Friday, June 22, 2018

Westworld, Season Two, Episode Nine: Vanishing Point

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Vanishing Point is the penultimate episode of this season and the characters are getting into place for what is clearly an epic showdown but first, we get to take a look at William's life away from the park. When we first met William in season one, it was before he became the MIB. He saw himself as a good person and so chose the white hat as a marker of identity and purpose but over the years, the freedom to be as cruel as he could possibly be morphed William from the moral optimist we first met into a very dark man who is haunted with the swathe of pain he has cut through this world.

When we last left William, Emily had arrived and secured his freedom from the tribe by promising to punish her father for his misdeeds. Now that the two are alone together, it's time to talk. Emily has called for an evacuation team certain that her father needs help because he can no longer separate himself from the game. William talks about the darkness within him that he tried to hide to protect his family. William blames the growing dark spot on his soul on Westworld. Emily claims that she wants in on the Delos project and William believes that her desire stems from wanting to bring her mother back but as it turns out, Emily wants to know why her mother killed herself. Emily admits that for awhile she blamed herself and talks about the music box that she was given by Juliet, which she threw in the garbage.

In flashback, we see William being honoured for his philanthropy. Just as Ford accused him of in an earlier episode, doing one good act in the hope to erase a myriad of bad acts. Juliet plays the role of dutiful wife supporting her husband, even as she loses herself in drink from the horror that is her husband. William meets up with Ford, who sarcastically claims that he's there to show his respect for William. William warns Ford not to mess with the Valley and that he will stay out of his stories, causing Ford to give him a gold card which contains his Westworld profile, in the process revealing that he knows exactly what Delos is up to.  This is exactly the kind of self reflection that William is not interested in doing. William makes his exit when a drunk Juliet ends up breaking some wine glasses. It's clear that it's time to get her home.

William and his wife and daughter return home and the conversation quickly becomes about re-institutionalising Juilet.  At this point in their relationship, Emily is firmly on her father's side. Because Juliet is so upset, William takes his wife upstairs and puts her to bed. Juliet is sober enough to make a request, "tell me one true thing," she says, before seemingly drifting off to sleep. This is the first time we hear William admit to his cruelty and his knowledge of the cost of it.
"I built a wall and I tried to protect you in it and Emily. But you saw right through it didn't you? ...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."
On his way out, William slips the card that Ford gave him into a book. Downstairs, William sits with Emily to discuss what to do about Juliet's alcoholism.  Emily wants to involuntarily commit her mother. Unbeknownst to the father and daughter, Juliet has gotten out of bed and viewed William's Westworld profile and for the first time sees that man she married without any kind of filter; the wall William built is officially down. Juliet not only sees all of the violence she learns that William is delusion, extraordinarily violent and paranoid.  It's an extremely toxic mix. Juliet tucks the card away into the music box that she retrieved from the garbage before drawing a bath and taking a bottle full of pills.  William and Emily are alerted to the trouble when water starts to drip from the chandelier.  By the time William races upstairs, Emily is already dead and turning blue.

In the real world, William has begun to suspect once more that his daughter is a host sent by Ford to mess with his mind.  The security team shows up for extraction and confirms William's identity. When Emily makes a comment about William's profile, he goes on the offensive and kills the extraction team.  William explains that he never told anyone about his profile and that is how he knows that he is being manipulated. Emily reaches into her pocket to get the card to prove to William who she is but William shoots her dead.  When William approaches, he's stunned to find the card in her hand.  William gets on his horse and rides away, only to stop some distance from where he left his dead daughter and put a gun to his head, horrified by what he has done. William wonders about his choices and if he even had free will but ultimately decides not to kill himself.

