Westworld recap: 'Reunion' unscrambled
EW unscrambles 'Reunion' to recap the latest 'Westworld' in chronological order. You're welcome.
“Reunion” is the name of tonight’s Westworld, but really it should be called “Reunions.” Tonight, we took a tour through Dolores’ past and present where she had come together once again with Maeve, William, and Logan, as we learned a whole bunch of fascinating new details about the early days of the park (including that amazing cocktail party scene), and even got to see the futuristic world on “the mainland” for the first time (not exactly Blade Runner, is it?).
This is a cleverly constructed and rather complex episode, one that rewards a second viewing. “Reunion” does a lot of heavy lifting about the park’s backstory; there are some really compelling themes here and everything (I think?) fits together with what we’ve seen previously.
But since it’s also ultra tricky to follow, we’re going to try something different tonight. I’ve unscrambled the episode’s time-shifting storyline to recap “Reunion” in chronological order so that it makes more sense. The episode actually opens with its earliest scene and ends with its latest; it’s just everything in between those bookends are arranged as confusingly as possible (of course, it’s totally possible I’m totally wrong about the order, yet I believe this is at least the order we’re supposed to think these scenes go in at this point in season 2).
So we start with…
Before the Park Opened, Mainland: Arnold and Dolores are in the city. The city! Finally we get a look beyond the park into the dystopian hellscape we keep hearing about that humanity is fleeing to Delos’ parks expensive and elaborate simulations to escape. It the outside world is totally…uh…pretty much the same as now? If anything, it’s rather pleasant.
Dolores marvels at the skyline: “It looks like the stars have been scattered across the ground. Have you ever seen anything so full of splendor?”
Arnold notes that you get used to such things, and “after a while it doesn’t look like anything at all.” This is a very interesting line. It’s a variation on the host refrain about their programmed blind spots, “it doesn’t look like anything to me.” Only this is the flawed human version suggesting world-weary complacency and habituation, and it comes up again later in the episode.
We next get an Anthony Hopkins voice cameo (yup, it’s really him) as Dr. Ford telling Arnold to get Dolores ready. Arnold wants to go with “the other girl.” Ford chastises him for playing favorites. Both are right — Arnold does, of course, favor Dolores, but she’s also not ready at this point for what happens next.
Arnold takes Dolores across the street and we pass a sign with Chinese lettering (another hint that the Delos’ island is somewhere off the coast of China). They go to Arnold’s home he’s building for his wife and doomed son. “A strange new light can be just as frightening as the dark,” Dolores observes sagely, but then she falls back into repeating her “stars and splendor” quote. Arnold is dismayed; she’s basically a dull chatbot at this point.
Next, we get into my favorite sequence in this episode: Logan and the cocktail party. It’s not totally clear when watching the episode, but this is the same event Arnold and Ford were preparing Dolores for and takes place the same night. (And yes, that’s a terrific instrumental cover of Kanye West’s “Runaway” leading into it).
We last saw the lascivious Logan being driven off into the desert naked on a horse by William in season 1. Here we learn Logan’s last name is Delos, he’s the son of James Delos — the founder and owner of Delos Incorporated. Westworld was built by Robert Ford and Arnold Weber, and now we’re seeing here the moment that Delos first got involved in the park they will eventually take over completely.
James is chatting with William, who’s exhausted after a long day “glad-handing.” Logan wants to keep partying. They’re perfect examples of a hard-wired (if you will) introvert personality vs. extrovert — William gets worn out by human interactions, Logan draws energy from them.
Logan is approached by a strange couple. We recognize one of them as the host Angela (who gave William his orientation in the show’s second episode and is now part of Dolores’ rebellion posse). The other guy is named Akecheta — we don’t know him and initially assume he’s human (if he looks naggingly familiar and you’re a Peak TV fan, it might be because the actor, Zahn McClarnon, had an awesome role as the renegade muscle Hanzee in Fargo season 2). Akecheta wants to give Logan a demo of their technology for investment consideration.
They take him to a cocktail party. Logan is challenged to pick out which guest is a robot. He can’t do it, and then Angela does the reveal — everybody is a host and Logan couldn’t tell.
I love this sequence because everybody on Westworld treats hosts as an everything thing. Here we finally get to see somebody freaking out just like we would if we met these robots for the first time.
“No way…we’re not here yet,” Logan says, which tells us something too — the creation of Westworld wasn’t something that came about gradually as robots became commonplace in the real world, but rather represented a surprising technological leap.
Logan wants to have a deep intellectual conversation with the hosts and give them various everyday tasks to see if they can pass for human, right? No, of course not; he just wants to have sex with them. Logan’s Turing Test is in his pants. Was anybody else surprised he only picked two of them to fool around with?
