The narrative threads get another shuffle on Westworld this week as “Reunion” goes back in time to show some important context about the early days of the Hosts.
Spoiler Alert: The following discusses plot points from Westworld episode "Reunion," written by Carly Wray & Jonathan Nolan, directed by Vincenzo Natali.
It’s Arnold’s (Jeffrey Wright) time to share the spotlight with Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), as the episode goes back to the days when Ford and Arnold were pitching their technological advances to potential investors. Dolores is clearly one of Arnold’s favored creations, as he protects her from early public perusal and invites her to see the private home he’s building for his wife and son, Charlie. He treats Dolores like she is his other “child,” as he warmly talks about his two progeny uniquely seeing the beauty and possibility of the world.
Early Dolores is eventually seen back in her Sweetwater storyline as William (Jimmi Simpson) brings his cranky Scot father-in-law, James Delos (Peter Mullan), to the park to experience the immersive power of the Hosts. Delos wants no part of the creepy tech, until the newly post-Dolores-influenced William makes a persuasive case about Westworld being the future of everything.
In the present, Dolores and Teddy (James Marsden) make it into Delos operations, specifically the grisly Host refurbishment sector so she can break down Teddy’s worldview a little more and toughen him up for the fight ahead. More importantly, she brings a refurbished Confederale and a human tech back into the park with her to convince the Confederale Host leader to join her army.
At (seemingly) the same time, the Man in Black (Ed Harris) finds Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr.) in his poaching storyline, and saves him so he can conscript him for his own uses. MiB drags Lawrence to a Host bar to do some high-tech first aid on his owwies, and proceeds to tell his criminally programmed Host friend that the rules have changed for everyone in the game. Turns out, MiB wants to fight his way back and then burn the whole world to the ground. Charming, as ever.
Finally going back into the past to see the early days of when Arnold and Robert were revealing their tech to potential investors was much needed, and appreciated. Obviously, the chaos of the present uprising has its roots directly in how the brilliant duo sold their tech wares to the highest bidder. And seeing who they chose to pursue for financial backing, especially the morally repellant Logan Delos (Ben Barnes), and later down the line the life-changed William, establishes exactly where the human vs. Host attitudes that created a moral chasm between the two came from.
There’s a fun reveal in the El Lazo storyline that the Man in Black and Lawrence discover. I’ll just say I immediately had a craving for fried chicken. It was great to see this actor, even if it was a cameo. And it certainly was a dramatic way to show a Host who came to the end of their programmed story who wasn’t interested in pursuing violence on his human counterparts. That it still turns out that way for the new El Lazo is par for the course in this world. It also revealed that Ford’s game for the Man in Black is a solo one, and there will be no army recruitment, as Dolores is pursuing. Thus, it spurs the MiB to travel to find his “greatest mistake,” in the park that Dolores says is a mysterious weapon that young William revealed to her way back in the day. So, guess what Dolores wants to find too? Now it’s a game to see which one gets there first.
While the bouncing timelines are providing interesting contextual information, it’s creating a problem with emotional through line. There are so many storylines to service, and now timelines via multiple characters, it’s becoming increasingly challenging to actually invest. For example, what seemed like a core emotional narrative – Maeve’s quest to find her daughter – is relegated in this episode to a cameo appearance when she runs into Dolores in the park. Realizing they have very different paths to pursue, they move on separately, and the narrative focuses entirely on Dolores. Who knows when we’ll next see progress in Maeve’s story, but it certainly cools the audience’s investment when it’s not given the narrative real estate to keep its emotional fires metaphorically stoked.
Not to mention that the avenging angel version of Dolores in the now is very plot-oriented, rather than emotionally involving. Yes, she’s mad. Yes, she has a lot to get even about, but what else might be driving her is being purposefully hidden behind a lot of circular speechifying. She’s like that annoying “enlightened” friend who keeps prodding in a condescending way that “You just don’t get it yet.” Okay, so let us in on this worldliness that Dolores is privy to so we can get behind her quest with more passion and understanding.
Things to Ponder ...
Dolores has two interesting “off-book moments” in the past. First, her “splendor” line, which seems so pure and charming to Arnold, gets repeated in a way that reminds her maker that she is still a flawed machine. Jeffrey Wright offers us a subtle, pained wince from Arnold, as his emotional bubble is slightly burst when he's reminded of the imperfection of his creation.
Later on, we get a more willful moment when Dolores tickles the ivories with Gershwin’s “The Man I Love” as she watches William play perfect husband/father to his wife and child. She’s been specifically requested by William to play at the retirement party for James Delos, so her selection of music is quite pointed, and telling about maybe just how early her path to consciousness started.
Do the writers really want us to feel any sympathy for Logan Delos? Seeing his poor-little-rich-boy moment at the party with Dolores, where he’s shooting up something to drown his terror at seeing the end of humanity via the Hosts, doesn’t humanize him. He was awful at that cocktail party and indulged in his basest instincts, so a creep is a creep. Just saying….
Is it weird to anyone else that young William changes from his experience with Dolores into an opportunistic shark at lighting speed? Can one passionate romance with a Host really turn a sweet person into an asshole that fast? Nice William with a moral compass is now an oily persuader extraordinare (as he shows with pappy Delos), and someone who calls Dolores “a thing” with no emotion at all.
Last but not least, if I were a superintelligent AI taking over an entire ecosystem, I might want to remind myself (and the audience) if there are any dire issues that could thwart my plans. Like battery power? Or components that would actually need to be serviced to keep me operational on my quest? No one has really shared whether that’s a thing with these errant Hosts, and that seems weird. Don’t they need to be juiced up to keep going? Are they solar-powered? They can level up cognitively, but it’s strange we don’t know if their mechanisms are so autonomous at this point they can run around with operational impunity.
Are you totally into where Westworld is going, or do you have questions too?