Westworld Season 2, Episode 4: “The Riddle of the Sphinx”

This Mother’s Day, Westworld spent a particularly enjoyable hour tightly focused on fathers and father figures.

William, The Man in Black (yeah, yeah, it’s just easier this way), and Lawrence all had to confront their legacies, while Bernard faced his guilty conscience as he sought answers from his own creator, Dr. Ford.

So, is it awkward that the first standout episode of the season doesn’t have any Dolores?

Spoilers ahead, death-defying amigos.

This isn’t the first time an HBO show told us that in order to move forward, we must go back.

I wasn’t sure at first how James Delos would tie into the larger plot, but by his 149th interaction, we got to the heart of what The Man in Black knows that his younger self has yet to fully learn. And it ties really nicely into the overall theme of the hour.

“You live only as long as the last person who remembers you,” says the Ghost Nation leader to Lesser Hemsworth.

What if that last person thinks you’re an asshole?

I got serious shades of Lost’s Dharma Initiative in the opening scene, with the ’60s music and morning routine monotony. Also with Lost’s favorite format of following one main character per episode. Maybe James Delos hits a cognitive plateau because he wakes up in a Crate & Barrel catalog everyday. 149 times to wake up and realize, slowly, that you are really, really not the man you thought you were; is James’ degradation caused by the fact that he doesn’t have just a “backstory” but is instead trying to pick up where the real James Delos left off? This expensive, impractical experiment quells the idea of hosts being a cure for human mortality in a pretty definitive way. All humans have something that separates them from the hosts: a “true” death, and the unique perspective it gives.

Unique doesn’t have to mean better.

I liked watching The Man in Black do a little negotiating with the sadistic Major Craddock, but it was kinda dicey, plot-wise. How big is the park anyway, that you need a guide to get to “Glory?” But, okay. It’s a bit of a moot point since Major Craddock didn’t make it anywhere, just like Dolores wanted. He was not welcome in The Valley Beyond. We got this little side quest for Lawrence and the Man in Black to illuminate how each man thought they were helping their family by staying away and learned it wasn’t true. If Ford’s game had never taken this Westworld odd couple to Lawrence’s hometown, they couldn’t rescue Lawrence’s family. And the Man in Black, in seeing Lawrence’s wife and daughter in distress, was reminded of the wife and daughter he abandoned for the park. It wasn’t subtle, but it was nice.

You also have to love Ed Harris and a good cold-blooded “Death’s been sitting across from you this whole time” monologue. After three weeks of middling Westworld, I’ll take it.

I’ll also happily take the return of Emily (last week’s Marion Ravenwood from The Raj park.)

I’m super happy Westworld wasn’t coy about this reveal beyond this episode. You knew she was a badass last week when she escaped a tiger and right off the bat here, captured by the Ghost Nation, it’s clear that she knows a LOT more about the park than the average guest. She might not have good memories of her dad, but she learned a lot from him, it seems. Or perhaps took it upon herself to learn more about the place that tore apart her entire family.

I can’t wait to see what her game is and how she and her father’s parallel journeys of self-discovery collide.

I never liked The Man in Black’s backstory much—it was a self-serving bit of grimdark nonsense, where his wife accidentally-but-maybe-on-purpose OD’ed  because she couldn’t deal with his dark nature or some bullshit that sounds about as deep and dark as one of Lee’s hackneyed host narratives. But the devastating effects of this tragedy on William’s daughter can salvage an otherwise tired trope and make it feel believable, especially as we learn that the story the Man in Black told was a lie—we glimpse his memory of a bloody bathtub and a slit wrist. So, there is more to this story than we were told and Emily might have a story of abuse and neglect that can no longer be swept aside as something outside in the “real” world.

Emily may well be the last person to remember William when he’s gone, and I don’t think she’s going to have a lot of good to say about his memory.

Final reveries:

  • “I always trusted code more than people anyway.” Elsie is back! And her hair looks amazing for someone who’s been trapped in a cave for a few weeks.
  • But, also, Elsie? Ever heard of curiosity killing the cat? Do you really think Bernard is SUPER BELIEVABLE when he says he won’t hurt you ever again and he’s all lit up from below and creepy-looking? Be less dumb, please.
  • How much control does Bernard have over his actions? Someone really wanted him to hide the evidence of what the drone hosts were collecting.
  • R.I.P. Logan. I’m sure there will be a bigger story behind that and it’ll be really sad. Can’t wait?
  • Next week: Welcome to Shogun World, where it’s all Maeve all the time.

Westworld airs Sunday nights at 9PM E/PT on HBO.

Theresa DeLucci is a regular contributor to Tor.com covering TV, book reviews and sometimes games. She’s also gotten enthusiastic about television for Boing Boing, Wired.com’s Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast and Den of Geek. Reach her via pony express or on Twitter.

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