Westworld: “Virtu e Fortuna” (S02E03)

WARNING: FULL SPOILERS

Westworld’s second season continued to move at a much more focused pace with its third episode, Virtu e Fortuna. Dolores’ (Evan Rachel Wood) revolution took a decidedly dark turn, while Maeve (Thandie Newton), Hector (Rodrigo Santoro), and Sizemore (Simon Quartermain) reunited with some old friends before heading to an intriguing new area of the park. While the previous season focused on “but a speck” of a much bigger world, this episode had its eyes squarely set on revealing that bigger world.

Virtu e Fortuna was a full of action and dark twists, but it also felt a bit shallow. Last week’s episode, Reunion, wallowed in mystery…frustratingly so at times…but it also felt like a deeply written. While enjoyable, the latest chapter in those violent delights felt too straightforward and self consciously written.

That said, Westworld continued to entertain as it once again tantalized with intriguing mysteries and ultimate reveal that there are several different “worlds” in the park.

“Shouldn’t We, Too, Try To Survive?”

source: Warner Bros. Television Distribution/vulture.com

Evan Rachel Wood continued to excel as Dolores fought her first open battle with humanity. While some may have been surprised by her double cross of the Confederados, it actually played well into her character. That darkness had always been there. Dolores played judge, jury and executioner to the Confederados, deeming them “children” not worth saving. It was frightening but utterly captivating.

Unfortunately, Dolores’ normally eloquent words were not so authentic this time around. It often felt overly complicated, almost self conscious. Her scene with Peter Abernathy (Louis Herthum) was powerful at times, but Dolores’ on the nose dialogue was distracting. Not to throw any kind of shade on the writers on Westworld, but this was the first episode where series’ creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy didn’t have a direct hand in the writing. It showed in a subtle but noticeable way.

James Marston was great as Teddy continued to question his love’s methods. Letting Craddock (Jonathan Tucker) get away could be seen a mile away, but Marston played it beautifully. And it was especially effective to have Dolores see it…the show would have struggled if they played the “Does she know what he did?” card for the rest of the season. It set up a great confrontation for later.

source: Warner Bros. Television Distribution/Indiewire

Bernard’s (Jeffrey Wright) return led to quite a few welcome revelations. We found out that there was an important file in poor Peter Abernathy’s head. What was it? Well, in classic Westworld style, we only got an “My God!” from Bernard. While that wasn’t unexpected, it was slightly annoying at this stage. Wright was great as the increasingly desperate Bernard. The audience surrogate…he saw why Dolores rebelled, but is unsure of her tactics…was just trying to survive. You couldn’t help rooting for the poor guy as he was dragged between dueling ideals.

A Bigger World

source: Warner Bros. Television Distribution/forbes.com

Free from those ideologies, Maeve, Hector and Sizemore continued their quest for Maeve’s daughter. In many ways, it was great to have a break of sorts from the heady ideals of Dolores’ story, especially given how that story was written. Maeve’s journey was very personal. Plus, we got Sizemore in an absolutely hilarious cowboy outfit.

But the band came back together! Armistice (Ingrid Bolso Berdal) had the perfect return with her “dragon” (AKA, a flamethrower), and she led Maeve and the others to Sylvester (Ptolomy Slocum) and Felix (Leonardo Nam). While it was great to have these guys come together, it was done so quickly it didn’t register the way it could have. We met them and then they were off.

Then again, we did get a hint to the Shogun World after this reunion. You couldn’t really blame Westworld for rushing to this intriguing new park. The mystery behind it was handled much better than the opening in India. We were introduced to two completely new, and honestly bland, characters.

The most interesting beat to emerge from Maeve’s story line was Sizemore and the writer’s world. Sizemore was forced to confront his own demons…every writer knows that their creations usually carry some part of themselves. Maeve called Sizemore “pathetic” for writing Hector as the man he always wanted to be. It must have been a hell of a meeting in the writer’s room.

And that explains why these robotic characters are so quick to monologue. The eloquent robotic hosts are all so poetic and noble to the point that some have criticized them. But remember…they were written. Dolores’ fearfully beautiful words, Peter’s jumbled, but oddly precise soliloquy, and Hector’s tragic love for Isabelle were all the product of someone else’s imagination. Others have probably noticed this before, but this episode brought special attention to it…maybe to let on that not everything could be trusted.

source: Warner Bros. Television Distribution/IMDB

Take Hale’s (Tessa Thompson) surprising survival at the beginning of the episode. Hale had always been capable, but her survival seemed unbelievably miraculous at times. Those Confederados had her dead to rights when they captured Bernard. Yet they missed at only a few yards. And the sure eyed Dolores managed to kill the majority of her team while missing her?

Was it poor staging on the part of the director…or something more? Is the magnificently duplicitous Charlotte Hale part of some over arching narrative? Maybe that’s giving the show too much credit, but Westworld has taught us to not trust everything we see. I’m probably way out there on this, but…it would be amazing to see.

But a Speck…

Westworld continued to expand beyond the borders of its western fantasy. We got a brief but tantalizing look at an Indian safari and a world of samurai. While the CGI tiger wasn’t very convincing, it was great to see that the show isn’t afraid of possibilities. Virtu e Fortuna was surprisingly ordinary…at least by the show’s standards…but it also promised more than the speck that we’ve seen.

SCORE: 7 OUT OF 10

Westworld airs Sundays at 9pm on HBO

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