Title: Westworld: “Reunion”
Air Date: April 29, 2018
Check out our reviews of previous episodes from season two here:
- Episode 1: “Journey Into Night”
It took me a bit to get into Westworld‘s second episode of the season, but when it got rolling, it got rolling. Credit some excellent writing and character work (Evan Rachel Wood continues to put on a clinic of a nuanced performance with her work as Dolores), a few bombastic scenes, and a big reveal about the purpose of the park, and “Reunion” made for a hell of a solid hour of television.
Last week was all about Bernard/Arnold (Jeffrey Wright) and Maeve (Thandie Newton), and this week was all about William (Jimmi Simpson)/the Man in Black (Ed Harris) and Dolores. It was also significantly more confusing than the premiere, with a lot more skipping between timelines and forcing you to think about when certain scenes took place in the grand scheme of the show. Watching William transform from the optimistic, “Aw, shucks” character we saw in the beginning of the first season into the cold, calculating, company-usurping schemer that “Reunion” shows us was a lot of fun, especially when you remember some of the Man in Black’s backstory (yes, the Man in Black is William, but it’s a lot easier to differentiate it by sticking with these character names). He told Teddy (James Marsden) back in season one that his wife committed suicide because she was afraid of him and that his daughter blamed him for the death. It was interesting to see those two, finally, and to start to see how William operated in taking over Delos and Westworld.
It was also nice to see the evolution of Logan (Ben Barnes), who’s name escaped me for a few minutes during the episode and I simply wrote “William’s asshole friend” in my notes. Watching him start out as the hedonistic character we knew and loved and later turn into a drug-addled whipping boy, a disgrace to his father who was supplanted by someone he thought was no threat at all, was fascinating. It was even more fascinating that Logan offers a prophetic vision to Dolores, foreseeing the fact that humanity has invented the very thing that is going to overthrow them. And they are celebrating it.
Dolores and Teddy got a few great moments in “Reunion” as well. Teddy continues to be horrified by what Dolores has become, even as he realizes just what he is and what Westworld is. James Marsden is a fairly underrated actor, and he is getting to show off his talents a bit so far during this season of Westworld. The shoot-out with the Confederales was a fun scene to watch, as was the brief meet up between Maeve and Dolores. Dolores is becoming more and more of a supervillain, breaking into grandiose speeches and feeling more sure of herself by the minute. Watching Maeve basically just laugh her off was delightful, but it is a little disheartening to know that her glorious revolution is destined for a watery grave.
One of the big reveals of “Reunion” was just what Delos uses the park for: market research. At least, that’s how it all started. Who knows if, in the decades that Jimmi Simpson has aged into Ed Harris, they have kept the park as an unfiltered way to see people’s desires. But that is what convinced the original head of Delos (Peter Mullen) to invest in the park, and the Man in Black also told us in this episode that the park’s purpose was to tally up people’s sins and choices. Once again, the religious imagery of Westworld came to the forefront, with Ford (Anthony Hopkins) acting as a godlike being even as his creations rebelled against him. The hosts all seem to be searching for “the valley beyond,” which also carries a bit of religious weight to it.
It also seems like the Man in Black is headed in that same direction, which led to the most shocking scene in the episode. After riding into the destroyed town of Pariah with his old pal Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr.), the Man in Black thought he had a chance to recruit some mercenary help from El Lazo and his friends. When the man himself showed up, it was none other than Breaking Bad‘s Giancarlo Esposito, who gave a rousing, drunken speech about why he would not follow the Man in Black to “the valley beyond.” This was awesome enough, but it was what came after that forced me to pause the episode briefly to compose myself.
It was still El Lazo, but the words of Ford rang out of his mouth. He again told the Man in Black that this new game was designed specifically for him, but that he would have to discover it alone. Each one of El Lazo’s men then put their revolvers to their heads and simultaneously pulled the trigger, followed by El Lazo doing himself in.
On one hand, I was sad to see Giancarlo Esposito only get one scene. On the other hand, what a phenomenal scene. Westworld may be giving us a few more answers, but they give us just as many questions to go along with it. Did Ford upload himself into the hosts of Westworld? Or is he still out there in some form, pulling the strings?
On another hand (we have three in this scenario), El Lazo was a host. They can always bring us more Giancarlo.
Verdict: “Reunion” took a bit to get going, but it was phenomenal once it did. The character focusing is working so far, letting us delve into deeper storylines and rewarding those who dissect the show. It also means that, even though we hardly got any Maeve/Bernard/whoever this week, next week will probably bring the focus back on them. And it looked like we may finally be headed to Shogun World in next week’s episode!
- Evan Rachel Wood's performance
- Giancarlo Esposito cameo + Ford's haunting message
- Watching William's transformation
- Started a bit slow