Westworld Season 2, Episode 3 Recap: Machiavellian Condundrum

Photo: Courtesy of HBO.
In chapter 25 of his seminal treatise on power and statesmanship, The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli lays out a philosophical conundrum. What force drives the ruler’s success? Is it his (this is the 16th century, there is no her) own actions, derived from free will? Or is it the circumstances in which he finds himself, otherwise known as good ol’ luck? Machievelli referred this struggle as virtu (the action) and fortuna (luck or fortune).
Just something to keep in mind as we dive into an episode called “Virtu e Fortuna.”
This episode gives us the first real glimpse at one of the other parks owned by Delos, one which I have dubbed Colonialworld. Appealing to those with a hankering for the lazy luxury and opulence of British-controlled India during the 1930s, this is a world of sex and danger. (The sitar version of The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” that plays over the initial sequence is one of Ramin Djawadi’s best yet.)
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It’s a tale as old as time: a man and a woman (both guests) hook up over drinks, they go back to her room, she shoots him to make sure he’s not a host, and they decide to go hunting Bengal tigers together. Ah, true love.
Once mystery lady and her paramour arrive at the camp on the edge of the park, however, they realize something is clearly wrong. Clearly, Ford’s plan to free the hosts extend beyond Westworld. She manages to escape however, and takes off into the jungle, followed closely by one of the tigers she was going to hunt. This, we quickly realize, is the origin story of how that tiger found back in “Journey Into Night” accidentally wandered into Westworld. Already on the border of Colonialworld, this chase takes her and the creature to a cliff overlooking a sea, the landscape around looking less like the jungle and more like the desert of Utah. The tiger pouces, and the two disappear into the depths.
Meanwhile, some time in the near-future, Bernard and Strand make it to another refurbishment outpost, where they find Charlotte Hale. She’s still looking for Peter Abernathy, the host holding the precious code Delos is anxious to get its hands on.
In a flashback, we learn how and why Charlotte and Bernard went their separate ways after escaping the slaughter. While looking for Abernathy, they come across Rebus and his partner holding him and some other hosts to be sold to the Confederados, who presumably still condone slavery.
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Bernard and Charlotte free Abernathy, who keeps repeating that he needs to “get to the train.” (The same one that takes brings guests back and forth from the parks?)
Unfortunately, the Confederados arrive looking for their merchandise, and they take Abernathy and Bernard captive while Charlotte runs off. (Another reference to “Glory” as Abernathy tests out his vocal chords with a rendition of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”)
Back at Fort Forlorn Hope, Dolores meets the Confederado Colonel, introducing herself as “Wyatt.” That should be a hint for what comes later. For now, however, they’re buddy buddy as the group that captured Bernard and Abernathy rolls in. Dolores recognizes both of them, and sends Bernard to jail while requesting a one on one with her dad. (Interesting that Teddy still doesn’t recognize him. His consciousness raising is taking longer than other hosts.)
In a show that has conditioned us never to take relationships at face value, Dolores’ moment with her father is a welcome dive into real emotion. The two reminisce about Sweetwater, their ranch, and how things used to be. The only problem is, none of that was real. The truth sets in, and Abernathy breaks down again.
We check in with Sizemore, Hector and Maeve, who have wandered straight into Ghost Nation territory on their way to find her daughter. Maeve recognizes one of the fighters as the one she keeps seeing in her nightmares, which is more than a little jarring. Luckily they manage to get to one of the secret elevators dotting the park, which leads them to an underground tunnel. Their journey continues!
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Even after spending all this time with two pretty woke hosts, Sizemore doesn’t quite understand how two robots programmed to be alone have ended up in a relationship. In a way, though, he has a point, especially since the ensuing conversation proves that Hector still speaks in some of the dialogue that Sizemore wrote for him. Like Teddy, his awakening is taking a bit longer than Maeve’s. This is a great example of the Machiavellian conundrum referenced in the episode title: What really drives Hector? Is it the choice he’s making to be with Maeve and help her find her daughter? Or is there still some code in there making him act this way based on his surroundings?
Philosophical musings aside, I will never love anything as much as I love Hector’s face as he exclaims, “She has a dragon!” in response to Armistice’s flamethrower. Yes, his old sidekick has turned up again, bringing with her Felix and Sylvester, the Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum of this particular wonderland.
Back at the fort, Dolores explains her new worldview to Bernard, and asks him to fix her dad’s brain. Turns out the real reason he’s been malfunctioning is that someone installed a much bigger, more complex file that’s incompatible with his source code. Bernard manages to crack the encryption just as the Delos commandos, led by Charlotte Hale, attack the fort. But something he sees in there causes him to lose control, and he ends up hiding in the corner, shaking, as the troops take Abernathy away. He does eventually manage to crawl outside, only to get hit in the head by a very stylish looking Clementine.
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Dolores, who directed the colonel to have his men retreat on her command so she could detonate the nitroglycerin hidden at the base of the flag, actually orchestrates a monumental slaughter. As the troops sound the retreat, she orders her fellow hosts to bar the gates, enabling the Delos commandos to decimate the Confederados. Only then does she set off the explosion, killing the humans as well. I think it’s safe to say that she’s no longer the nice girl who used to greet guests with a smile. But again — what is driving her? Is it her Wyatt identity? Is she just pulling a George Costanza and doing “the opposite” of everything she thinks Dolores would have done? And if so, is that really free will?
In any case, she orders Teddy to shoot whatever Confederados are left inside the fort, including Major Craddock. But Teddy, presented with a real choice for the first time in his existence, decides to flout her command, releasing the stragglers when he thinks Dolores isn’t watching. Unfortunately for him, she’s spying on the whole incident from the shadows, which doesn’t bode well for their future together.
The good news is that the mystery guest from the beginning survived. The bad news is that she crawls out of the sea battered and bruised, only to be confronted by a band of Ghost Nation warriors. Let’s wish her good luck.
But she’s not the only sign that the parks are merging. Maeve and the gang make it out of the underground tunnels and back on their way, until they walk straight into a trag set by Shogun warriors who have strayed out of their zone. Oops.
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Additional Thoughts:
What exactly is in Charlotte Hale’s neck that proves she’s human when scanned? Is this a nod to Altered Carbon? Can I expect Joel Kinnamen to show up at some point? Because that would be fine. More than fine, even.
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