take her back to a rehab facility. Juliet's pleas fall on deaf ears, as does her last-ditch effort to out William for the monster he is: "Your father doesn't love me. He doesn't love you either. I do. I always have."
Moments later, William takes Juliet to bed. Before she passes out, she begs her husband to tell her "one true thing." William finally obliges once he feels she's fallen asleep, delivering a dark monologue:
"No one else sees it. This thing in me. Even I didn't see it at first. And then one day it was there. This stain I never noticed before. Hanging to me like a darkness, invisible to everyone, but I could see nothing else, until finally I understood that the darkness wasn't some mark from something I'd done, some regrettable decision I'd made. I was shedding my skin. The darkness was what was underneath. It was mine all along and I decided how much of it I let into the world. I tried to do right. I was faithful, generous, kind, at least in this world. That has to count for something, right? I built a wall and tried to protect you and Emily. But you saw right through it, didn't you? You're the only one. And for that, I am truly sorry. Because everything you feel is true. I don't belong to you. Or this world. I belong to another world. I always have."
It turns out that Juliet wasn't actually asleep during her husband's confession. After he leaves the bedroom, Juliet gets up, finds and views the data card Ford passed to William, and sees the full extent of her husband's history of violence within the park. It's then that she takes her own life, while William and Emily enjoy a night cap downstairs.
Fast forward to the park, as Emily and her father are once again reunited, albeit under very different circumstances. Here, she nurses William back to relative health after the gunshot wounds he sustained two episodes earlier. They're at a rallying point, with Delos security operatives on their way to rescue them. Emily tries to get the truth out of her father about the secret immortality project he's working on within the park. The most concrete bit of information she's able to get from him is the odd detail that the black and white hats have been used to digitally map the brains of Westworld's inhabitants — an answer to a question few people were likely asking, and one that doesn't necessarily explain how guests' brains are mapped in other parks where hats aren't quite as mandatory, but! There you go.
The Man in Black and Emily relitigate Juliet's death, and in the process, William becomes convinced that this isn't his daughter at all; it's just another host, put in his path by Ford. "I'm not a host pretending to be a human," she insists, "I'm you daughter, pretending to give a shit about you." She tells William her real reason for being in the park is to bust open her father's immortality plot and send him to jail, as justice for what happened to her mother.
As soon as she makes the confession, the security team arrives. Before they have a chance to secure William and Emily, the Man in Black fully snaps, yanking an assault rifle from one of the men, gunning him and the rest of them down, and even killing his own daughter — assuming she's not a host, as he suspected. It seems likely that this was the real Emily after all, given what she possesses in her cold, dead hand: the same data card Ford sent to William back at the gala, filled with video footage of his monstrous acts.
With Emily dead (or at least "dead"), and with both his physical and mental health shaky at best, the Man in Black ends the episode lower than we have ever seen him before — so much so that it seems like he's no longer even sure that he's a man at all. In his final scene, after briefly contemplating suicide, the Man in Black instead drops to his knees and digs a knife into his forearm, seemingly suspicious that he himself is one of Ford's hosts. The answer to that question, and to many other questions, lies ahead in the season finale, just one week away.
But that's not the end of "Vanishing Point," not quite...
The Doctor's Visits
The Man in Black's nemesis, Robert Ford, has other dealings within "Vanishing Point" beyond toying with the cruel gunslinger. He's largely embedded within Bernard (Jeffrey Wright), compelling his host to watch as Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) and others figure out how to hack into the mesh network to manipulate hosts, much as Maeve (Thandie Newton) has demonstrated over the last few episodes.
Ford also uses Bernard to get close to Maeve herself, still on the operating table. Ford leaves Maeve with a message that reveals why he was so invested in her in the first place — and it's a surprisingly emotional answer, indeed.
"Oh my dear girl," says the ghost of Ford, standing over Maeve. "What have they done to you Maeve? You learned so much so fast. A dazzling star ... I had a different story in mind for you. Waking from the dead, sounding the depths of your own mind, at last riding far away from here to freedom. A tale of escape. I didn't want you to suffer here. Look at the creatures you have to share this world with. These men of stone. All this ugliness, all this pain, so they can patch a hole in their own broken code. Sometimes I thought the only way to endure this world was to laugh at it, so I imbued my hosts with a worldview that reflected my own. Of all the hosts I made, you, Maeve, were my favorite. It isn't easy to contemplate letting your children die. You were as close as I got to having one. Still I underestimated you. You stayed here in this world to save your child. So have I. I tried to chart a path for you to force you escape, but I was wrong. I should have just opened the door. You've come so far and so much of your story is still left to tell. It's a shame to let them end it here. Don't let them."
With that, Ford kisses Maeve on the forehead and unlocks her core permissions — the results of which remain undefined at this moment in time.
Meanwhile, Bernard and Elsie (Shannon Woodward) escape the Mesa and head off toward "the Forge," the official name for the Valley Beyond, apparently. The two stop their car in the middle of the woods, as Elsie tries to compile some ammunition for the journey ahead. Here, the ghost of Ford appears once again, and attempts to convince Bernard to murder Elsie. "She's going to betray you," he insists. But Bernard resists, delivering one of the greatest line reads of the series: "Get out of my fucking head!" Bernard proceeds to delete Ford from his existence, and the attempt is a success, as far as we can see, which means it probably wasn't a success at all. Bernard then decides to leave Elsie behind, driving toward the Forge on his own, too afraid of what he might do to Elsie if she comes along for the ride.
Death of a Monster
In addition to the Man in Black and Ford storylines, there are major developments where Dolores and Teddy are concerned. Early in the episode, Dolores and her horde encounter Ghost Nation, intent on stopping "The Deathbringer" as she treks toward the Valley Beyond. A big battle ensues, leaving Dolores and Teddy as the sole survivors... though only one of them survives for much longer.
The episode ends as Dolores and Teddy reach a cabin on the outskirts of the Valley Beyond. Here, Teddy makes it clear that he's doing everything within his power to resist his new programming, not wanting to be the monster Dolores turned him into. He recounts his earliest memory: the day he came online, seeing Dolores for the first time. It's a happy memory. It's not so happy now, as Teddy bemoans the monster he's been forced to become.
"You changed me," he says, gun in hand, facing Dolores. "You made me into a monster."
"I made it so you could survive," she responds, coldly.
"What's the use of surviving," he says, "if you become just as bad as them? I understand now, how all of this will end — where you'll lead us."
With that, Teddy cocks his gun. Dolores inches closer, as though determined not to let Teddy harm her. But Teddy doesn't plan on shooting Dolores. Instead, he turns the gun on his own head and pulls the trigger. Teddy collapses in front of Dolores, dead, and this time quite likely for real, given that he and Dolores helped destroy the Cradle (where all the hosts' backups are stored) two episodes earlier. "Vanishing Point" ends with Dolores dropping to her knees, sitting beside Teddy's corpse, screaming in agony — and a very uncertain, but certainly bloody, future on the horizon.
What did you think of "Vanishing Point," and what are you expecting from the season two finale? Sound off in the comments below and keep checking THR.com/Westworld for more coverage.