‘Westworld’ continues to broaden its horizons this season. We caught a glimpse of the real world outside the park last week. Now we actually get to pay a visit to a second Delos theme park.
This week’s episode starts with an extended cold open that takes place in a new, never-before-mentioned park with a colonial India theme, where guests can play out fantasies of being Western imperialists doted on by Indian servants, and go on safari riding elephants and hunting for Bengal tigers. (I don’t believe the park is named in the episode, but HBO’s publicity materials call it “The Raj.”)
We’re introduced to two new characters, a man and a woman, presumed to be guests. Neither is explicitly named but, again, outside sources confirm that the woman is called Grace (Katja Herbers from ‘Manhattan’). The man tries to seduce her, and she makes him volunteer to be shot, as a test to make sure he’s real and not a host robot. He passes. She’s turned on. They have sex.
The next day, they ride out to a tented camp in the jungle. The woman has a notebook with a map and some strange symbols, which – along with the fact that she was so adamant about validating her companion’s humanity – suggests that she has ulterior motives in the park beyond playing dress-up on vacation. When they arrive at the camp, they find other guests murdered. A host robot attacks and kills the man.
Grace has to kill the host, after which she gets chased by a tiger. She runs to a compound on the shoreline and is trapped at the edge of a cliff. The tiger leaps and they both plunge over the cliff down toward the water below.
We see Grace again near episode’s end, when she and the dead tiger wash up on the shore of Westworld. Lest she feel that she’s saved, she looks up and sees the intimidating sight of warriors from the Ghost Nation tribe staring down at her.
Bernard and Charlotte, Past and Present
Back in Westworld, Bernard and Stubbs make their way to the park’s control center in the Mesa. They find the place in complete disarray following Maeve’s revolt. Charlotte is already there. She tells Bernard that she’s still looking for Peter Abernathy.
In flashback to several days earlier, Charlotte and Bernard work together to track Abernathy. They locate him as a captive of a bandit host named Rebus (Steven Ogg, late of ‘The Walking Dead’), who plans to sell him and other hostages to the Confederados. Charlotte lures Rebus away from his partners, then Bernard knocks him out, hacks into his system, and reprograms him to be virtuous. Rebus returns to his camp thinking himself a hero, guns down all of his partners, and sets the very confused prisoners free.
Charlotte and Bernard try to abscond with Abernathy, but the Confederados arrive and capture both Bernard and Abernathy. Charlotte steals a horse and gets away. She rides to the Mesa, where she links up with a military unit and orders them to bring her to someplace called Sector 21.
The recently resurrected Major Braddock leads Dolores and Teddy to a Confederado base called Fort Forlorn Hope, presided over by a man named Col. Brigham. Although Brigham is dismissive of the idea of a woman being in charge, Dolores makes a pitch that they combine forces, and offers him the gift of a modern assault rifle she had stolen. He likes it very much.
Inside the fort, Dolores finds her father and Bernard being held prisoner. She has no sympathy for Bernard, but she saves her father from being lynched as a Union sympathizer. He’s very sick and rambles like a crazy person, but recognizes Dolores when he sees her.
With no other option, Dolores brings Bernard to fix her father. He determines that Abernathy’s programming is a mess because a slipshod personality was slapped together for him to cover an encrypted data file beneath. (Charlotte made Lee do this back in Season 1.) Abernathy’s prime directive is to make his way to a train to get out of the park. Bernard works at decrypting the file without Dolores knowing what he’s doing.
Aware that Delos forces are on their way, Dolores sets a trap by lining the outside of the fort with explosives. Sure enough, Charlotte and her soldiers arrive at daybreak, having tracked Abernarthy there. (Fort Forlorn Hope must be Sector 21.) The soldiers storm in and have a battle with the Confederados. A small infiltration team moves in and grabs Abernathy. Bernard hides after successfully downloading the file.
Dolores sets off the explosives, killing a number of Delos soldiers and almost all of the remaining Confederados. Col. Brigham is furious when he realizes that Dolores tricked him and sacrificed all his men. Dolores responds that, “We don’t all deserve to make it,” indicating that she doesn’t view all hosts equally. She orders Teddy to kill Brigham and Maj. Braddock, but Teddy – still struggling with his conscience – can’t do it and cuts them loose instead.
Bernard tries to run away, but gets knocked out by Clementine.
On their mission to find Maeve’s daughter, she, Hector and Lee encounter a hostile Ghost Nation war party. Maeve is unable to control or reprogram them. Hector can speak their language and tries to negotiate for safe passage. The Indians will agree only on the condition that Lee be handed over as a hostage. Maeve insists that she needs him and won’t accept that deal, so the three of them run toward a nearby elevator and escape into an underground compound.
Lee is confused at why Hector is in love with Maeve when his love for a woman named Isabella is written into the core of all his programming. However, when Hector attempts to prove that he thinks for himself now, Lee can predict every word he’ll say. He’s still just a character, even if the details of his story have been rewritten a little.
The three of them run into their former comrade Armistice, whom they left behind at the Mesa when her arm was pinned in a door. It looks like she had to peel the flesh off her hand to get it free. She comes wielding a flamethrower. Hector goggles in amazement that “She has a dragon!” Armistice brings them to her captives, the repair techs Felix and Sylvester. Maeve is glad to see that Felix survived. She has fewer feelings for Sylvester.
Later, Maeve and crew travel to snowy Klondike territory. Lee discovers a decapitated samurai head in a snow bank and immediately panics. As he looks up, another samurai charges at him from the woods.
The idea that characters and other elements from multiple differently-themed parks will collide this season is a pretty exciting development with a lot of potential. On the whole, this episode is fairly strong and another interesting entry. However, some of the plotting and staging feel weirdly lazy – starting with the way Grace somehow outruns a tiger charging after her. The cat just disappears until it’s needed again at the end of the scene.
Likewise, Charlotte’s escape from the Confederados isn’t at all convincing, and her soldiers’ attack plan on Fort Forlorn Hope (simply marching toward it without any cover) seems like a really poor battle strategy for an armed attack. Characters also repeatedly cross paths at the most convenient moments.
None of these problems are deal-breakers, but they stand out in what is typically a tightly scripted and impeccably produced show.