There comes a point where you need to question exactly what kind of show Westworld wants to be. As it stands, its desire to have its cake and eat it is starting to cause it to fall over itself, as the emotional beats get tripped up by deliberate vagueness. It’s that dichotomy that leads to a lot of the issues with ‘Vanishing Point’, most notably the entirety of William’s backstory; what should have been affecting elicits little more than a shrug.
What do we know about William so far? We know he seemed an idealistic and sensitive guy when he entered the park with his soon-to-be-brother-in-law Logan. We know he fell in love with Dolores and jeopardised his entire life outside the park in the process. We know that he convinced his father-in-law, Jim Delos, of the park’s potential for capturing the innermost thoughts and desires of its patrons. We know he attempted to give Jim eternal life by putting his consciousness in a host body but it failed. We know his wife Juliet killed herself and his daughter laid the blame at his feet. And we know he re-entered the park as an older man and is locked in some battle of wits with Robert Ford, one that has led to him losing his grip on his sanity.
That’s a fairly comprehensive and chronological overview of William’s journey over the last two seasons. It’s fair to say there are a few crucial blanks in that journey, most notably: what made William so callous and cruel and why did his wife kill herself? We get an answer to the last part of that question in ‘Vanishing Point’, but it’s a vague answer, told with a frustrating lack of detail. After a tedious party – during which Ford shows up and gives William a card containing his Westworld profile – husband and wife argue, a drunken Juliet accusing William of consuming her family. Emily appears and threatens to put Juliet back in rehab, which doesn’t go over all that well. William then confesses to a sleeping Juliet that he doesn’t belong in this world and that there’s a darkness inside him. Except Juliet’s not asleep and she finds the profile card (hidden in a copy of Slaughterhouse Five, no less) and sees a compilation of William’s worst deeds in the park. Next time we see her, she’s dead in the bath.
The bulk of this episode consists of Emily (who is definitely called Emily now, not the confusing Grace alias) trying to get through to her increasingly delusional father. Gravely wounded, he’s become more and more paranoid and hard to reach. She absolves him of any blame in her mother’s death and tells him she’s arranged an extraction. But it’s too late, her father has disappeared too far into Westworld and becomes convinced that Emily is a host being used by Ford to toy with him. When the extraction team shows up, William kills them all and then turns the gun on Emily.
This is part of what’s so frustrating about this episode. The introduction of Emily promised much, but delivered so little. Since that “Hello Dad” cliffhanger, she’s mostly flitted about on the periphery. When she finally forces her father to confront his past and what he’s become, all we get are vague allusions to an unspecified darkness inside him, something that’s repeated so often that it starts to sound like the sort of bad 90s grunge song that might have appeared on The Crow soundtrack. Katja Herbers did a lot with very little, but both she and the character deserved a more crucial role in proceedings. Now Emily’s gone, and her role amounted to a little bit of background shading and a minor detour en route to the same place we’ve been headed since the season premiere.
Speaking of which, it seems everyone is headed for the Valley Beyond. Dolores and Teddy get in a showdown with some of Akecheta’s tribe, who deem Dolores unworthy of whatever lies there, leading to all of her gang (bar her and Teddy) getting wiped out. Teddy is struggling with his reprogrammed self, aware enough to realise that it isn’t who he’s supposed to be. Unable to countenance protecting Dolores anymore, he shoots himself in the head, leaving her utterly alone.
Meanwhile, Bernard refutes Ford’s insistence that Ellie can’t be trusted and atones for his previous attack on her by rewriting his own code to remove Ford from his head, thus protecting her. He leaves her to be picked up by Delos and heads off on a certain collision course with William and Dolores. Also headed there is Maeve, who is given a quick pep talk by Ford in order to keep her from perishing on a table in the facility. No doubt this quartet will meet next week at the Valley Beyond (aka The Forge), with very different objectives in mind.
Questions, questions, questions
- I’ve a habit of making links between this and Legion but there was a solid one this week. Did anyone else spot that the last Ghost Nation warrior killed by Teddy and Dolores was played by David Midthunder, father of Amber Midthunder, who plays Kerry Loudermilk on Legion?
- William hacks into his forearm with a knife, just like Bernard does when he needs to hook himself up to something. I’m taking bets now, is William a host or has this been an elaborate fake out?
- Charlotte Hale and nefariously bearded technician have weaponised Clementine to control hosts like Maeve does. William might be a host. Will this end well? I’m guessing no.