WARNING: FULL SPOILERS
“Reunion” was an interesting but flawed continuation of Westworld’s second season. Multiple flashbacks involving the show’s penchant for hinting at bigger mysteries took away from the pacing. Despite this, the episode felt focused and delivered compelling “hero’s journeys” to “The Valley Beyond” for Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and Will/The Man in Black (Ed Harris). What was “Glory?” Was it a weapon like Dolores said? Or was it really Will’s biggest regret?
While Wood continued to deliver in Dolores’ robot revolution towards “The Valley Beyond,” it was great to see Harris’ Man in Black get to do some heavy lifting. In a strange way, my anointed new antagonist emerged as something of an anti-hero as the oldest gamer in the world showed a bit of self reflection.
“Strange New Light Can Be Just As Frightening as the Dark.”
Reunion’s biggest revelation (Which was slightly ruined by the previews following last week’s premiere) was that Dolores had been in the real world. While Dolores’ “new born” version was awe struck by the massive metropolis “so full of splendor,” it became a source of hatred for her. At some point, she saw the worst of humanity and discovered the true purpose of the park. We didn’t get to see why she came to hate humanity in this episode (She seemed like more of a prop whenever she was brought into the world), leaving an intriguing hint to some terrible deed in the future. Well, one different from the “normal” debauchery of the human guests in Westworld.
We also got to see Dolores’ revolution grow. Her takeover of the Confederados was both frightening and impressive…who knew Teddy was that fast on the draw? While the violence was shocking, it’s Dolores’ proclamations that made the scene. She declared that her revolution was one against a creator…God Himself. The show has always played with religion and while this was a bit on the nose, Wood’s delivery truly makes it believable…and scary.
Dolores has clearly been Westworld’s driving force, but the show brilliantly colored her in shades of gray when it comes to her methods. Teddy has already quietly questioned Dolores’ often cold-blooded ways, and now Maeve (Thandie Newton) has done the same. The former saloon keeper openly questioned Dolores: What made her way of fighting the right way? A simple question that was needed at this point. Maeve’s part was small, but she gave both the audience and Dolores something to think about. Are her extreme methods really necessary? The sea full of dead hosts at the closing of the premiere may have already answered that question.
Wood was great as usual in this episode, once again balancing that naivety of the “young” Dolores with the quiet charisma of the leader we have come to know. But we also get an outstanding performance from James Marsden as Teddy learns of his violent past at the hands of the blood thirsty human guests. His quiet but complete devastation at the revelation was perfectly played by Marsden, who has become something of an unsung hero in terms of performances. While Teddy has always been completely dedicated to Dolores, his face hasn’t been able to completely hide the doubt and horror at her actions. Also, Jonathan Tucker should be praised for his brief, but scene chewing part as Craddock, the Confederado Dolores forced into her revolution.
Dolores finally revealed what she was looking for in “The Valley Beyond,” or “Glory” as the Confederados called it. She seeked a weapon, one that could destroy humanity’s world. In the flashbacks, young Will (A returning Jimmi Simpson) said that the real purpose of the park was to discover what humans really desired when no one can see what they’re doing. Basically, simple marketing…a somewhat disappointing “revelation.” But “The Valley Beyond” and its weapon were intriguing.
That said, the way the flashbacks were structured felt a little haphazard and jarring at times. In some cases, it became repetitive and a bit heavy handed as the religious symbolism returned time and time again. It became a larger problem in the other hero’s journey…
Hidden from God…
Dolores and her former “old friend” William seemed to be after the same thing. The Man in Black continued to pursue Ford’s “game” and it seemingly led to “The Valley Beyond.” He said that it was his greatest regret and promised to burn it down.
It was great to see Ed Harris get more to do after his comparably limited screen time in the premiere. He had an excellent scene with the returning bandit Lawrence (Clifton Collins, Jr.), reiterating the purpose of the park: A place where people could “hide from God” and sin freely without judgement. It’s an outstanding monologue…but one we had heard already. Hell, we even figured that out for ourselves.
But the real reason this scene stands out was Will’s interesting take on this new “game.” He said that he “accepts” the judgement of his past deeds and fully expects to die. While he did say he seeks an “appeal” of said judgement, this was a surprising moment. There has never been a doubt that the Man in Black was an evil man…his treatment of Dolores proved that. But this brought an interesting wrinkle to an antagonist. Is Will becoming an anti-hero? Or simply an in depth villain? It really was an intriguing turn.
Not everything was serious…after the Man in Black’s attempt to acquire an army with El Lazo’s (A fun guest appearance from Giancarlo Esposito) bandits failed, he acted like a stereotypical gamer. In a shocking scene, El Lazo and his bandits seemingly tapped into a Ford fail safe that caused them to shoot themselves rather than join Will in his quest. A frustrated Will repeatedly shot a downed El Lazo like a spoiled teen gamer who didn’t get his way. It added a funny touch to an otherwise frightening scene.
We also saw the return of Logan (Ben Barnes) and he was as slimy as ever. When Angela (Talulah Riley) introduced the sexed up douche bag to a room full of hosts to impress the young man enough to invest in Westworld in the park’s early beginnings, he seemingly slept with the entire room. He had always been representative of the worst of humanity…so it was very interesting to see a drug addled Logan cursing the “coronation” of Will from his father James (Peter Mullan). Was it pure jealousy? Or did he know something else?
Speaking of the young Will, we saw Jimmi Simpson make a welcome return…although the flashbacks to his time with Dolores and the park felt uneven. The young Will repeated himself as both he and the show hammered in the “human’s desire sex and violence” theme. It really was too bad, because Simpson nails it in his scenes. It was cool to see the emergence of the Man in Black as he spoke with Delos…but then saw that the more innocent, younger man was still there.
Dueling Quests…An Inevitable Confrontation?
The young Will seemingly made the mistake of showing Dolores what was inside “The Valley Beyond.” The present day Man in Black and Dolores were on the same path. The last time these two met in the first season, it was a somewhat one sided affair in favor of Dolores. Will it be the same when these two meet again? Possibly…but hopefully the show won’t use too many flashbacks to mess with the pace.
SCORE: 8 OUT OF 10
Westworld air Sundays at 9pm on HBO