The description of this season's penultimate episode, "Vanishing Point," goes as follows: "Try to kill it all away, but I remember everything."
Those are lyrics from "Hurt," a Nine Inch Nails song from 1994 that was famously covered by Johnny Cash in 2003, mere months before his death, and their meaning is obvious: In Westworld, your worst actions, the very darkest parts of yourself, are recorded, and impossible to escape.
Episode 9 is always a big one for HBO shows. Last season, we learned that Bernard was in fact a host copy of Arnold. "Vanishing Point," doesn't set up a major reveal (although it does have its shocking moments), but rather leaves us with a huge question: Is William a host?
After last week's episode, it's difficult to take anything in Westworld at face value, and that includes William. He's a character that has worn many hats (pun intended) over the last two seasons: villain, ally, boss, gamer, husband, cheater, friend, foe, philanthropist, widower, father. But, to use the language of hosts, his cornerstone, his constant has always been the park. That's where he can truly be himself. It is where he was reborn, and where he will probably face his downfall. And this week, it's where he loses his daughter Emily, whom he shoots dead in his delusion about her being a host sent by Ford to thwart him in his pursuit of the endgame.
“I don’t belong to you, or this world," he tells his wife, Juliet — Sela Ward!! — before her death. "I belong to another world. I always have.” Many have speculated about William being a host over the last two seasons, and I've always dismissed the theory — until now. This episode appears to want to make us to question his humanity, and not just on a deeper, moral level.
Some clues that stand out:
1) The constant replaying of Juliet's words: "Is this real? Are you real?"
2) The many, MANY closeups and lingering shots of his forearm — where hosts plug in their monitors — as well as the final scene of him digging into it with a knife.
3) “Were any of these choices ever truly mine to begin with?”
I won't say I'm 100% on board with this line of thinking — it seems a little too obvious — but it seems clear that William himself might not even truly know the answer anymore.
One thing we do get a definitive take on, however, is what happened to Juliet. (Although in typical Westworld fashion, it comes in bits and pieces throughout the episode.) We've learned from prior episodes that she died by suicide, and that both William and Emily feel the weight of it on their shoulders. Now we know why. Emily's guilt is more straightforward — she feels bad for having made the call to involuntarily commit her mother to a rehab facility, and thinks that's what prompted her to end her life. William's relationship to all of this is more muddled.
In his conversation with Juliet in the moments before the tragedy, he acknowledges that she's seen through his act. She's aware that he isn't the nice, faithful, generous man he's been pretending to be for the real world. What he doesn't know, however, is that after he left the room, she found his data profile from the park, which Ford had handed to him earlier that night. (The fact that he was keeping it in a copy of Slaughterhouse Five is just too perfect for words.) She not only suspects he's a bad man — she knows for sure. (A closer look at his profile shows that he has a rare personality type, and displays paranoid, and persecutory subtypes, as well as a propensity towards delusions.)
That profile, which we learn is partially compiled by repeated brain scans of the guests through their hats, turns out to be his downfall. When Emily tries to prove to him that she is real, and not the host copy he believes her to be, she starts to pull it out of her pocket. He takes that as his cue to fire, convinced that only he knows of its existence. Instead, it's cost him his wife, and his daughter.
Fatherhood is a theme we find again in relation to Ford and Maeve. The latter is still hanging on for dear life, and her chances are growing slimmer by the second. Prompted by the evil tech guy who butchered Maeve, Hale has had Clementine programmed with the lines of Maeve's code that enable her to control other hosts. If it works, then Delos can turn her into a host-killing machine without lifting a finger, and Hale will have no more need for Maeve. Ford knows this, because Bernard sees the demonstration of Clementine's abilities, and so he directs Bernard to Maeve's side, where she can search his mind for a message Ford left there. Ford's relationship to Maeve has never been as clear as his love/hate attitude towards Dolores. But as it turns out, there is a deep connection there. In a moving speech, he gives her the strength she needs to keep fighting. "You stayed here in this world to save your child," he says. "And so have I." It seems we might be in for a Clementine/Maeve face-off.
It's unclear what will happen to Ford now, given that Bernard has presumably erased him from his mind. But consider what he tells Maeve: "I tried to chart a path for you to force you to escape, but I was wrong. I should have just opened a door."
Is it possible that Bernard needed Ford to show him the way so that he could push through himself? Good parenting means tough love, after all, and Ford's reappearance forces Bernard to truly take charge of his own fate in a way we haven't seen him do so far. “If I’m going to survive, I’m going to do it my way," he tells Ford, before deleting his rogue code. "Not as you, as me."
Speaking of Bernard, I'm not sure what he told Elsie about "The Forge" — supposedly an equivalent to "The Cradle" but for guest data — is real, or something he made up to get her out of the Mesa. It does seems pretty in line with what the many Valley Beyond descriptions are alluding to, though.
Dolores and Teddy are on their way there when they come across a group of Ghost Nation warriors who have been sent to stop them. Remember, back during "Journey Into Night," when Bernard and Stubbs extracted footage from a Native American host's control unit? Well, I'm getting deja vu. "I told you friend, not all of us deserve to make it to the Valley Beyond," she says before shooting him in the head — just like in the video. Only one warrior escapes, by Teddy's mercy.
Which brings us back to the "Hurt" lyrics. Teddy's transformation has always been interesting because he's aware of what has happened to him, and who he used to be. He knows Dolores altered his code to make him ruthless, and he's clearly been struggling with the result.
It all comes to a head at the end of the episode, when he tells her he can no longer go on like this. After sharing a sweet story about how he's loved her since the first time he set eyes on her, when they were both naked in the Delos lab, his face hardens. “You changed me," he accuses her. "Made me into a monster.”
At first, it seems like Teddy is about to shoot Dolores. But that wouldn't do. She's his cornerstone, and he'll protect her until the die he dies. Which, as it turns out, is right now. Deathbringer strikes again.