The stories go ‘round and ‘round this week in “Virtù e Fortuna” as the timelines of the stories start to come back on themselves, especially in regards to Bernard in this week’s Westworld.
Spoiler Alert: The following discusses plot points from Westworld episode “Virtù e Fortuna” written by Roberto Patino & Ron Fitzgerald, directed by Richard J. Lewis.
We learn via the cold open that one of the other parks is basically A Passage to India for contemporary, bored white people. Set in a Colonial India motif, we watch an attractive white guy put the make on an attractive white woman who smokes with a lot of ennui. There’s a sitar version of a White Stripes song playing so we get it that this is not a flashback. Then they go to her room to have sex but she needs to shoot him with a blank first to make sure he’s not one of those detestable Hosts faking that he’s human. He passes the test and still wants to do it with her. Ok, then. Later, they go on safari and get ambushed by a human with a gun. The pretty dude dies, and she runs as a Bengal tiger follows, then pounces on her as they both fall into a lake. Aha! This is the tiger that we saw in the premiere episode. An answer provided.
Bernard’s timelines get ever more convoluted as we see bespectacled Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) brought to the Confederales’ Fort where he can reunite with Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), and try to help her super glitchy father, Peter Abernathy (Louis Herthum).
Dolores is also working a con on the Confederales, enlisting their help in exchange for the load of the guns the Delo’s emergency team will be bringing with them. Unbeknownst to their leadership, Dolores actually sets up the Confederales as cannon fodder so she can blow up the Delos soldiers and keep her army of Hosts as safe as possible for bigger fights.
Maeve (Thandie Newton), Hector (Rodrigo Santoro) and Lee (Simon Quarterman) almost get wiped out by Ghost Nation Warriors in the park. They want Lee dead, but Maeve still needs the oily creep, so they run for safety. The trio make it to a Delos escape elevator and go back into operations looking for a better route to where Maeve’s daughter is located in the park. They also pick up Armistice (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal) and Maeve’s old technicians, Lutz (Leonardo Nam) and Sylvester (Ptolemy Slocum) along the way.
We get glimpses of two new parks in this episode, the aforementioned Colonial India World and what looks like the promised Shogun World. The visual expansion of Delos’ world is welcome as the Westworld motif has gotten a bit dry with the same sets and tropes inherent to the cowboy theme being featured over and over again.
The reunion of Dolores and her father was a poignant moment. Likely meant to conjure parallels to those suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s, Dolores is truly shattered by how broken Peter’s brain has become. When he has a lucid moment, they relish remembering the simple times, and repeated rituals of their ranch life. Of course, his code quickly goes wonky and she nicely asks Bernard to fix him.
Bernard tries to help Peter and finds that someone has hacked Abernathy’s programming to hide a vast file inside of the Host. It’s an encryption key to something that Delos very much wants. We already knew they wanted him, but at least we now sorta know why. Charlotte and her Delos team end up snatching Peter, and that gives Dolores another goal to accomplish on her to-do list: get her dad back.
The narrative wheel-spinning feels very pronounced in this episode as there are plenty of noisy, busy shoot-outs, and characters walking from point A to point B, but nothing of great importance is actually achieved.
Maeve, Hector and Lee basically walk themselves in circles inside the park, and then inside Delos ops, because the Host’s programming somehow doesn’t have a map of the park in their heads. And Lee is an idiot so he’s no help except to whine. Sure, they pick up some familiar faces along the way, but they’re burning a lot of episode minutes without getting to Maeve’s daughter, or any other point.
The same can be said of Dolores’ pursuits as she goes through the motions of working with the Confederales to fight the Delos emergency ops soldiers. She enacts more ruthless moves in pursuit of her goal of “dominating this world” by wiping out the Confederal soldiers, but why do we care in the end? That army has always been shaped as one-note creeps, and “children,” so when they get murdered by Dolores’ people, are we supposed to care? Not one of them was presented as someone who deserved sympathy so it was a lot of time dedicated to story moves that didn't push the emotional needle.
And the story trickery when it comes to Bernard is all about technique now, which only manages to elicit frustration. If you like making flowcharts when you watch a TV show, you must be in heaven. But for the rest of us, trying to figure out where in the story we are with Bernard basically comes down to whether he's wearing glasses or not. I don’t invest in glasses. I invest in characters and it’s hard to invest right now when the show is telling us that we should be playing along with the game of 'where in time is he?' instead of caring about Bernard himself.
Things to Ponder ...
As for the Bernard timeline of it all, we get more of the story of where he goes after he connects with Charlotte to escape the massacre. They go into the park together to find Peter, which they accomplish, but Peter and Bernard then get taken to the Confederales. Charlotte goes back to Delos to get a S&R team to take her back into the park to get Peter, which she does, but she obviously loses him. We know that because the Bernard who said in the premiere, “He…I killed them all,” ends up back in Delos with the Delos Head of Operations and his team and they see Charlotte (Tessa Thompson). She doesn’t let on that she has already escaped with this Bernard from the park and that she had Peter in her clutches when she asks him pointedly, “Do you have any idea where Abernathy has gone?”
We’re still missing some big pieces of the timeline puzzle, as Bernard wasn’t doing well inside the Fort and then he gets knocked out by Clementine (Angela Sarafyan). What are we going to find out about those missing moments before they all connect? And will it be worth the mental machinations?
When Bernard said in the series premiere, “He…I killed them all,” could he be referring to what Peter holds inside of his code? That might explain his wording because if Bernard cracks the one-time key inside Peter, whatever it triggers could make both of them responsible for the outcome.
Who is the woman that Bengal tiger tried to drown? She’s certainly no fan of Hosts, but she’s fine with spending time in a Delos playground. We know that because she knows how the place should work, like an expert on the parks. So, is she someone who works there? Is she connected to Ford, or perhaps older William (the Man in Black)?
Is Dolores’ grand plan to get so good at surviving inside Westworld that she will be able to exist in the outside world? Humans are all about staying alive, which she knows, so is all of this practice for when the stakes get even higher in the “real” world?
When Teddy refuses to kill the Confederales, is that a by-product of his own burgeoning moral compass, or is his code still dictating his actions?
It’s interesting to see how some of the Hosts, like Dolores and Teddy, and Maeve and Hector, have bypassed their programming to form emotional attachments to one another. But it’s still a headscratcher in terms of how that works. At one point, Lee screams at Hector that he should only be in love with Isabella because he wrote him that way, but Maeve and Hector tell him that they have made their own choices. Or have they? Lee recites Hector’s romantic language he wrote for him proving that he’s not exactly conjuring up new thoughts for Maeve. So, are the Hosts feeling actual feelings for someone outside of their programming, or perhaps just re-appropriating existing code for someone else?
What did you love about this episode, and is the season hitting all the right notes for you?