Westworld: “Vanishing Point” (S02E09)

WARNING: FULL SPOILERS

This stain…

Ed Harris’ sadistic villain has been one of the most compelling characters on Westworld. Responsible for some of the most heinous acts on the show, Will has been self reflective this season. He has been fully aware of who he was…take that confession to his wife Juliet (Sela Ward). When he referred to his inner darkness as a stain, the wariness and utter contempt in his voice was palpable. His journey this season was seemingly one of redemption…But it was much more complicated. It was more of a reckoning.

William faced the consequences of his actions, both past and present in “Vanishing Point.” While we didn’t get any new or stunning information about the character…save an unwelcome twist about William’s humanity…the story was so well told that it made for riveting viewing. William wasn’t the only one to suffer the consequences in this episode, though his story was the heart of it.

“One True Thing”

source: Warner Bros. Television Distribution/IMDB

Sela Ward was great in her brief but pivotal role as William’s wife Juliet. The only one who saw through his charming facade, Juliet’s rant at William for completely fooling her during their courtship was heartbreaking. Harris was equally as good with his silence…it spoke volumes because it everything she said was true.

But William’s regret and sadness was there, a character trait that made him so interesting this season. A terrible man could have regrets for the evil things he had done. Maybe Juliet was right…at that point in his life, maybe William didn’t love her. But he may have at one point. As he said in his confession to Juliet, that darkness only slowly emerged. He was human after all.

source: Warner Bros. Television Distribution/IMDB

But that makes the possible twist introduced at the end of “Vanishing Point” problematic. Was the Man in Black really a Host the whole time? First, look at the event that triggered William’s breakdown in the present: He killed his own daughter Emily (Katja Herbers). While the death was unexpected, it was just that. She has been an empty shell of a character, barely making an impression since her introduction. For one, her character kept changing motivations in this episode alone: First, she wanted to save William, then get in on his project, and finally wanted to bring him down. Her character never fully registered and the way her character careened from one motivation to another just made things worse.

At first glance, the possible twist seemed interesting. But it also could potentially change the character. William has been the epitome of the flawed and sin loving humans in Westworld. If he was a Host following a narrative the whole time, it takes that all away and lessens the impact of the character. On the other hand, if he was a Host, it would mean evil wasn’t exclusive to flesh and blood humans. Whatever the case could be, this felt like an unnecessary twist unless it was one last desperate delusion for William to absolve himself of any responsibility.

“You’re My Cornerstone”

source: Warner Bros. Television Distribution/IMDB

Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) continued to show that she was becoming more and more like the ones she wanted to destroy as she shared a similar fate to William. A past misdeed came back to haunt her as Teddy (James Marsden) regained his free will. In a sad, but defiant moment, her former lover took his own life, unable to live with being a monster.

Marston’s moment was immensely powerful as we saw a brief glimpse at his first moments as a Host. His utter dedication to Dolores made his choice all the more tragic. When Teddy awoke from Dolores’ enforced coldness, he couldn’t accept what he had become…and that his “corner stone,” the woman he loved, was the reason behind it. Teddy’s fate mirrored William’s: He was let down by someone he cared about.

source: Warner Bros. Television Distribution/IMDB

Bernard seemed to set himself up for some serious consequences. He abandoned Elsie (Shannon Woodward) for her own good even after he rid himself of Ford’s (Anthony Hopkins) influence. While Ford made it a matter of choice for Bernard, his fractured mind has done him no favors. He wanted to solve things peacefully, but was that even possible? While the Ghost Nation warrior that Dolores faced in the beginning of the episode said that the Valley Beyond (Given the real world name, “The Forge”) was “free from blood,” the violence every side of the conflict used was everywhere. Bernard’s current desperate condition doesn’t bode well for the future.

Before Ford was deleted from Bernard’s mind, he managed to visit his “favorite daughter.” He wanted Maeve (Thandie Newton) to escape, but he underestimated the love she had for her daughter. Ford encouraged her to survive…which seemed weird. Maeve had already been surviving and it was unusual to have Ford have to give her a pep talk. It seemed like more of an excuse to bring two major characters together.

Sympathy for the Devil

While Dolores, Maeve, Ford, and Bernard all made important appearances in Vanishing Point, this was another strong Man in Black episode. Whenever Westworld focused on its chief antagonist, the resulting episode always delivered. It has always been a strange thing to relate to a violent psychopath with increasing delusions of grandeur.

But Westworld always understood that even the best villains were still human. All of us have made mistakes, some worse than others. Living with those mistakes and how we dealt with them has always been a sympathetic story and despite the evil that William has done, you can’t help feeling something for the man.

Ugh…I think I need a shower.

SCORE: 8 OUT OF 10

Westworld airs Sundays at 9pm on HBO