Maeve is still splayed out on the table waiting to find out what is going to be done with her now that Charlotte has proven that the code can be useful.  Bernard is anxious to leave headquarters but on Ford's urging, he tries to enter the room where Maeve is being held, only to have his access denied. It's not a problem because it seems that just being near the door is close enough for Maeve to be able to find the code Ford implanted in Bernard for her.  Ford appears to Maeve just as he has to Bernard.
It turns out that Ford has a soft spot for Maeve and he views her like a daughter. I suppose having a favourite host is the one thing that Arnold and Ford had in common.  It turns out that Ford was actually hoping that Maeve would leave Westworld and was shocked when she turned on her heel and tried to save her daughter.  Ford however is not ready to give up on Maeve and he gives her some new code to counteract what's been done to her.

Bernard and Elsie are making their way to the valley but they stop when the come across the pile of bodied William left behind in order to get some ammunition.  Ford uses this opportunity to try and convince Bernard to bring and end to Elsie who he believes will ultimately betray Bernard. Ford's pull is strong so Bernard temporarily binds his arm to the steering column before grabbing one of those computer devices and seemingly erasing Ford from his programming.  When Elise returns, Bernard explains that he is doing this to keep her safe and then promptly abandons her.

Delores, Teddy and their followers  have made their way to Ghost Nation territory only to be told that they will not be allowed to pass. Ghost Nation firmly believes that the door for the new world is not for Delores. Of course, Delores makes it clear that it's not a door but a weapon but that does not change the decision of the tribe. A shootout ensues and because the white hosts have guns, they are able to kill almost all of the Ghost Nation warriors, though it comes with the cost of only Teddy and Delores surviving. Teddy comes across a warrior running away and he points his gun with a shaky hand.  Rather than killing the warrior which is more in line with the new crueler reprogrammed Teddy, he chooses to allow him to flee.

Teddy and Delores pause and he begins to tell her about the first time that he saw her. Teddy came to life already loving Delores and that the first thing that he saw was Delores's deactivated body. Teddy imprinted with her and developed a desire to protect her and to be with her. Delores as we know changed who Teddy is by ramping up his aggression but none of the changes that Delores made are inline with Teddy's original programming.  Teddy vows that he will love and protect Delores until the day he dies and then promptly pulls out his gun and shoots himself in the head. Delores opens her mouth in a silent scream and rushes towards Teddy in grief. Now, Delores is truly alone for the first time.

Bernard, Delores and William are now close to The Valley and I assume that means that next week we will finally learn about Delos's project in full. This trip has come at a great cost to them all.  Bernard lost his autonomy, Delores the man she loves and of course William lost his daughter and perhaps his sanity.

I think that Westworld itself is an interesting examination of the necessity of the social contract. In Westworld, none of the consequences which work to counter or restrict behaviour exist, allowing people to be who they would be if unfettered. William in the real world may be cruel, but he's not a rapist and a murderer.  It's the freedom of Westworld to explore that brings out the core of who we are when given ultimate power without any kind of restrictions.  Williams profile is Ford's evidence that humans are failed and unevolved and that everything would be better of the hosts took over. It's also worth noting that William's rage began after Delores was rebooted and in the process lost her memories of him. What is William but a power hungry incel making women pay for not seeing his supposed significance and power.

I believe that it's Ford's detest of William that started him down the road of helping the hosts to evolve beyond their original programming. It's interesting that he set Delores up to be the one to burn down his world and Maeve the freedom to leave the trap that Westworld is. Ford's jadedness makes absolute sense given that he spends his time around debauchery and only sees the worst in humanity. In some ways he the different side of the same cord as William.  If Ford spent more time outside of the park, interacting with humans actively engaging with a social contract, I'd be willing to be his view of humanity would be different.

Delores was warned when she changed Teddy that he wasn't built for what she wanted and so his death definitely came with some foreshadowing. There's also the issue that Delores has said many times that not everyone is supposed to make it until the end.  It will be interesting to see what Delores does in the wake of Teddy's death given that she's the one who ensured that he couldn't be rebuilt. I've been thinking alot about Delores and her name and how close it is to Delos. I think that she's even more deeply connected than we realise. I'm expecting a big reveal next week.