'Vanishing Point' is a dark journey into the corrupt heart of the Man in Black
Oh no. Oh no! William, what did you do? The penultimate season 2 episode of Westworld was a dark journey into the corrupt heart of the Man in Black, delving into his backstory and giving us a startling and just plain sad twist. We’re going deep into that, plus touching on a pyrrhic victory for Teddy and more inert table-lying for Maeve. Let’s break down “Vanishing Point,” beginning with…
Dolores: Dolores the Deathbringer confronts Ghost Nation natives (though not their leader, Akecheta, who we fell in love with last week). They warn her the Valley Beyond is “not meant for you,” a phrase I’ve come to associate with Dr. Ford trying to course-correct players in his world. She orders Teddy to gun them down. Yet he decides against shooting a fleeing man in the back, suggesting part of his core personality remains intact despite his girlfriend’s iPad tinkering.
Later, Teddy makes a speech to Dolores: “No matter what happens, no matter how much I change or how much you change me, you’re my cornerstone,” he says. “Which is why this is so hard. You changed me. You made me into a monster.”
And then, in perhaps one of the show’s best examples yet of host freedom and self-determinism — and a great example of why you should either accept your partner or leave, not try to change them — Teddy does the one thing he can think of to reclaim himself. Teddy, who has been killed over and over and over again on this show, has a final life left to give. So he takes out his gun and shoots himself. Oh my God, Teddy killed Teddy!
What’s unclear — because on Westworld this is almost always unclear — is whether Teddy is really dead. The host backups were destroyed at the Cradle. So he’s presumably gone? Unless that bullet somehow missed his Brita filter CPU? Or Dolores backed him up to a flash drive just in case he tried exactly this?
Clementine: The tech team has uploaded Maeve’s host-controlling superpower into zombie Clementine. They test using her to spread a virus command to other hosts. It’s a creepy sequence as Clementine silently orders hosts to brutally slaughter each other. Charlotte Hale is quite pleased. Behold Clementine, destroyer of worlds.
Maeve: Poor Bernard is once again being used as Dr. Ford’s avatar. Ford unlocks her “core permissions” (which we assumed were already unlocked, but I guess there’s always another level), and that will presumably help her do something interesting again at some point.
“Of all the hosts I made, you were my favorite,” Ford kindly tells her, and you can see Maeve silently wanting to scream at him.
“All this pain,” Ford continues, “so [humans] can patch a hole in their own broken code” — which is a good line. Westworld is great at trolling humanity for our imperfections.
Still: Who would have guessed that Maeve would spend three episodes lying on a table?
Bernard: Elsie demands to know what exactly is going on with crazy-acting Bernard (hey, Elsie, get in line!). Bernard tells her about Delos’ secret immortality project and explains that all the human data secretly collected over the years is stored at a place called the Forge (not to be confused with the Cradle, which is where the host backups were stored, and which Dolores blew up). The Forge is located at the Valley Beyond. All these secret park location names sound like something from a fancy new open-air shopping galleria.
Bernard doesn’t tell Elsie about Ford’s virtual resurrection, however, which is probably wise, though is admittedly violating their “no secrets” agreement. Meanwhile, Ford is the devil on Bernard’s shoulder, insisting Elsie is going to betray him and he should just get rid of her already. “Get out of my f—ing head!” Bernard cries in a very non-Bernard-like way.
Bernard runs the Westworld version of Norton antivirus to debug himself of Ford. And it worked! Maybe? Hopefully.
William (Then): We’re at a flashback party, where William corrects that quote everybody knows from Die Hard about how Alexander the Great was really upset when he realized there were no more worlds left to conquer. The actual quote is apparently, “Is it not worthy of tears, that when the number of worlds is infinite, we have not yet become lords of a single one?” You could use both to reflect on the ambitions of Delos. The fake quote is actually better, which is another reason Hans Gruber is awesome.
We meet William’s doomed wife, Juliet, played by Sela Ward (Once and Again, CSI: NY). We quickly gather that Juliet is an alcoholic married to man with a black heart that’s at least two sizes too small.
