"Reunion," like last week's "Journey into Night," starts with a conversation. This time, though, the two interlocutors are Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and her creator, Arnold (Jeffrey Wright), taking place before the opening of the park, when hosts were still a dream just made reality.
Ever since the initial season 2 trailer showed Dolores in what appeared to be modern dress, there's been speculation as to why. This episode gives us the answer: She's in the real world.
This flashback sets up several major plot elements that you'll want to keep in mind as we go forward.
1) It establishes that Dolores has actually seen what's beyond the park, something that she brings up multiple times over the course of this episode. In the scene immediately following this one, for example, she shares her intent to dominate not just Westworld, but the entire world beyond. When the guest she's holding captive sneers that she has no idea what she's up against, she counters: "I know exactly what is out there, in your world." And indeed, she does.
2) Clearly, hosts keep records of every place they've been and every interaction they've had buried deep inside their code. Now that they're free, those become easier to access.
3) It reinforces the idea that Arnold played favorites. When he tells Ford that Dolores isn't ready to interact with guests, he's concealing part of the truth: it's true, she goes back into her loop when probed; but it's also possible he doesn't want her playing sex doll for Logan.
As many posited last season, Logan is in fact Logan Delos, son of founder James Delos. We know from previous episodes that he was the one to initially invest in Westworld, so it's all the more fascinating to see how that came to be the case. Angela's role as the hospitality host is already well-established, and this is her first run at it. She challenges Logan (who doesn't know what she is yet) to spot the hosts at a cocktail party. When he finally realizes that everyone there is a host, he's shocked: that kind of technology is far too advanced, even by future human standards.
Of course, Logan doesn't interact with women in a platonic capacity, so the night ends with an orgy. But what's striking there is the look Dolores and Angela exchange as the former watches the latter get dressed the next morning — there's some kind of awareness there.
Speaking of awareness, it's time for Teddy to know the truth about what he is. Dolores orders a cleanup guy to show her paramour his death history, which causes him much distress. I get the feeling that Teddy will have more trouble adjusting to his new reality than Dolores thinks.
Meanwhile, William (let's just call a Man in Black by his name) is off to rescue Lawrence once again. He's almost killed in the process, proving once again that the stakes are all too real in this version of the game. The two ride west towards "the pearly gates," which sounds awfully similar to what Dolores calls "the valley beyond."
In fact, can we talk about how there was definitely something fishy going on behind the veneer of extreme fantasy during the park's 30-year heyday? Westworld's true purpose is made pretty clear in a flashback to a moment taking place right after William's grand adventure with Dolores. Jim Delos, who doesn't see why he should invest his hard-earned cash to fund "some investment banker's voyage of self-discovery," has come to inspect the merchandise.
William, on the other hand, points out the incredible business opportunity:“This place is a fantasy, nothing here is real. Except one thing: the guests. Half of your marketing budget goes into finding out what people want. Because they don’t know. But here they’re free. Nobody’s watching, nobody’s judging. At least that’s what we tell them. This is the only place in the world where you get to see people for who they really are.”
When you add that little speech to the secret DNA and data collection, it becomes clear that Westworld is just a pretty, stimulating cage for the lab rat guests. Have they ever questioned the nature of their reality?
After giving Teddy his reality check, Dolores and friends are off to meet with the Confederados, the only local army big enough to help them withstand the inevitable Delos invasion. On the way, they run into Maeve and her posse.
Maeve and Dolores are basically the two hosts with the most power in the park, so it's worth noting that they're not exactly on the same side. Maeve doesn't care about liberating her fellow hosts. She just wants to get her daughter back and live her life — and she'll protect whoever is willing to help her. In a way, she's more in line with Teddy's mindset; he too, just wants to run away with Dolores and live happily ever after. But that's not enough for Dolores, who's hell-bent on revenge. This minor confrontation seemingly teases a much bigger one to come. For the moment, Maeve is free to be on her way.
Dolores and Teddy reach the Confederados, whose commander, Major Craddock, laughs at them until she shares his entire battle plan with him. He's still not convinced though, so Dolores tries a new tactic: ordering Angela and Teddy to kill everyone there, and then having the poor Delos employee she's holding captive wake them up again. Yep, that'll do it.
According to Dolores, Confederado man is bound for "Glory," aka "the pearly gates," aka "the valley beyond." What is this place? And why are all the hosts trying to get there? The answer to that still isn't clear, but Dolores' conversation with Logan during a flashback later on in the episode hints at something dark.
It's Jim Delos' retirement party, and he's clearly unwell — yet he's biding his time. Something, we're told, still could save him. William, who brought Dolores in from Westworld to play the piano (a cruel joke to play on the woman he once loved, and an even crueler jab at his wife), suggests that the solution to Delos' problem is currently being worked on. Later that night, Dolores comes across Logan in the garden, nearly catatonic from something that looks like future heroin. After recognizing her, he goes on a pretty revealing rant against his father and William:
“Do you want to know what they’re really celebrating out there? That my dear, is the sounds of fools fiddling, while the whole fucking species starts to burn. And the funniest fucking part, they lit the match. Here’s to you assholes. May your forever be blissfully short."
Correct me if I'm wrong, but that sounds like Delos is trying to figure out a way to delay death, perhaps forever. If you'll recall, Robert Ford did allude to this back in the season 1 premiere, when he tells Bernard: "But, of course, we've managed to slip evolution's leash now, haven't we? We can cure any disease, keep even the weakest of us alive, and, you know, one fine day perhaps we shall even resurrect the dead. Call forth Lazarus from his cave."
It looks like "Glory," or whatever it's really called, is a part of that quest. William built it, and showed it to Dolores a long time ago. And what's more, she knows where it is and what it is. As she tells Teddy as they ride for Fort Forlorne Hope, the main Confederado outpost, with Major Craddock: “Glory; the valley beyond. Everyone’s got a different name for it, but they’re all bound for the same destination. Doesn’t matter what you call it, I know what we’re going to find there. An old friend was foolish enough to show me. Long ago. And it’s not a place. It’s a weapon. And I’m going to use it to destroy them.”
- Now, I love Giancarlo Esposito as El Lazo, but can someone explain to me why that arc lasted approximately 3.5 seconds? Yes, we figured out that Ford wants William to play the game alone, but did he have to sacrifice Gus Fring in the process?
- Is the "Valley Beyond" just another way of saying death? Is that the ultimate conclusion of this narrative?
- What did William actually show Dolores? Cranes? A gate? Is that why they call it "the pearly gates"?
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