Westworld Season 2, Episode 9 “Vanishing Point”

Welp. Nothing gold can stay.

That goes double for Westworld, which followed up last week’s excellence with another slog through Manly Man-Pains and clunky exposition. And maybe some needlessly cruel fridging of an awesome female character.

Bummer.

I get that the Man in Black is definitely an alpha male kinda badass, especially as he is living out his Clint Eastwood-style killer fantasies. And he’s played by Ed freaking Harris. But he’s sooooo damn serious that it’s just a bit… much. We get it dude, you’re D-A-R-K. Like, your soul is blacker than Dale Cooper’s coffee. Colder than a well-digger’s ass.

Yet, I don’t get why his long-suffering wife, Juliet—who seems to know nothing of the hosts’ sentience—doesn’t see him as anything more harmless than a Grand Theft Auto addict. She catches his Twitch stream highlights reel and flips her shit so bad that she ends her life, and it’s just not quite believable. He’s not a badass cowboy; he’s an emotionally stunted gamer. I mean, obviously, addiction of any kind isn’t good for marriage, but Westworld places so much emphasis on the Man in Black being DARK, man. SO DARK. DARK MONOLOGUES GALORE. It’s not that he games to the literal rejection of reality, it’s that he plays a bad dude that seems to be the issue.

It’s just a bit old, at this point. And now that he very foolishly got so lost in his playtime and forgot what was real, he’s murdered his own daughter. Fuck. Now, that is dark, but it also sucks. Emily was an awesome character, or could have been—we barely got to know her. And now she’s just gone?! What a huge waste! And all we have to look forward to from it is the Man in Black being even more broody and DARK?! Not a fair trade by a long shot, show. She could’ve been an interesting ally to the hosts! And a great foil to her father.

What I thought was handled well was the terrible aftermath of a suicide on a family. It’s a sensitive subject and particularly uncomfortable to think about last weekend, when I first watched this episode, the day after Anthony Bourdain’s death. The blame game, the guilt, the anger, the distance—that felt real. I wanted William and Emily, who was kind of positive about wanting to work through her shit with her dad, to have that journey together.

But, nope. Stupid me.

Maybe I’m not the right person to be writing these reviews, since I so sincerely dislike what Dolores has become. I’m just not that into her Wyatt side. I miss the woman who was coming into her own independence. Now she’s just a slave to the story gods. So, the humans’ backup data is in the Valley Beyond and Dolores wants to use it as a weapon against her human masters; meanwhile Akecheta and the Ghost Nation—and Maeve, presumably—want to use this data as a tool to open a door to a new world. I’m… not really clear on the implications of either. Last week’s gorgeous character piece was so strong because it didn’t go into the details of the larger seasonal structure, but we’re one episode away from the finale and I feel like I don’t know what these folks are fighting for or against anymore.

Ford talking about humanity’s “own broken code” was so Nine Inch Nails. While he tries to save his “children,” the Man in Black and Delos have been fighting to preserve their human immortality project. Only…it doesn’t seem like the Man in Black cared that much about it until right now before the season ender. My guess? He will go to the Valley Beyond to get the backup data for Emily, to bring her back. Now he’s got a horse in the race.

Can Dolores really even feel remorse for Teddy? Is she too far gone? How will he get to the Valley Beyond now, where we saw him floating in that sea of other “dead” hosts?

Did you really feel like this was the penultimate episode?

Final reveries:

  • Ford really is everywhere these days. Good on Anthony Hopkins. So, Maeve is his favorite host, eh? He kept quite a distance from her physically last season, but when you’re the ghost in the machine, you can be everywhere. I’m sure looking forward to Maeve getting up off that damn slab!
  • Elsie must be the luckiest person in the park, to keep having so many near-misses with a homicidal Bernard. And her hair still looks fresh.
  • Oh, my darling Clementine, you are truly lost and gone forever. Her mesh network “upgrade” worked way too well, but raises the question—why is Maeve dispensable to Delos now? The park is neither densely populated or small, so wouldn’t they want numerous hosts “infecting” the others across a wider field?
  • HBO placed an embargo on spoiling the casting of older Juliet, played by a woman I thought was Mariska Hargitay the whole time, but was actually Sela Ward. So, uh, no worries there, HBO!
  • Next week: “The Passenger.” Who will be shown the door in the season finale?

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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