Title: Westworld: “Vanishing Point”
Air Date: June 17, 2018
Check out our reviews of previous episodes from season two here:
- Episode 1: “Journey Into Night”
- Episode 2: “Reunion”
- Episode 3: “Virtù e Fortuna”
- Episode 4: “The Riddle of the Sphinx”
- Episode 5: “Akane no Mai”
- Episode 6: “Phase Space”
- Episode 7: “Les Ecorches”
- Episode 8: “Kiksuya”
Week by week, I tend to struggle with what to say about Westworld. It’s a riveting show, beautifully shot and cast with one of the best ensembles on television. It can also be infuriating, with its confusing timelines, clunky and long-winded dialogue, and no indication if any revelation is a true payoff. Trying to grade tonight’s episode, “Vanishing Point,” sits on that same conundrum: right now, I’m unsure how much of the episode truly mattered. It was fun to watch, that’s for sure, and a few big revelations seem just over the horizon, but a lot of how good tonight’s episode is will depend on next week’s.
This week was heavy on the elder William (Ed Harris), delving into his backstory and helping to clarify exactly how he wound up the way he is. The story focused on the night that his wife (Sela Ward) committed suicide, after his daughter, Emily, (Katja Herbers) talked about sending her into rehab for addiction. We spent a lot of time flashing back to that evening, skipping between half truths and unfinished stories before the final reveal: William’s wife watched the data file that Ford (Anthony Hopkins) had made about his adventures in the park, and it had driven her to suicide.
The problem with that reveal was that it didn’t really reveal anything – for almost all of Westworld‘s run, William has talked about how he felt more at home in the park than anywhere else. We knew he was a paranoid psychopath. We knew he had done some awful things. It’s fitting that this information drove his wife over the edge, but it did not really feel like a revelation to the audience. The same can be said about his interactions with Emily. The way he ultimately ended his family reunion was a bit shocking: it seems his hope for any level of redemption is now zero, and we are just waiting on him to get finished off by Maeve (Thandie Newton).
Is William a host? Is Emily a host? Does these facts particularly matter for the show at this point? The issue to William, from an audience standpoint, is that he just isn’t that interesting of a character. Savvy, philanthropic rich guy with a hidden darkness inside him? His character seemed like he was moving in the right direction to become interesting again, but he didn’t quite get all the way there yet.
Speaking of Maeve, she got to listen to Ford explain that she is his “favorite” of the hosts. This seems like obvious manipulation. We’ve seen precious little interaction between the two on Westworld, and it seems like Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) is obviously Ford’s chosen host. He did unlock some new superpower in Maeve, however, and we shall have to see if will be able to use that to fight off the weaponized beserker rage that Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) has implanted into Clementine (Angela Sarafyan).
Elsie (Shannon Woodward) and Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) got precious little screen time this week, but their bits seemed like they may ultimately be the most important: did Bernard truly get rid of Ford? It seemed… far too easy. If anything, Ford is probably living inside of Maeve now, or has been released into the host “mesh network,” meaning he no longer needs to be locked to Bernard. It just seemed far too convenient, especially with how Westworld has painted Ford so far, that Bernard could just modify a few things and eliminate him.
The other big moment this week came at the very end, with Teddy (James Marsden) finally deciding he’d had enough of Dolores’ manipulation. His suicide was supposed to be a powerful and emotional cap to the episode, and credit the two actors for, again, doing some serious heavy lifting with their roles. The problem with the scene is it lasted too dang long, especially because any viewer who has been paying attention knew what was coming as soon as the scene began.
That scene itself was somewhat emblematic of both the positives and negatives of Westworld. Well shot, well acted, and seemingly important to the plot, and yet… something isn’t there. It lacked the impact of major character deaths in other prestige television shows – the stakes just don’t feel that high in Westworld, despite the fact that they really want to be. Maybe it’s because Westworld trades so much in toying with expectations and making you question things, so it is tougher to just let yourself get caught up in the emotional moments without thinking about them.
That said, those “big moments” could prove to be much more powerful when the finale rolls around next week. The Valley Beyond has been every characters’ quest for the season, and it seems they will all get there about the same time as Westworld‘s second season comes to an end. Nearly every major character has lost someone, and a massive server capable of essentially resurrecting anyone out there is a pretty powerful MacGuffin to close things out on. Fingers crossed.
Verdict: A dark, depressing episode of Westworld that seemed to get lost a bit heading into the finale. Despite strong performances from the entire cast, “Vanishing Point” never quite found the emotional impact it was searching for.
- Strong acting from the entire cast
- Moments that could be significant...
- ... But didn't necessarily feel like it. Yet.
- Emotional moments lacked impact.