WESTWORLD Season 2 – Virtù e Fortuna

A Passage to India

Westworld, catering as it does to rich people of every stripe, caters to something grander: Escapism. Shifting away from the show’s overwhelming commentary on video game worldbuilding (Red Dead Redemption or Gun there may be; there is no video game of A Passage to India) and instead taking on Disneyland proper, the episode opens in the Westworld equivalent of Adventureland, Rajworld.

Referencing Ian Malcom’s line in the other famous adaption of a Michael Crichton “Theme Park Gone Amok” story, Jurassic Park, Westworld is the Disneyland where, if the “Pirates of the Caribbean” breaks down, the pirates eat the tourists. Further, Westworld is a way to, like Mainstreet USA, or Frontierland, or Adventureland, cater to an imagined past from the safety of a white, Anglo point of view. Opening in a dreamy recreation of British-controlled India, where the lighting always appears to be the golden hour, the series taking on colonialism—with the guests invading the world of the hosts—couldn’t be more explicit.

The season began with Delos taking command of the wreckage of the park Ford left in his wake with the striking discovery that a tiger had washed up on the shores of Westworld. This both expanded the show’s borders and left behind a weird narrative nugget: Now the parks would bleed into each other even as the people inside bled out. The episode begins with the story of a woman on her own vacation, finding herself an actual man (she tests the theory by shooting him to make sure he’s real before making love to him), going on a tiger hunt, and then getting caught in the Rajworld sequence of the parks breaking down due to Ford’s actions. In its way, it’s exciting enough. A woman running through the woods from a tiger usually is. But, and there’s always a but, taking the time to tell campfire tales to explain the Westworld equivalent of Lost’s polar bear when the main narrative is already so obscure and sluggish doesn’t do the show any favors, gorgeously shot as it is.

Back in Westworld, Charlotte meets up with Bernard in Westworld Command and asks him how he survived. Their story then cuts to how he got captured, leaving how he survived for some future date. Hunting Peter Abernathy (whom the audience remembers was Dolores’s father) for some information someone smuggled into his noggin, they come across a scene of Westworld guests captured by bandits. After Bernard reprograms one of the bandits into attacking his companions, Charlotte flees on horseback when Confederados come to claim the slaves they thought were waiting for them, leaving Bernard behind. Bernard and Peter both find themselves tied up and marched back to the Confederado fort, Forlorn Hope.

At the fort itself, Dolores, with her new cadre of reanimated and reprogrammed Confederados makes her case to the general who, after she gives him one of the fancy Delos FN P90s with which to shoot a hapless human, agrees to her plan to stop the incoming Delos forces.

While there she comes across Peter Abernathy and remembers that he used to portray her father. In this way, she and Maeve, whose quest to find her daughter is intercut with Dolores’s story, share that level of humanity: even if their memories aren’t real, they’re real enough to have some effect on them. Where they differ is in their level of freedom in their programming.

Maeve is trying to make her way to her daughter by whatever route possible, surface or tunnel. When she, Lee, and Hector Escaton comes across a bunch of Ghost Nation Indians she has two shocks: One, remembering when they attacked the homestead she and her daughter occupied and two, that her commanding them to stop didn’t override their programming. The group flees, barely making it to one of the elevators to Westworld Command before the natives catch up. Down in the tunnels Lee is astonished that Maeve and Hector share affection as Hector was written to only love one character and nobody else. Continuing onward they come across Hector’s old comrade-in-arms (or rearms) Armistice, having gotten a robotic replacement for the host arm she lost in the first season when they stormed Command. She has a flamethrower and joins up with the group while Maeve comes across Felix and Sylvester, the two refurbishers she got to aid her reprogramming in the first place. She takes them with her.

Elsewhere in Westworld Command, Charlotte comes across a Delos strike team (referred to as QA for the park). After she proves she’s a human, she joins them in the raid on the Confederado fort, requesting that they find Peter Abernathy while there.

At the fort, Dolores brings in Bernard whom she remembers from all their private chats, to fix her father who is glitching. Bernard, fighting off his own degrading functions, discovers that something very valuable was put in Peter’s head and spends time decrypting it. While he works Dolores enacts her plan to stop the Delos strike team (to Teddy’s shock): she sacrifices the Confederados in order to corral the main thrust of Delos forces in one spot so she can blow them up with strategically placed gunpowder kegs. In the confusion, Bernard decrypts Peter who then gets taken away by some remaining Delos team members. Bernard flees as well, coming across Clementine, the other prostitute from the Sweetwater saloon, who knocks him out and drags him off. The surviving Confederados express disgust over Dolores’s betrayal. She sends Teddy out to kill them but sees him let them go instead. It adds a very human wrinkle to see him growing on his own, even if it’s just out of reaction to what Dolores has become.

Back on the surface, Maeve and her band head through a snowy pass towards a homestead. Lee sees something in a snow drift and pulls it out. It’s a severed head. Warning them they need to flee, Maeve quiets him. The wintry hush is broken by a samurai yelling and swinging his sword as he runs toward them: Shogunworld has bled over.

And that poor woman chased by the tiger? She survives, even if it does not. She washes up on the shores of Westworld, battered but safe—until she looks up into the face of gathered Ghost Nation warriors, that is.

As far as the story goes, the episode works on a narrative beat-to-beat level, even if there’s still needless mystery. If Dolores had seen Teddy betray her earlier, it might have added to her secretive plan regarding the Confederados—instead all such last-minute revelations do is muddy an already convoluted story in which everybody speaks in Philosophy 101 koans half the time.

The Maeve and Bernard plotlines work because those characters are the most human of the robots (not least because Thandie Newton is fantastic in her role, nibbling the scenery just right, and Jeffrey Wright is, simply put, one of the best actors working today) but, more importantly, because we understand their goals. Maeve wants to live a life with her daughter, Bernard wants to discover what this all means and what his role in it is. Dolores wants to be the ruler of Westworld. As much as the memory of her father affects her, it doesn’t drive her the way Maeve’s memory of her lost daughter does. Dolores may claim she wants all the robots to be free from people abusing them, but her brutality and betrayal, even leavened by moments with robots like Peter, belies this. What it seems she really wants is to be Robert Ford—without understanding what that means.