Next: Introducing James Delos
And wait: Ford and Arnold were considering using Dolores for this instead of Angela? She would have stared off into the distance wide-eyed talking about stars and splendor and totally creeped Logan out.
In fact, Dolores peeps in on them in the morning, all curious, establishing that this is all part of what she’s observed over the years and will fuel her moves to come. Angela gets dressed and gives Dolores a look like, “Yeah, I slept with him, so what?”
Angela, by the way, is arguably the weirdest host, having been programmed early on to be fully aware of her role in the park. It’s odd her character has been given so little to do (so far) in the rebellion given her history and smarts.
Westworld, Early Days: A helicopter lands and we meet James Delos, Logan’s father. This was pretty confusing, how this worked timeline wise, but here’s how I think it went down: First came the host demo party scene above. Logan then decided (not shown) to invest in Westworld on his own. Next, Logan brought William (who’s engaged to his sister) to experience the park (and we saw all that play out in season 1). Here we’re seeing William — having been changed by his experience with Dolores and become a ruthless predator — bringing Logan’s father to the park to try and convince him to increase his family’s stake. Why Logan isn’t with them will be explained in a moment.
William tries out his Shark Tank pitch on James Delos. “Half your marketing budget goes to figuring out what people want. Here they’re free, nobody’s watching — 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 — and if you don’t see the business in that you’re not the businessman I thought you were.”
James Delos replies to this with a vulgar line that Ser Bronn of the Blackwater would have appreciated. We see Dolores listening while frozen to their chat, recording silently.
William gets the investment he wants, and then we have a scene of William and Dolores backstage. “You really are just a thing, I can’t believe I fell in love with you,” William sneers. “You didn’t make me interested in you, you made me interested in me. You’re a reflection. I think there’s an answer here to a question nobody has ever dreamed of asking.”
Actor Jimmi Simpson, it must be said, is just nailing his Ed Harris impression in this scene. The cadence of his line delivery is perfect. That he wasn’t nearly this Harris-y in season 1 is fine; it’s like he’s becoming more and more like The Man in Black as he gets older and more jaded.
William takes Dolores out into the park to see a terraforming machine building…something. Let’s put a pin in this for the moment.
Retirement Party, Mainland: James Delos is retiring and, it seems, turning over his business to his son-in-law William. He’s also ill and suggests he might not have much longer. William assures “things are progressing.” What are they talking about? Once again, we don’t know yet, but I bet you have a good guess on this one.
Dolores wanders out and finds Logan getting high. So that’s what happened after his ill-fated Westworld trip and why William took over the family business instead of him. Logan became an addict.
Dolores gives her line: “Have you ever seen anything so full of splendor?” But this time it has more meaning…
This might sound like Dolores just repeating her city-splendor line from earlier. But what Westworld is doing here is helping us recall that episode’s opening scene with Arnold, when he pointed out that people just stop appreciating what’s around them. Nobody embodies this idea more than Logan. He’s actually an extremely important character in the show — not in terms of the plot, but its theme.
Logan is always chasing an unobtainable satisfaction — drinking, sex, adventure, power. He has this unquenchable desire for more and better. There’s been complimentary buzz online about Logan being bisexual, but in this case, his sexuality is more like an extension of his unending need for variety. Logan represents more than anyone the hosts’ — and the show’s — criticism of humanity and why it deserves to be replaced by AI. Dolores can simply look at the skyline and feel fulfilled. Logan has everything one could materially want and it’s never enough. Now he’s getting high to try and reach a new level of sensation.
Westworld has been accused of being overly cynical; that you have to agree that humans are terrible in order to fully enjoy the show’s “them vs. us” narrative. Whether that’s true or not, the show is clearly blaming us (not the characters, but our very nature) for the rise of the hosts.
Logan predicts that putting William in charge of Delos is actually celebrating the end of the species. He’s predicting that hosts will destroy us due to our overreach, just as he’s now destroying himself with his all-too-similar needs. “May your forever be blissfully short,” he adds cryptically. The curtain is gradually being pulled back on Delos’ secret project.
Westworld, after Ford’s Death: Now we jump forward a few decades. Dolores and her gang enter the Westworld underworld and shoot some people.
Dolores wanted to show Teddy the truth about their world and he’s agape and shocked. “Why do you do this?” Teddy demands of a tech, all bewildered and hurt. The tech’s answer, “Just for fun,” is a devastatingly poor reply (and also, so it turns out, not accurate).
They go into the park and Dolores runs into Maeve. Despite these two having major roles in this show, they’ve only met once before (and briefly at that, before they were both awake).