The mystery of Juliet’s bathtub suicide is slowly revealed. At first, we think she’s just drunk and unhappy. Then we think maybe her daughter, Emily, accidentally tipped her into a fatal act with a threat to send her back to rehab. Just when we start to think maybe her death wasn’t provoked by William, he sits by Juliet’s bedside, believing she’s asleep, and answers her earlier plea to tell her one true thing. He delivers a cruel lowdown: “Everything you fear is true. I don’t belong to you or this world. I belong to another world. I always have…”
Now, earlier, Ford gave William his profile on a gold card which contains his entire in-park history in all its gory detail. This was part of trade — William’s Delos corporation wouldn’t mess with Ford’s narratives as long as Ford didn’t interfere with “The Valley Beyond” human-to-host immortality project.
William hid the profile card in a book, and Juliet gets up and reads it. So here’s her husband, confessing he doesn’t love her, and then she gets to witness all his season 1-style sadism.
So Juliet kills herself (this episode is pretty big on suicide), but not before she leaves the gold profile card in Emily’s ballerina box for her to find.
Is William’s theme park sinning a truth that Emily needed to know about her dad? I don’t think it is, though perhaps you feel differently. This episode comes at an interesting time, in the #MeToo era, when technology is being used to expose private behaviors, some criminal, some merely shameful. In this case, Juliet giving her daughter that profile led to an unforeseeable disaster.
William (Now): “It’s not too late for us,” Emily declares at the outset of their final time together. She’s being the mature one, trying to put aside her feelings and blame, trying to salvage their relationship and move forward. She’s called the QA team for extraction from the park. Her dad is wounded, perhaps dying.
But the Man in Black is convinced Emily is a host. Just one more of Ford’s robots trying to trick him, to steer him off his mission and remove him from the game.
“I’m not a host pretending to be a human, I’m your daughter pretending to give a s— about you,” she declares. “I read your profile…”
At this, William thinks he’s figured out for sure what’s going on. “I never told anybody about my profile… you gave yourself away.”
So William not only guns down the arriving QA team, but also shoots his own daughter, murdering the last of his family. Juliet’s death might not have been his fault — at least, insomuch as a person taking their own life harbors the ultimate responsibility for their actions — but his daughter’s death is totally on him. That she dies while holding that profile card in her hand is both rather narratively convenient yet also gives William (and us viewers) clear proof that he’s made a terrible mistake.
A part of me rebelled against this twist. Would William really kill such a convincing vision of his daughter based on such a flimsy assumption? After all, Ford himself could have sent Emily a copy of his profile if he wanted to mess with him. Or William could have made a less permanent move and continued on to the Valley without her. Then again, William was seriously wounded, and perhaps a bit delirious, so maybe he was out of his mind?
“Vanishing Point” was both an extremely well-made episode of Westworld and a rather depressing one. Dolores has gone down such a dark path, it’s getting hard to embrace her apparent mission to overthrow all of humanity. Teddy became so despondent with his new personality that he offed himself. Maeve continues to lie all cut open on a table. Clementine is once again back to being used by the powers that be. Bernard was largely out of control, per usual. And watching William drive his wife to kill herself, and then murder his daughter — who was perhaps the most likable character this whole season — was tragic and sad. Emily coming out of the sunset to greet her father was one of my favorite shots this year.
Now there’s only one person on the show who seems to be getting everything he wants, and it’s the same person who was getting everything he wanted last season — and that’s Dr. Ford, who I’m more than ready to see get unplugged.
Next week is the finale. It’s super-sized, 90 minutes long, and we’ll presumably finally get to see the Valley Beyond, The Door, The Forge and all the other exciting high-end new Westworld galleria shopping opportunities.
Postscript: Some are asking why I didn’t discuss William digging something out of his arm. Yes, I noticed. What does it mean? I don’t know, guys. No clue. Is William a host? Uh, maybe? That would be disappointing. Is it a tracking device of some kind? Possibly? As you can see, I literally have nothing interesting to say about it. I figure we’ll all find out the solution to any lingering William mysteries next week. The odds of the MiB surviving the season seem rather slim at this point.
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