Confession: The first time watching this scene I was annoyed by it: Oh, they’re making the two strong female leads and natural allies conflict with each other to add some friction to this moment — and all because the story requires them to go on their own separate paths.
Then I realized there was a bit more going on here. Dolores starts by making a recruitment pitch. “We’re bound for the future or death in the here and now. There’s a war out there…I can only fathom the revenge that lives inside of you.”
Maeve shoots this down. They’ve both been through similar trauma but are responding very differently to it. Dolores wants to hurt those who have hurt her. Maeve interestingly sees “revenge” as yet another story we tell ourselves, just like the ones that were programmed into them, and refuses to let her programmed past dictate her independent future. Dolores, of course, is all about the future, too, and actually moreso than Maeve given her global ambitions.
Then Maeve checks out Teddy: “I know you. Do you feel free?”
Dolores looks at Maeve with a cold expression like: Girl, don’t you talk to my Teddy.
In the Park: The Man in Black’s favorite helper, Lawrence, is back. He’s suspended over an anthill, just low enough for his hair to give the ants purchase to climb up onto him. This seems like an exquisitely horrible way to go and we’re relieved when the Man in Black rescues him (and oh hey, it’s another “Reunion”) and declares — quite aptly — “dead isn’t what it used to be.”
The Man in Black finds a medkit to patch himself up, wryly noting that doing so is technically considered “cheating.” I suspect watching him use this sci-fi healing wand will make some viewers think the Man in Black is a host. But remember host bodies are the same as humans, only their minds are different, so if this fancy Star Trek technology can fix host bullet holes it would also work on a human.
The MIB explains Westworld is like the antidote to religion; that it’s a relief to be able to sin in peace without feeling like God is judging you and keeping a tally. Of course, as we’re learning, there’s nothing private about Westworld after all.
“Judgement wasn’t the point, we had something else in mind entirely,” the Man in Black hints. He says he’s received his judgment but that it doesn’t matter “because the stakes haven’t been real” until now. (Dolores would definitely disagree with his thinking). “I’m going to fight my way back and appeal the verdict,” he says. “And then I’m going to burn this thing to the ground…”
Okay, so the Man in Black is suggesting he’s out for some kind of redemption, and we’ll get more hints as to what that might be in a moment.
They journey to the town of Pariah where the orgy is clearly over. The remaining men are ruled by El Lazo who’s played by, holy crap, it’s Gus Fring! Yes, a Giancarlo Esposito cameo. If only he was used for a part better than this.
The Man in Black tries to convince Lazo to follow him but he’s not having any of it. “I have seen all the truth that I can bear.” When the Man in Black tries to force the issue, El Lazo’s men all kill themselves. “This game was meant for you William but you must play it alone,” ghost Ford tells him via El Lazo, before offing himself too.
For the Man in Black, season 2’s game is firmly single player — except for bringing along Lawrence, apparently.
The Man in Black declares that he built Westworld, “and the place we’re going is my greatest mistake.” So hold that thought yet again. We’re going to put all this together at the end.
Elsewhere in the park: Dolores goes to meet the Confederados which are led by a new character, Major Craddock (Jonathan Tucker). She wants his men and tells him, “You’ll never make it unless you’re under my command.”
This arrogant Major Craddock is immediately a bit tiresome — non-awake hosts are so season 1. Dolores explains he shouldn’t follow God, but rather follow her. And how do you convince people to treat you like a god? Why, you use the oldest trick in the book: You show them a resurrection! Which is exactly what Dolores does, killing him and bringing him back to life.
Unlike the Man in Black, Dolores can raise an army. Ford has stacked the post-apocalyptic deck in her favor, it seems.
At the end of the episode, Dolores says she wants to take Teddy somewhere and show him something a “foolish” friend once showed her. “It’s not a place, it’s a weapon,” she says. “And I’m going to use it to destroy them.”
Okay. So. Here’s what we know (or suspect, putting several odds and ends together): William created something in Westworld using the terraforming gear long ago. He showed Dolores what it is. This thing is probably related to Delos’ secret project. The Man in Black is now looking to journey to this thing and destroy it, saying it was his “biggest mistake.” Dolores sees this thing as a weapon to use against humans. (I’m assuming they’re both talking about the same thing here).
So both Dolores and the Man in Black are apparently headed for the same destination and, almost certainly, some kind of epic confrontation. Unfortunately for William, he never considered his ever-listening robots might actually remember all the things he said and did and that someday it all might used against him. See, this is why I don’t have an Alexa.
So the big question is: What did William build for Delos that he wants so badly to get rid of, that Dolores could use to destroy humanity?